Unnecessary Fuss Over Breakfast Sponsorship

Published On: June 18, 2024 07:55 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

A meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament, where the controversy surrounding the NGO-sponsored breakfast led to an abrupt adjournment, raises a critical question about the role of non-governmental organizations in legislative processes. The parliamentary committee under federal parliament was supposed to hold discussion on the federal civil service bill. The controversy itself was not unnatural given that there has been an age-old debate in Nepal about whether NGOs should be allowed in legislative committee deliberations. However, amid the debate over the appropriateness of the involvement of NGOs, we must not lose sight of the primary goal: serving the interests of people effectively and efficiently. Parliamentary committees are designed to deliberate on critical issues, gather expert input, and ultimately shape policies that benefit the populace. The participation of NGOs in this process is neither novel nor inherently problematic. In fact, NGOs have long contributed to Nepal’s legislative landscape, offering expertise, resources and perspectives that enrich the policymaking process. The involvement of NGOs should be viewed as a supplement to the legislative process rather than a source of contention.

The uproar following the discovery of an NGO-sponsored breakfast at the parliamentary committee meeting is a prime example of misplaced priorities. Rather than focusing on the trivial matter of who provided the refreshments, lawmakers should concentrate on the substance of the discussions and the outcomes they aim to achieve. It is worth noting that the practice of engaging with lobbyists and external experts is common in parliaments worldwide. Such interactions can help lawmakers make informed decisions and formulate more effective policies. Nepal’s legislative history is replete with instances where foreign assistance and NGO participation have led to significant legal reforms. For example, the abolition of outdated laws and the promulgation of the Civil and Criminal Codes were achieved with substantial external inputs. Critics argue that NGO involvement may lead to undue influence on legislative processes. While this concern is valid, it is not a justification for blanket exclusion. Instead, parliament should establish clear guidelines and a code of conduct to regulate NGO participation, ensuring transparency and accountability. By setting boundaries, lawmakers can leverage the expertise and resources of NGOs without compromising the integrity of the legislative process.

Furthermore, the emphasis on the origin of refreshments detracts from the more pressing issues at hand. In various government agencies and courts, external catering is a commonplace practice. The key is to manage these arrangements properly and ensure they do not distract from the primary mission of governance. Ultimately, the effectiveness of legislative committees should be measured by the quality of their work, not by who sponsors their meals. Lawmakers must prioritize the interests of the people they serve, embracing collaboration with NGOs, civil society bodies and other stakeholders to enhance the legislative process. Opposition to external influences should be based on substantive concerns, not superficial ones. We can take a lesson from other countries around the world to follow their best practices in this regard. For instance, Singapore’s transformation from a struggling state to a prosperous nation was driven by its willingness to adopt best practices from around the world. Nepal, too, can benefit from embracing external expertise and focusing on meaningful progress rather than being sidetracked by inconsequential issues. It is time for our lawmakers to demonstrate true leadership, working in the spirit of service and prioritizing the greater good over minor distractions.

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