Strengthening Parliament Program – Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago

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Last week, Franklin De Vrieze, UNDP Consultant held a presentation in the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago outlining the Strategic Plan for the institution’s future evolution. A video blog with a detailed overview of the Strategic Plan, the main objectives and the results to date, has been uploaded.  Here are some of the main ideas:

Strategic Plans for parliamentary development are a common practice in many countries, not just in Trinidad & Tobago. New Zealand and Scotland are the most important houses that benefited from a Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan for the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago has been elaborated taking into regard the best practices in the CPA, IPU and the local Parliament, as well as other UNDP projects.

The Strategic Plan has been elaborated with the support of the United Nations Development Programme.

The Plan has two main focus areas: the first one regards capacity strengthening of parliamentary staff and MPs, and the second concerns improving systems, processes and procedures. The aim is for Trinidad and Tobago to have a modern and completely functional parliament by 2018.

The Plan is based on five core values: independence, integrity, concern, professionalism and openness. It is built around four strategic objectives:
1. Increasing institutional capacity;
2. Improving the legislative process and legislation;
3. Improving oversight capacity;
4. Increasing outreach and strengthening the representation role of MPs.

The Strategic Plan covers more than 20 activity areas, tackling both structural and functional issues. The structural issues covered include: the strengthening of MPs engagement in parliamentary work; MPs’ wages; enhancing autonomy of MPs; creating a platform for legislative drafting and reform. On the other hand, the functional issues regard: the work schedule; moving to a paperless parliament, studying the impact of draft legislation; scrutinizing government proposals; improving the library, research and parliamentary communication services.

A detailed roadmap was put in place so that the process would not lag behind. The timeframe for achieving all these objectives is 5 years or one parliamentary mandate.

The main activity areas can be summed up in a couple of points:
- Increasing parliamentary autonomy by aiming to achieve the CPA’s benchmarks for democratic parliaments in this specific area;
- Encouraging consultations with the executive on financial management;
- Strengthening the role and position of MPs through the further professionalization of parliamentarians.  The target is that by the end of the current mandate, 75% of MPs will work full-time for parliament.  A code of conduct should also be set up to provide clear rules on compatibility of being an MP and holding other (paid) posts;
- Implementing measures for gender equality;
- Organizing the schedule; elaborating a parliamentary calendar and agenda;
- Moving towards a paperless parliament; reducing use of hard-copy versions and shifting to ICT; two pilot projects are being implemented with regard to this: delivery of documents from the executive to Parliament only in electronic form and phasing out the delivery of hard-copies to MPs houses every morning;
- Improving the legislative process; implementing a legislative tracking system; creating parliament-government committee in which representatives of both parties sit at the same table and agree on a timeline for passing legislation;
- Boosting oversight.

Finally, the main benefits of the Strategic Plan can be summed up in two categories: improving transparency and accountability and increasing the image of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago in international fora.

To watch the full presentation, please click here