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The politics of questions

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Part of any political process is the need to question and gain insight and clarity into issues. However, this is not something that the press or the public are just entitled to. Members of parliament that represent the various government departments regularly field formal and informal questions relating to some aspect of their department’s performance or responsibility – however, today there is a very real challenge that exist in the management of and response to these questions.

Currently, parliament does not have a formal system on which questions raised can be recorded and tracked to ensure that they are answered within an acceptable amount of time.
However, Intervate, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, has identified the need and opportunity to develop a workflow system, based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2007 that can provide a technology platform to record and manage questions asked and requests for information.
“Technology has often been viewed as the medium for the delivery of more efficient and streamlined communication and processes in any type of organisation,” says Lionel Moyal, director of Intervate.
“If we consider the breadth of government departments, the numerous questions posed and the requests for information issued at each session of government, then surely the need to ensure a controlled and accountable process has to be addressed to manage this legal requirement.”
“Using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as a basis to manage the parliamentary question process, government departments will be able to track the entire process, from who a question was raised by and handed to, to how long it took to respond and was a response actually tabled,” adds Moyal.
“Currently questions are submitted via Microsoft Word documents to the Deputy General (DG) or a clerk responsible for handling formal questions submitted to a particular department. Following this, a very lengthy process via email is undertaken to assign the correct person/people to answer the question(s), before the Director-General gets to approve the answer. However, should the answer not be satisfactory, the question may be reassigned through the same process.”
Microsoft SharePoint is designed to help improve organisational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search functionality. This aids business process automation and facilitates information sharing across boundaries for better business insight.
“If Microsoft SharePoint is deployed and implemented correctly, the platform will allow for the correct storage of all parliamentary questions, providing a collaborative medium, whereby many people can give input and advice on a question when generating a response – which can oftentimes be complex.  Furthermore, Microsoft SharePoint will deliver advanced workflow capabilities that can track the entire process from start to finish,” says Moyal.
“As a result, through the correct configuration and tailoring of the platform to meet each department’s individual requirements, a registry can be created that can track and receive parliamentary questions and the resulting answers more accurately, efficiently and ultimately with more departmental collaboration."