The Week Ahead: Parliament is winding down

27-11-2017

It’s a week of farewells and loose ends in the National Assembly. The constituency period beckons, with MPs due to depart at the end of the week and return to Parliament next year. But a fair amount of work will be done before they go as there is a lot unfinished business to deal with.

In the remaining days, the NA chamber is scheduled to sit for long hours to vote on several Money Bills, consider assorted statutory instruments and finalise leftover Committee reports.

Beyond this, lawmakers will discuss a hot button topic proposed by the Chief Whip of the Opposition: The scourge of State Capture – Parliament’s duty to investigate and hold the Executive to account.

The other big plenary highlight will be the question session involving selected Cabinet Members in the Economic Cluster (Public Works, Tourism, Rural Development and Land Reform, Science and Technology, Small Business Development, Trade and Industry, Transport, Telecommunications and Postal Services and Public Enterprises). When it comes to Executive scrutiny, MPs tend to be consistent in their line of questioning so everything from specific scandals, shortcomings in current legislation to big-picture policy and departmental performance will be under the microscope.

Elsewhere, the NCOP chamber has arranged two sittings, where it will consider assorted reports, motions and legislation. In addition, the upper chamber has allocated time for two debates:

The increase in card fraud that continues to rob South Africans of their hard earned income resulting in over R600 million a year.

Overcrowding in schools in Limpopo, especially in districts such as Mopani, Vhembe, Capricorn, Sekhukhune and Waterberg

Following last week’s public unveiling, Parliament will this week brief legislators on the final report of the High Level Panel (HLP), which was tasked to assess the impact of legislation passed by Parliament and Provincial Legislatures since the advent of freedom and democracy in 1994. Some of the findings in the report propose that MPs be elected directly and that the powers of traditional leaders be clipped.

See full plenary programme here

There is a lot of significant action in the Committee corridor. Here is a run down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs will be hosting a colloquium on Climate Finance. The colloquium seeks to assess climate finance inflows into the implementation of South Africa’s climate action.

Established five months ago, the Ad Hoc Committee established to regulate the public and private funding of political parties, has been working at breathtaking speed to finalise its work and adopt a Political Party Funding Bill before Parliament rises. The Committee is expected to meet this deadline (with no extensions) and this rare achievement should be celebrated.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts will hold a hearing on Transnet contracts as well as the deviation and expansion.

In October, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs provided an update to MPs on the Inter-Ministerial Task Team's (IMTT) efforts on the constitutional, structural and systemic challenges in electricity reticulation. There was general concern that municipal debt owed to Eskom had increased to unsustainable levels and required drastic action. This could include placing municipalities under administration. A Joint Meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Energy and Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has been arranged to get an update on the work of the Task Team.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) will present its 2016/17 Annual Report. The tabling of the Report in Parliament was delayed following a stand-off with the Auditor-General (AG) over bonus payments paid to staff. At this meeting, Parliament will seek an explanation from SARS about the controversial reinstatement of Jonas Makwakwa. The other major topic that will be tackled is the R50.8bn revenue collection shortfall and the subsequent commission of inquiry into tax revenue collection and governance at SARS.

Municipalities with outstanding water bills will experience water cuts according to the Department of Water and Sanitation. The total outstanding money owed is more than R10 billion. In light of this, the planned joint meeting on Wednesday of the Portfolio Committees on Water and Sanitation and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, with stakeholders to discuss outstanding debt by municipalities owed to water boards and the Department of Water and Sanitation, is timely and part of a plan to address this looming crisis.

The quintile system determines amounts of funding for individual schools and was developed to address inequalities in the education sector. According to the system, all government schools are categorised into one of five categories, with quintile 1 schools designating the poorest institutions while quintile 5 denoted the least poor public schools. Over the years, there has been criticism that schools are sometimes classified wrongly. The Department has decided to review the quintile system and will brief MPs on this.

Last week, the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources heard from the lawyers representing ex-mineworkers about lung diseases on mines and silicosis class action cases. This week, it will hear about the political intervention from the Department of Mineral Resources.

The embattled state airliner, SAA, will present its quarterly report to Parliament.

According to a media report, the Eskom Inquiry will take a break this week as the evidence leader has requested time to consult with some witnesses.

-In between, there will be a lot of heavy legislative lifting as MPs deliberate, finalise and get briefings of the following bills: Rates & Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill, Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill, Insurance Bill, Adjustments Appropriation Bill, Draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, National Forests Amendment Bill, National Land Transport Amendment Bill, Marine Spatial Planning Bill and Powers and Privileges Act.

See full schedule here

*Note: The schedule is subject to frequent changes and needs to be checked daily.

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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