The Jatiya Sangsad speaker, Muhammad Jamiruddin Sircar, has termed “irregular” the present interim government of Fakhruddin Ahem, which failed to conduct the general election within the constitutionally mandated timeframe.
‘We say not an illegal government…It is an irregular government. This will be regularised only when the national election is held,’ said the speaker asking the government to concentrate on parliamentary polls with priority.
The main purpose of the caretaker government is to conduct the election and its function is to carry out the regular affairs of the state, not to take any policy decision, stated the Speaker while launching a World Bank-funded project Strengthening the Public Accounts Committee on Sunday in Dhaka.
The Tk 55 million project was initiated in 2006, launching of which took place only now, and is scheduled to wind up in late 2009, aiming broadly to strengthen the oversight functions of parliament and making the functions consistent with Westminster model of democratic practice.
The Public Accounts Committee is one of the most important committee of parliament to ensure accountability over public expenditure.
And the project was taken at a time when the parliament was is dissolved, and there has been confusion in public mind whether or not the stalled ninth parliamentary polls take place at the end of the year as per a roadmap announced by the interim government and the election commission.
While delivering at the launching ceremony of the project, the speaker emphasised on conducting the national elections with top priority.
He said the constitutional responsibility of the caretaker government, by nature an interim administration, to carry out the routine works, and provide support to the election commission to conduct a free, fair and impartial parliamentary election within 90 days of dissolution of parliament.
The government, in practice, failed to conduct the election within that time. ‘Then, should call the government illegal? No. We say [this is] not an illegal government. It is an irregular government.’
Referring to Article 58D of the constitution, which deals with functions of the non-party government, said the caretaker government has no mandate to pursue or take any policy decision.
It has clearly been defined in the constitution how far it could travel.
‘Now the elected government is absent, it is a non-representative government,’ said the speaker adding that enactment of any law, other than necessary in relation to the election, is also policy decision. ‘Therefore, the government has no right to enact a law as per the constitution.’
The speaker castigated a section of lawyers who apparently giving wrong explanation of the laws saying ‘They know the laws, but do not speak the truth. It is not fare.’
Referring to the committee system, the speaker said that the parliamentary committees are the only mechanism to ensure accountability of the executives.
He said among them the PAC is most important mechanism to ensure the executive’s accountability to the people. Strengthening of this committee would also enhance the parliament’s power to make executive more accountable.
The World Bank chief in Dhaka Xian Zhu, who also spoke on the occasion, advocated for continuation of tasks of the defunct PAC, which automatically dissolved with the disappearance of the eighth parliament, in whatever form it may be to allow pending audit reports to be pursued to help avoid to backlog from the previous years.
He referred to an earlier government move to this effect saying ‘Regrettably, despite government’s firm commitment, progress to an effective ad-hoc arrangement in the absence of the PAC is not visible.’
Xian believes an interim arrangement until a new PAC is formed would help the nation to a great extent in terms of accountability in expenditure.
The comptroller and auditor general, Ataul Hakim, said that he would extent the best possible support to link the Public Accounts Committee and the CAG office. He said that the common people are aware of their rights to know where and how the public money goes.
The secretary to the parliament secretariat, Ashfaq Hamid, and the project director, Khandaker Anwar Hossain, spoke on the occasion while former adviser to caretaker government, lawmakers and officials of the parliament secretariat attended the project launching ceremony.