Perks and peeves

Two years ago, I had been surprised to hear that the cabinet had issued each minister with an additional car, a Wagon R. I had been surprised because that additional perk does not feature in the government’s approved list of “Entitlements of Cabinet Ministers and Equivalent Posts”, and because the additional expense had not been declared when the budget was discussed in the Parliament.

Now I’m surprised to hear that each minister has been receiving “an allowance for cooks and housekeepers from the cabinet”. I’m surprised because this perk is not part of the government’s approved list of “Entitlements of Cabinet Ministers and Equivalent Posts”, and because the additional expense has not been declared when the budget was discussed in the Parliament.

It’s perfectly okay for our ministers to enjoy certain perks. But those perks must be clearly defined. They must be transparent. And they must be approved by the Parliament. Otherwise, our ministers may be tempted to enjoy limitless perks.

Cabinet’s idle website

Total solution?

I trust that part of the Nu 2.05 billion total solutions project will go towards updating the cabinet’s website – for some odd reason, the cabinet has stopped publishing their executive orders, cabinet decisions, and press releases on their website.

Answering questions

I salute the Cabinet ministers for attending the National Council’s Question Time. The NC’s Chairperson was quoted as declaring:

this session was a remarkable one as three cabinet ministers from the ruling party actually visited the house to answer queries during Question Time of the session. They were labour minister Lyonpo Dorji wangdi; finance minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu; and agriculture minister Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.

Well done. I congratulate the National Council and the Cabinet for resolving their earlier differences.

Answering questions

In “Questioning questions” Di asked, “Did Kuensel report correctly that you were in the end supporting the PM in that the ministers need not attend QT?”

If that was what Kuensel reported, they are wrong. I did not say that ministers need not attend the National Council’s Question Time. What I did say, however, was that I appreciated our government’s efforts to accommodate the NC, as we, in the National Assembly, were told by the PM.

What I also said was that, as far as the opposition sees it, the issue is between the Cabinet and the National Council. And that, as such, we will not say that the ministers must attend the NC’s Question Time, or that they don’t have to attend.

But, I appealed to the government to discuss the matter with the National Council, so that the current standoff is resolved.

Questioning questions

The National Council had summoned two ministers – Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel and Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba – to attend Question Time yesterday. Both of them didn’t show up. So the Council adjourned for the hour earmarked for Question Time.

By now, it’s safe to assume that the Council will continue to hold Question Time, which they have scheduled on Tuesdays and Fridays. And, that they will continue to expect cabinet ministers to attend to deliver their answers in person. But it’s also safe to assume to our cabinet ministers will not attend the National Council’s Question Time.

Last Friday, Kuensel gave us glowing accounts of the successful meeting between our prime minister and members of the National Council to “clear up misunderstanding and facilitate dialogue”. But it’s becoming clear that’s all’s not hunky-dory: the misunderstanding – if the current standoff can be called that – between cabinet ministers and the Council persists. Or, perhaps, this issue was not discussed at all. Either way, it’s important that the Council and the Cabinet meet again.

It’s important for democracy. And it’s important for our people.

Black Friday

Today, Friday, July 3, 2009, will be remembered as a dark day in the history of our democracy for two reasons.  One, the National Assembly started imposing its ban on live TV coverage of its proceedings.

And two, a cabinet minister refused to report to the National Council for “Question Time”. The National Council had directed the home minister to report to them today, in person, to answer questions. The questions had been sent to him in advance. Lyonpo Minjur, however, did not report to the Council and submitted his answers in writing. The refusal of a cabinet minister to report to the Council undermines the mandate of the National Council and the democratic process.