Ques­tions for Oral An­swer­ing- How they work

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

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