IN THE LAST FIVE MONTHS Vanuatu has had three Parliamentary Sessions – the Budget Session, the Special Parliamentary Session, and the First Ordinary Parliamentary Session. In this report we look, and measure, the participation of our Members of Parliament (MP) in those three sittings.
On the 1st of July Transparency International Vanuatu put out a report on the roles and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament. The responsibilities of a Member of Parliament includes looking at issues, from government policies to new laws and wider areas like human rights.
MP responsibilities also involve working in their constituencies so that they can provide a direct link between their constituents and the Parliament. “In their constituency, MPs often visit their people, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them,” this is according to a statement on the Vanuatu Parliament website.
Finally, of all the MP’s responsibilities one of the most important one is having the privilege to participate in debates and discussionsduring session. In the Parliament MP’s can raise issues that affect their constituents, join in debates and vote on new laws.
Below is the MP Parliament Participation Score compiled by Transparency International Vanuatu. The performance score was measured according to the number of times the MP asks a question, gives a supplementary, or provides a comment on a particular topic.
Parliament Budget Session
The 2016 Parliament Budget Session took place on the 21st of March, 2016. This Budget Sitting had already been a- long-overdue task, and it was important to roll it out once a new government was formed after the Snap Election in January, 2016.
The Budget Session recorded a fifty percent (50%) participatory rate by the Members of Parliament. This means that of the 52 Members of Parliament of Vanuatu half of them, which is 26, participated – they asked questions, provided supplementary on opinions, and commented or voiced concerns on matters affecting their constituencies and including national matters.
The amount of comments, supplementary, and comments on record totalled up to 113. Evidently, the most vocal MP during the Budget Session was the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau who scored twenty one percent (21%) of the total 113.
Furthermore, among the newest Members of Parliament, apart from the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Ephraim Kalsakau was the most vocal taking twelve percent (12%) from the total number of questions, comments, and supportive opinions raised.
Special Parliamentary Session
The Special Parliamentary Session was conducted on the 16th of June, the Special Session aimed to amend parts of the Constitution of Vanuatu that concerns the registration of political parties, provision for reserved seats for women, legal extension to the life of parliament, numbers and manners of no confidence votes and many other things.
The Special Session was supposed to be held for two days, however following legal factors and timing constraints the Sitting went for not more than two hours.
The Special Session recorded a thirteen percent (13%) participatory by the Members of Parliament. This means that of the fifty two (52) Members of Parliament seven (7) of them participated – they asked questions, provided supplementary on opinions, and commented or voiced concerns on matters that affected national interests.
The Hon. Ishmael Kalsakau was again the most vocal MP during this session with a twenty five percent (25%) on participation while the other six MP’s shared 12.5% each.
The Hon. Andrew Napuat is one of those six MP’s, though a newcomer to Parliament he was vocal during this Special Session.
First Ordinary Session of Parliament
The First Ordinary Session of Parliament was supposed to run for three days, unfortunately owing to legal matters and the lack of time the Session covered less than 10 hours.
It is notable that the lack of time, and almost a week of legal matters contributed to low participation. Thus, the Participation Rate for MP’s during the First Ordinary Session is twenty nine percent (29%), this means that 15 MP’s asked questions, provided supplementary on opinions, and commented or voiced concerns on matters that affected national interests.
The Hon. Albert William, Hon. Ephraim Kalsakau, and Hon. Ishmael Kalsakau had fourteen percent (14%) participation rate each. Also, during this Session several new MP’s raised, for the first time, their opinions and concerns to the Parliament.
Overall MP Participation
Accordingly, the overall parliamentary participation of the Members of Parliament for the last five months settles at fifty eight percent (58%). This shows that 30 MP’s out of the 52 MP’s raised were vocal on issues that affect their constituencies and including matters of national interest.
As for the 35 newest MP’s, 18 of them asked questions and raised concerns during the first three parliamentary sessions of this year, 2016.
Constituency Participation in Parliament
There are 18 Constituencies in Vanuatu, some of them have more MP’s than others. This is, of course, in accordance with regards to population and geographical reasons.
This is how the constituency representation is calculated in this report;
If only one MP, from a constituency that has two MP’s, raises concerns about his constituency then that means that that constituency has had a 50% parliamentary representation. However, if both MP’s speak during a Parliament Session then the representation rating would be 100%.
Thus, according to the principle explained above, the constituencies that have had 100% representation in Parliament are – Torres, Pentecost, Epi, and Tanna. Those that have had 50% to over 50% representation are – Santo, Luganville, Ambae, Malekula, Ambrym, and Efate. And those with less representation are – Banks, Maewo, Paama, Shepherd Islands, Tongoa, and Tafea Outer Islands.
The constituency of Malo/Aore had not parliamentary representation during this period due to the passing away of the late former MP Havo Moli.
This parliamentary participatory scores does not reflect at all the work accomplished by MP’s outside of the parliament and in their constituencies.
It must also be noted that this scores apply only to the MP’s participation during a parliamentary session, and it specifically records, in percentage, how many times an MP asked a question, provided a supplementary, or commented on matters that surrounds the welfare of his constituency and topics of national interest.
The scores do not take into account the time ministers, leader of government business or the prime minister presented a bill in parliament. It also excludes the speaker of parliament.
Evidently, the Parliament Opposition has achieved a higher score, and this is good, because normally they are expected to ask the most questions. It is also notable that several members from the Government side had raised questions and concerns on Government Bills
There are, as mentioned, several factors that may have contributed to less, or no participation, by some MPs in the 3 session of parliament, and that includes the lack of allocated time, and legal matters.
More analysis of parliamentary participatory performance, including each constituency’s participation scores, can be found online at the Transparency International Vanuatu Infogram website.
CLICK HERE to download the report.