Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: They all need to be called to account

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What indeed do parliamentarians do every day for their money? If the answer was that clear-cut, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner might not have so agitatedly raised the question.
Speaking at a St Andrew Constituency Council career showcase at The Alleyne School on Saturday, Senator Sandiford-Garner might have been initially accused of singling out deftly her political opponent MP George Payne. Actually the senator spreads the doubt.
Says she: “. . . A disturbing trend has crept into Barbados’ Government of late, where some Members of Parliament, especially those of the Opposition, have decided . . . token appearances are the norm while the daily needs and requirements of their constituents are being neglected.
“It is my considered opinion that there should be a mechanism in place where constituents are able to demand quarterly reports from those MPs as to their tenure. What do they do every day for their money?”
A reasonable question of the senator; the more reasonable of the constituent. Further, Senator Sandiford-Garner would have those funds forwarded – as of August 2010 – to MPs for use in their constituencies being accounted for.
It is not new, querying the role and conduct of MPs, and what they should do and where they should be. And how their hours of representation and parliamentary attendance and participation might be effectively measured.
MPs’ tasks are demanding, if MPs will be true to their parliamentary calendar and at the same time be mindful of the needs of their constituencies. And the responsibilities are more onerous if they are ministers of Government.
This often raises the charge of not seeing the minister in the constituency; but mere MPs are said to have greater time, unless of course their non-parliamentary job or private business is itself demanding of their time.
Even so, if funds are given MPs for use in their constituencies for social work, it behoves the people’s representative to be able to show by some report or another the benefit to his riding or members of it.
That the authorities should have some “mechanism” to have MPs accountable, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner stands strong. But there is another concern, equally important. MPs should observe with greater scrutiny that brought to Parliament by the executive and should be more prepared and less robust when speaking on behalf of their constituents to the issues before them.
Too many MPs seem to rush into our House of Assembly purporting to represent but becoming engulfed in digression. MPs must be so focused on the people’s business that – whether of Government or Opposition – they must not fail to hold the Government sufficiently to account for its economic and social promises to the national constituency.
Everyone needs to be fully accountable!

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