09 October 2017

The Week Ahead: BRRRs, Legislation & Provincial Week top Agenda

It's a lowkey week in main chambers with no plenary sittings scheduled in both Houses.

In contrast, it's a another big week in the Committee corridor where lawmakers will be dealing with leftover Annual Reports and finalising Budgetary Review and Recommendations Reports (BRRRs) which must be completed before the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on 25 October.

Section 5 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (No. 9 of 2009) compels the National Assembly to, through its committees, submit annual BRR Reports on the financial performance of Departments accountable to Parliament. The BRR Report must be informed by a Committee’s interrogation of, amongst others, National Departments’ Estimates of National Expenditure, strategic priorities, measurable objectives and forward-funding needs, National Treasury-published expenditure reports, the relevant Annual Reports and financial statements, the Auditor-General of South Africa’s (AGSA) audit findings as well as observations made during all other oversight activities. The Report further makes budget review and recommendations for consideration by the Minister responsible for the Vote as well as the Minister of Finance.

This gruelling Committee schedule has again brought into sharp focus the tight deadlines and raises questions about how effective parliamentary oversight is. On several occasions, the proceedings were hurried, the questions were not probing and MPs were presented with the documents for the first time at the meeting. While it has become practice for Ministers and Deputy Ministers to be present at these meetings, some failed to pitch up - much to the consternation of legislators. Besides budget-related matters, everything from statutory appointments, Executive scrutiny and big-picture policy will be under the microscope. This is also a week for detailed law-making, with issues ranging from copyrights, debt relief and international arbitration under the spotlight.

In a rare development, Parliament has scheduled joint meetings for Committees in the Economics and Governance and Social Services Clusters. On Tuesday, those in the Economics Cluster are scheduled to receive a briefing on the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council from the Minister of Economic Development. On Wednesday, Committees in the Governance and Social Services Cluster are scheduled to receive a briefing on the Integrated Urban Development Framework from the Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. These combined gatherings are a good initiative and is an opportunity for all relevant Committees to address cross-cutting policy issues.

Elsewhere, the National Council of Provinces delegates will spend the week in their respective provinces – as part of Provincial Week - interacting with government officials, the business sector and the public, discussing job creation and economic development. The theme for this biennial event is: “Advancing our collective efforts to creating work opportunities for our people”. The delegates will be joined by their counterparts from Provincial Legislatures Premiers, Members of the Executive Councils (MECs), the Local Government Association (SALGA), Mayors and other relevant stakeholders.

There’s lots of action in Committee-land, with a few Cabinet Ministers set to make appearances. Here is a rundown of highlights in Committee-land:

On Tuesday, the SABC and the troubled MDDA will table their Annual Reports.

The Information Regulator will brief MPs on its activities and challenges/risks facing the institution and how they are being addressed.

Lawmakers will get a briefing and status Report on Vuwani.

On Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Finance will meet with the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer. We can expect MPs to probe the Office about recent negative news articles relating to the organisation.

On Thursday, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the Powers and Privileges Act will receive a briefing by the NA Table on international best practices and convention relating to parliamentary powers and privileges as well as a briefing by the Legal Advisors on proposed amendments to the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Ac.

The Portfolio Committee on Communications will interview of candidates shortlisted for vacancies on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Council.

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has scheduled a meeting with the Department and SAPS to discuss safety in schools.

In between, there will be detailed legislating on the Copyright Amendment Bill, the Trade and Industry Committee Bill dealing with debt relief, Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB), Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill (TALAB) and the International Arbitration Bill.

According to media reports, the Portfolio Committee on Justice will discuss the Public Protector’s fitness to hold office in response to a complaint made by the DA. The unprecedented move comes barely a year after she took office. At the time of writing, PA was not able to confirm this meeting and on what day it is scheduled to take place.

See full schedule here.

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People's Assembly

"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.

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