Parliament is in the process of establishing mechanisms to hold errant ministers to account. Some members of parliament (MPs) have complained that certain ministers either do not reply to written questions or take a long time to do so.
According to National Assembly rules, ministers must answer questions within 10 days, with the option of applying for an extension of another 10 days. Currently, 1 767 questions are outstanding.
The vast majority of cabinet members have high numbers of questions waiting to be answered, and many questions answered late. They include former Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who under her watch had 49 questions outstanding, with 25 answered late.
Police minister, Bheki Cele, with 161 questions outstanding, 141 were answered late.
The Health ministry has 123 questions waiting to be answered, the Basic Education ministry must answer 88 and the record shows 37 were answered late.
Secretary to Parliament, Masibulele Xaso explains the measures that will be tabled to the National Assembly for adoption.
“Sub comm propose speaker writes to cabinet quarterly basis request for reasons why questions late or not replied to; also write to leader of Gov business informing office of outstanding replies. In event of continuous non-compliance should consider reprimand in sitting of Assembly, as last resort speaker escalates matter through formal complaint to leader of Gov business,” says Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to Parliament.
Members of the National Assembly Rules committee have agreed that mechanisms must be implemented to force ministers to comply.
“It doesn’t say much good about the respect to this institution that we are leading. I think the historical problem is not a good one. But what is presented by Speaker, amended by sub comm is beginning to say that we have a way to correct this and in correcting we are going to be very firm and very consistent in dealing with that,” says Richard Dyantyi, African National Congress (ANC) MP.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone had suggested fines to errant ministers or MP’s, who don’t adhere to the rules of the National Assembly.
“It’s the absolute disdain for parliament that we need to get rid of, it has crept in, it frustrates all of us, and it requires radical action. So quite frankly always my opinion, if you are out of the house, you should suffer financially for it, same with ministers,” says Mazzone.
Acting Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli says assistant presiding officers will be pro-active to ensure outstanding questions don’t reach high numbers.