The Parliament’s ‘National Committee on Parliamentary Entitlements’ comprising of members from the ruling party, opposition party and National Council recently met to discuss and propose two entitlement issues that came before it.
The first was on exemption of sales tax and customs duty or vehicle quota for both the outgoing and incoming MPs in case of a bye election, with the most recent example being the North Thimphu seat vacated by Kinga Tshering.
The committee had no problem in the Ministry of Finance (MoF) dividing the Nu 1 mn entitlement to buy a duty car between the two MPs with the idea that Nu 200,000 would be given for every year of service. So Kinga Tshering was allowed to take Nu 200,000 for every year he served while the new MP would get the remaining amount for the remaining years.
The issue cropped up when the MoF came up with a similar formula to divide the one vehicle quota popularly known as the ‘Prado Quota,’ between the two MPs. The matter was also referred to the Office of the Attorney General for legal advice.
Here the committee resolved that neither the MoF nor the OAG has authority on the issue as it is a matter of Parliamentary entitlement. So the committee decided that the both the MPs will get one vehicle quota each irrespective of their duration of service.
An MP using his or her quota can procure a Prado for Nu 3.6 mn inclusive of the 25 percent green tax while for an ordinary citizens the price would be around Nu 6.6 mn with the 50 percent sales tax, 50 percent custom duty tax and 25 percent green tax.
The committee, to make sure that there are no such future confusion with the MoF or other government agencies on MPs entitlements recommended that the ‘National Committee on Parliamentary Entitlements’ will have the final authority to interpret any provisions of the Parliamentary Entitlements Rules and Regulations.
A member of the committee said that the Speaker would now inform the respective agencies to follow the Committee’s recommendation as it is a Parliamentary body.
The second issue was on maternity leave for female MPs. The same committee also resolved that female MPs giving birth would also be eligible to the same six month maternity leave as civil servants.
The committee also decided that it will meet every four months to discuss and resolve any issues and proposals pertaining to Parliamentary Entitlement Rules and Regulations.
Apart from the above two issues which were resolved there were also some financial proposals before the committee which were brought up but kept in abeyance, as of now, as any amendment that has financial implication are mandated to be routed through the Pay Commission as per the provisions of the Constitution. The committee members also felt that the financial proposals would not be proper as the current Parliament is about to finish its term and it should be left to the next Parliament.
One of the now dropped financial proposals was for the government to do away with the Nu 7,000 drivers allowance for MPs and instead hired full time drivers for MPs. A MP said, “It does not look nice when the MP has to look for parking and park his own vehicle during official functions.” The MP said the proposal would also have reduced unemployment.
Another financial proposal was that while as per the 2014 Entitlement rules MPs are eligible to get executive class airfares on planes they mainly get it during government sponsored trips. Their issue is that for invitations by external and other agencies the flight ticket is usually economy seats and so the government in keeping with the entitlement rules should top up the remaining amount to let MPs fly in executive class.
One more financial matter was on the difference between the NC and NA in the eligible percentage of the DSA to be taken when a foreign trip is fully paid for with transport, accommodation and food. Currently NC members even for fully funded trips take 50 percent of the DSA while NA members take 30 percent.