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JOINT RULES COMMITTEE
25 March 2003
REPORT OF SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY: ADOPTION
Chairpersons: Ms N Pandor (ANC, NCOP) Ms F Ginwala (ANC, NA)
Documents handed out:
Final Report by Ad Hoc Committee on Oversight and Accountability
Presentation by Subcommittee on the Report
The Committee considered the report of the Joint Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability and discussed its recommendations. The recommendations were accepted and it was decided that the presiding officers, Ms Naledi Pandor and Ms Frene Ginwala, would prepare an implementation plan based on the recommendations and submit it to the Committee in May. It was emphasised by Members that ongoing debate on the nature of oversight as well as best practices for Parliament was necessary.
Ms Naledi Pandor welcomed Ms Fatima Chohan-Kota (ANC) and Ms Constance Nkuna (ANC), co-Chairpersons of the Joint Ad Hoc Subcommittee.
Presentation on Subcommittee Report
Ms Chohan-Kota noted that the task of the Committee was to consider the report of the consultants initially approached by Parliament to research the concept of oversight and to submit the findings to the Joint Rules Committee. The approach of the Committee was practical and aimed at developing Parliament's oversight capacity, fine tuning oversight and recommending new oversight mechanisms for the short and long term.
Ms Nkuna described the process as constructive deliberations on measures to enhance oversight ability with a practical orientation. She referred to Annexure A of the Report. In the past it was theoretically orientated and now it was revised to be practically orientated.
It was noted that the sub-committee dealt with both Houses of Parliament simultaneously and that all of its recommendations apply equally to both Houses.
The Chapter on Accountability, Oversight and the Constitutional Imperative dealt with Clause 55(2) of the constitutional provision.
The concept of ministerial responsibility had been dealt with from a legal and not a conventional perspective.
Ms Chohan-Kota stated that it was important for the Members to understand the motivations of the recommendations and therefore necessary for the Subcommittee to explain the different routes taken.
The Chair asked the Sub-Committee to go through the recommendations only to proceed to the arguments due to the lack of time available for discussion by Members.
The Subcommittee proceeded with the presentation once more noted that there was confusion as to what is the role of Parliament with regard to oversight and that different parts of Parliament worked closely with the departments and others did not and that this required a thorough understanding.
Ms Chohan-Kota referred to the building of Parliament's institutional oversight capacity and stated that one of the Subcommittee's recommendations was for a beefing up of Parliament's oversight ability and that there should be a special agency for oversight.
The Committee did not support the recommendation of the consultants for the establishment of a standing committee on constitutional institutions in Parliament, due to practical problems. The recommendations are of the subcommittee include the following:
-There should be a more extensive consultation process involving all role players to consider the following issues. The independence of the institutions supporting democracy (Chapter Nine institutions), the effectiveness of the institutions' oversight role, their budgetary procedure and their accountability to Parliament. There should be more co-ordinated interaction between Parliament and the Chapter Nine bodies. This kind of process should be initiated by Parliament and it would be for Parliament to decide how to best engage in this process.
The Sub-Committee did not support the consultation process of the consultants because only some of the stakeholders were consulted and Parliament not at all.
-It was recommended that Parliament does not allocate its own budget and have financial independence.
Ms Pandor interrupted, stating that the critical points had now been made and that the Committee should proceed to deliberate on them.
Adv De Lange (ANC) requested that the presentation be continued so that the important issue of the role of the Parliament in the budget process not be missed.
The Chair stated that she was not averse to another five minutes for clarification.
Ms Chohan-Kota proceeded outlined the recommendations for building Parliament's institutional oversight capacity. The sub-committee recommended that Parliament urgently take measures to develop best practice guidelines to capture the best oversight practices of committees and the experiences of chairpersons of various Select and Portfolio Committees.
On the fine tuning and development of oversight mechanisms, the Subcommittee recommended that Parliament adopts a policy to oversee organs of the state either by tracking the path of huge allocations of public money or by focusing on issues of national interest.
The Chair noted that a useful and clear basis had been established to assist Parliament with protocols.
Adv de Lange (ANC) stated that the ANC had unanimous views and were satisfied with all points and options recommended by the sub-committee. He was doubtful about whether Members should be made to decide then, because questions such as what is oversight and how does it affect the budget were still unresolved.
The Chair replied that it is important to tease out implications for Parliament.
Mr Lee (DP) stated that there was consensus within the DP and broad agreement with Adv De Lange's position. With regard to the two issues, he thought that he was inappropriate to decide now and there should be more debate before that was decided upon.
Ms Ginwala, Co-Chair, stated that the Subcommittee had crisply stated the problems and the recommendations. There was consensus between the parties but more debate within the Committee was necessary. However, she did not think it necessary to halt implementation of the recommendations since there had been consensus. This would ensure that it came into practice as soon as possible. She also noted that it would be necessary for debate to continue so that when the implementation plan is submitted, there would be a more sound understanding and approach from within the Committee. She noted that there were different views about what oversight consisted off and that should be the first debate. She stated that it was not clear that there was enough delineation between oversight and accountability and that would have to be teased out as well. Questions such as what is Parliament's accountability to the public and whether Members were accountable only through the constituency or otherwise.
The Chair thanked Ms Ginwala for her comments and stated that the definition of oversight is not clear. She also wondered whether consideration of the society in which we play a role not be accounted for.
Mr J Jeffrey (ANC) stated that the implementation had to be compiled before the debate due to the urgency of the matter. He stated that the following should be debated:
-What are the constitutional provisions with regard to oversight and accountability?
-What did the Subcommittee envisage as the purpose of accountability and oversight? It was a specific task that was difficult to debate. It would have to be done with information on the international trends on the matter.
The Chair asked Members whether it was agreed that the recommendations be put in place and that the views of academic institutions and other parties be considered.
Members agreed on this.
Adv De Lange stated that all parties seemed to agree, but he proposed that deadlines be placed on the implementation study and process.
He noted as well that it was a myth that Parliament does not conduct oversight. Oversight best practices could be collected from the Public Protector and so forth. He also noted that not all aspects had been discussed.
The Chair stated that the work of the Subcommittee should continue to be debated to popularise the issue.
Ms Ginwala stated that the entire Committee need not be present to put together a package for implementation. It was agreed in principle and therefore the presiding officers would be responsible for the implementation of the package. The parties could still come back with recommendations.
Ms Pandor said that since they were certain about the recommendations, they would proceed.
The Chair asked the Members if they were certain that they had given enough attention to the matter and if so then the meeting could end.
Mr Lever (NCOP-DP) accepted the recommendations of the Subcommittee.
Ms S Seaton (IFP) also accepted recommendations of the Subcommittee.
Ms Pandor said that the implementation plan would be set out and the next meeting would be in May.
The meeting was adjourned.