Parliament in Cape Town. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

The failure of government departments to timeously respond to parliamentary questions was an “indictment on the provincial cabinet”, the DA in KwaZulu-Natal says.

According to DA chief whip Radley Keys, replies requested as far back as 2011 remain outstanding, although MECs were obliged to provide written answers within 14 days of questions being submitted.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor’s Derek Luyt said that – assuming the questions put to departments were reasonable, and that no explanation had been offered for delayed responses – failure to reply was an “extremely serious” transgression.

“This is not about cheap party politics, but a real concern shared by the ANC in the national assembly,” Luyt said.

Keys said the Education and Co-operative Governance departments, with 11 outstanding responses each, were tardiest in complying with “the most powerful and effective oversight tool available to members of parliament”.

However, cabinet spokesman Cyril Madlala said MECs would not purposely show contempt for the legislature, but that certain questions called for intensive, time-consuming investigation.

“We would need to look at the specific questions and clarify with the various departments what the challenges are,” he said.

Those on the DA’s naughty list were at pains yesterday to affirm their respect for parliamentary processes.

Co-operative Governance spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the department respected the oversight role parliamentarians played and tried to respond to questions.

“However, some of the questions posed pertain to municipalities, which government sphere we have oversight over and which has its own legislative processes. Often we have to go to them for answers, which can result in delays because they must follow their own processes.

“However, we will answer the questions. We have never evaded any parliamentary questions because we subscribe to transparency and clean governance.”

Mabaso said the DA was wrong about the number of outstanding questions. “Some have been answered and are with the legislature at the moment, but the register has not been updated. If the DA checks, it will realise that this is the case.”

The Transport Department, which stands accused of having a reply outstanding from last July, said this was regrettable but the department was committed to responding to all questions. “We respect the legislature’s oversight role over the department,” spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said.

The Education Department’s Muntu Lukhozi said it was “surprising that it (the DA) would go to the media to discuss matters before raising it formally with the office of the Speaker”.

Lukhozi said some of the outstanding questions required the department to collect information from its more than 6 000 schools, while others required it to source information from municipalities.

“We are aware that we’ve not answered all of their questions in time, but the process of collecting information is being finalised,” Lukhozi said. - The Mercury