State Minister – Plantation Industries
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202 ex-MPs re-contesting, but how have they performed?
The use of data analysis to make a business decision is a key tool for a CEO. Similarly, data can help inform citizens when they cast their vote at an election. Contesting the upcoming elections are 202 MPs from the last Parliament. Using the Manthri.lk dataset, which comprises more than 28,000 Hansard records between May 2012 and June 2015, a wealth of new perspectives emerges. This information, in addition to MP voting records, can be found on the new Manthri.lk Election Homepage. Here are a few key highlights.
Of the 202, MPs, 30% have never filed a public petition in Parliament on behalf of a constituent. A further 13% have only done so once. Therefore 43% have neglected the practice of petitioning for their constituents, which according to a former secretary general of Parliament is supposed to “enable a citizen to bring to the notice of Parliament the flaws in the administrative machinery of the Government”. MPs must justify this lack of constituent representation.
Blinkered ministerial oversight
Similarly, consultative committees of parliament exist for every ministry with the objective of MPs providing oversight and inquiry. This system envisages feedback through recommendations, which in turn will enrich legislation. Every MP is assigned to a series of consultative committees. However, analysing the minutes of these committee meetings, which have been publicly reported (stemming from an initiative of Manthri.lk) for the seven months between May and November 2014, exposes some harsh realities.
Some 33% of MPs have never raised a single action point in their committees. A further 45% average less than one action point per month. This inactivity of 78% of MPs illustrates a paralysis within the committee system, which requires urgent attention. MPs must not only start playing a more active role, but they must also refocus on the legislative function envisaged for the committees. The burning question is whether MPs in the new Parliament will strive to remedy these performance shortfalls.
Better behaved than expected
On a more promising note, 37% of re-contesting MPs have never been disruptive in Parliament and a further 14% have been rarely disruptive. This includes being disruptive during debates or using a procedure known as a point of order in an improper manner to disrupt. This clarifies a misconception that the majority of MPs are disruptive. Far from it, many behave within the standing orders (rules) of Parliament. It, however, only takes a few misbehavers, coupled with a lenient Speaker, to make Parliament dysfunctional.
As these data points would suggest, there is a lot of information that can be ascertained about MPs’ parliamentary performance. Every re-contesting MP has a report card on Manthri.lk, which highlights these interesting facts.
Do you feel a data driven parliamentary analysis of MP actions should underpin a citizen’s vote? Or does it miss the core essence of an MP working within his or her constituency? Share your thoughts and questions at www.manthri.lk/en/blog; over Twitter @manthrilk, or by text to the manthri.lk hotline: 071-4639882.
-Asoka Obeyesekere (@asokao), Governance Consultant, Verité Research