29 May 2017

The Week Ahead: President Zuma & Parliament’s budget vote in the spotlight

Parliament has scheduled a broad and busy programme in the main chambers as well as in the committee corridor.

The main plenary event will be the debate on the Presidency's budget vote scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. In their speeches, the Presidency (this includes the President, Deputy President and Ministers in the Presidency) are likely to talk about the administration's priority areas (government's nine point plan), make new announcements and give an update on special projects (Operation Phakisa, Presidential Working Groups and Presidential Coordinating Council). In addition, they are expected to build on the State of the Nation Address so the economy (and radical economic transformation specifically) will feature prominently in their remarks.

As with previous occasions, this will be a robust encounter and all the heavy hitters (party leaders and senior MPs) will be fronting the debate. It is doubtful you will hear much about the budget as the debate is likely to take a back seat to accusations and complaints against the President himself. The President will have to defend a wide range of charges, such as the performance of various departments and entities, his appointments, the size of the cabinet, his overseas travel, legislation he is considering, his office’s spending and personal scandals. This is also his first appearance since the latest motion of no confidence was put forward and amid growing calls (both internal and external) for him to step down. All this means is that there is plenty of fodder for the opposition and the knives will be out.

One of the peculiarities of our parliamentary system is that there is no parliamentary committee that oversees the Presidency. According to the IFP, South Africa is unique among parliamentary democracies throughout the world and the party has repeatedly asked that this anomaly be corrected. Previously, the IFP leader has stated that “while the budgets of every Government Department are pored over and questioned before we come here to express our agreement or disapproval, the Presidency's budget is presented as a fait accompli, and we rise in this House with scant capacity to debate what is being spent, where it is being spent and how it is being spent”.

Read the 2016 budget vote speeches:

Presidency Budget speech & responses by ANC, DA and IFP

The other big highlight will be the Legislature's budget vote debate. In their speeches, the presiding officers are expected to underscore the role of Parliament in our democracy, talk about the challenges facing the institution, highlight a few successes, and give some detail on how they plan to implement the institution’s 2014-19 Strategic Plan, which includes the following objectives: Strengthening oversight and accountability; Enhancing public involvement and participation; Deepening engagement in international fora; Strengthening co-operative government and Strengthening legislative capacity.

Meanwhile in the ensuing debate, MPs are expected to complain about: the insufficient funding provided to political parties, inadequate facilities and support to MPs, the poor replies to questions by the Executive, the perceived bias of the presiding officers, the lack of decorum in House as well as the shortcomings in the rules and their application. Another matter that will be raised sharply will be the charge that Parliament is not doing oversight, but merely compliance and that interventions are needed to strengthen oversight, accountability and public involvement.

Read the 2016 budget vote speeches:

Speaker of the National Assembly Budget Speech

Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Budget speech

Beyond this, legislators will debate the recent surge in violence against women and children. let's hope the debate will not be predictable with lots of tough talk,but little on substance.

Over in the NCOP chamber, delegates will be occupied with policy debates. Other business includes consideration of reports and a debate on protecting women and girl children against violence and abuse.

The Committee Corridor has arranged several interesting meetings that are guaranteed to generate interest:

On Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has scheduled a hearing on the report of PricewaterhouseCoopers relating to the coal supply agreements between Eskom and Tegeta. In the report PwC said Eskom flouted supply chain management procedures and its own Supply Chain Management policies in the contract and called for the review of the contracts worth billions of Rand.

In addition, MPs will get briefings on the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Market Inquiry outcomes and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board Inquiry report recommendations.

Also on the agenda are meetings to discuss Inclusive and Special Education and Implementation of Government Employee Housing Scheme. On the lawmaking side, the Financial Sector Regulation Bill, Copyright Amendment Bill, Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill and Appropriation Bill will come under scrutiny.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will hold a hearing with stakeholders on crime statistics and engage with National Treasury on the proposed policy on debt relief. The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus has planned an interesting meeting: This includes a briefing by the SALRC on the Report of the South African Law Reform Commission Project 107 Sexual Offences Adult Prostitution and a briefing by the IEC on the review of available legislation to cater for mandatory legislated quota, as directed in section 5 (1)(j) of the Electoral Commission [Act 51 of 1996] National Treasury will provide legislators with a status update on the Integrated Financial Management System to replace Persal, the public service payment system. On the legislative side, there are deliberations on the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill, Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill and Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill. The latter is particularly noteworthy because of the raging debate around a proposed tax on sugar beverages.

On Friday, the Sub-Committee on Review of NCOP Rules meeting has provisionally scheduled a meeting.

The Standing Committee on Appropriations will consider comments and briefings on the Appropriations Bill and the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs has arranged a workshop on the Marine Spatial Planning Bill.

See the full meeting list 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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