By Thoboloko Nts’onyane
MASERU – The Speaker of the National Assembly Rt. Hon Tlohang Sekhamane has charged the members of parliament (MPs) to adequately acquaint themselves with knowledge that will enable them to undertake their work.
This he said yesterday during the first post-election seminar currently being conducted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) United Kingdom (UK) since yesterday, ending on Thursday.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Parliamentary caucus is visiting Lesotho with a purpose of sharing practices with the Parliament of Lesotho on processes, systems, and practices for efficient and effective Parliamentary activity.
This drilling has assembled both members of the two houses of parliament, the Senate and National Assembly, those being largely new members.
Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth and the CPA UK bringing on board the UK and Commonwealth parliamentarians and officials to strengthen their capacity by sharing experiences and knowledge from their jurisdictions.
The Speaker said the MPs ought to “stay on top of their game” adding that in the UK, MPs closely follow the media to acquaint themselves with what is happening around them and their constituencies.
Sekhamane said without MPs whose tools of trade are “sharpened”, the parliament risks becoming a “white elephant”.
He said the Parliament ought to contribute to the improvement of the lives of the people.
It is expected that the lawmakers and officials of both the parliaments explore areas of interest and practices from areas such as budgets and financial scrutiny, legislative processes, ethics, collaborations, supporting a gender perspective, working with the Clerks, building constituency communication plans among others.
“Parliamentary democracy has existed in some form or other in the UK for over 1000 years so we have had the benefit of learning a tremendous amount about what can work,” said the UK High Commissioner to Lesotho Harry Macdonald.
Hon Blackman said the programme will expose the local parliamentarians to new things. “We are not here to lecture people, to tell people what to do, we are here to say, this is how we do it using our experience,” he said.
The Member of the House of Commons further mentioned that they hope to learn some new things as well in order to implement them in return.
The former Councillor in the London Borough also indicated that they are planning to mount the business committee in the UK.
The Deputy Speaker Hon Ts’epang Ts’ita-Mosena said both parliaments share similar practices but not identical in their modus operandi in some areas.
Mosena highlighted that both parliaments use bicameral systems but indicated that whereas membership of parliament in Lesotho is attained in a Mixed Member Proportion through winning at the constituencies with 80 members and additional through the proportional representation (PR) system to make 120, while in the UK they employ First Past The Post from constituencies to make the 650 members.
She said the Prime Minister (PM) is rarely asked questions, the practice she said should be regular. She also emphasized that the Lesotho parliament is yet to attain its autonomy which if not reached compromises its performance.
The Deputy Speaker also pointed that the sitting arrangements of these parliaments differ as locally National Assembly seats are arranged in a form of a circle whereas in the UK they sit facing each other, which is more confrontational.
Prof Nqosa Mahao an MP, pointed out a concern wherein the government may have its “proxy” as a Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) contrary to the effect that such should come from the opposition.
He also echoed the Deputy Speaker’s sentiments that the PM does not usually come to the house to account, saying he does that through the “proxy”.
From the Upper House, Principal Chief Khoabane Theko lamented that Senate is not given much time to engage and interrogate the budget, while Hon. Senator Kanetsi expressed a concern on credible ways to attract commitment of Hon. Members to attend to committees.
Meanwhile, the CPA UK caucus showed that from their parliament, there is a day in a week that is dedicated solely for the opposition to use to hold the government accountable. It also indicated that bills originate from either lower or upper house, and that backbenchers must take advantage of building synergies to strengthen their cases, against the concern that opposition faces a tough battle with no support.
The six member delegation consist of the Head of Delegation Hon Bob Blackman and Hon Kate OSA or and Danielle Nash from House of Commons, Baron German from House of Lords, Victoria Bower as the Head of International Partnerships CPA UK and Tamika McAuley-Christopher the Programme Officer, CPA UK.