A review of written parliamentary questions submitted by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the first parliamentary term of 2012 reveals that the majority of Ministers submitted comprehensive replies.
This is a welcome step in the right direction.
However, a large number of Ministers continue to miss the 10-day time period allocated for responses.
The Rules of the National Assembly require that questions are answered by Members of the Executive within 10 working days from the date upon which they are published on Parliament's Internal Question Paper.
In light of this, I will be writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, to raise my concerns with him about how the work of Parliament is undermined by Ministers not responding in a timely manner to parliamentary questions.
In addition, I will submit the names of repeat offenders to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, in his capacity as Leader of Government Business, to request that he raises this matter with the relevant members of Cabinet.
An overview of the written questions submitted by the DA to Ministers in the first term is as follows. This information is accurate as of Friday 30 March:
• Number of questions submitted: 596
• Number of questions answered: 203
• Number of questions that remain unanswered: 393
• Number of questions to which replies were received within 10-day deadline: 27
• Number of questions fully answered (i.e Ministers provided all requested information): 175
• Number of questions partially answered (i.e Ministers provided some of the requested information): 23
• Number of non-replies (Ministers replied, but provided none of the requested information): 5
In total, of the 802 questions submitted by all parties in Parliament in the first parliamentary term, 524 remain unanswered.
According to the DA's records, Ministers who have performed the worst in terms of the number of replies received to written questions posed by the DA, in relation to the total number of questions submitted to them, include Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, who replied to 1 of the 88 questions submitted, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti, who replied to 0 of the 6 questions submitted to him, and Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, who replied to 0 out of 12 questions submitted to him.
The best performing Ministers include Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, who replied to 19 out of 22 questions and Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, who responded to 54 out of 69 questions.
At a meeting with DA Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko MP in January, Deputy President Motlanthe reported that steps were being taken to improve the relationship between the Executive and Parliament. For example, unanswered questions are tabled at each Cabinet meeting to ensure that Ministers explain why they have failed to respond on time.
The speed with which questions are replied to, and the quality of the replies, is an important litmus test of Ministers' respect for Parliament's oversight role.
We will continue to monitor both the performance of Ministers with respect to Parliamentary replies, and the Deputy President's commitment to ensuring that the institution of Parliament is respected by government.
Watty Watson, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance