FNC seeks to make meeting attendance mandatory

The FNC passed the draft law, which compels members to notify committee heads in advance if they cannot attend meetings.

ABU DHABI // Attendance at FNC committee meetings will be obligatory under a draft law introduced after members complained about repeated absences.

The council passed the law after heated comments about poor attendance during yesterday’s session.

Members will have to submit reasons for their absences in advance to the heads of their committees.

“Some members drive from the Northern Emirates in the early morning to attend the meetings,” said Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, the Speaker. “So when they don’t find most of their peers present, that is a waste of their time and effort.”

If committee members were not serious about attending, “then we should change the head and the members”, said Azza bin Suleiman, from Dubai.

Absences can be embarrassing when government representatives attend meetings and only the committee chair and reporter are present, she said.

“So cancellations should be presented in advance for us to coordinate,” Ms bin Suleiman said.

Salem Al Shamsi, from Sharjah, took a more positive stance: “I see you are all very pessimistic. I see there is good turnout and commitment.”

But Afra Al Basti, from Dubai, said that at a meeting yesterday there were last-minute cancellations, showing a need for prior notifications.

“When a committee consisting of six or seven members faces repeated absences, this places a burden on the remaining members who then have to spend extra efforts,” Ms Al Basti said.

Meanwhile, questions sent to ministers for yesterday’s session – on housing loans, employees with special needs and fog delays – have yet to be answered.

Salem Al Shehhi, from Ras Al Khaimah, asked about a 2009 law that says if a loan from the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme is repaid within 10 years, the debtor is given a 20 per cent discount.

But Mr Al Shehhi said this had not been happening.

Dr Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and chief executive of the housing programme, sent the FNC a letter saying he could not attend and asked for the issue to be delayed to the next session.

Members who posed the other two questions to Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, were unsatisfied with the written responses and called on him to discuss the issues in person.

Also yesterday, the council passed a draft law that amended a 2003 law related to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

After some debate, members agreed to remove a clause exempting a new “policies council” from being monitored by the State Audit Institution.

The council is responsible for setting strategies in the fields of information technology and telecommunications, a responsibility previously held by the TRA executive board.

Some members argued that because of the rapid growth of IT and telecoms, the new council should not be exempt from auditing.

But the FNC committee that revised the draft bill, and Dr Al Qubaisi, said there was no need because the council merely set policies and had no “financial complications”.

Dr Saeed Al Mutawa from Sharjah said removing the clause would make little difference, because the authority was already monitored.