National Assembly |26 August 2021
The Standing Orders: Questions to ministers and members
The Standing Orders of the National Assembly of Seychelles outline the rules and procedure for questions before the House. Questions to ministers and members are addressed under Articles 31 to 37. These Articles address the scope of Questions, types of Questions, content of Questions and even the manner of asking and answering Questions.
Questions are essential to the work of members of Parliament who are representatives of their constituents. By questioning the Executive, they seek clarity on implementation of legislations, policies, plans, projects and programmes that affect the lives of people and the society in general and at the same time the members of the National Assembly keep the Executive accountable and transparent by having oversight of their activities.
The Standing Orders state that a Question may be put to a Minister that is related to any subject as long as it is a Question that is in focus of that Minister’s portfolio. Therefore, ministers along with any of their representatives must attend Sittings when requested to take Questions. Similarly, members of the National Assembly may be questioned in relation to a Bill, Motion or other public matters that is connected with the business of the Assembly for which the member is responsible for.
The first type of Question that can be used in the Assembly is found in Article 32 and is known as a ‘Question with Notice’. Notice of questions shall be given in writing by a member to the Clerk. (2) All questions of which notice has been received by the Clerk shall, unless the Speaker rules the question out of order, be placed upon the Order Paper as soon as is practicable, but no later than three (3) months after receipt of the question by the Clerk. These questions are sent to the related ministers in advance and are answered before the House, followed by supplementary questions that can be taken at the discretion of the Speaker. Members may also request written answers to their questions and these questions are laid on the Order Paper with asterix next to them and answers are sent directly to the member.
Secondly, there is the ‘Question without Notice’ under Article 33. Questions of which notice has not been given in accordance with Order 32 but which, in the opinion of the Speaker, are of an urgent character and relate to matters of public importance may be asked at the conclusion of question time, provided that the Speaker is satisfied that the minister is in a position to provide an answer.
Thirdly, there are ‘Urgent Questions’ found in Article 34, stating that a member may give notice of an urgent question to the Clerk. A question is considered to be “urgent” if the Speaker has ascertained that the matter being addressed require urgent attention. Notice of an urgent question shall be delivered in writing to the Clerk at least twenty-four hours before the day on which the member desires to ask it.
There is one type of Question that is accorded only to the leader of the opposition that is known as a ‘Private Notice Question’. The leader of the opposition has the right to put to a minister a ‘Private Notice Question’. This is done so by sending it in writing to the Clerk at least six hours before question time. Private Notice Questions may not anticipate a question for oral answer of which notice has been given and which appears on the Order Paper and shall be asked at the start of question time.
Although members have the privilege of asking questions, they are guided by the rules in the Standing Orders under Articles 36 and 37, as to the content of questions and manner of asking these questions. These rules are designed to give a formal structure as to the process of asking questions.
Press release from the National Assembly secretariat