PDP’s much vaunted Code of Conduct for Ministers and MPs still in suspended animation

This is also in the backdrop of concerns over the performance of some of its MPs and some government decisions

 

The PDP government came to power in July 2013 with a mandate of change, and one of the first things the party did was to come up with an 18 point draft Code of Conduct for MPs and Ministers with the aim that they serve the people well. The code also had additional three points for cabinet ministers.

The code also had a provision to remove or expel MPs and Ministers by the Prime Minister on the recommendations of the party’s Executive Committee for major breaches of the code of conduct.

The draft Code of Conduct which was ready by August 2013 was only endorsed six months later in February 2014. However, before the code could become functional there were objections from some MPs who said that they had their own National Assembly code of conduct to follow. They felt it could result in duplication.

As a result today PDP’s Code of Conduct aimed at ensuring good performance, transparency, accountability and proper coordination is in suspended animation.

The code was brought in by the PDP in part to distinguish itself from the DPT which they claimed did not have such a code when it was in power.

The aim of the code of conduct was to also encourage internal party democracy.

PDP General Secretary Sonam Jamtso said, “We looked at the NA code of conduct and found it very strong as well. So now we could either combine the two to come up with one or there is a possibility that we may not even have one if the NA one is sufficient.”

The secretary, however, said that the problem with the NA code of conduct was that unlike the party code of conduct there was no monitoring mechanism and so this issue would have to be resolved as well.

The Code says that elected members must perform their legislative mandates with utmost competence, efficiency, effectiveness, impartiality, integrity and fidelity to the Party, people’s welfare and the national interest.

However, according to sources there has been unhappiness in the Dzongkhags on the performance of some of their MPs especially in the first few sessions.

The secretary said that the Bumthang executive committee member has offered to evaluate the performance of all PDP MPs.

There has also been unhappiness in the past over some major decisions taken by the government. The code mentions that elected members would take part in policy decision making in consultation with the stakeholders concerned.

It has been learnt that though members of the party’s highest body the Executive Committee advised the government against certain provisions of the pay hike and taxes, the government anyhow went ahead with its plan resulting in a public backlash for both the government and the party.

The party Executive Committee is the highest decision making body of the party which is inbuilt in PDP’s 2007 Party Charter. It consists of the Party President, three Vice Presidents, General Secretary, Spokesperson, women’s coordinator, youth coordinator, treasurer, and representatives from 20 dzongkhags.

Here the party secretary explained that the Cabinet is the supreme body in the government and though some of the Executive Committee member’s advice was well meant, it was not binding.

There are also real concerns that a lack of adequate coordination between MPs and ministers could hurt both the government and also the party in the Parliament.

According to insiders, on the ministers part MPs have been complaining of a lack of access to discuss developmental issues, while on the MPs part there have been issues of MPs not doing adequate homework on issues in the Parliament or not being conversant with the party line.

One provision of the code was for elected members to submit a report of their respective constituencies every three months to the Secretariat. No MP till date has submitted written formal reports but according to the party secretary around five MPs have given informal or verbal reports.

Though the code prescribes transparent governance there has been increasing complaints from journalists on ministers not being accessible over the phone or in person.

The secretary himself admitted that there were major communication issues in the past. He said that in the past the right people from the party were not going for TV debates or not going at all especially when the party was under attack. He also said various factors and the initial absence of any media team in the Prime Minister’s office meant that the governments various programs and achievements were not getting adequately communicated.

Sonam Jatso said that while there were various issues in the past the party has done some major revamping in the last few months to address the above issues.

He said that a final decision on the final form of the Code of Conduct would be taken in the upcoming monthly coordination meeting in December.

The secretary also said that to ensure there was good coordination and communication the party has had three Monthly coordination meetings so far starting from July 2014.

He said that with more coordination meetings and better communication the MPs were better prepared and performing better in the Parliament. He said that in these meetings the ministers also informed the MPs and other party members on various initiatives and achievements. Sonam said that the Prime Minister himself had insisted that there be better coordination and communication.

The secretary said that the ministers and MPs would be evaluated on their performance annually by the Executive Committee and the Prime Minister. He also said that issues of access were also sorted out.

Sonam pointed out that a lot of the above issues had to do with the fact that both the MPs and ministers were all new to the system, but now things were much better than before and would get better.

 

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