Sunday, July 14, 2024

Success rate of Ministers Question Time at only 27 percent

The “success” that we conceive of questions asked during Ministers’ Question Time manifests itself in the most mechanical, most basic manner ÔÇô merely providing an answer to a question asked by an MP. However, even with that low a threshold, ministers still got a failing grade ÔÇô E ÔÇô in the last session of parliament.

All told, the parliamentary secretariat received 15 questions for Ministers’ Question Time, noticed 14 but only four were answered. The reasons range from a relevant minister not being present in parliament to need for further consultation to an answer being clogged in the Government Enclave informational pipeline. Understood in terms of quality, the success rate is as low because the format makes it very easy for ministers to avoid questions. Over the years, it has become evident that government officials, who are the ones who actually provide the answers, are wont to either conceal or purposefully provide false information. The standard parliamentary question is allocated a short period of time for the minister to respond and for MPs to field supplementary questions. On the other hand, the Ministers’ Question Time (which was introduced towards the end of the last parliament) is allocated more time to ideally enable forensic questioning by MPs and more in-depth answers by ministers.

Going back decades, MPs have never been too happy with the time allocated to Question Time and the Ministers’ Question Time was supposed to be an improvement on the latter. However, that has not happened. Firstly, they still say that they want the exact replica of the Westminster system that Botswana adopted at independence in 1966 ÔÇô the Prime Minister’s Question’s, which, in Botswana, would have been adapted to Presidential Question Time. Every Thursday that the House of Commons is sitting, the British Prime Minister is grilled by MPs. Ministers’ Question Time is a poor man’s version of what Botswana’s MPs wanted but considering who was president when such demand was made, that was a bridge too far. As President Festus Mogae’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Ian Khama is said to have loathed being grilled during Question Time. It has been credibly alleged that was one of the main reasons he quit the ministerial post to focus solely on the vice presidency. With as many advanced degrees as he holds (two) and as much parliamentary debating experience as he has acquired over the past nine years, the new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, comes across as someone who would relish the opportunity to verbally joust with MPs during the upgraded Presidential Question Time.  The South African parliament actually has the Presidential Question Time.

Secondly and there is an astounding of evidence to back up such claim, MPs complain that ministers still attempt to dodge questions and that the questions are disposed of at a very slow pace.


Read this week's paper