Saturday, June 15, 2024
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What do we know about the relations between State organs and interaction with the citizens?   

By Osman H Yusuf

Absent national political parties, members of Parliament, who represent their respective clan constituencies at the regional level through indirect elections, fail to act as the people’s voice in the legislative body. They are not keen on maintaining contact with their base for feedback and consultation on national issues. This disconnect is largely due to the lack of serious efforts by regional leaders and clan chiefs to select individuals who are fit for the crucial work of Parliament and possess a vision for the future. As a result, the performance of this important institution suffers significant setbacks.

Despite efforts by Parliament leadership who have been arranging seminars and workshops for the representatives to upgrade or build their capacity on parliamentary functions and procedures they are still inefficient and somewhat incapable of properly exercising their duty with regard to government oversight, strict scrutiny of its work, thoroughly debating important topics, deeply examining draft laws and succumbing to undue outside influence, among other things. This is largely due to some if not many of the representatives with unsatisfactory background in terms of knowledge let alone experience on legal matters and the fact of the questionable level of their competence as legislators and monitors of government operations and policies underscores gross incompatibility with the legislative power vested in them as representatives of both chambers of the Parliament.

As deputies come from different constituencies with varied interest groups they often hold opposing political views inspired by short-sighted clan politics or loyalty to the political elite in contrast to other world parliaments populated by party members who follow their party’s platform and consistently behave to push forward their agenda. On the other hand, it’s unusual that members of different political orientation in Parliament as in our case should cast a unanimous vote on delicate or controversial issues despite having first thoroughly debated them. This might have serious unintended consequences. Parliamentarians should appreciate their strength and weaknesses, diligently perform and strive to focus on where they can do more effectively and cooperate with government where appropriate. Currently unavailable the Parliament should establish permanent procedures and rules enabling interaction with constituencies and civil society since the representatives’ role as public servants transcends local political considerations even if elected on a clan-based ticket.

 In the context of its overall mandate, it’s hard to imagine how the Parliament can safeguard the checks and balances enshrined in the constitution and also ensure good governance and cooperation with other State organs when parliament experiences undue government influence meddling in the smooth running of its legal work. The Parliament has the duty to oversee government operations and hold State institutions to account so that accountability and transparency requirements are fully met as envisaged and provided for in the law. Another essential parliamentary activity is to maintain contact with the electorate in an attempt to respond to the need for communication and consultation with the base to keep them informed on the progress being made by the Parliament and how challenges facing the nation are approached and dealt with but so far no plausible evidence that that has happened nor are there signs that it will happen in a party-less political environment. The Parliament can consider the creation and execution of rules and regulations fostering relations with the citizens so that they effectively participate within the parliamentary committees’ meetings in the decision-making process on matters of public interest. This should be formally incorporated in the parliamentary procedures so that both the representatives and the public are given the opportunity to pursue this important role of active engagement on important legal and other issues impacting social and economic matters.

 In normal circumstances and experiences, working on items of interest for the citizens is said to be a role of great importance for the deputies to respond positively to the citizen’s legitimate concerns but it’s also the most time consuming aspect of a Parliament’s function. Nonetheless this should not be a reason for it to ignore making such engagement a permanent feature of its relations with the people.

A crucial function of Parliament concerns the finances of the government where it’s financial statements need an audit opinion as mandated by the law to meet the criteria of accountability and transparency. A case in point is the approval of the government budgets for previous years which have gone through the required process and review by the office of the Auditor General for certification that the taxpayers’ money has been used for the purposes for which it was intended. It’s worth mentioning that in view of past experience, the Parliament has shown laxity with regulations to hold the government to account on its operations in due course. Failure to do so without credible justification for delays represents an act of negligence and also exposes an apparent unawareness on the part of the representatives for unintended consequences of such an omission on government activities which may adversely affect stakeholders and the economy in general.

The budget is an important instrument of the government’s fiscal policy to steer the economy in the right path along with the monetary policy for the benefit of the people and as such it’s accorded the highest priority in its preparation and execution for each fiscal year. Approved and published in time on government outlets it affords consumers and investors, internal and external, the opportunity to take stock of government’s economic and financial policies indicating the direction of its trade and investment plans. Failure to pass on time such informative fiscal policy instrument will likely have far reaching consequences on resources allocation and economic stability thus impeding the ability to achieve policy goals. This will negatively impact the flow of resources in the various sectors of the economy causing reduced financial activities while likely disrupting business and investment activities and the provision of services.

The Parliament is also the place where the views of the public should be heard through the parliamentary committees on matters that affect people’s daily lives to ensure that all citizens experience improvement in the quality of life therefore enhancing people’s trust in government. Members of Parliament do a good job when they interact and consult with the citizens and fulfill their role of greater involvement on matters of national interest continuously exploring ways and means for a better governing and for a more effective and efficient government oversight. Civil society activists can lead the way for the citizens to actually participate in and contribute to the decision-making process on the issues that meet their expectations or matter most to them.

Cooperation and mutual understanding should be the corner stone of the relations between Parliament and the Executive which should not be confined to the top levels but also at the officials’ level establishing permanent avenues to exchange views on important legal and policy issues and enjoy an exhaustive and friendly debate on them.

Osman H. Yusuf
Email: [email protected]

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