Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Senate conduct comes under further scrutiny

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2017 | 2:00 AM
Tom Tavares-Finson

The conduct of the Senate has come under further scrutiny after opposition members who had questions for which answers were overdue were told at last week's final sitting for the legislative year that they would have to retable the questions.

Sophia Frazer-Binns and Wentworth Skeffrey were not pleased when Senate President, Tom Tavares Finson, said that based on procedure, questions with answers outstanding would have to be re-asked in the new year, which starts on Thursday.

Frazer-Binns had tabled her questions on October 28, which, according to the Senate rules, were due for answer 21 days later - on November 19. She wanted an update on the status of the Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP).

Information Minister Ruel Reid announced last week that LAMP, a land-titling programme, would be merged with the National Land Agency in keeping with public sector rationalisation plans.


Skeffrey asked his questions on December 9, for which answers were due on December 30. Among other things, he wanted to know whether the education ministry had set up a body to monitor the criminal attacks on students and the structure of such a body.

"Mr President," Frazer-Binns asked last Friday. "I wish to ascertain when I shall expect to get answers to my questions. My understanding is that today (Friday) is the last sitting of the Senate, and three months ago, I tabled some questions in this Senate, and to date, I have not got a response."

Tavares Finson responded: "I don't think that the questions are to be answered today, so they will have to be retabled".

"The very fact that we have to go the route that is stated in the Standing Orders underscores why it is so important that when 21 days are given to be answered, that the questions are answered," Frazer-Binns argued.

"I agree with you completely ,and what I'm going to urge you to do is to table the questions at the first meeting of the Senate," Tavares-Finson said.

The delay in answering questions, in breach of the rules, has become a feature of parliamentary affairs and the source of many quarrels.