Parliament’s presiding officers have criticised Cabinet ministers and their deputies for failing to attend sittings to respond to questions from backbenchers, saying they would approach the Presidium for corrective action.
Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda and Senate Deputy President Mike Nyambuya separately expressed concern over poor attendance by members of the Executive during sittings of both Houses for question and answer sessions last week.
Adv Mudenda was the first to express disappointment over the ministers’ no-show last Wednesday and directed Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda to contact the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, to find out what prevented some ministers from attending Parliament.
“Let me also advise the House that this has been the worst non-attendance by Honourable Ministers. Whatever answer I will get from the Clerk of Parliament, I will make sure that this is brought to the attention of His Excellency the President this (last Wednesday) afternoon,” said Adv Mudenda to a wild applause from backbenchers.
The following day, Nyambuya, who was presiding over Senate proceedings, also expressed disappointment over poor attendance of ministers.
“I must hasten to add that I am disappointed by the low turnout of ministers. In my opinion, the ministers are not taking this Chamber seriously. We will have to take the necessary measures to try and correct the situation but on your behalf, I must register my disappointment.
“Senators are supposed to get fair answers for their concerns and it is not possible when you have only two ministers. I commend the two ministers who have come,” said Cde Nyambuya.
“We have only received an apology from one minister, Honourable (Kirsty) Coventry, the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation. We have not received any apology from any other minister and this is not acceptable; it is not acceptable at all. Let us make do with what we have for today (last Thursday) but I can assure you we are going to write to the highest authorities.”
The non-attendance of ministers and their deputies has been a thorny issue in Parliament.
Adv Mudenda has since said there is need to invoke provisions of Parliament’s Standing Orders to deal with the problem through the introduction of punitive measures for those who fail to attend without reasonable cause.