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Dhaka Tribune

JS watchdog pushes for overseas trips

Update : 27 Oct 2013, 07:17 PM

The parliamentary watchdog tasked with ensuring transparency and accountability of the executive has been “immorally” pressing the commerce ministry to fund overseas tours for the standing committee’s head and members.

The Rules of Procedure of parliament prohibits watchdog members from accepting any benefits from the executive, as standing committees on different ministries are meant to ensure transparency by monitoring all activities.

Asking for favours or receiving any benefits from the ministries would influence the oversight functions of the watchdog bodies for certain, said experts.

At the last three meetings, the 10-member parliamentary standing committee on commerce ministry demanded that the ministry include the chairman, members and certain officials of the parliament secretariat for overseas tours.

During the committee’s 50th meeting on September 30, information was sought on the Export Promotion Bureau’s (EPB) funds, after the commerce ministry refused to provide funds.

Commerce Minister GM Quader, who didn’t attend the last three meetings (49th - 51st), told the Dhaka Tribune that the standing committee’s demand for funds to finance foreign trips was “highly immoral.”

He said his ministry had already sponsored tours to the US, France and Italy for Chairman AMB Abul Qasem and some members of the standing committee. The ministry also funded trips for the chairman’s private secretary.

“But making such demands frequently is highly immoral. Again, he wants us to provide funds for his private secretary’s trips,” said the minister.

He said overseas tours of standing committee members should be sponsored by the parliament secretariat, the ministry or any of its wings, and added: “We cannot go abroad since the minister took charge (of the ministry).”

He said standing committee members should only travel abroad to gather knowledge on different relevant issues.

According to the minutes of the 49th meeting held on September 4, the standing committee recommended that its members and three officials of the parliament secretariat should be included in the EPB’s team that would travel to Moscow for the Federal Trade Fair for Apparel and Textile held on September 24-27.

At the meeting, which was attended by the Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, he told the standing committee that the ministry did not have funds to sponsor MPs’ overseas tours, and the minister would be able to answer their queries in this regard.

At the next meeting, the committee once again raised the subject of overseas tour for its members, and asked for the EPB’s funds statement after the ministry spoke of financial constraints.

It was demanded that standing committee members be included in the EPB team that was going to a trade fair in Brazil. After the ministry refused to fund the Brazil trip, the standing committee once again raised the topic of travelling to the trade fair. Ministry officials attending the meeting once again refused on the grounds of funds crises at the ministry and the EPB.

The decision was taken at the meeting for the standing committee to ask for clarifications from the ministry at the next meeting, if it refused to sponsor them again.

The date for the next meeting has not been fixed, as yet.

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