The Committee section briefed the Committees, sitting jointly, on the implications of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (the Act). The comments revolved around the difficulties that the exact specification of days and deadlines in the Act would create. The Committee Section questioned the plausibility of the Act’s schedule, given the demands on time created by the Parliament programme and budget cycle, and the time needed by committee to amend legislation. The crucial dates in respect of the budget cycle were presented, as were the specific scheduling implications of the Act’s deadlines for the Budgetary review and recommendations reports, Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), Appropriations Bill, National Adjustments Budget and other Revenue Bills, such as the Taxation Laws Amendment Bills. The difficulties in combining the two committees were also highlighted. She suggested that, in principle, the Bill could be implemented on the basis that the Parliamentary programme be reviewed to accommodate the deadlines. Committees should review the manner in which they functioned. A healthy relationship between Parliament and the Executive should be fostered and resources should be made available to achieve these aims.
Members’ concerns were outlined in specific comparisons between the prescriptions of the Act on the major aspects of Money Bills and Budget in cycle in general. In the main the Budgetary review and Recommendations Reports, the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), Appropriations Bill, National Adjustments Budget were discussed
The implications of combining the two committees (Finance and Appropriations) in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in respect of the double workload, shared members and members’ provincial responsibilities were expressed. Comments on the norms and standards for provincial legislatures were also presented. It was decided that Committees needed to review the Parliamentary programme to accommodate the deadlines and the manner in which they functioned. Additionally, a healthy relationship between Parliament and the Executive should be fostered to facilitate the implementation.
Provinces were expected to enact their own procedure for amending money bills. To this end, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State provincial legislatures requested technical and legal assistance from Parliament. It was noted that a task team, headed by National Assembly Chairperson, Hon. Obed Bapela, was set up to develop an implementation plan. Members suggested that the Chairpersons of the Finance and Appropriations committees should be part of this process. Members generally recognised the need to begin implementing the Act soon. Proposed solutions to the problem included suggestions of extending the Parliamentary programme, joint sittings of the committees, using the differences between the working days of Parliament and the 5 day work week of government to provide the necessary flexibility and freeing members from other responsibilities when there were pressing Budget issues. It was noted that consultations were under way between the NCOP Chief Whip and the opposition on splitting the Select Committee on Finance and Appropriations. The Committees also felt that the Committee should consider a phased approach and discuss the detail of this with the provincial legislatures.
Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (the Act): Committee Section briefing
Ms Zanele Mene, Section Manager of Committees, Parliament, Committee Section, briefed the two Committees on the implications for Parliament and provinces of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (the Act). The objective of the Act was to set a formal procedure for Parliament to follow when amending money bills (Section 77). It allowed for the establishment of new Committee on Finance and Appropriation in both Houses and included a schedule on norms and standards for provincial legislatures. The latter was aimed at providing guidance for provinces to enact their own procedure for amending the money relevant to them.
Ms Mene said that the specific number of days for every process created time constraints and would impact on the Parliamentary programme. The crucial dates in respect of the budget cycle were presented, as were the specific scheduling implications of the Act’s deadlines for the Budgetary review and recommendations reports, Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), Appropriations Bill, National Adjustments Budget and other Revenue Bills, such as the Taxation Laws Amendment Bills. Combining the two committees (Finance and Appropriations) in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was highlighted as a cause for concern, as the new Committee had to carry the workload from the both the National Assembly (NA) committees, already shared several members with other NCOP committees and had to balance the schedules with provincial responsibilities.
Ms Mene’s suggestion for the way forward was that, in principle, the Bill could be implemented on the basis that the Parliamentary programme was reviewed to accommodate the deadlines. Committees should review the manner in which they functioned. A healthy relationship between Parliament and the Executive should be fostered, and resources should be made available to achieve these aims.
The Budgetary Reporting Requirements and Regulations (BRRR) could be implemented immediately.
Mr Sogoni stated that timeframes were essential to the working of Parliament. Ms B Scott, Finance Committee Chairperson: Kwazulu-Natal Legislature had commented on this aspect during the hearings on the Bill, in 2008. At the time, the Committee had discussed different phrasing to try to ensure that the legislation was not so specific about the actual day when setting deadlines. He said that the importance of the Act lay in creating certainty and clarifying the roles of Committees.
Ms B Tunyiswa-Gqoboka, Member of Eastern Cape Legislature, asked for clarity on the roles of Committees according to the Act.
Mr M Makhuba (ANC; Limpopo) asked for suggestions on how to deal with the timeframe problems highlighted in the presentation.
Ms B Scott, Finance Portfolio Committee Chairperson: Kwazulu-Natal, stated that she was not so concerned about the timeframes. It simply meant that greater commitment would be required. She commended the Committee on the support evident in the research on the Act. She agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal to work through the Act and achieve the goals set out.
Ms Scott said further that since not all the provisions of the Money Bills may need to be amended, the timeframes may not be that onerous in reality. She expressed the opinion that the NCOP needed time to deal with the Division of Revenue Bill, as it related to the provincial and local government equitable share. The NCOP should look at a closer relationship with the National Assembly.
She asked for the Committee's assistance in drafting the Kwazulu-Natal Legislature's own Act, specifically for technical and legal assistance from Parliament.
Mr T Chaane (ANC; North West) remarked that the Committee should talk about the actual implementation of the Act. He appealed to Committee Section to look at ways of overcoming the time constraints. Presently, Parliamentary rules did allow for joint sittings of the committees and this could be done to save time. He felt that the definition of the period referred to the working days of Parliament, and these were different from the five day work week of government. If this was applied to the provisions for referrals to the Minister of Finance, this would provide the necessary flexibility. He also pointed out that if there were pressing budget issues, then Members could be freed up from other responsibilities during that time. He was aware of discussions to have two separate Select Committees for Finance and Appropriations in the NCOP. He concluded that the Committee needed to work with speed to establish the Parliamentary Budget Office and put the Act to the test.
Ms Mene responded that her comments were not meant to imply that the Act could not be implemented. There was a task team, headed by Mr Obed Bapela, the National Assembly House Chairperson. She had intended to raise the challenges so that Members could be aware of them and find solutions. The task team was working on the implementation plan.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) referred to communication between the Committees and asked if there were any problems or unforeseen disadvantages in this approach.
Ms Mene replied that she was aware of the need for the Committees to concur. The members needed to determine how this should work. The Committee Section needed guidance. The House Chairperson would take the issues raised by Members on board.
Ms Mashigo added that the committees would not amend all aspects of the Bills being brought before them, and for this reason, the time constraints might not be a problem.
Mr C De Beer (ANC; Northern Cape) responded to Mr Chaane's comments on splitting the Select Committee on Finance and Appropriations. Consultations were under way between the NCOP, Chief Whip and the opposition on this aspect. He noted that the Parliamentary programme was not cast in stone. There was nothing stopping the Committees extending the term and starting earlier, provided that Members were committed to this. The Act had to be put into action. He reported a request from the Free State Legislature for support in enacting their procedure for amendment of money bills. He had received a similar request also from the Northern Cape legislature.
Mr Sogoni remarked that the Act was new and sought to formalise the processes that existed before it. The Act was a guide, and before it was enacted Parliament had Finance committees and a Joint Budget Committee as an informal way of dealing with the budget. The Act attempted to distinguish the roles between the Committees when dealing with Budget legislation.
The Division of Revenue Bill was a Section 76 Bill and the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act did not take away the NCOP involvement, and members of this Committee conducted the hearings in provinces. He added that the Minister of Finance must present the legislation formally before the joint Committees. In practice the Joint Committee on Finance also held the same public hearings. The only difference arose when they tabled their reports before the respective Houses. In practice the National Assembly did not concern itself with the Division Of Revenue Bill, as the issues were mainly of a provincial nature concerning the provincial and local government equitable share. These issues were the domain of the NCOP.
Because the process was established this way, the concerns may not be too serious in the practical implementation of the Act. Once the Act was in operation, the Members could look at where the problems would arise.
He assumed that provinces would have to establish their own budget offices.
He noted that the Act broadly regulated cooperation that was, in the past, already carried out voluntarily between the committees in the two Houses. There had never been a problem with this before. Section 41 of the Constitution, dealing with principles of co-operative government and intergovernmental relations, allowed for this kind of co-operation.
Ms Tunyiswa-Gqoboka asked for the provincial legislatures to be provided with the implementation plan of the Act, once it was developed.
Mr Sogoni asked for provincial legislatures to be drawn into the proceedings and planning.
Mr S Montsitsi (ANC; Gauteng) recommended that the task team on the implementation of legislation should include the Chairs of the Finance and Appropriation Committees in both Houses as well as representatives of the programming sector of Parliament. He said that in the past the committees did not deal with appropriations as thoroughly as was needed. He asked if the annual reports would clash with the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). This meant that their limited time would be compromised. This was further exacerbated when committees did not receive the annual reports on time and there was less time to make a contribution to the annual review. He agreed broadly to the "piecemeal" implementation of the Act and that suggestion that timeframes may change. He stated that the legislature needed to remain aware that the programme would change.
Mr Sogoni replied that in practical terms the NCOP did not really deal with the Appropriations Bill, but dealt mainly with the Division of Revenue Bill. He did not think it was desirable for the NCOP and NA to do the same thing.
With regard to the issue of the annual reports and the changes to the Parliamentary programme, the calculations still had to be done on this but the calculations must have room for flexibility. He noted that the budget cycle had fixed deadlines, for instance the dates by which the Division Of Revenue Bill and Appropriations Bill had to be passed.
He felt that the Act should be presented to the provincial legislatures in detail.
Mr Sogoni also made the point that, arising from the Act, there also needed to be certain amendments to rules. The Committee had to consider whether the Act should be implemented all at once or in phases. If Members decided that the Act should be implemented in phases, they also needed to determine what the phases would consist of, and what the effective dates would be. Provinces could assist in defining these phases.
Mr Montsitsi recommended that the representatives from the provincial legislatures should report back to the Parliamentary committees on what they thought should be implemented first.
Mr Sogoni responded that once the Task Team's work was complete, the implementation plan should be reported to the forum of chairpersons. Provincial chairs would be invited to attend this session.
The meeting was adjourned.
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