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Two-thirds of OFMDFM questions not answered on time

Not talking: OFMDFM has responded to just a third of all assembly questions within the statutory 10 day time frame in four years
John Monaghan

ONLY a third of all written questions submitted to Peter Robinson and Marting McGuinness's office by MLAs have been answered within the statutory time frame since 2011, it has emerged.

Despite a requirement for the department to respond to a written question within ten working days, the vast majority of queries were not answered on time.

In response to a question from UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, tabled in June, OFMDFM confirmed they have answered a total of just over 2,700 Assembly questions in the period from May 2011 to March 2015.

The figures come in the same week that OFMDFM finally responded to a question which had originally been asked almost two years ago.

The department confirmed that Martin McGuinness had represented the Executive at the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela in 2013, while Peter Robinson stayed at home to attend to a "significant foreign investment and jobs announcement."

The question had been submitted by TUV MLA Jim Allister on December 10th 2013, days after the death of Mr Mandela.

OFMDFM declined to comment on whether there were any plans to discuss the matter at Executive level with a view to improving targets across all departments for responding to Assembly questions.

A spokeswoman for OFMDFM said: "Executive business and all aspects of the Executive decision-making process are confidential."

OFMDFM has also faced criticism for its delay in responding to Freedom of Information requests from journalists and members of the public, who should receive a response within 20 working days.

The department has previously argued that it could not respond to FOI requests before Assembly questions on the same subject, stating that to do so could "seriously undermine Assembly business."

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