Parliament's questions office unscrupulous - DA

2015-10-07 17:16
(File: DA)

(File: DA)

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Cape Town - The DA has accused Parliament’s questions office of "unscrupulous behaviour", saying it ignored protocol and sent submissions to the various departments ahead of them being published in the question paper.

The process for parties is to send queries to different departments via the question paper, which is then answered in the same manner.

But according to DA chief whip, John Steenhuisen, the questions office sends their written submissions in advance to departments during the editing process. This, he said, was a problem because departments then edited the questions "to suit them".

At a press conference held in Parliament on Wednesday, the chief whip claimed edits had been made to MPs’ questions, which meant the executive was vetting and shaping the questions posed by MPs.

"MPs ask questions to exact certain pieces of information. A change of tone or in wording can adversely affect the quality of information that you get. What this situation does is open itself up to massive abuse by government departments to deflect the tough questions that they don’t really want to answer," said Steenhuisen.

Violates transparency

He said procedure dictated that MPs submit their questions to the questions office which edited them. After proposed edits were signed off by the MP who had asked the question, it was then published in the question paper before it was sent to the relevant department.

He said questions being sent in advance to the departments "compromised Parliament's oversight capacity, violates any tenets of transparency and was a gross violation of the separation of powers between parliament and the executive".

Steenhuisen has the e-mails from the questions office confirming that they forwarded party submissions to departments. Steenhuisen said the DA was now taking action on the issue because it had got worse in the fifth parliament and something had to be done.

He said the DA would be asking the Speaker’s office to investigate the questions office.

Parliament's spokesperson, Luzuko Jacobs, said they would respond to the claims in a statement to be released later.

Read more on:    da  |  john steenhuisen  |  parliament 2015

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