Where to from here af­ter the eighth NCP?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Makha­bane maluke

Com­mem­o­rat­ing 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren — 25 Novem­ber to 10 De­cem­ber THE 11-13 Novem­ber 2015 Na­tional Com­mu­nity Par­lia­ment (NCP) sit­ting had its good fea­tures, in­clud­ing an an­tic­i­pa­tion to be ad­dressed by The Honourable Prime Min­is­ter, to close its open­ing ses­sion. The pur­pose of the NCP is to strive for pop­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion in mat­ters of gov­er­nance. That is com­mend­able. How that is done is an­other mat­ter.

The eighth NCP has gone, and what can now be ex­pected? The start­ing point is to as­sess how Le­sotho is cur­rently per­form­ing in the en­gage­ment of the pub­lic and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions (CSOS). Fo­cus could be on par­lia­ment, govern­ment and CSOS them­selves.

The Par­lia­ment of Le­sotho com­mit­ted it­self to fa­cil­i­tate pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in its leg­isla­tive and other pro­cesses. The Na­tional As­sem­bly Stand­ing Or­der 76 so pro­vides.

The re­cent NCP was the eighth, while the cur­rent na­tional par­lia­ment is the ninth (it could still be the eighth if govern­ment had not col­lapsed). How far has Le­sotho gone? How far and how fast can it ad­vance?

One form of mea­sure is to com­pare Le­sotho with other coun­tries or ju­ris­dic­tions. Let us ran­domly pick the fol­low­ing democ­ra­cies: Benin, Uganda and Mal­dives. All th­ese are mem­bers of the In­ter-par­lia­men­tary Union (IPU) to­gether with Le­sotho, which could be the lat­est among them to join.

The Na­tional As­sem­bly of Benin is proac­tively try­ing to en­gage with mem­bers of civil so­ci­ety. It takes into ac­count the rec­om­men­da­tions of “some” CSOS in con­sid­er­ing the na­tional bud­get.

It has a spe­cialised over­sight Bud­get Com­mit­tee. At the be­gin­ning of each ses­sion (new par­lia­ment for Le­sotho), that Bud­get Com­mit­tee ap­proves a list of CSOS which it wishes to part­ner with dur­ing the bud­get­ing process.

Par­lia­ment for­mally pro­vides a copy of the draft bud­get to ev­ery listed CSO, invit­ing them to eval­u­ate the draft bud­get. There­after, those listed CSOS are re­ceived, one by one, to present their analy­ses of the draft bud­get.

Th­ese CSOS are at lib­erty to jointly con­sider the draft, to en­sure co­or­di­nated in­put dur­ing par­lia­men­tary hear­ings. Here, CSOS are viewed as im­por­tant ac­tors.

The par­lia­ment of Uganda is re­ported to have ceased to be a mere “rubber stamp” in bud­get re­lated mat­ters. In­sti­tu­tion­ally, par­lia­ment has a Bud­get Com­mit­tee which, in turn, is beefed up with a par­lia­men­tary Bud­get Of­fice.

The two have their ba­sis in an Act of Par- lia­ment, and not Stand­ing Or­ders. That Bud­get Of­fice has a staff es­tab­lish­ment of not less than 20 ex­perts/pro­fes­sional em­ploy­ees of par­lia­ment to an­a­lyse all that goes with bud­get for­mu­la­tion.

Scru­tiny of in­di­vid­ual min­is­te­rial bud­get pro­pos­als re­mains the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ses­sional com­mit­tees (port­fo­lio com­mit­tees in Le­sotho) which in turn rec­om­mend to the Bud­get Com­mit­tee.

Here, bud­get prepa­ra­tion is given the max­i­mum pro­fes­sional at­ten­tion pos­si­ble. It is not the do­main of MPS only in par­lia­ment.

In 2006, the Na­tional As­sem­bly of Mal­dives in­tro­duced a stage where civil so­ci­ety is in­vited to sub­mit com­ments on var­i­ous draft bills when th­ese stand re­ferred to rel­e­vant com­mit­tees.

Th­ese com­mit­tees may even pro­pose amend­ments to bills to ac­com­mo­date civil so­ci­ety con­cerns. A les­son here is that CSOS have some for­mal in­put into the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion, as an­other mode of pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

In the spirit of NCP out­look, the for­go­ing can en­able any­one to as­sess how Le­sotho com­pares in mat­ters re­lat­ing to CSOS. Specif­i­cally, how does Le­sotho in­ter­act with CSOS?

What or­gan­i­sa­tional ar­range­ment ex­ists to pro­fes­sion­ally as­sist par­lia­ment in mat­ters of the bud­get? Can Le­sotho CSOS co­or­di­nate their in­puts into the work­ings of par­lia­ment?

Do th­ese CSOS ever pe­ti­tion par­lia­ment un­der Stand­ing Or­der 79, if it re­ally cov­ers them? Does par­lia­ment have the or­gan­i­sa­tional ca­pac­ity to han­dle non­pro­ce­du­ral chores?

Chances are that Le­sotho still has a long road ahead. How then, can Le­sotho pro­ceed to make up for any lost time? De­spite its 2004 pro­nounce­ment to ef­fect par­lia­men­tary re­forms (based on listed terms of ref­er­ence with­out any time frame for the ex­er­cise), this will re­main a very slow process, de­pend­ing on the com­plex­ity of each re­form area and per­sonal at­ti­tude of key ac­tors.

The lat­ter could ac­tu­ally be a se­ri­ous chal­lenge. The ap­par­ent be­lief that suc­cess rests with MPS them­selves in their var­i­ous com­mit­tees could be a hur­dle. Clerkly ini­tia­tive could ac­tu­ally speedup the process.

Af­ter all, staff re­main and con­tinue to man­age par­lia­ment while MPS con­tin­u­ously re­place each other in govern­ment, op­po­si­tion and in com­mit­tees, af­ter ev­ery elec­tion.

A de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to en­gage with CSOS has to be de­vel­oped to im­prove/ in­crease lev­els of pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

De­cid­ing on which CSOS to deal with could be bet­ter than when there is no for­mal in­ter­ac­tion at all. Se­lec­tion could be a chal­lenge to CSOS, to in­tro­spect and es­tab­lish why they may not be se­lected to in­ter­act for­mally in par­lia­men­tary work.

Truth is that se­lec­tion should not to be ar­bi­trary. Some kind of a guide has to ex­ist. This could en­able CSOS to al­ways en­sure that they are rel­e­vant and de­pend­able or openly be­come hos­tile to a sit­ting govern­ment.

Presently, no one can deny the ex­is­tence of an out­cry that some of our CSOS are only sym­pa­this­ers with some political par­ties. The onus to dis­prove that is on th­ese CSOS.

Suc­cess of par­lia­men­tary work rests more with staff. Putting all hope on MPS, re­gard­less of their back­ground, will con­tinue to cover lim­ited mileage. Staff have to be key play­ers if the wish is to score goals.

Cap­tains only have to en­cour­age and mo­bilise for their teams to win. This could be why some par­lia­ments du­pli­cate some su­per­vi­sory po­si­tions: two deputy clerks for the pro­ce­dural and ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions.

Botswana has a min­i­mum of five or six and even seven clerks to ser­vice each of its com­mit­tees. There is a lot of plan­ning and qual­ity con­trol re­quired in par­lia­men­tary work.

Par­lia­ments are sup­posed to grow. That will never be achieved if there is no timely in­no­va­tion. Re­form wishes will only end on the pa­pers they are writ­ten on.

Stand­ing Or­der 76 is a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple, and will re­main so un­til neces-

Con­tin­ued on Page 16 . . .

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