October 6, 2005

Dr Lionel Mtshali MPP, leader of the IFP in the KZN Provincial Parliament, addressed the following open letter to Premier Sibusiso Ndebele:

Honourable Premier

One has to resort to open letters as a means of communication when all other possibilities of getting one's message across and eliciting a suitable reply have failed. This is what has happened recently to my attempt to ask a routine parliamentary question.

As a parliamentarian and a member of the Finance and Public Accounts committees, I expect full and relevant answers to questions which have financial implications. I am entitled to such information by virtue of my oversight role and the provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Under our system of parliamentary democracy, these provisions render the Honorable Premier and Members of the Executive accountable to the legislature and, by proxy, those who have elected it in a democratic election.

On 7 April 2005 I submitted a question to the Premier for written reply, in which I asked about the cost of charter aircraft incurred by the provincial government during a clearly defined period. I requested that these costs be indicated separately for different means of air travel and broken down per government department.

I subsequently allowed a sufficient notice in terms of the standing rules of the KwaZulu-Natal Parliament. On 24 August 2005, almost five months later and during a parliamentary sitting, I received from the Premier, verbally, a wholly inadequate reply containing incomplete and irrelevant information. A single figure was provided with a vague breakdown accompanied by a dubious explanation.

Does the Premier's delay, his obvious reluctance to answer and the obscurity of the information provided in reply mean that his department and his administration have something to hide?

The pursuit of one's parliamentary oversight role should, by definition, transcend day-to-day politicking. It would appear that it does not. It would further appear that in the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Parliament it takes an open letter to elicit a reply to questions which this routine parliamentary process should yield in full and on time.

Such practice on the part of the Executive is a clear violation of the laws regulating access to information. It is in contravention of the spirit of this Parliament's oversight role and against the idea of bringing this Parliament to the people, a concept loudly promoted by the ruling party. I hereby urge the Premier to promote transparency and good governance in KwaZulu-Natal. He can start by answering parliamentary questions.

Lionel Mtshali