January 9, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
Amid rising frustrations over inability of the government to control corruption and making lawmakers accountable to people, the decision of the parliament secretariat to prohibit the lawmakers from pocketing salaries meant for their personal secretaries, aides and drivers comes as a welcome relief. According to the decision, from this month onward the secretariat will deposit salaries of these staffs in their own personal bank accounts instead of sending it to the bank accounts of the lawmakers. Such a step was long overdue. We wonder why the secretariat took such a long time to take this decision. As a matter of fact, some members of parliament (MPs) had made mockery of their own reputation by claiming expenses under fake titles. Most office bearers including parliamentary party leaders, chief whips and whips, chairpersons of various parliamentary committees and MPs took salaries of their secretariat team members for themselves. They even claimed salaries for the employees they didn’t hire. They were also found misusing salaries meant for hiring staffers by recruiting fewer staffers or showing non-existent ones.
Office bearers including chairpersons of various parliamentary committees were found hiring a single driver even though they were collecting salary for two. In the process, they were not only draining state resources but also openly flouting existing law which clearly states that salary of personal secretaries and aides should be deposited in their own bank accounts. Parliament secretariat should have risen up in action to stop lawmakers from openly violating this legal provision. Better late though, the parliament secretariat now has asked all 334 MPs from both the lower and upper houses to submit details of the bank accounts of their staffs working with them to the secretariat. The secretariat has instructed that MPs and office bearers should submit appointment letters, citizenship certificates and identity cards as well as bank account numbers of their personal secretaries, aides and drivers so that it can deposit their salaries directly in their own bank accounts.
The secretariat should not stop here. There are reports of lawmakers—from both the provincial as well as the federal parliaments—claiming house rents from the secretariat even though they have their own houses in the town. This continues despite widespread public criticisms. Secretariat has been releasing money without verifying whether the lawmakers are staying in rent or they are lying. The concerned authorities should properly look into whether lawmakers’ claim for house rent is genuine. Yes, not all lawmakers have their own houses in the town and some of them are living in rented apartments. Such members should be paid the house rent allowances. But those who live in big houses of their own should not be entitled to the benefits meant for those who live in rented apartments. Ideally, parliamentarians themselves should uphold their dignity and stay away from the practices which project them in a bad light. But since this has not happened here, some measures to discourage this practice are necessary. It is because of such wrong practices by MPs themselves that they have earned very bad names. To improve their public image, the lawmakers and the institution [parliament] have to start from themselves. Even a small effort can go a long way in correcting serious flaws.