Questions for Oral Answering- How they work
A number of Questions for Oral Answering raised by Members of Parliament to the various sector Ministers since the inception of the 9th Parliament haven’t been responded to by the Ministers responsible.
Part VIII of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda spells out the category of people and question(s), a Member of Parliament can ask, that is the; Prime Minister- the prime minister’s question; Minister- question for oral answering, chairperson of a parliamentary committee- question relating to a Bill, Motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House for which the committee is responsible; and the parliamentary Commission- questions relating to the administration of Parliament or other Commission matters.
For the Questions for Oral Answering which is our matter of discussion today – Members are required to prepare their questions in writing and submit them to the Parliament Clerk who presents them to the Minster responsible. On receipt of the question, the Minister is obliged not to take more than 5 working days to send a response to the Clerk, who is obliged to distribute the response to the Member in 5 working days. In other words, the minister is not supposed to take more than two weeks to respond to a Question from a Member.
The time available for answering these Questions is allotted on different days especially Wednesday and Thursday of every Sitting of the House in rotation relating to such ministry or ministries as the Speaker may determine. A member is not allowed to ask more than 3 questions at one Sitting, unless the Speaker uses his or her prerogative to grant the member permission to ask more than 3 questions. As soon as the question is answered in the House, any member, beginning with the member who asked the question is allowed to ask a supplementary question.
Despite the obligations of Rule 35(6): “A Minister shall not take more than two weeks to respond to a Question from a Member”. Many questions of great importance have gone unanswered, for example Ababiku Jessica, Woman MP Adjuman District raised two question in April and July 2012 regarding the measures instituted by government to ensure that both government – aided and private schools have lightening conductors as well as the measures put in place to immunize people against hepatitis B respectively. These questions haven’t been responded to and lightening continues to strike children in school while the question of immunizing people with Hepatitis B hasn’t been fully resolved.
Some of those questions which have been responded to, it have been after a while. For instance a question raised by Dr. Bitekyerezo Medard: “Would the Minister explain to the House whether or not it is a Government policy to levy parking fees in Government Hospitals? If yes, what is the rational for such a policy?” It was submitted to the clerk on 21/06/12 and dispatched to the Minister for Health on 26/06/12, the minister responded on 16/Dec/2014, almost after 2 ½ years only to give a very short response that there is no policy to levy revenues in hospitals and that some national and regional referral hospitals do it to increase on their revenues.
Some questions have been over taken by events, for example MP Omwonya Stanley raised a question to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives : “What policy or plan, if any, does Government have to re-establish Uganda Development Corporation or a similar institution in order to spur economic (industrial) development in Uganda given the important role it played in the 1850s and 1980s before it was wound up?” the question was submitted to the Clerk’s Office on 28/09/12 and dispatched to the minister on 01/10/12. However, on 26th February 2015, the Minister of trade presented to Parliament a Bill, entitled “Uganda Development Corporation Bill, 2014” which is undergoing scrutiny before the parliamentary committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry
Markson Jacob Oboth Oboth, MP West Budama County North reechoed the provision in the Rules of Procedure of Parliament which provide for two weeks for question to be answered and that a case backlog on answers for questions is an indictment on our ministers that they don’t take the concerns of the electorates’ representatives seriously. He added: “It is an indictment of disrespect of the masses and the nation because concerns raised by people’s representatives are electorates’ concern. Most of the ministers are in breach, some are either in fear or inactive”.
The Clerk’s Office should consider writing to the ministers, who have taken a back sit in responding to members’ question to remind them the importance of the business. Otherwise now that we are approaching to the end of the 9th parliament, some members may not be able to make it back while others have already declared that they won’t seek re-election. Failure by parliament will be doing a great disservice and denying justice to movers’ of these questions as well as their electorates and the country at large because these questions have an impact on the masses