Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE VAST majority of parliamentarians have been failing to show up for legislative duties in committees.
Lecturer in management studies at the University of the West Indies, Dr Densil Williams, after perusing the attendance records of committees for the just-concluded parliamentary session, which ran from May to August, said the level of absenteeism of members of the house in the various subcommittees of Parliament is cause for concern.
Of the six house committees that met during the period under review, only two members who sit on more than one committee had flawless attendance records.
The two - Arnaldo Brown and Dr Andrew Wheatley - are members of the Internal and External Affairs Committee and Ethics Committee. Both committees had a single meeting over the period.
Like Brown and Wheatley, Hugh Buchanan and Delroy Chuck serve on both committees. Buchanan did not show up for the lone meeting of each while Chuck was absent from the meeting of the Internal and External Affairs Committee.
"It is at the subcommittee level that most of the operational details on policy development should be deliberated on. It means that these committees should be most active and vibrant if they are to articulate appropriate policies to guide the management of the state," Williams told The Gleaner.
He added: "The lack of meetings and the high level of absenteeism seem to suggest that policy development and articulation are outsourced to the bureaucracy and legislators are more concerned with other affairs than those of policy development and articulation."
Daley almost flawless
Denise Daley, who sits on four committees, has missed only one of a possible 12 meetings. She has never been absent for the seven meetings of the CDF committee, was absent from one of the two Public Administration and Appropriations Committee meetings, attended all of the three Human Resource and Social Development Committee meetings as well as the lone meeting of the Internal and External Affairs Committee.
Daley told The Gleaner that as a first-time MP, she has made it her duty to attend the committee meetings because it provides her with an opportunity to better understand the parliamentary process.
"The committees are also important because it is the level where you are able to consider and deliberate on policies. And as a representative of the people, it is my duty to provide such representation," Daley said.
Mikael Phillips was absent three times from 10 possible meetings held by three committees and Everald Warmington absent once from nine possible meetings held by two committees.
But that was as far as the excellent attendance record goes. Hugh Buchanan and André Hylton, for example, have been perennial absentees from committees.
The two committees on which Hylton sits met a total of eight times - (the CDF seven times and the Ethics Committee once) and he has attended only two meetings.
In the case of Buchanan, who sits on the Internal and External Affairs, the Human Resource and Social Development and the Ethics committees, the South West St Elizabeth MP has attended none of the combined five meetings of the three committees on which he sits.
Like Buchanan, Keith Walford and Anthony Hylton failed to attend a single meeting of the Human Resource and Social Development Committee. Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Shahine Robinson and Olivia Grange attended only one of the three meetings held.
Robinson, however, has a flawless attendance record at the CDF, in much the same way Daley, Joylan Silvera and Rudyard Spencer have flawless attendance records at the Human Resource and Social Development Committee.
The Human Resource and Social Development Committee considered the issue of whether the Office of the Political Ombudsman should be abolished.
The Public Administration and Approriations Committee also suffered from poor attendance. The committee, which is charged with monitoring the expenditure of government entities and to make recommendations for the improvement of public administration, had only two meetings over the period. Of the 13 members on the committee, only Edmund Bartlett, who chairs the committee, Fitz Jackson, Richard Parchment and Mikael Phillips attended all meetings.
Neither Raymond Pryce, Audley Shaw, Lloyd B. Smith nor Dr Dayton Campbell showed up for any of the two meetings of the Public Administration and Approriations Committee.
Clearly a failure
Arguing that legislators are like directors of the company, Williams said, "With so many of its directors not showing up for meetings and so many meetings not held, the company would collapse and eventually close its operations."
"In terms of governance, this performance is clearly a failure," he added.
He said Parliament could not afford to be missing sessions of meetings aimed at articulating clear policy positions for carrying the country forward.
"If the members of the committees are not up to the task, they should be replaced with more committed persons so that there can be serious deliberations on the critical issues affecting the nation at this time," Williams said.
In the meantime, Campbell told The Gleaner that he considers the parliamentary committees "paramount to nation building".
"I take it as a pleasure and a privilege to serve on three such committees. This is an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and, as such, I try my endeavour best to always be in attendance and to always be well prepared," Campbell told The Gleaner.
Campbell was absent from six of 12 possible meetings of three committees.
"I was unavoidable absent from a few sittings secondary to a concerted effort I made to attend as many of the graduation ceremonies in my constituency, I was able to attend all three for secondary schools and 15 of 26 for the primary schools. I also sat my LLB exams in May, which compounded the problem."
He told The Gleaner that it is his desire to "maintain an attendance record of greater than 90 per cent whilst not neglecting my responsibilities to my beloved constituency of St Ann North Western."