Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Budget speech
12 May 2016
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms T. R. Modise, gave her Budget Vote speech on the 12 May 2016
Honourable House Chairperson(s)
Honourable Chief Whip
Ladies and gentlemen
We debate Vote 2 today amid the current political environment under the harshest economic conditions, mostly not of our own making but subject to global trends and dynamics. These conditions impose on all and sundry the survivalist tendency with the hope that tomorrow shall be a better one.
Resident in our resolve to dedicate this year to following up on our commitments to the people is our constant reminder that we are part of the people. We draw our being and our relevance from serving them. We owe our very existence to living up to the ideals which they, as bequeathed unto them by our forebears, uphold and strive to realise regardless of the ever-changing seasons of our times. We are with the people, their spirit of resilience is within us. We are with our masses, their appreciation of reality as it dawns on them on every day of their lives, forcing them to receive it’s often harshness with a smile and forced grin with the hope that tomorrow shall be better. We are one with the millions of South Africans who believe that we can make their tomorrow better.
Hon Members, in February this year the National Treasury highlighted the decline in growth worldwide from 3.4% in 2014 to an estimated 3.1% last year. They projected growth in the South African economy for this year at 0.9%. This is far less than we need to meaningfully intervene in the lives of the people. Even with these meagre resources, we can’t shy away from our responsibility to ensure that we still do our utmost to make our people tomorrow better than their yesterday.
We are celebrating 20 years of life under the current South African Constitution. We should take a moment to reflect on how life would have been without it, how this House would have been shaped without 1994, how this country would be like without full participation by all citizens in its national life.
Over the years, this Parliament has made great strides in facilitating the transformation of our nation in line with that envisaged in the Constitution. Among other things, we pursued non-racist and non-sexist policies. We also devoted national resources towards improving the living and working conditions of the people as an endeavour to build one society united in its diversity.
As we mark 20 years of the Constitution, we must also be reminded that this House will also celebrate this milestone next year. A direct product of the 1996 Constitution, the NCOP came into effect on 6 February 1997. On the eve of its first sitting, then President Nelson Mandela noted that among other things the NCOP would preside over new forms of allocation of revenue from central to provincial governments and the shift to a system of co-operative governance. He added that the NCOP should focus on what was central to its role, instead of that which was ancillary.
On the same occasion, struggle veteran Govan Mbeki, who was Deputy President of Senate, viewed the new NCOP as a vast laboratory “to carry out experiments on how we could bring all the people of South Africa together, on how we could get messages from the top to percolate through the human layers of South African society to the lowest layers”.
He went on to say:
“We hope that this new experiment we are setting up will succeed in improving our communication systems to enable all our people, at all levels, to be well informed”.
As the NCOP we are beginning to reimagine the way we do business. The recent report-back exercise in the Eden District Municipality, Western Cape, under the banner of the Taking Parliament to the People programme is a case in point. It was a practical example of following up on our commitments to the people. Further, work has commenced in re-engineering this important programme to achieve the desired impact. This will also go for the Provincial Week and other programmes.
We are playing our part in promoting co-operative government and sound intergovernmental relations. The Constitution requires all the spheres, among other things, to co-operate and support one another, and where necessary to intervene. The Interventions workshop with our stakeholders held last year in October helped to sharpen our understanding of the role of the NCOP in this regard. We must take forward the recommendations from that exercise, including:
• The need to enact legislation as envisaged in sections 139(8) and 100(3) of the Constitution, to guide in dealing with interventions in general and the role of the South African Local Government Association; and
• The submission by provinces of consolidated annual reports of municipalities as obliged by section 47 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act of 2000.
We need to follow up these undertakings through a political process.
During the period under review, this House received four notices of interventions in terms of section 139(1)(b). All were approved within 14 days as required by the Constitution. The Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs continues to regularly monitor the interventions. On the other hand, there were no section 139(1)(c) interventions received. However, five notices of termination and two notices of extensions were received and referred to the committee for consideration.
In line with our mandate of holding the Executive accountable on behalf of our people, we put 773 questions to Members of the Cabinet. Of these, 541 questions were for written reply and 232 were for oral reply. Out of the 232 Questions 6 were to the President, 24 to the Deputy President, 36 to Cluster 1 (Peace and Security), 43 to Cluster 2 (Social Services), 22 to Cluster 3 (Governance) and 92 to Cluster 4 (Economics). A total of 523 responses were received by end of March. The 12 outstanding responses will be received in the current financial year.
We thank the President, the Deputy President and Ministers for their co-operation in this regard.
With regard to our legislative work, we debated and passed all the 26 Bills transmitted from the National Assembly. We received 12 draft Bills from the Executive. These were all transmitted to the Speakers of the Provincial Legislatures and the Municipalities via the South African Local Government Association, as required by Joint Rule 159(2).
The Select Committees of the NCOP held their strategic planning session in March this year. The emphasis was placed on focusing oversight on the planning and execution of government programmes in line with the objectives of the NDP.
As we work towards the progression of women in our society, we need more representation especially of NCOP women parliamentarians in the Multi-Party Caucus so that adequate mainstreaming of gender issues can be addressed.
5th Parliament Policy Priorities and Strategic Plan
All that we are doing is guided by the 5th Parliament’s Policy Priorities and Strategic Plan. The 2016/17 Annual Performance Plan of Parliament tabled in August 2015 sets out the work to be done to achieve our goals. A number of initiatives are now in the planning stages for implementation over the coming medium term, including the following:
Firstly, the 5th Parliament undertook to improve the efficacy of its overall oversight and public involvement processes. At the core of this shift is the need to have more time for committees to focus on oversight work and for constituency work. Steps are now underway to effect these changes through the required internal political structures will be engaged.
We will ensure that the support capacity provided to the NCOP is in line with its character within the budget allocated to us.
Secondly, is improving sector co-ordination and co-operation pertaining to oversight and public involvement, to ensure a more responsive and accountable government at all levels, including ensuring better co-operation in the delivery of services. In this regard, through the South African Legislative Sector, we have commenced the process of drafting a sector Bill to give effect to this priority. It is worth noting that the legislative sector is moving towards planning together, standardising policy, co-ordinating implementation and reporting together to the people.
In particular, the Speakers of the Provincial Legislatures want the NCOP to work for them. So we need to ensure that they are closer to our processes.
Thirdly, and closely linked with improved sector co-ordination and co-operation, is the ongoing matter of ensuring that the institution is fit for purpose through ongoing capacity building. Owing to the nature of Parliament, vast leadership and functional knowledge is lost during each 5-year election cycle.
Further, the present approach to skills development and knowledge management produces an uneven spread and allocation of skills throughout the processes of Parliament. Going forward, we will follow a more systematic approach to knowledge management and capacity-building of Members throughout the legislative sector. Plans in this regard are being finalised for the establishment of a Knowledge Institute, to improve and consolidate our capacity-building efforts.
Fourthly, the effectiveness of Members is largely dependent on the appropriateness and quality of information received. In this regard, the Parliamentary Service is improving its timeliness and quality of information provided for proceedings and meetings. Services such as procedural advice, legal advice, content advice, research and other information services are also improving as well as the quality of outputs, thereby increasing the value of information.
As part of the much needed cost-cutting measures for more frugal public expenditure, Parliament will gradually migrate toward increased electronic records and dissemination of information. The main aim is to progressively move towards a paperless environment. This would be more cost effective, boost productivity, save space, make documentation and information sharing easier and contribute towards the green economy.
In addition, the Parliamentary Service has embarked on an initiative to internalise the printing of parliamentary daily papers, the Hansard and other key parliamentary publications. This will drastically reduce the cost of printing in Parliament. We have introduced cost cutting measures in other areas such as travel, catering, consultancy, and telephone usage.
We need to emphasise though that to achieve this change we need a conducive environment for professionals to deliver. The requisite for that includes labour peace. So we appeal to both workers and management to work together as we focus on the key issues to achieve the change we want to see.
Last year we raised the facility and spatial needs of Parliament. The time has now come for Parliament to become responsible for its precinct, property and buildings. This is entirely feasible, as National Treasury and the Department of Public Works implemented a change in policy between the year 2000 and 2004, to allow for capital budgets to be devolved to relevant budget votes.
This was in part to ensure that accounting officers become fully accountable for the operations of their respective institutions. Accordingly, National Treasury and the Department of Public Works facilitated a process to devolve budgets for capital, maintenance, leasing, and rates and taxes.
As yet, Parliament has not taken up this provision to exercise financial control over its buildings and property. We are more than ready and excited to take full control of this responsibility. We will engage National Treasury and the Department of Public Works on the matter.
In responding to the space constraints, we must at the same time respond to the call by the President, for Parliament to consider the maintenance cost of two capitals.
The 2016-17 budget
Parliament’s budget allocation for the 2016/17 financial year is R2 189.4 Billion which is less than the requested budget by R956, 4 million.
We therefore do not have sufficient funds to implement in full the Annual Performance Plan as per the 2014-19 Strategic Plan. It must be noted that the 5th Parliament is the first Parliament to align its budget with the Strategic Plan and we find our budget to be inadequate.
This budget is divided into five programmes and there are follows:
- Programme 1- Strategic Leadership and Governance is R72.8 million
- Programme 2- Administration is R116 million,
- Programme 3 – Core Business is R526 million,
- Programme 4- Support Services is R318.1 million,
- Programme 5 – Associated Services is R626.7 million;
The National Revenue Fund, as a provision for member’s remuneration is R529.8 million.
It is crucial for Parliament to be given the space within the separation of powers parameters to be able to determine its own budget based on its mandate and scope of work. The NDP requires that Parliament exercises effective and rigorous oversight.
The Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2009, which was amended in 2014, creates a governance framework for Parliament. Notably, it provides for the Executive Authority, which is made up of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces acting jointly. It also provides for functions of the accounting officers and such structures as the Audit Committee, and for an Oversight Mechanism, amongst others.
On 26 November last year, the two Houses adopted new Joint Rules that regulate the functioning of the Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament. This is the oversight mechanism as envisioned by section 4 of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. This committee has been established and the POA has ceased to exist.
We are also in the process of drafting regulations as required by section 65 of the Act. These regulations will be for the whole legislative sector. These and other processes will assist us in being effective and efficient in our operations.
Review of the Impact of Legislation
To give effect to the decisions we took at the beginning of the term as part of our policy priorities, Parliament is undertaking a review of the impact of the tangible effects of legislation on the lives of our people.
An Independent Advisory Panel to review the impact of legislation dating back to 1994 has been established, and is chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe. The Panel will look at laws that need strengthening or amending, laws that are not working for South Africans, and make recommendations.
The Panel is operating on a shoestring budget funded by the European Union Commission. However, we expect it to produce a Report in the next 12 months. The Panel will be conducting hearings throughout the country. We must encourage our people to participate in these processes.
Constitutional Court Judgment
The recent Constitutional Court judgments require of Parliament to reflect on our processes to allow us to discharge our responsibilities effectively and efficiently.
As Members are aware, the Constitutional Court declared section 11 of the Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (2004) inconsistent with the Constitution to the extent that it allows Members to be arrested for what they say in the House. The Constitutional Court however confirmed that Parliament may limit freedom of speech of Members through the Rules. According to this judgment, freedom of speech does not mean inhibiting the House from carrying out its constitutional obligations. A joint ad hoc committee will be established shortly in order to present an amendment Bill to the both Houses of Parliament.
This process may also necessitate rule amendments which the Rules Committees of the Houses will have to deal with. It must be noted that the intention was not to arrest Members but to deal with disruption.
More recently, the Constitutional Court also clarified the manner in which reports of the Public Protector ought to be dealt with. This matter has highlighted the need to look broadly at the processing of the reports of Chapter 9 Institutions. This is a matter that the National Assembly is currently dealing with.
Hon House Chairperson, this House plays a critical role in exercising and upholding the principles of democracy enshrined in our 20-year old Constitution. Its Members are elected to represent the people. Upholding the decorum of the House requires that as Members we pay particular attention to the manner in which we conduct ourselves. While the Presiding Officers are there to ensure that our rules are adhered to, maintaining the decorum of this august Chamber is our collective responsibility.
Parliamentary Budget Office
Since the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act came into force in 2009, year on year, we continue to invest considerable resources via the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and Committees. We do so to ensure that Parliament is able to fully utilise the powerful oversight tools that this Act provides it with. We must however continue to raise the fact that the Budget Office does not have sufficient resources to fully assist committees in their oversight function.
Since the inception of the PBO in 2013 the measured outputs have doubled. The growing demand from committees for technical assistance on fiscal oversight is indicative of the seriousness with which Members are engaging with the oversight functions of Parliament, and recognition of the valuable support the PBO provides.
Honorable House Chairperson, our Parliament operates within the global context. It continues to actively participate in international parliamentary bodies such as the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), and the SADC-PF to build national, regional and global democratic accountability. I thank the Deputy Chairperson, the House Chairpersons and Members who represented us in these structures in the year under review.
Our participation in international parliamentary affairs is in line with our strategic objective of enhancing international engagement. We seek to put at the centre of these engagements the African Union Agenda 2063, the SADC Master Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals, which commit parliaments to play a more active role in improving the lives of the people. Democratic governance at national, regional and continental levels remains part of that commitment.
Local Government Elections
As we celebrate 20 years of the Constitution, we are reminded yet again that our Constitution has designed government into three spheres, namely national, provincial and local. Local government, as the sphere that deals with the daily needs of the people, has the mandate to ensure the provision of services to communities and to promote social and economic development, among other things. It is thus important for our people to participate in their numbers in the coming local government elections earmarked for the 3rd of August this year.
As a sign of our growing democracy, we are encouraged by the interest shown by the youth in civic matters as in during the voter registration period. The Independent Electoral Commission announced after the March and April registration weekends that nearly 80% of first-time registering voters were under 30 years of age. This is laudable.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, once said: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” With the enthusiasm of our young people, our democracy seems to be defying this assertion.
The evidence we see is that of a growing number of young people taking up the responsibility to uphold and protect our constitutional democracy.
I would like to thank the Speaker of the National Assembly for the joint stewardship of Parliament and other Presiding Officers for their support.
Also thank the Select Committees for their work in overseeing the budgets. The Plenaries are scheduled because of their work. We really appreciate what you are doing in bettering the lives of our people.
We appreciate the work done by the parliamentary service under the leadership of the Secretary to Parliament.
As we march on towards our 22 years of democracy, we shall remain mindful of the obligations which such adult years will impose on us. We shall carry the lessons from our teen years as they shall come handy when we face the ever-changing weathers with tougher skins and stronger inner resolve.
None of us should have any illusion that our deeper ideological differences will at any day come to nothing. Their irreconcilability does not, however, disunite us from pursuing the common challenges faced by our people, which we are all required to respond to. Even under the chilliest of weathers, we still are a better collective so assembled by our people to bring unto them the best of our services which they are yet to see. We cannot disappoint them.
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