PILDAT releases Analysis of National Assembly’s Performance

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  1. LEGISLATION

Legislation decreased by 8% in 4th Year of 15th National Assembly compared to previous year. However, 37 % more laws were passed by the National Assembly under Prime Ministership of Mr. Imran Khan compared to similar period in 14th National Assembly

  1. ORDINANCES

PTI government promulgated 54% more ordinances than the PML-N government

  1. WORKING DAYS

15th National Assembly was convened for 11% fewer days or average 88 working days per year compared to average of 99 working days per year of the 14th National Assembly.

  1. COST PER WORKING DAY

Cost of a working day of the 15th National Assembly stood at PKR 64.15 million

  1. HOURS PER DAY

Duration of average sitting remained under 3 hours in the National Assembly.

  1. LEFT OVER AGENDA

59% agenda items were left over by the 15th National Assembly during the 4th year

  1. PM ATTENDANCE

As PM Mr. Imran Khan only attended 34 or 11% sittings of the 15th National Assembly compared to PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif who attended 52 or 14% sittings in similar period of the 14th National Assembly

  1. MOST VOCAL MNA

Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was the most vocal MNA during the tenure of PTI government (3 years and 8 months) while 174 MNAs (50.88%) did not speak at all

  1. BUDGET SESSION

Only 14 days were spent in budget session during 4th year with a sharp decrease (56%) of working hours from previous year

August 22; As the 15th National Assembly concluded 4th Parliamentary year, PILDAT has released analysis of the performance of the Assembly based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Since outgoing Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were elected on the promise of change, the PILDAT comparative analysis also looks at how the three years and 8 months period of the National Assembly under Prime Ministership of Mr. Khan was different from the same period in the 14th National Assembly.

Legislation

Legislative activity witnessed a decrease of 8 per cent in the fourth year of the 15th National Assembly as it passed 55 laws compared to 60 bills passed during the third year of the Assembly. Thirty (30) bills were passed during the second year while only ten (10) bills were passed in the first year of the 15th National Assembly.

However, in a comparison of legislation between four years of 15th and 14th National Assembly, the 15th National Assembly has passed 155 bills in the 4 year period while the 14th National Assembly had passed 125 bills in its first 4 years. The 15th National Assembly has therefore passed 24% more laws in the same period compared to the previous Assembly.

Figure 1: Comparison of Bills Passed in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

It must be noted here that 126 of the 155 bills were passed during August 13, 2018 to April 9, 2022 when Mr. Imran Khan was Prime Minister. In the similar period during the tenure of the 14th National Assembly, only 92 bills were passed. This means that a 37 per cent increase in legislation took place under Prime Ministership of Mr. Imran Khan.

During the fourth year of the Assembly, 32 government bills were introduced compared to 31 bills introduced in the third year. while Private Members introduced only 46 bills which is a decline from third year when 74 bills were introduced.

Figure 2: Comparison of Bills Passed under the tenures of the PTI and the PML-N Governments

Ordinances

The triumph of passing more laws than previous Assembly in four years pales in comparison to the number of times law-making was carried out through ordinances during this period. Legislation by ordinances is the least-desirable constitutional power available to governments only when the Parliament is not in session. However, excessive reliance on issuing ordinances has been witnessed during four years of the 15th National Assembly through seventy-four (74) ordinances laid in the Assembly.

A slight decrease is seen in the number of ordinances laid by the Government in the National Assembly during its fourth year compared to the third year. Sixteen (16) ordinances were laid in the Assembly in the fourth year compared to twenty (20) ordinances laid in the Assembly during the third year which is a decrease of about 20%. Out of these 16 ordinances laid, 13 ordinances were further extended for a period of 120 days. It must be noted that fourteen (14) of these sixteen (16) ordinances were laid in the Assembly by the PTI government under Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan while the coalition government under Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has laid two (2) ordinances in the National Assembly during the fourth year. Thirty-one (31) ordinances were laid in the 15th National Assembly during the second year and seven (7) ordinances were laid by the Government during the first year of the 15th National Assembly.

A comparison between 4 years of 15th and 14th National Assembly presents a rather grim picture. The previous PML-N government had laid thirty-four (34) ordinances in the 4 years of the 14th National Assembly while seventy-four (74) ordinances were laid during four years of the 15th National Assembly. This is a whopping 118% increase in legislation through ordinances in the current tenure of the Assembly.

Figure 3: Comparison of Ordinances laid in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

When comparing strictly the number of ordinances promulgated in the PTI government in 15th National Assembly during 3 years and 8 months with the same period of 14th National Assembly, the PTI government laid 72 ordinances in 3 years and 8 months in 15th National Assembly. In the same period, the PML-N government promulgated only 33 ordinances which is 54% lower than PTI government. This raises serious questions about the ability of the PTI government in facilitating legislation by elected representatives of the people as a key requirement of a democratic system. Lack of majority in the Senate has been cited as a key reason by the PTI government for its reliance on ordinances. This is, however, a lazy excuse and points to the inability of the outgoing government in taking along legislators and parties from across the political divide towards consensus-based legislation.

Figure 4: Comparison of Ordinances laid under the tenures of the PTI and the PML-N Governments

Working Days (Actual Sittings)

The 15th National Assembly of Pakistan has only met for 87 days in the fourth parliamentary year. The Assembly has met for 10% more days than it was convened during its third year, which were 79 sittings. However, on the average, 15th National Assembly has met for 88 working days per year in its first 4 years in comparison with an average of 99 working days per year in the previous (14th) National Assembly. This is an 11% decrease in the performance of the 15th National Assembly compared to the 14th National Assembly.

There is a minimum constitutional requirement for the Assembly to meet for at least 130 working days in a year. However, lawmakers have provided in the Constitution that in counting required yearly working days, up to two days of adjournment between Assembly sittings and joint sitting of the Parliament can be included in the count of working days. While this clever provision helps in counting the constitutional requirement of working days of the Assembly under Article 54 (2), it does little in maintaining productivity of the Assembly. The average professional works for 240 to 260 working days in a calendar year. Global data shows that Parliaments, such as the UK Parliament, meets for an average of 150 days a year, Indian Parliament for 120 days a year and the US Congress for upwards of a 100 days in a year. Instead of focusing on increasing the efficiency, the 15th National Assembly has met consistently for fewer days during a year compared to previous years.

A look at how much it costs the citizens to fund a working day of the National Assembly provides another window of analysing the performance of the Assembly. During the fourth year of the 15th National Assembly, a working day cost works out to PKR 64.15 million.

Figure 5: Comparison of Sittings in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

Working Hours

Working hours of the Assembly in a year are another way to gauge efficiency and productivity of the Assembly. In its fourth year, the 15th National Assembly has met for 178 hours and 1 minute. This means that the working hours of the Assembly have declined by 18% from the third year of the Assembly when it had convened for a total of 217 hours and 10 minutes.

The average working hours of the 15th National Assembly in four years are 258 hours and 15 minutes. These stood at 292 hours and 34 minutes average working hours in the first 4 years of the 14th National Assembly. Instead of improvement in performance and productivity, 15th National Assembly has worked for 12% fewer working hours compared to the previous (14th) National Assembly.

Another way to look at the efficiency of the Assembly is the average hours Assembly spends during a working day. The average working day is calculated to be a mere 2 hours and 3 minutes during the fourth year. The average hours spent per sitting during four years of 15th and 14th National Assembly have seen no improvement as the 15th National Assembly maintained the average of 2 hours and 56 minutes per sitting and the 14th National Assembly at 2 hours and 58 minutes on average in their respective first 4 years.

Compare this 3 hours average working day of the National Assembly with that of House of Commons, UK, which maintains an average sitting of about 8 hours a day and Lok Sabha, India, with an average working day of about 6 hours.

Figure 6: Comparison of Working Hours in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

The average working hours per year are 230 hours during the PTI government in the 3 years and 8 months period in the 15th National Assembly while in the same period of 14th National Assembly, average working hours per year were 269 hours which is 20% higher than the PTI government.

What does it actually cost taxpayers to fund a working hour of the National Assembly? During the fourth year, per working hour costs comes to PKR 31.35 million.

Agenda Items Left Over

Another way to analyse performance of the Assembly is what it sets out to do each day in the Orders of the Day and what it manages to achieve during a sitting against that agenda. If in a sitting, some agenda items are not addressed, as planned, these make up the left-over agenda items showing that the Assembly could not accomplish what it had set out to do in each sitting.

A look at the fourth year of the 15th National Assembly paints a bleak picture in this regard. The 15th National Assembly could not dispose of nearly 59% of planned agenda items in 87 sittings, which is a bulk of the agenda by any standard. On average, 58.87% agenda items were left over in the sittings during fourth year of the Assembly. The highest agenda items left over were 99.45% on May 17, 2022 while 100% agenda items were disposed of in only 17 out of 87 sittings in the fourth year of the assembly.

Figure 7: Agenda Items Left Over in 4th Year of 15th National Assembly

Attendance of MNAs

During the fourth year, average attendance of MNAs was recorded at 67% until April 9, 2022. After the PTI tenure, average attendance of MNAs during 4th year dropped to 51% which is 14 percentage points lower than the attendance of MNAs during the third year which was 65%.

However, there is negligible difference in combined average attendance of MNAs in first 4 years of 15th and 14th National Assembly. Average attendance of MNAs in first four years of the 15th National Assembly stands at 63%, an improvement of only 3 percentage points over 60% average attendance of MNAs per year during the first 4 years of the previous 14th National Assembly. Even after the resignations of PTI MNAs, the attendance is calculated on the basis of full house, i.e., 342 MNAs as their resignations are not accepted officially. It seems that the average attendance during the 4th year has improved even after the resignation of PTI MNAs.

Attendance figures are useful for comparison but these may, however, be misleading as the attendance figures may include all those MNAs who attend even for a brief period of 10 minutes. A more scientific system of computation of attendance is required showing, for example, the maximum and minimum attendance during a sitting.

How can one understand the cost per-member spent by the exchequer during a year? Or in other words, what does the time of one MNA cost in a year to taxpayer citizens of Pakistan? The cost per MNA stands at PKR 16.32 million in the fourth year of the 15th National Assembly.

Figure 8: Attendance Comparison of MNAs in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

Attendance of Prime Minister

How many times did our Prime Ministers attend sittings of the National Assembly? This is a critical question to understand the importance respective Prime Ministers have placed on National Assembly beyond treating the House as mere electorate for the office of Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister and as MNA, Mr. Imran Khan displayed quite a disregard for attending National Assembly sittings. Except for a few and far-between occasions other than his election, vote of confidence and some other instances, he seldom gave National Assembly the importance it deserves as key legislature from which he drew strength of his government. During the fourth year of the National Assembly, Mr. Imran Khan, MNA attended only one (1) sitting (1.14%) of the Assembly while he held the office of Prime Minister. He attended a total of 34 or 11% sittings of the 15th National Assembly. In many ways, therefore, Mr. Imran Khan accorded similar or somewhat worse importance for attending National Assembly sittings as his predecessor and his proclaimed political nemesis Mr. Nawaz Sharif who had attended 52 or 14% sittings in the similar period of 3 years and 8 months of the 14th National Assembly of Pakistan.

Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA, who took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan on April 11, 2022, has attended 8 out of 43 or only 19% sittings of the National Assembly since.

Figure 9: Attendance Comparison of Prime Ministers in 15th and 14th National Assembly

Figure 9: Attendance Comparison of Prime Ministers in 15th and 14th National Assembly

Attendance of Leaders of the Opposition

Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA, remained Leader of the Opposition till April 10, 2022, and in that capacity, attended 43% (19 out of 43) sittings of the Assembly in its fourth year. This was an improvement from his 13% attendance during the third year of the 15th National Assembly.

However, when compared with the average attendance of the previous Leader of the Opposition in the 14th National Assembly, Syed Khurshid Shah, who on average attended 71% sittings of the 14th National Assembly in first 4 years, average attendance of Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA, is only 29% in four years. This may also be on account of Mr. Shehbaz Sharif’s custody in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as he also resigned from the position of Chairman, Public Accounts Committee on the same grounds.

Raja Riaz Ahmad, MNA, who was declared as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly on May 20, 2022, has attended 35% (13 out of 37) sittings of the National Assembly during the fourth year.

Figure 10: Attendance Comparison of Leaders of the Opposition in 15th and 14th National Assembly

Quorum

Quorum is another way to gauge the actual presence of MNAs during proceedings of the House though they may have been marked as present in the Assembly attendance register.

According to Article 55 (2) of the Constitution, at least one-fourth of the total membership of the Assembly has to be present during a sitting of the Assembly or the sitting has to be suspended or adjourned by the presiding officer.

During the fourth year of the 15th National Assembly, quorum was pointed out 34 times in 28 (32.18%) sittings out of 87 sittings. Out of these 28 sittings in which quorum was pointed out, 23 (26.44%) sittings were adjourned, even though on average 173 MNAs were recorded as present in the fourth year.

The consistent pointing out of quorum during sittings juxtaposed with the system of marking attendance of MNAs points to a larger problem. This means that while attendance of MNAs is marked, they do not necessarily attend the entire proceedings of a sitting resulting in frequent suspension and adjournment of already small number of sittings. Workable reform is required in the system of attendance of MNAs whose time is charged for their presence in the Assembly sittings.

Figure 11: Quorum Pointed out in 4th Year of 15th National Assembly

Top 5 Vocal MNAs

During the tenure of PTI government (3 years and 8 months) in the 15th National Assembly, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, MNA (NA-200 Larkana-I, Sindh, PPPP) was the most vocal MNA with a recorded talk time of 1 hour and 59 minutes. Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, MNA (NA-132 Lahore-X, Punjab, PML-N) and then Leader of the Opposition spoke for 1 hour and 57 minutes, followed by Khawaja Muhammad Asif, MNA (NA-73 Sialkot-II, Punjab, PML-N) who spoke for 1 hour and 27 minutes. Mr. Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, MNA (NA-78 Narowal-II, Punjab, PML-N) spoke for 1 hour and 11 minutes while Ms. Shazia Marri, MNA (NA-216 Sanghar-II, Sindh, PPPP) spoke for 51 minutes.

Non-Vocal MNAs

During this period in the House of 342 members, 174 (50.88% MNAs) did not speak for a single minute in the Assembly. Out of these 174 non-vocal MNAs, 149 were male and 25 were women MNAs. 84 of these MNAs (22% of the House) belong to the PTI, 48 MNAs are of the PML-N and 23 are affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP).

Figure 12: Top 5 Vocal MNAs

Figure 12: Top 5 Vocal MNAs

Budget Session

Despite two decades of calls for reform in the Parliamentary budget process to allow meaningful and effective oversight of public representatives on review and passage of annual budget, little change has been made in the Parliamentary Budget Process. As a result, MNAs merely go through the motions of debating the most crucial piece of annual legislation, i.e., Finance Bill and rubber-stamp it through their approval.

The fourth year of the 15th National Assembly has also seen just 14 days for the annual budget session and the passage of the Finance bill 2022-2023, two days less than what was spent during the third year. These deficient days of the budget session are in keeping with the historic average of budget sessions in the National Assembly of about 15 days.

Figure 13: Comparison of Budget Sittings in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly

Instead of improvement, the 15th National Assembly has seen a sharp decrease (56%) of working hours from 102 hours and 27 minutes to 45 hours and 7 minutes in the total time spent during the budget session during the fourth year. This decrease may be due to the absence of PTI MNAs who resigned from the National Assembly after the success of VoNC against Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan. However, the 4 year average of time spent in budget session during the 15th National Assembly is 79 hours, which is a 41% increase in average time spent in budget session during four years of the 14th National Assembly.

Figure 14: Comparison of Time Spent in Budget Sessions in 4 Years of 15th and 14th National Assembly