DA asks for debate on parliamentary questions

By Andrew Louw MPL, DA Provincial Leader:

Uninformed responses by government departments regarding parliamentary questions have highlighted the critical need for a legislature debate on this matter.

Attacks on the DA, following our expose of unanswered parliamentary questions, are a clear indicator that neither members of the executive nor government officials, understand the respective rules governing such questions.

There is particular procedure that must be followed when asking parliamentary questions.  What the MEC’s and their spokespersons don’t seem to grasp, however, is that the DA is following this protocol to a “T”, while in fact they, not us, are the ones flouting the rules.

It is simply not true that parliamentary questions must be raised through the portfolio committee chairpersons. This is a serious misconception that has been created by ignorant officials who are blocking the way for democratic processes to unfold. This is compounded by the confusion surrounding parliamentary questions and questions put forward in portfolio meetings by committees.

It must be categorically stated that any Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) may submit parliamentary questions to any Member of the Executive.

With specific reference to questions for written reply, Rule 212 (1) of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature prescribes that questions for written reply may be placed on the Question Paper for reply on any working day of the House, but such questions must be delivered to the Secretary before noon on the Friday for inclusion in the question paper. Rule 212 (3) further states that questions are limited to three per member per working week.

The DA strictly abides by these rules week in and week out.

In contrast, the majority of MEC’s do not adhere to Rule 213, which indicates that MEC’s have 10 working days to respond to these questions.

Given the validity of our parliamentary questions, it is disturbing to note that government officials consider the DA’s attempt to uphold democratic processes in the form of parliamentary questions, as “attention seeking”.

It is our constitutional duty as an opposition party to hold the Northern Cape provincial government accountable and parliamentary questions are one of the key tools at our disposal to do so.

It is also alarming that government officials claim that most parliamentary questions are responded to – this is a blatant lie.

The DA has a record of each question that has been submitted and signed for by the legislature’s respective procedural officer and subsequently published on the official Question Paper. At the same time, we have painstakingly kept track of each reply received and we have proof that this year so far, 119 out of 150 questions remain unanswered. We also have proof that in 2014, 79 out of 101 questions remained unanswered.

The fact of the matter is that MEC’s have been caught sleeping on the job and now, in order to cover their own tracks, they are vehemently lashing out at the DA.

But they should not attack us or our questions because our questions merely seek to encourage open and transparent governance.

While the DA awaits feedback from the presidency on the matter of unanswered parliamentary questions, as was referred to President Jacob Zuma yesterday, we will push for a legislature debate to be scheduled on this topic.

The DA has today written to the Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, Kenneth Mmoeimang, requesting political parties to be given an opportunity to engage productively and robustly on the issue of parliamentary questions.

The DA will do everything in our power to protect our democracy. This includes ironing out the many misconceptions that abound about parliamentary questions.