Sri Lanka’s Pioneering MP Monitoring Website (Manthri.lk) Now Online With Advanced Capabilities To Empower Sri Lankan Voters To Be Better Informed (in Sinhala, Tamil & English)
Sri Lanka’s very first website to enable voters to assess the performance of their elected representatives in the national legislature on objective criteria through state of the art technology and credible, reliable methodologies, was unveiled and launched this evening (Friday, August 23, 2013), in Committee Room D of the BMICH in Colombo.
The trilingual site (www.manthri.lk) is not politically affiliated and can be accessed and made use of in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The site involved work by reputed research organization Verite Research (www.veriteresearch.org), which provides strategic analysis and solutions to governments and private sector entities in Asia. They were partnered as initial contributors, by Saberion (Pvt) Ltd and National Endowment for Democracy.
Upto now, voters have been faced with difficulty in tracing, collating and evaluating the respective contributions of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House. In fact, some MPs have not made any contribution at all to the discussion and debates that take place within the legislature. This problem had been highlighted in several studies conducted in the past. However, this is the first time that a solution of this nature has been made available to the public, enabling any user to have clearer insights and appreciation of how elected representatives in the Sri Lankan Parliament have engaged (or not engaged) critical issues of general or particular interest or relevance.
A user is able to search for MPs by district, political party, political coalition or topic. Parliamentarians can also be compared for rankings in several ways, which are based on objective and defensible criteria. The site also sets out an overall ranking as well as district wise ranking of Parliamentarians.
The site explains its workings in the following way:
How the data that forms the parliamentary ranking system is captured
Download a parliamentary Hansard
Analyse each statement in the Hansard according to the Verite Research designed coding guide (refer FAQ 2).
Input the records into the computer system and apply the Verite Research computed scores, which are based on the concept of productive time (refer FAQ 5 below).
Visit Manthri.lk and see the up-to-date rankings.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. How do you analyse each statement?
Every MP has a unique identification code which we record against every single contribution he/she makes in Parliament. Needless to say, there is a lot that is said in Parliament for every day that it sits. Typically a parliamentary hansard is 90 pages long. Therefore we only record statements that are:
(i) Over 5 lines long;
(ii) Less than 5 lines long, but thematic / procedural;
(iii) Disruptive / Expunged
Each statement is classified by Method of Contribution (e.g Written Question, Point of Order etc), Topic (e.g Economic Development, Agriculture, Resettlement etc), Type of debate (e.g Bill debate, Adjournment Motion etc) and the language that the contribution was given in. Additionally, depending on the method of contribution, we also record the number of lines of the Hansard that such a contribution took.
Presently this task is done completely manually, but we have a cutting edge automation tool under development, which will lower the administrative burden (e.g line counting of hansards) and allow individual coders to spend their time more efficiently.
Q2. What is a method of contribution?
It is a list of 15 categories under which we classify all parliamentary activity. The 15 categories are as follows:
1 – Written Question
2 – Written Question – Response
3 – Written Question – Follow up question
4 – Follow up question – Response
5 – Written Responses
6 – Bill / Regulation / Order – Administration
7 – Bill / Regulation / Order – Debate Oral Contribution
8 – Point of Order- Technical/Procedural
9 – Point of Order – Other
10 – Adjournment Motion – Oral Contribution
11 – Petitions
12 – Disruptive Contribution
13 – Expunged Statement
14 – Oral Contribution
15 – Oral Contribution – Core statement
Q3. What is a “Disruptive Contribution”?
A disruptive contribution is used to classify interruptions, typically during parliamentary debate, which are non-thematic and have been used as a tool to stall or detract from debate. The aim is to record the MP’s who are stalling the legislative function of Parliament. This is not meant to punish those who are raising valid points in an untimely fashion.
Q4. What does “Point of Order – Other” mean?
A “point of order – other” is a disruption caused by an MP in Parliament, when he raises a point of order, thereby causing the Speaker to pause the debate, but then makes no attempt to mention how the other MP’s contribution has been procedurally deficient, especially in light of the standing orders of parliament. This is coded to ascertain how points of orders are abused. This is primarily seen as a method to make a speech/point out of turn, or alternatively as a tool to interrupt another MP midway through a speech.
Q5. How do you score contributions?
We surveyed MPs across the political spectrum and were able to compute appropriate productive time scores for each of the 15 methods of contribution, based on either the number of instances of a particular input e.g per written question, or by volume, based on mins of preparation time per line e.g adjournment motion – oral contribution. Based on our findings we created a scoring guide which stipulated values for each of our methods of contribution e.g.each written question receives a score of 30 minutes of productive time. As the scoring system is applied across all MPs, there is no scope for individual bias to be accommodated within our system.
Q6. How many topics are there?
There are 42 topics and these are all classified under 3 key topic headers. If you refer the “topics” tab on the website, you will find the three key topic headers at the top which are;
1) Home and Foreign Affairs
2) Economy and Infrastructure
3) Governance, Security and Rights
On the “topics” tab you will also find the constituent sub-topics listed beneath their respective key topic headers.
Q7. Why do you have the key topic headers and topics?
It is fundamental to the research output of Manthri.lk that we record the areas that are being discussed by MPs. However, as there are 42 standard topics, it was felt that the data could also be aggregated into key topic headers, which could provide a more holistic rank which is better suited for cross-comparison of MPs.
Q8. What is a non-participation, is it important?
The non-participation list is recorded against each topic. This is a list of all the MPs who have not contributed on the respective topic.
Q9. Why do you want to score and rank MPs?
We believe that MPs should productively contribute in Parliament. Whilst we can’t assess the qualitative input of MPs, we can assess the effort, in terms of productive time, that MPs put towards their roles as legislators. By scoring and ranking MPs we can reward those who are working hard, sometimes with little media coverage, whilst incentivising others to improve themselves given the enhanced transparency of the parliamentary process.
Q10. What does being the top rank mean?
The top rank means you have achieved the highest score (highest number of productive minutes) for the respective topic or overall rank. This is not a quality score, but illustrates the aggregate number of productive minutes that have been put in by the given MP.
Q11. What do the green, orange and red bars signify?
These signify the score each MP has in the given topic area. The topic ranking MP has a score of 100. This is a hybrid calculation that incorporates elements of a normalized z-score and a normalized ranking, which seeks to provide the best incentives for MPs to improve their parliamentary performance.
Q12. Is Manthri.lk in a position to judge MPs?
We are not judging MPs. We are merely analysing public information and disseminating it in a way that illustrates otherwise unobserved parliamentary patterns.
Q13. How can we verify what you are saying?
We have provided a basic activity log for each MP’s last 50 contributions. In stating the exact location in the hansard of the mentioned contribution and also providing a full access downloadable hansard archive, any user can cross-check our coding process.
Q14. How will this initiative be sustained in the long term?
This initiative has been launched in the model of Social Venture Capital Investment. Initial contributing partners have been Verite Research (Private) Limited, Saberion (Pvt) Ltd and National Endowment for Democracy.
As the venture proves its social benefits, it is hoped that the private sector, research institutions and civil society in Sri Lanka will also join as contributors and enable this initiative to be improved and sustained.
Q15. My question isn’t answered here, what can I do?
Please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will endeavour to speedily respond.
The site can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ social networking sites.