Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Phillips: It's disheartening - Young MP laments absence of parliamentarians at committee meetings

Published:Wednesday | July 20, 2016 | 7:00 AMAndre Poyser
Phillips

Member of Parliament (MP) Mikael Phillips has expressed disappointment at the fact that some of his parliamentary colleagues have been shirking their duty to attend parliamentary committee meetings.

"It is disheartening, because I consider the committees of Parliament as a very important role in the functioning of the legislature, and if it's otherwise, we should just get rid of them," he said in an interview with The Gleaner.

Phillips was responding to data from the committee register of Parliament, which indicates that committee meetings are not regularly attended by some MPs.

"I am concerned about the absences, because the committees can't function effectively if you just have the basic quorum. It defeats the purpose of having a committee and decreases the effectiveness of the committee," the second-term MP said.

 

ABSENCE SINCE THE START

 

Phillips currently serves as chairman of the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee and has, like his parliamentary colleague Everald Warmington, been a stickler for the timely and orderly execution of committee duties.

According to the parliamentary records, no House committee meeting held since the start of the new Parliament in May has been without absences.

The sole Regulations Committee meeting held since May saw only five of the nine members turning up. For all three meetings of the

Public Administration and Appropriations Committee held thus far, at least three members are missing for any given meeting. The only Public Accounts Committee meeting held up to the point The Gleaner requested copies of the committee records registered a mere five of the 12 members as present.

The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Committee recorded the noticeable absences of James Robertson and Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, both of whom have attended one of the six meetings that have been held. Robertson has also been absent from all meetings of the Economy and Production, Public Accounts and Regulations committees of which he is a member.

The Reverend Ronald Thwaites has also registered a poor record of attending committee meetings of the new Parliament. He has been absent from all four meetings of the Ethics Committee and is yet to call a meeting of the Human Resource and Social Development Committee, of which he is named as chairman.

Phillips has suggested that the leaders of government and opposition business re-examine the make-up of the committees and axe parliamentarians who are continually absent. He also raised the possibility of smaller committees being appointed.

"What we have done in the CDF is that persons who are members of the committee, if they do not attend the committee for a certain number of time, then their project will not be approved, so we sanction them, but for the other committees, it's hard to sanction because there is nothing for you to hold on to apart from reporting them to the leader of government business or the leader of opposition business," he said in regards to sanctions for absentee committee members.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com