By Yusufu S. Bangura
IGR Executive Director and IGR Parliamentary Monitory Officer presenting the report to newsmen
Parliamentary Monitoring Officer of Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), Ishmail Saidu Kanu, has told journalists that 47% of Members of Parliamentarians didn’t debate in Parliament during the last quarter from October-December 2021.
The IGR parliamentary officer made the above disclosure on Tuesday during a press conference held at IGR’s Wilkinson Road office, Freetown.
“In terms of debate, 76 Members of Parliament debated bills, agreements, appointments, reports among other issues during the period of October –December 2021. 52% of MPs speak in the Well of parliament about the issue under review and 47% of MPs did not speak or debate in Parliament during the last quarter, but however, they might have contributed in committee meetings, which are not tracked in this scorecard,” he said.
Giving brief introduction of the report, Executive Director of IGR, Andrew Lavali said about one fifth of Sierra Leone MPs didn’t attend half of the sittings in the last quarter of 2021 and the maiden edition of Sierra Leone’s Parliamentary scorecard presents a monitoring report on the performance of MPs in the area of attendance and participation in debates for the period October to December 2021.
He said 75% of MPs attended the last 20 sittings from October to December 2021 and 20% of MPs did not attend half of the 20 sittings. He added that a total number of 92 MPs (64%) attended more than 70% of the sittings, while 27 MPs (19%) attended between 10 and 13 sittings and also 27 members (19%) attended less than half of the sittings.
“By attendance, we mean MPs who were recorded as present in the parliamentary votes and proceedings but not necessarily taking part in the business of the day. We also note that Parliament rarely met on time, and we recorded an average late start of about 20 minutes as the leadership waited to meet the 25% members presence required to form a quorum. This report covers only the official parliamentary register which includes both MPs that reported on time and those that turned up late,” he said.
IGR Executive Director said the parliamentary tracking is important because parliament is a place where decisions should be taken for the development of the country. It is a place for representative of citizens, and it a place where law should be made effectively, adding that if parliament is not right it would be difficult for State house to have the justice system right because parliament should be holding everything in accounts.
He said the purpose of tracking is to increase legislators’ commitment to their representative duties and to strengthen the legislative process, noting that 20 parliamentary sittings were held during the period as recorded in the official parliamentary attendance register, which is commonly known as Votes and Proceedings.
He continue that the tracking does not cover the Parliamentary leadership which include Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and party leaders in Parliament because parliamentary leadership determines the calendar of Parliament and the structure of debate as their inclusion will create an undue advantage to ordinary members.
Andrew Lavali further said during the monitory, they note that punctuality is a perennial challenge facing parliament, but said party whips and leadership should enforce existing procedures to increase punctuality and they strongly recommend that the vote and proceedings begin to record MPs punctuality and also steps should be taken to automate MPs attendance.
Going further, IGR recommends that MPs should increase outreach to the public, sharing more with them about their parliamentary work which would also help citizens to have a better understanding of what should be the work of Parliamentarians and what is not providing personalised benefits to citizens.