Journals and Table Office

The Journals and Table Office is regarded as the Procedure Office of the National Assembly.  Currently, the office has a staff establishment of six officers, namely, the Principal Clerk of Journals, the Deputy Principal Clerk of Journals, the Assistant Principal Clerk of Journals, two Journals Assistants and the Personal Secretary to the Principal Clerk of Journals.

The office is charged with the duty of advising Members of Parliament on general questions of procedure and practice in relation to Questions for Oral and Written Answers, Votes and Proceedings, Papers Laid on the Table, Motions and any other procedural matters as directed by the Clerks-at-the-Table.  It is to the Journals and Table Office that Members and officers of parliament and those from Government ministries and departments turn to for information on what business is under consideration by the House and that which has been disposed of on any day.  In this sense, the Journals and Table Office is aptly referred to as the “In Tray and Out Tray” of all Parliamentary business.

The main duties of the Journals and Table Office relate to the following:

i) Votes and Proceedings

The Votes and Proceedings are the official public and permanent record of the proceeding of the National Assembly.  In simple terms, they are the minutes of the business of the House.  The Votes and Proceedings are a record of the business transacted on each sitting day, the decisions arrived at by the House and the papers laid on the Table.  As minutes, the Votes and Proceedings only reflect what is done and decided and do not provide a full record of spoken proceedings.  They provide only summaries of announcements and rulings made by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, ministerial statements, motions and questions considered by the House.

Although the Votes and Proceedings is a very important Parliamentary paper, its use outside Parliament is limited.  But for Members and officers of Parliament, it is an indispensable reference piece of work for historical and procedural precedents.

ii) Preparation of the Votes and Proceedings

The Votes and Proceedings are prepared and produced in pursuance of Standing Orders 13 to 15 of the National Assembly.  Each day when the House commences sitting, the officers in the Journals and Table Office closely follow the deliberations and minute the decisions that are arrive at.  When in doubt, the Clerks who sit at the Table during the sittings of the House are consulted.  In preparing these Votes and Proceedings, the officers ensure that there is consistency of style.  A style manual is used in this regard.  When the House adjourns at the end of each day, the Personal Secretary attached to the Journals and Table Office types the Votes and Proceedings after which they are checked by the officers in the Journals and Table Office and the Assistant Clerk.

The Votes and Proceedings are daily issues, each issue consisting of one or more loose sheets.  The pages are numbered throughout, from the beginning to the end of each Session of Parliament.  Each daily issue is signed by the Speaker.  It is only after they have been authorised by the Speaker that the Votes and Proceedings constitute the official daily record of proceedings of the Assembly.  Aside from the Votes and Proceedings, the Journals and Table Office keeps a daily record of Order Papers, Notice of Questions, Notice of Amendments, Notice of Withdrawals, and Notice of Motions.  At the end of a Session, these papers are bound into volumes for distribution.

iii) Papers Laid on the Table
In accordance with Standing Order 80(1), every Government ministry, province, department or parastatal body, that is, any company, association, statutory board or institution of learning in which the Government has any interest, is required to submit its annual reports to Parliament within six months after the end of its financial year.  The purpose of this obligation is to keep Members of Parliament informed about the performance of public institutions.

iv) Procedure of Laying Papers on the Table of the House

Although in theory, annual reports and other Parliamentary papers are laid upon the Table of the House, in practice, these are sent directly to the Journals and Table Office.  The procedure followed for tabling of annual reports is outlined in the National Assembly Standing Order 84(2).  Annual reports are recorded in the Votes and Proceedings showing the authorising Minister and the date on which they were tabled.  At the end of each meeting of the House, annual reports tabled during that meeting are indexed and bound into volumes for distribution and retention as permanent records in the Journals and Table Office.

v) Questions

Question time is an important part of the procedures for Parliamentary control of the Executive and one of the few times in which the back-bencher has a chance to make frequent interventions.  The Journals and Table Office is charged with the duty to process Questions submitted by Members and advise Members on the content and admissibility of Questions.

Types of Questions

Questions for Oral Answer: These are tabled with the intention that they should be given oral answers in the House by Cabinet Ministers/Deputy Ministers.  They are in the following categories:

a) Questions of a policy nature which require seven (7) days notice.  These include Questions as:

· Mission statements of a ministry;
· Operations and programmes of a ministry; and
· Any other aspect of a ministry which require brief answers.

Questions in this category should be answered by the Government ministries within seven (7) days from the date the Questions are dispatched from the Office of the Clerk.

b) Non-Policy Questions which require fourteen (14) days notice.  These must meet the following tests of acceptability:

· Questions seeking lengthy replies;
· Questions seeking replies involving detailed statistical information; and
· Questions which require details and involving research.

Questions in this category should be answered by the Government ministries within fourteen (14) days from the date the Questions are dispatched from the Office of the Clerk.

Questions for Written Answer: These are Questions usually requiring lengthy answers which are not given on the floor of the House, but are printed directly in the Daily Parliamentary Debates.  Standing Order 29(3) has also given power to the Hon Mr Speaker to reclassify Questions for Oral Answer to Questions for Written Answer.  This will apply to Questions for Oral Answer not of a policy nature, Questions requiring lengthy answers or detailed statistical data and research

In summary, Questions for written answer are Questions where an Hon Member demands a written reply or that in the opinion of the Hon Mr Speaker a Question would be best answered using a written reply.

It is also a requirement that answers or replies to Questions for Written Answer which appear on the Order Paper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays should reach the Clerk of the National Assembly not later than 1400 hours.  Answers to Questions for Written Answer which appear on the Order Paper on Fridays should reach the Clerk of the National Assembly not later than 0830 hours on the same day.

Private Notice or Questions of an Urgent Nature: These are Urgent Questions for Oral Answer asked under Standing Order 30 and are only admissible if the subject matter is judged by Mr Speaker to be of immediate public importance.

His Honour the Vice-President’s Question Time: In accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 31, the Vice-President, as Leader of Government Business in the House, is allowed up to 30 minutes Question Time.  These are Questions without notice.  In the absence of His Honour the Vice-President, there will be no question time.

vi) Notice of Questions and Rules Governing the Contents of Questions

To give notice of Question, a Member hands or sends her/his Question to the Journals and Table Office.  The Questions must be written on a specially designed form and should have the Member’s name, signature, constituency and date.  No notice of question is accepted over the telephone.  When a notice of question is given, the Clerks in the Journals and Table Office study the Question to ensure that if satisfies the rules governing Questions.  For example, a Question must relate to a matter for which the Minister to who it is addressed is responsible as a Minister.  It may, for example, not touch on any activities in her/his capacity as a party leader or Member.  Nor may she/he be asked to confirm or comment upon a report or rumour, for which she/he can have no responsibility.  Nor may a Question touch any matter which is currently the subject of legal proceedings (The Sub Judice rule).

It is the duty of the Clerks in the Journals and Table Office to ensure that the Questions comply with the rules regarding the admissibility of Questions as listed in Parliamentary Practice by Erskine May and other rules of the House.  If a Question breaches a rule, the Member is advised accordingly and if she/he is agreeable, the Question is amended to bring it in order.  The Question is them submitted to the Deputy Clerk and subsequently to the Clerk and Mr Speaker for final approval.

When the Clerk of the House and Mr Speaker have approved the Questions, they are sent to the appropriate Government ministries. During the vetting process, special forms are used at each stage.  Members submit their original Questions on the Pink Notice of Question papers, draft questions submitted to the Deputy Clerk are on the white draft paper; questions submitted for approval by the Clerk and Mr Speaker are placed on a yellow sheet and finally, approved Questions are sent to ministries on the White Order Book.  In order to smoothen the procedure of processing and approving Questions and above all guide Government ministries in differentiating the types of Questions and the notice periods, the White Order Book Form bears the following symbols:

*Question for Oral Answer  - 7 days
#Questions for Oral Answer - 14 days
~Questions for Written Answer - 14 days

After fourteen or seven days as the case may be from the date of dispatch of a Question from the Journals and Table Office to the appropriate ministry, such a Question is considered to have matured and is typed on the Blue Notice Paper for distribution to all Members.  Questions appearing on the Blue Notice Paper may be placed on the Order Paper for asking in the House on any day.

Transfer of Questions

A Question is addressed to the Minister who is primarily responsible for the matter to which the Question relates.  Questions which are incorrectly addressed by the Member are addressed to the ministries to which the subject matter relates by the Clerks in the Journals and Table Office.  However, problems arise where the subject matter of the Question touches the responsibility of more than one ministry.  The decision as to who is to answer it will depend on which Minister has the closest responsibility for the subject matter.  When a Question is transferred, a formal notice is sent to the office of the Clerk of the House by the Minister to whom the Question was originally addressed.

Withdrawing a Question

A Member is free to withdrawal her/his Question.  The ministry to which the Question was sent is informed in writing of the withdrawal of the Question.  If the question is already on the Order Paper, it can only be withdrawn with the approval of the House.


Processing of a Private Members’ Motion is also the responsibility of the Journals and Table Office.  Government Motions are dealt with in the Office of the Clerk.

A member who wishes to move a Motion in the House gives notice by delivering a copy of his proposed motion to the Journals and Table Office before the Motion is published or circulated. Clerks in the Journals and Table Office check for the following points:

i) a  motion must comply with the rules governing motions;

ii) a motion must be in the form of an order or resolution of the House, that is, it should begin with the word “that”.  It should normally comprise only one sentence and it should be of reasonable length;

iii) a motion must have a short title, which should not be the same as one which is already attached to another motion; and

iv) a motion must be fairly written and should include the names of the mover and the seconder, both of whom should append their signatures to it.  It should also include the date proposed for bringing it up, which should be not more than three weeks from the date the notice is given.

Once the Journals and Table Office is satisfied that the motion meets all these requirements, the motion is passed on to Mr Speaker, through the Clerk for approval and a date is assigned when the motion should be brought up.  Thereupon, a Notice of Motion is circulated.

A Notice of Motion may be withdrawn at any time by a Member proposing a motion and a Notice of Withdrawal is accordingly published immediately.  But once a motion has appeared on the Order Paper, it may only be withdrawn by leave of the House.

Once a Private Members’ Motion has been tabled and approved by the Hon Mr Speaker, the Clerk of the National Assembly informs the Permanent Secretary in the appropriate ministry about the Private Members’ Motion to be discussed in the House on a particular day in writing requesting him/her to prepare detailed notes for use by his/her Minister in clarifying issues expected to be raised by the Mover of a Motion.

Upon receipt of this information, the Permanent Secretary through his/her Parliamentary Liaison Officer must critically, analytically and conscientiously prepare comprehensive notes for use by a Minister.  The notes, which are a response to a Motion, should not contain half-truths or non-factual information and misleading conclusions which are harmful to the nation.  Denying information or giving misleading information to the House on a Motion damages the credibility and interests of the Government and punishes the nation on whose behalf the information was sought.

In accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 36(2), a day proposed for a Private Members’ Motion shall not be less than three days ahead, and where notice is given on Fridays, not less than four days ahead.

Decisions from the Chair

Clerks in the Journals and Table Office are responsible for extracting from the Daily Parliamentary Debates rulings and decisions from the Chair which are considered useful for future reference.  These are collated for later publication in printed volumes.

Custody of Documents

The Principal Clerk of Journals is the custodian and examiner of all papers that are presented to the House.


The Principal Clerk of Journals assists the Clerks-at-the-Table in general questions of procedure.  The Clerks in the office conduct research and look for precedents when required by the Clerks-at-the-Table.

Members’ List

The Clerks in the Journals and Table Office are responsible for the compilation of Division Lists and Members’ Attendance Registers.  As soon as the date for the next meeting has been published, the Clerks cause the lists to be updated in readiness for the sittings of the house.