Most of the members of parliament don't attend the meetings of the parliamentary standing committees which don't convene regularly.
Analysing the details of 128 meetings of 10 parliamentary standing committees of the 11th parliament, it was found that all members were present in only two meetings.
There are eight ministry-wise committees and two subject-wise committees.
There are 105 lawmakers in the 10 parliamentary standing committees. Of them, presence of 36 members of parliament in their respective parliamentary standing committees is below 50 per cent.
There are ten members including concerned minister in each ministry-based parliamentary standing committee. The members of subject-based parliamentary standing committees are generally more than ten.
Prothom Alo analyses details of the standing committees on the ministries of home, power, energy and mineral resources, the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment, the liberation affairs, the women and children affairs, the railways, the youth and sports, and the shipping.
Two subject-wise committees are the public accounts and parliamentary committee on public undertakings.
Each parliamentary committee generally submits reports to the parliament after holding ten meetings.
The parliamentary standing committee on women and children affairs submitted a report to the parliament in January. Analysing the report, it was found that Jatiya Party women's reserved seat member of parliament Salma Islam was not present in any of 13 meetings. Workers Party's women reserved seat member of parliament Lutfunnessa Khan attended only three meetings. Member of this committee and women and children affairs state minister Fazilatunnesa Indira and Md Shajahan Mia attended four meetings. Another member of the committee Syeda Rashida Begum attended six meetings.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, chairperson of parliamentary standing committee on women and children affairs, Meher Afroz, said the main reason of absence is the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020. Those who are a bit aged attended a few meetings during the coronavirus. As the situation has now become normal, the attendance will increase.
However, there was no disaster like coronavirus between 2014 and 2018. At the time, there was the 10th parliament. At the time, the presence of the members of the parliamentary committees was the same.
According to a study, 'Parliamentary Watch', carried out by Transparency International Bangladesh, the average attendance of members of parliamentary standing committee was 55 per cent. TIB published the report on 28 August 2019.
According to the parliamentary rules of procedure, it is compulsory for each parliamentary committee to hold at least a meeting every month. In case of the absence of members in two consecutive or more than that meetings, a proposal can be placed in parliament to depose the member.
Within 10 working days of the beginning of current parliament, 50 parliamentary standing committees were formed. 39 committees are on ministries and 11 on subject-wise. Although the committees were formed expeditiously, most of the committees have no activities. Except a few, most of the committees do not hold meetings every month. Analysing the meetings of parliamentary committees of 2021, it was found only eight parliamentary committees were active. These are the shipping, women and children affairs, culture, the liberation, environment, forest and climate, power, energy and mineral resources, foreign ministry and the planning ministries.
Absence in the meetings
The parliamentary standing committee on public accounts has held the highest number of meetings till now in the current parliament. However, this committee holds two to three meetings a day. Members of this committee are 15. Analysing the last 20 meetings of the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts, it was found that seven out of 15 members are irregular. Awami League lawmaker Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir did not attend any of the meetings. BNP lawmaker Zahidur Rahman and Awami League lawmaker Zahirul Haque Bhuiyan attended only one meeting.
Zahidur Rahman said he contracted coronavirus three times. Afterwards, he went to perform Umrah and so his attendance was less in the meeting. From now on he will attend meetings regularly.
Analysing 20 meetings of parliamentary standing committee on the liberation affairs, it was found attendance of five members is below 50 per cent. They are Abul Hasanat Abdullah, AKM Rahmatullah, Raziuddin Ahmed, AB Tajul Islam, Waresat Hossain. Abul Hasanat has not attended any of the meetings.
The parliamentary standing committee on the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry held 12 meetings. Three out of 10 members are irregular. Didarul Alam attended only two meetings. Mrinal Kanti Das and Iqbal Hossain attended only four meetings.
The parliamentary standing committee on railways held 13 meetings. Member Shafiqul Islam attended five meetings, Nasimul Alam Chowdhury in four meetings and HM Ibrahim in 6 meetings. The attendance of remaining seven members is above 60 per cent. However, all members of this committee attended a meeting.
The parliamentary standing committee on power, energy and mineral resources held nine meetings. The attendance of three members is below 50 per cent. They are Nasrul Hamid, Ali Asgar and Nuruzzaman Biswas.
The parliamentary standing committee on public accounts held 11 meetings. Attendance of three members is below 50 per cent. Omar Faruq Chowdhury attended only one meeting. Zillul Haqim attended three meetings while Narayan Chandra Chanda attended five meetings.
The parliamentary standing committee on youth and sports held 10 meetings. Biren Sikder didn't attend any of the meetings. This committee's member national cricket team former captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza attended one meeting. Attendance of remaining 8 members is above 50 per cent.
Attendance of the parliamentary standing committee on the home ministry is comparatively better. According to the report of first meeting to 10th meeting submitted to the parliament, attendance of only one member is below 50 per cent. He is Afsarul Amin. All of ten members of this committee were present in a meeting.
One of the committees, which held regular meetings, is shipping ministry. Attendance of members of this committee is comparatively better. Of the 10 meetings, M Abdul Latif did not attend any meeting. Another member Mahfuzur Rahman attended three meetings. However, M Abdul Latif was sick for a long time. Earlier, he was more or less regular in the meeting.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Abdul Latif said he was ill for about two years ahead of the outbreak of coronavirus. He could not move. Now he has recovered. So he will attend meetings regularly.
The main responsibilities of ministry-based parliamentary standing committees are to review the activities of the concerned ministry and investigate irregularities and gross allegations. After examining bills, they give advice and recommendations. Although the committees examine bills, they are not seen to play active role over irregularities and corruption of the ministries. In many cases, the issues related to the interest of the members of the committees got the priority.
Holding meetings of the parliamentary standing committee are the part of the duties of the members of parliament. Members of parliament (incentive and allowance) order 1973, the members of parliament get allowance for attending meetings of the standing committees.
The allowance includes travel and stay. If they remain absent, they will not get it.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, former Chittagong University professor and researcher on the parliament affairs, Niamuddin Ahmad, said that the current parliament can be called one without opposition. Like the parliament, the parliamentary standing committees are not effective. Members would be more interested if there was a strong opposition and an opportunity to discuss important issues.
Niazmuddin Ahmad said the agenda of the parliamentary standing committees do now have important issues. There are very few members in parliament who deliver speeches strongly. Altogether, many members think other work is more important than attending the parliamentary standing committee meetings.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.