Oversized cabinets have over the years impeded the functionality of the legislative branch of the government and have led to corruption, Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie said yesterday.
Moultrie argued that when ministers outnumber backbench and opposition parliamentarians in the House, legislative power is swayed too heavily towards the executive branch.
“As long as there is no separation of powers, and as long as there is executive control of the legislative branch, as a former chief meteorologist and hurricane forecaster, I forecast and predict that plunder and corruption will continue to be the order of the day,” he said while speaking to a group of teachers visiting the House of Assembly.
“The system produces the result, not the personalities, and until we correct the system to cause the system to function the way it should, we will continue to repeat the history that we all really don’t want to see continued.”
Moultrie added, “What has happened over the years in The Bahamas is the executive branch of government has encroached on the territory of the legislative branch of government.
“When we started to get the huge, supersized cabinets that we refer to in The Bahamas as the ‘Gussie Mae cabinets’, that process actually diminished the function of the Parliament itself, because what that did is it permitted the executive branch to have sufficient numbers in Cabinet where when the executive branch enters the Parliament, they have sufficient numbers to outvote the backbench and the official opposition combined.
“That is not a good situation to have any democracy in.”
Moultrie said that in a parliamentary democracy, the executive branch should be accountable and subordinate to the legislative branch, but the current norm has made it so that the legislative branch, Parliament, is only a “rubber stamp” of the Cabinet.
“Whenever the executive outnumbers the backbench and the opposition combined, the Parliament then becomes a rubber stamp of the executive, and out the window goes accountability, transparency and all the necessary checks that the constitution puts in place for Parliament or the executive branch,” he said.
He added. “The Parliament, constitutionally, is required to provide a check on the executive, and provide a forum for the ventilation of matters of public concern and to educate the public about aspects of the work of Parliament.”
Moultrie said that constitutional reform to limit the size of Cabinet is necessary for Parliament to function as intended.
“Article 72(2) says, ‘The Cabinet shall consist of the prime minister and not less than eight ministers, of whom one shall be the attorney general as may be appointed in accordance with the provisions of Article 73 of the constitution,’” he said.
“So the constitution establishes a minimum, but it leaves open the maximum, and so to bring about the proper functioning of the Parliament would require constitutional reform to limit constitutionally the size of the Cabinet, because we have the difficulty accepting, and this is throughout the third world in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, accepting the unwritten conventions of the Westminster model.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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