Facial recognition system to track MPs' presence in Parliament

The facial recognition system will enable Parliament to determine how many, and which, MPs are present during any sitting in real time.
The facial recognition system will enable Parliament to determine how many, and which, MPs are present during any sitting in real time.PHOTO: ST FILE

Attendance of MPs in Parliament will soon be tracked using a facial recognition system.

According to tender documents on government procurement portal GeBIZ yesterday, the Parliament Secretariat will be implementing a facial recognition attendance tracking system to replace manual tracking. The Secretariat, which oversees the organisation of parliamentary proceedings, supports the Speaker of Parliament.

Responding to a query from The Straits Times yesterday, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that, currently, MPs' attendance at Parliament sittings is reported in documents such as the Official Reports and the Votes and Proceedings, which are the official minutes.

"Today, parliamentarians' attendance at a sitting is recorded manually, requiring staff to be in the Chamber to register their presence. A facial recognition system will automate the attendance-taking process. This enhances productivity and efficiency in the allocation of our resources during parliamentary proceedings," the Office said.

The system, which will include solutions development, software licence and hardware such as the server, network switch, client laptop and video cameras, will enable Parliament to determine how many and which MPs are present during any sitting in real time.

It will allow users to conduct searches on the attendance for any sittings online, based on specified criteria such as the date and name of the MP.

"During any sitting day, an MP will not be required to attend throughout as not all issues will concern him/her. As such, attendance needs to be tracked throughout the entire sitting and not just at the beginning or end of sitting day," the tender document explains.

"An MP may also 'come and go' several times during a sitting and there are also designated break times during sittings."

The quorum for a sitting is one quarter of the total number of MPs excluding the Speaker. The present Parliament has 88 elected MPs, three Non-Constituency MPs and nine Nominated MPs.

Under the Singapore Constitution, an MP will be stripped of his seat if he is absent from Parliament sittings, or any Parliament committee to which he has been appointed, for two consecutive months without prior permission from the Speaker.

 
 
 

The tender requirements state that the new system must be able to generate exportable and printable reports on the number of MPs present or absent and their names, as well as attendance records, like when and how many times an MP was absent for a given time period. The system includes the installation of an estimated six "inconspicuous" video cameras in Parliament.

There will be a soft launch during one of the sittings to allow the contractor to fine-tune the system's accuracy and performance under actual conditions. The closing date for the tender is Dec 2.

Explaining the move, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament said that automating processes is not new.

"For example, our electronic voting system within the Chamber is more efficient compared to before where we called upon each MP and recorded his vote manually," it said.

"Leveraging technology is also in line with Singapore's Smart Nation initiative and the Digital Government Blueprint for public service transformation efforts."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2019, with the headline 'Facial recognition system to track MPs' presence in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe