x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Uncooperative' ministers draw FNC's ire

The continued absence of ministers from FNC sessions this term has delayed its work, members have said.

Ministers and FNC members interact during the session. Over the past eight months, 14 ministers were summoned to answer questions before the council. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Ministers and FNC members interact during the session. Over the past eight months, 14 ministers were summoned to answer questions before the council. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // The continued absence of ministers from FNC sessions this term has delayed its work, members said.

Since the start of sessions in November, questions have focused on education, the state of debt, banking, low pensions, lack of proper food monitoring and failures in the health sector.

As a result, the most frequent visitor to the council was the Minister of Education, Humaid Al Qatami, who was summoned six times and faced 13 questions from members.

Obaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs and deputy head of pensions, joined the council on four separate occasions and was quizzed eight times, followed by the Minister of Environment and Water, Dr Rashid bin Fahd, and the Minister of Health, Dr Abdul Rahman Al Owais.

Ten other ministers visited the council over the eight months.

But even with a high number of regular visits, many ministers failed to appear - some more than once.

Although ministers are required to respond to FNC requests within two weeks, if members find the written response is insufficient the minister will be summoned to attend a session. Because of this, some questions dragged on for months.

"This year we suffered from some delay," Dr Mona Al Bahar (Dubai) said. "There was higher cooperation last year. We expect there will be next year."

A member who wished not to be named said some ministers seemed to be reluctant to attend, which led to a backlog.

For five consecutive weeks earlier this year no public session was held by the FNC because of ministerial absence. This led the council to increase the number of sessions from mid-April until the end of June.

"All of a sudden we were meeting every week," the member said. "And we still have a lot of topics pending."

One of them includes Wadeema's Law, one of the most long-awaited pieces of legislation aimed at protecting children.

"There are some ministers who do not cooperate," a member said. "They do not understand the importance to give full priority to the FNC. This law is very important to the people and children, and even internationally."

Another member pinpointed Mr Al Tayer as "not keen to cooperate".

Members were particularly angry after a handful of questions on pensions were given to Mr Al Tayer at one of the sessions, but he refused to answer because he said the authority was being reshuffled.

The council was also unhappy with the Minister of Environment.

"Sometimes they have no other option but to work with us."

The member recalled a recent clash between Dr bin Fahd and the council. He said after the minister had objected over an addition to the Plant Genetic Resources bill to include genetic banks, the minister was "rude".

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, he said members then stood firm on their stance and refused to budge and meet the minister halfway.

"The council reacted against whatever he said," the member said.

Others said they understood that some matters were out of the ministers' hands.

"The ministers try to do what is in their ability and whatever a minister cannot do is taken to the cabinet," said Salem Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi).

A member said the most cooperative minister was Sultan Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy. Although he was only questioned once, he appeared frequently in the council as members went through a marathon five sessions for the Companies Law and the Small and Medium Enterprises Law.

"The Minister of Health - Al Owais - is also a great man," a member said. "And Humaid Al Qatami."

A member said other ministers who were not summoned frequently were also found to be cooperative.

They all agreed that Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was the most supportive of their work.

"He always talks well with the FNC," Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman) said.

osalem@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Ayesha Al Khoori