Parliament was to surrender R72 million to the National Treasury because it had not used it. This emerged during discussion when the Secretary to Parliament briefed the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament about the mid-term performance of the institution. The Committee also heard that the performance of Parliament was standing at 52% achievement of targets during the period under review.
The Committee was informed that Rules and Orders had been reviewed, to reflect established practices in Parliament which contributed to providing coherence in policy implementation. There had been continued engagement with regional and continental parliamentary structures, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum (PF) and the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to exchange knowledge and best practice, with a view to equipping Parliament to contribute to the achievement of continental and global development imperatives.
The work of the administration had been re-oriented towards the achievement of the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP), regional and continental policy, and developmental imperatives in line with the constitutional mandate of Parliament. Leadership had been provided to inform the amendment and passing of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA) and the approval of supply chain management (SCM) regulations for Parliament and provincial legislatures. The amended FMPPLA had resulted in a review of the government model to incorporate the required oversight mechanism committee.
Parliament’s Support Services was implementing several initiatives aimed at enabling an efficient administration, including the Media Monitoring Tool, the ‘My Parliament’ app, as well as the human resources ‘Back to Basics’ project. Work was in progress to provide seamless support to Members. The information communications technology (ICT) strategy had been adopted and had to connect with the citizens and Members of Parliament. There was a need to improve the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and provide communication infrastructure.
Progress on the core business programme for the reporting period included a remarkable improvement in the implementation of the Core Business Charter, and the development of a business case on the oversight and accountability programme. The administration was doing well in the provision of information and advisory support, as well as in the communication between Parliament and the Executive. Efforts were being made to improve the timely provision of House and Committee meeting records. All models had been integrated into the oversight and accountability programme.
Members wanted to know the kind of reporting format Parliament was using, because they were familiar with the one provided by Treasury; remarked they were not happy with the presentation from the Secretary because it was difficult to follow and they had not been given copies of the budget presentation; they asked for an explanation of why R72m had to go back to National Treasury; enquired why financial statements were not in the annual report; wanted to know what was going to happen to targets not met, and what the reason for under-spending was; remarked that the equipment around Parliament left a lot to be desired; commented that the Committee needed to be briefed about the costs of the new ERP system that was going to be improved, and the effect it would have on the 1% cost saving target; said that the annual report on human resource matters had left members confused because officials from different levels were claimed to have received bonuses, whereas that was untrue; and commented that late payments to suppliers was an embarrassment because it affected the value chain.
Mr Gengezi Mgidlana, Secretary to Parliament, in briefing the Committee about the mid-term performance of Parliament, reported the institution had re-oriented the work of the administration towards the achievement of the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP), regional and continental policy, and developmental imperatives in line with the constitutional mandate of Parliament. They had provided leadership through highlighting the significance of the rich South African heritage and sought to strengthen unity and build social cohesion amongst citizens. The implementation of zero-based budgeting was to be aligned to the strategic plan, the annual performance plan (APP) and operational plans of Parliament, in order to align envisaged outcomes and outputs to resource allocation and improving the strategic focus on achieving results. Of the targets set, Parliament had achieved only 52%.
Programme 1: Strategic Leadership and Governance
Progress had been made by the independent high level panel on the assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change. The financial and fiscal oversight had been strengthened. The work of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) transcended beyond the core client Parliamentary committees, and additional support was provided by the PBO to other Parliamentary committees on request.
Programme 2: Administration
The draft legislative Sector Services Bill had been presented to the relevant stakeholders for consideration. The outcomes approach and zero-based budgeting had been institutionalised. The institution was making good progress in supporting Members’ capacity, as well as sector coordination. However, more must be done with regard to compliance with all the prescripts of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA).
Programme 3: Core Business
Progress on the core business programme for the reporting period included a remarkable improvement in the implementation of the core business charter, and the development of a business case on the oversight and accountability programme. The administration was doing well in the provision of information and advisory support, as well as in the communication between Parliament and the Executive. Efforts were being made to improve the timely provision of House and Committee meeting records. All models had been integrated into the oversight and accountability programme.
Programmes 4 and 5: Support Services and Associated Services
Support services were implementing several initiatives aimed at enabling an efficient administration, including the media monitoring tool, the ‘My Parliament’ app, as well as the human resources ‘Back to Basics’ project. Work was in progress to provide seamless support to Members. The Information Communication Technology (ICT) strategy had been adopted and must connect with the citizens and Members of Parliament. There was a need to improve the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and provide communication infrastructure.
Mr Mgidlana concluded that Parliament would continue to strengthen the institutionalisation of the its outcomes framework with indicators and targets at impact, outcome, output, activity and input level; and leverage and optimise on institutional resources and capabilities to ensure the achievement of the goals and objectives of Parliament. He further said they would continue to focus on efficiency and cost-cutting measures while creating a conducive environment in order to manage leadership and talent.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate budget expenditure, the mid-term overall performance, and performance trends per programme)
Ms C September (ANC) asked what kind of reporting format Parliament was using, because it had been difficult to read and follow the presentation. The only format the Committee knew was the one provided by Treasury.
Ms T Motara (ANC) added it was not the first time the Secretary had brought a presentation that Members could not follow, and where one found that page numbers were not in order and there were missing pages in the document. She wanted an explanation on why R72m had to go back to National Treasury; what ‘associated services’ were; and why financial statements were not in the annual report.
Mr Mgidlana, on the issue of the reporting format, said that the format was determined by the executive authority in Parliament, and it was not bound by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). He had noted the concerns of the Members on the reporting format, the inconsistency and visibility of the report and he took responsibility for that. Regarding money going back to Treasury, he said that was money in the form of direct charges coming straight from Treasury. If one did not use it, it had to be sent back to Treasury. He explained that ‘associated services’ were funds paid to parties and their members. Concerning financial statements, he said they would try present them in a manner that was easy to follow and more detailed.
Mr N Singh (IFP) wanted to know what was going to happen to targets not met, and what the reason was for under-spending. He said there was a need to provide more support to Members. Most committees had more support than they actually needed. Smaller parties were lacking in support, especially in research-related areas. He remarked that the equipment around Parliament left a lot to be desired. For instance, the sound system was so terrible that it could not be used by the media. It was even reported that at Marks Building, there were no supplies, like the black refuse bags.
Mr Mgidlana, pertaining to support for Members, said that he agreed fully with the idea because when one looked at other Parliaments, the ratio allocated to each member was significant. This matter needed more funds from Treasury.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM) asked for clarity on the variance in line items. He wanted to know what measures were in place to make sure targets for the 1% cost saving were realised. He also commented that late payments to suppliers were an embarrassment because it affected the value chain, and Parliament was not setting a good example.
Mr Mgidlana, regarding variance in line items, explained that with zero-based budgeting they were challenging themselves on a number of issues. For instance, if they needed to advertise, they would ask Human Resources (HR) if that money could not be used for something else or be saved, and then find another way of solving the problem without taking the advertising route. These were some items that had been high, but had remained unaccounted for.
Concerning the 1% saving, he said the main focus was on efficiencies. For example, Parliament was using less paper because more staff members had laptops. House papers and bills were printed by Creda, and the plans were that they should be printed internally. Posts that had been vacant for many years had been frozen, and the number of delegates for overseas and local trips had been reduced. He also shared with the Committee the revenue generation strategy, which looked at improvements in the food area so that members of staff and Members of Parliament could eat internally to increase revenue. The strategy was multi-pronged. If the service could be delivered for less, it must be done.
Mr M Waters (DA) commented that the Committee needed to be briefed about the costs of the new ERP system that was going to be improved, and the effect it would have on the 1% cost saving. He said that the annual report on HR matters had left Members confused, because officials from different levels were claimed to have received bonuses, whereas that was untrue. Lastly, he requested that the staff organogram be presented to the Committee as had been requested at the last meeting, and that it be detailed so that it could be scrutinised against the support needed by Members. For example, the Office of the Speaker had a budget of R51m, and Members needed to know how many people were employed there and what their job specifications were, because that was a huge budget.
The Chairperson commented that it was difficult for Members to understand the achievements in terms of percentages. The Secretary had to break down the percentages into specifics. The report must not be quantitative. The information presented was not helping the Members. He suggested Members should accept the report as it was, but the next report should be completely different from the one presented at the meeting. Even National Treasury would come with a totally different presentation about Parliament’s performance from the one presented by the Secretary. The next report should be in line with the annual report, and he proposed there was no need to continue with the presentation. He then asked the Secretary to explain how Parliament reported on donor funding.
Mr Mgidlana said it was referred to the Legislative Support Service. Parliament received money from the European Union. Some of the funds were then transferred to the provincial legislatures for their activities.
Mr Singh had some questions which he asked to be discussed at the third quarter meeting. He wanted to know how much money had been spent on air travel tickets and medical aid for former Members of Parliament; what the role of the Service Officers was; why the internal audit was over-spending; and asked for clarity on the internal promotion of staff members.
The Chairperson said there would be a special meeting to consider what had transpired during the meeting. Clarity was needed on the ERP system, the organogram, and on the issues raised by Mr Singh.
The meeting was adjourned.
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