Are silent ministers dispensable?
by manthri.lk - Research Team posted over 8 years ago in Analysis
A staggering two-thirds of all government MPs hold ministerial portfolios. Currently, 68 MPs are ministers and 40 MPs are deputy ministers.
Manthri.lk, Sri Lanka’s pioneering parliamentary monitoring service, has analysed the contribution of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the main chamber of Parliament over a 12-month period (Sept 2013 – Aug 2014).
Ministers quiet in parliament: While an average MP has contributed 1,047 productive minutes (based on Manthri.lk’s impartial scoring system), an average minister has contributed only 756 productive minutes in the 12-month period. There is however a wide range in ministerial activity, with Dinesh Gunawardena clocking in 5,851 productive minutes whilst Dulip Wijesekara failed to contribute even once. Furthermore a surprising number of ministers are inactive in the parliamentary main chamber, at times only contributing during the annual budget debate and rarely otherwise.
Invisible portfolios: Of the portfolios represented by the ten lowest contributing ministers (Exhibit 1), only the deputy minister of disaster management’s low contribution is compensated for by the significant contribution of his respective minister. Of the remaining nine portfolios, five belong to ministers without a deputy minister appointed. The other four portfolios have deputy ministers who are not compensated for by significant contributions by their respective subject minister (all less than 1000 minutes).
Ministers have to take on dual responsibilities as members of the government whilst maintaining their MP role as public representatives. The exhibit would suggest that some portfolios have been given minimal legislative importance. Furthermore, the ministers also bear the responsibility to raise issues regarding their constituent’s affairs, which the exhibit illustrates some have rarely done in the main chamber of parliament.
White elephants: The reform proposals of UPFA backbench MPs Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera and Wasantha Senanayake have sought to cap the number of ministers, particularly given the public perception of wastefulness. In light of the demonstrable inactivity in parliament of some ministers, broader debate and a detailed response to these UPFA driven proposals would seem merited.
Do underperforming ministers still meet the legislative expectations placed upon them? Or does the narrow scope and multitude of portfolios make them legislative dead weight? Your thoughts and questions are welcome at www.manthri.lk/en/blog; over Twitter @manthrilk, or by text to the manthri.lk hotline: 071-4639882.
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