The manager for strategic planning in Parliament took the Standing Committee on Appropriations through its operational plan for 2017/18 to 2019/20. The outcome of the plan would be to increase the accountability of the Executive, as well as the accounting officers, to increase capacity building, to achieve budget efficacy and to develop a budget that met the peoples’ needs.
To achieve the outcomes, Members had to adhere to international standards and adapt to the digital world. They were required to analyse information in chunks in order to be effective in their work. Parliament needed to improve its facilities to help Members perform their duties efficiently.
Activities that would help in reaching these outcomes included budget scrutiny, public hearings to achieve a participatory and democratic government, the involvement of all stakeholders – such as communities and various departments -- and ensuring the implementation and performance of these activities.
Key areas identified for intervention were:
- To develop a handbook for the Standing Committee.
- Commissioning the development of information systems and access to third party information.
- Developing a programme for collaboration.
- The identification of five risk areas.
- Development of an annual schedule for the Committee.
- Development of a training manual for new Members.
The Chairperson decided that sub-committees would be created to undertake each of the aforementioned activities.
The Committee reached a consensus that the National Treasury, the Auditor General and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) would be invited to help the Committee identify its problem areas in order achieve budget efficacy. The stakeholders were grouped according to a system of high/low interest and high/low influence. A member was appointed to use this system in the South African context.
Researchers were concerned by the lack of institutes specifically for researchers as well as well as regulations for the easy implementation of the Money Bills Act. The members agreed that lawyers would be consulted to help with the drafting of a manual for regulations.
The Chairperson reported that Ms M Manana (ANC) was sick, that Mr B Topham (DA) was on study leave and that Mr A Shaik Emam was absent with apology.
Mr A McLoughlin (DA) said that Ms E Ntlangwini (EFF) had been redeployed and would not be attending the Committee’s meetings any more. The Chairperson instructed Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) to enquire further on the issue and ensure that there was a replacement.
The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee would be discussing a plan for this term of Parliament, and that if there was a need to make a decision about the plan, it would hold another meeting.
Committee Planning Session
Mr Herbus Burger, Strategic Planning Manager and Content Advisor took the Committee through a three-year operational plan, and said that this was the process that they would follow every year from now, with a special focus on information as one of the inputs.
The Committee would invite Statistics SA to look at the impact indicators -- the Gini coefficient and the poverty line -- of the National Development Plan (NDP). They should see the poverty line being reduced and the Gini coefficient dropping.
The Committee’s mandate bestowed certain functions on its Members. It would lead to a key intervention to develop a procedural handbook, which would make members aware of the role and function of the Committee.
The Committee had come up with long term objectives in its first and second workshops.
Mr Burger referred to outcomes which should be met in 15 years. These were:
- The People’s Budget, which focused on the will of the people. Parliament must always report back to the people as their representatives.
- To improve the executive’s level of accountability and responsiveness, by focusing especially on responsiveness. He gave an example of how people waited for a long time for houses and other forms of infrastructure. Responsiveness looked at how fast and efficiently the Committee could address people’s needs.
- Capacity building, or the building of knowledge, not just for the Committee but for the whole of Parliament.
- Budget efficacy. This was the kind of budget that addressed all of people’s needs and had minimal waste.
The inputs were the responsibility of Members of the Committee. International standards and the digital world were becoming complex, and Members needed to conform or adhere to these standards.
The Committee would be dealing with a large amount of information and to do this analysis, it would have to provide information in chunks. The Committee would have to consult Statistics SA to assist with the information system.
Regarding administration services, Parliament as a whole did not have proper supporting facilities such as audio, visual and internet facilities.
Part of the control activities of the Committee was to scrutinising the President’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA), annual reports, quarterly reports, policies and indicators. It would lobby towards the budget through public hearings. It would also look into other avenues, such as online hearings.
The Committee would have to create a relationship with all stakeholders, such as communities and various Departments, and regularly interact with them through established programmes, and not just ad hoc meetings. All activities would have to be monitored to see that they were properly implemented.
Mr Burger said there were key intervention areas for the next three years. The Committee would have to develop a handbook for its appropriation activities which would guide new Members on its procedure. It would have to commission the development of information systems and access to third party information to address the issue of information asymmetry. It would also need to develop a programme for collaboration with the identified role players. Furthermore, it would have to identify focus areas and constitute a risk-based programme, develop the annual schedule and programme of Committee activities, and develop a training programme for existing and new Members.
The Chairperson identified three key issues. Firstly, the Committee needed to appoint people to undertake the task of developing the aforementioned handbook. Secondly, four key sub-committees would have to be appointed to scrutinise the budget to help achieve programme collaboration. Lastly, the Committee would have to plan strategically on how it could best help new Members.
Mr McLoughlin said that Mr Burger should have added the Public Service Commission to the list of the parties that would have to provide information and input. The Members agreed.
The Committee agreed that it was happy with the mandate and the objectives provided.
The Chairperson asked about the accountability of the Accounting Officer, and not just the Executive, because it was important to target the right people for the Committee to reach its goals. She added that she was happy with issue of responsiveness, as it was mandated by the Constitution of South Africa and could not be avoided.
Ms D Senokoanyane (ANC) commended Mr Burger on his presentation, and had no further input or questions.
The Chairperson said that with capacity building, there should be a unit to do a training needs analysis within a given time frame. The Members agreed.
Mr Burger responded that the Committee should invite the Auditor General, the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the Treasury on a Friday, to explain to them the concept of budget efficacy. After the workshop, the Committee would know the areas that needed to be closed and it would be aware of the issues that were holding things back. Budget efficacy would be an outcome.
The Chairperson said that the aforementioned parties should be called as soon as possible.
Mr McLoughlin suggested that non-returning Members of Parliament should stay three more months to perform a handover to new Members to save time, because they were often clueless at the beginning. Public hearings needed to serve their purpose, because often the public did not listen and only mentioned their grievances. On managing stakeholders, he disagreed with Mr Burger, and said that ad hoc meetings were good because they prevented people from hiding things. He agreed that the Committee should focus on five priority areas, but it also needed to have sub-committees to focus on other risk factors.
Mr Burger agreed with Mr McLoughlin.
A Member said that there were problems in the system which impacted on the functioning of the Committee. The legislative sector did not have a designated learning institute for training and capacity building. Researchers should not have to go to university, but should go to the institute to learn from other researchers. This needed the attention of Parliament as a whole. He added that the system was too reliant on the Executive.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on stakeholder collaboration.
Mr Burger replied that the process for stakeholder collaboration was an easy one. Firstly, the Committee should divide the stakeholders into two groups -- those that were high/low interest, and those that were high/low influence. The Committee would correspond with the high interest-high influence group carefully and manage it well. The high influence-low interest group needed to be involved in the process and be kept up to date. The low influence-high interest group (the general public) needed to be kept up to date. The low influence-low interest group must be updated once a year.
The Chairperson mentioned that the researchers should do the categorisation before the Committee’s next meeting.
A Member said that a regulation for the Committee had to be developed, as the Money Bills Act was not easily implemented because of the lack of regulation.
Mr Burger replied that the Committee would have to consult lawyers to help with drafting a manual to infuse practice. This practice would enforce regulation.
The Members agreed that the way forward was to:
- Adopt the operational plan;
- Plan a session to select five priority areas;
- Commence with a terms of reference handbook;
- Draft a collaboration programme;
- Have a training workshop.
The Chairperson said that the Member’s input for the operational plan should be forwarded to her by Monday next week, and if Members fail to submit, it would be assumed that they were satisfied with the plan.
The meeting was adjourned.