Democratic Accountability Seminar Report
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Democratic Accountability: Examining the Efficacy of Constitutional Instruments
Seminar Report 11th August, 2014 Islamabad
The 18th, Constitutional Amendment brought about monumental shifts in Pakistan's federal architecture and introduced new divisions of power between the federal and provincial governments. The amendment also introduced regular publishing of annual reports as instruments of democratic-parliamentary accountability and transparency. It is now constitutionally obligatory that the annual reports of Council of Common Interests (CCI), National Economic Council (NEC), Principles of Policy and bi-annual reports of National Finance Commission (NFC) be laid before both houses of Parliament for debate and discussion. Strengthening Participatory Federalism and Decentralization Project of UNDP Pakistan in collaboration with Centre for Civic Education Pakistan jointly organized a research based seminar on “Democratic Accountability: Examining the Efficacy of Constitutional Instruments”. The seminar was held to initiate an informed discussion on constitutional governance focusing on the performance analysis of the CCI, NEC, NFC and POP reports and to critically examine the quality, frequency and efficacy of these instruments of democratic accountability. Attended by political party representatives, government functionaries, civil society, academia and technical experts the seminar involved an interactive dialogue on the culture and compliance of these constitutional reports. The Seminar emphasized that mere presentation of constitutional reports is not enough rather it is pertinent to discuss and debate these reports in the Parliament; moreover it is imperative to ensure that they become public documents that can be reviewed and analyzed externally as well. The seminar was divided in three sessions which included: Presentation on culture of
constitutional reports and compliance; Presentation on Report of Council of Common Interest and Principles of Policy and Presentation on Report of National Finance Commission and National Economic Council. The seminar opened with welcome remarks from Amir Khan Goraya, Assistant Country Director UNDP. Mr. Goraya suggested the need to deepen understanding of the 18th Amendment and engage with various stakeholders for production of relevant knowledge and provide technical assistance to various tiers of governance. He indicated that these constitutional reports are democratic instruments of accountability and oversight to gauge government’s performance and functionality of the Constitution. He stated that UNDP would continue to support robust discussions and learning events on constitutional governance in Pakistan. Zafarullah Khan Executive Director of Centre for Civic Education talked about the culture of constitutional reports and compliance. He said that the constitutionally mandated reports of CCI and NFC were laid before the parliament in 2014 whereas NEC and POP were presented in 2013 and 2012, further he added that there has been no discussion in the Parliament or any provincial assembly on any of these reports. He emphasized the importance of institutions to communicate and coordinate to improve the quality and timeliness of these reports. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed of Karachi University while analyzing the report put forth by the CCI said that since the 18th Amendment, the Council of Common Interest has emerged as a key institution. It is envisaged to become an effective dispute resolution, economic planning and development forum. He further stated that article 154 of the constitution has empowered
the CCI to formulate and regulate policies regarding subjects included in the Federal Legislative List II and also mandated the CCI to have an independent secretariat. Dr Jaffar pointed out that twenty four meetings of the CCI have been convened since 1975 of which only one took place during military rule (2006). This clearly reflects as how federal spirit and inter-provincial structure is undermined in military regimes in Pakistan. He suggested that dissemination of and discussion on this report is crucial to healthy inter-provincial relation in Pakistan. He also suggested that as provided in the Constitution, an independent secretariat of CCI should be established to optimize the spirit of participatory federalism in Pakistan. Ms. Asma Faiz, from Lahore University of Management Sciences talked about the report on the implementation of Principles of Policy. She pointed out that though the report provides good informational value there is a need to compile and interpret the huge amounts of data available in these reports. She stressed the need for dedicated data analysis since the report includes interesting facts and figures about women’s participation in national life, protection of family, protection of minorities, social development and foreign policy. Further, she pointed out that information on local governments has been overlooked and the issue of minorities has been inadequately covered in the report. She also indicated that the major portion of Report on PoP is allocated to the issues related to foreign policy with mere logistic information instead of reporting on the results of diplomacy. Asma also identified structural gaps in the report by stating that issues related to service delivery and development disparity have been completely overlooked in the Report. She also suggested that training of report writers to be
organized for strengthening parliamentary reporting system in the country. Dr. Idrees Khawaja, from Pakistan Institute of Development Economics discussing the NFC report explained that the 7th NFC award resulted in increased revenues to provincial governments which was a positive sign. He highlighted that fair distribution of resources are essential to interprovincial harmony. Dr. Khawaja suggested that the NFC report needs more detailed information on expenditure utilization which will make it more useful. He pointed out that provincial assemblies did not present individual NFC reports and after the passage of 18th amendment it is essential for provincial governments to present such reports before their respective assemblies. Zubair Faisal Abbasi, Executive Director of Impact Research and Training examining the report of NEC claimed that it lacks triangulated analytical analysis of the issues and it does not delve into any kind of analysis and only presents the facts and figures as information. He further pointed out that data has been presented without referencing and attribution and hence it is difficult to determine the accuracy of data presented. Mr. Abbasi suggested the need to include a section on recommendations in the report and to provide a provincial breakup to reflect on questions of balanced development and regional equity to identify development gaps and generate advice for governments. Mr. Abbasi further stated that the report does not address results related to financial allocations at the national and provincial levels, while concluding his analysis Mr. Abbasi provided recommendations for improvement in the NEC report which include; Planning Commission and Pakistan Institute of Development Economics should be involved in preparation of the report,
meetings should be convened twice a year rather than once, meetings to review the performance of the report are also vital, the review should be based on Principles of Policy and the report should go beyond financial allocation analysis and it should be published right after the end of financial year. Deputy Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Senator Sabir Ali Baloch stated that the importance of holding such dialogues is to critically analyze its contents to enhance understanding amongst different stakeholders. He hoped that today’s discussion will gauge the effectiveness of these instruments as well as inform future debate/discussion on the subject. Senator Sabir highlighted that the 18th Amendment has introduced unique accountability mechanisms and there effective implementation is vital to
enrich country’s democratic system. He acknowledged the fact that presentation of constitutional reports was not enough rather the parliamentarians, civil society, academia and the media must discuss and debate on these reports .He underscored the importance of implementing the 18th amendment in true letter and spirit which will consequentially ensure democratic accountability. Representing SPFD, Amjad Bhatti expressed his thanks to the panelists and participants, he reiterated UNDP’s commitment to enrich the knowledge base on democratic accountability and deepen the understanding of constitutional governance in Pakistan. He also underlined the need of creating critical mass for the effective transition management of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.