by Linda Straker
- Discontent with members of the Senate who are not representing government
- Parliament’s failure to engage necessary oversight is a “significant shortcoming”
Chester Humphrey, President of the Upper House, has expressed his discontent with members of the Senate who are not representing the government and are failing to seek further clarity or explanation from papers and reports laid in the parliament.
“These papers are an expression of the accountability that must come from the Executive and from governance, it’s us now to examine them,” Humphrey told members following the laying of a number of reports during last Thursday sitting. These reports include financial statements from different government bodies or departments as well as the annual reports of independent and or statutory bodies.
“These audits are important. They are important documents to put on record and the law requires that they be put before the House for a particular purpose. The government side has fulfilled that purpose by the Minister submitting them to parliament, it is now for the other side to scrutinise these, raise questions where you think it may be appropriate, ask for further explanation as the case might be,” said Humphrey who was speaking directly to the opposition and independent senators.
“Many reports have been laid and since my return to this Senate which occurred in December 2014, not a single question from my recollection has arisen from the other side in respect to any of these reports. It is my subjective opinion that is very, very unfortunate,” he added.
“If we are going to have a healthy democratic engagement it’s important that we participate in the process fully, because there are absolutely no stumbling blocks in the way. All of these documents have been consistently laid on the table by the Leader of Government Business,” said Humphrey. He formerly served as the senator representing the Labour Movement and boasts of raising numerous questions while serving in that capacity.
Humphrey told the members at the session that the Constitution of the country lays out that parliament has a responsibility of oversight. “These are very important reports and papers and I have been encouraging senators to peruse them and to raise pertinent matters which may emerge out of these papers.” He said that failure to engage the necessary oversight is a “significant shortcoming.”
“I think that our democracy is being short-changed by the absence of a more proactive participation by members on the other side. These papers are an expression of the accountability that must come from the executive and from governance, it’s us now to examine them. So far on this second sojourn in the parliament not a single question or motion has come,” he said.