14 October 2019

The Week Ahead: Question Time & high-profile meetings


Question time is the main business in both chambers this week. The practice of oral questions is an established part of the parliamentary day and gives MPs an opportunity to question the Executive about matters for which they are responsible.

Everything from specific scandals and programmes to big-picture policy to bread-and-butter issues and performance will be under the microscope. Generally, governing party MPs and the opposition have different objectives when it comes to these engagements: the former tends to provide the Executive with an opportunity to put government policies and actions in a favourable light while the latter aims to do the opposite.

For all its limitations, this is usually an occasion of heightened interest and can sometimes be revealing.

In the National Assembly, the Deputy President will answer 6 main questions plus follow-up questions. Two of the standout questions are about the role of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on service delivery at district level and government plans to accelerate land reform to improve access to land for economic development and human settlement.

In the NCOP, select Ministers in the Governance cluster will be probed on a variety of topics including the Ministerial Handbook, public servants with criminal records and concerns of traditional leaders.

It's 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 (MTBPS) is delivered on 30 October.

Section 5 of the Money Bills Amendment Act states that ‘the National Assembly, through its committees, must annually assess the performance of each national department’ and, that committees must ‘annually submit budgetary review and recommendation reports (BRRR) for tabling in the National Assembly for each department’.

The BRRR is 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 audit findings as well as observations made during all other oversight activities. The Report makes recommendations for consideration by the affected Minister as well as the Minister of Finance.

After the BRRR is adopted, Parliament and its committees will then consider the MTBPS. The MTBPS includes a review of actual departmental spending for the first six months of the current fiscal year as well as multi-year budget projections for revenue, expenditure and key macro-economic projections. 

Orientation and training is essential to prepare MPs and make them more effective. In line with Parliament’s commitment to develop, empower and give MPs a deeper understanding of their work, the NCOP has organised a two-day workshop training for delegates. The topics include lawmaking, public involvement and oversight and accountability.

Away from Plein Street, legislators will be participating in events at the Pan African Parliament, 141st International Parliamentary Union Assembly and the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum.

In addition, the Standing Committee on Appropriations will visit Eskom from Monday to Wednesday to discuss, amongst other things, governance, cost escalations and liquidity issues.

Also, the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will continue with its visit to municipalities in Limpopo province to ascertain the state of service delivery in those areas.

The Committee corridor is again the site for most of the parliamentary activities. There are more than 30 meetings scheduled. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

The Land Bank will brief the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on transformation activities and the AgriBEE Fund. (Tuesday)

Last month, the Minister of Basic Education announced plans to introduce a General Education Certificate (GEC). In response to sharp criticism of this plan, the Department clarified that it was misleading to view the proposed Grade 9 certificate as a way for learners to leave school. Instead, it was aimed at sending more students to technical education institutions. MPs will get an update from the Department on this proposal. (Tuesday)

The Special Investigating Authority (SIU) and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will be in the spotlight when both present their 2018/19 Annual Reports. Last year, Parliament noted that budgetary constraints place severe strain on the NPA’s ability to function optimally and deliver services. It further highlighted that the SIU’s difficulty in recovering monies owed to it for services from state institutions. (Tuesday)

The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans will hear from the Department of Defence and National Treasury on the current budget shortfall in terms of Compensation of Employees as well as funding for the Defence Review Work Packages. When approving the Department’s budget earlier in the year, the Committee expressed concern regarding the current financial constraints within the defence domain and that this may impact negatively on the ability of the SANDF to fulfil its constitutional mandate. Most significantly, the Committee noted that, for the past three financial years, insufficient funds were available to cover expenditure related to compensation of employees and that the expenditure ceiling in this regard were breached. (Tuesday)

Engagements with the Public Investment Corporation and South African Broadcasting Corporation on their 2018/19 Annual Reports will generate interest. (Tuesday)

SCOPA will get an update from the SIU on municipalities under investigation and get a briefing from the NPA on cases referred by the SIU. (Wednesday)

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Financial Intelligence Centre will be in the limelight when they present their 2018/19 Annual Reports. (Wednesday)

The Sub-Committee on Public Service and Administration will shortlist candidates for the Public Service Commission Board vacancy. (Thursday)

Last month, MPs heard that the continued reduction of the budget of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), compromised its ability to carry out its constitutional mandate. The SANDF will brief MPs on its organisational structure, force levels and plans at organisational renewal and force renewal. (Thursday)

The Office of the Public Protector’s Annual Report briefing will round off the week. Going by past appearances, this will be a must watch event. This will also be an opportunity for MPs to bid farewell to the Deputy Public Protector who is departing at the end of the year. (Friday)
The Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 will meet to finalise arrangements for a planned workshop with experts on the land question and amending the Constitution. (Friday)

The Subcommittee on Review of the National Assembly Rules will consider matters referred by the Rules Committee. This includes the drafting of rules for the removal of heads of chapter 9 institutions. (Friday)

View the full schedule here.

*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.


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People's Assembly

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