David Mabuza chastises ministers over slow answers to parliamentary questions
Deputy President David Mabuza says he's taken several cabinet members to task over their tardiness in responding to written parliamentary questions.
Mabuza said this while responding to oral questions during a digital sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday.
Mabuza, who is the leader of government affairs in parliament, said he's recently used cabinet meetings over the Covid-19 pandemic to remind ministers of their constitutional obligations to regularly account to parliament.
“As for ensuring that members of the executive attend to their parliamentary responsibilities, we have, among other things during this Covid-19 pandemic, been in constant engagement with the executive to ensure that they attend to their parliamentary responsibilities and that they continue to be transparent and fully accountable to parliament.
"As a matter of fact, on May 27 2020, parliament had its first second-term question session. Cabinet colleagues under social services and governance clusters were requested to avail themselves to respond to questions during this session. They all attended except one minister [who was] represented by his deputy due to other pressing commitments,” Mabuza said.
“In addition to this we have written to the executive requesting that they urgently respond to unanswered written questions within stipulated time frames or, alternatively, give us reasons in writing for their non-compliance and how they intend to address this.
"The report we are receiving now showing great improvement in turnaround time and responses to outstanding questions which are being submitted.”
In a supplementary question, IFP chief whip Narend Singh told Mabuza that around 172 written questions remained unanswered by ministers. He appealed to the deputy president to crack the whip as the leader of government business.
Mabuza said ministers had been reminded on Wednesday of their duty to respond.
“Just yesterday we have indicated to members of the executive those that are still having questions that are outstanding and we are going to insist on that.”
Mabuza added that ministers were under extreme time pressures, juggling their normal duties while helping manage the Covid-19 crisis.
“It is very difficult to really manage the business of the executive and the business of parliament. I find it very difficult. Every time there is a friction, there is a clash. There is a moment when members of the executive must be in parliament and they have got meetings of the executive.
"For instance, of late we have got an additional meeting which has been included, the standing meeting of the command council on a Tuesday. So a Tuesday is now off. Then on a Wednesday, normally, it is cabinet. One week it is cabinet committees.
"So members of the executive have got a very tight space.”
He said that an engagement with the National Assembly's programming committee would have to take place in order to avoid the current clash of schedules between the executive and the legislature.