The Acting Secretary to Parliament briefed the Committee on Parliament’s 2017-18 mid-year performance and expenditure. She listed Parliament’s six outcome-oriented goals, and reported that the targets of seven of its 11 indicators (68%) had been achieved during the period. Parliament had spent R1.091 billion, which was 44.9% of the annual budget of R2.430 billion, and indications were that it would spend the full amount of the operational budget, except for direct charges of R105 million, by the end of the financial year. Capacity constraints and budgetary pressures remained as challenges to be addressed. Critical vacancies were being filled and on-going engagements with National Treasury and the Minister of Finance were progress to revise the baseline budget for Parliament. The 2017/2018 annual performance plan (APP) and strategic plan was under review.
Members raised concerns over unspent money and the protracted problem of not filling vacancies. They asked whether employees had received the increase of 4.6% proposed by the Commission for Remuneration; about how many people had resigned to account for the R34 million in savings; what the reasons were for the resignations; and why it would be difficult to fill the vacancies.
Members welcomed the revision of Parliament’s performance plan, and felt that the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) legislation should be revised as well. The main challenges faced by Parliament included the travelling costs of Members to attend conferences or workshops abroad; meetings taking place in hotels instead of using Parliament’s facilities, Members who attended meetings late, but who took flights to get to them; and the absence technology for tele-conferencing to save on time and travel costs. They also felt that there were not enough employees, particularly researchers, to assist them to do their work properly.
The Committee considered and deliberated on the Audit Committee’s investigation report into allegations levelled against Mr Gengezi Mgidlana, Secretary to Parliament. Members had to resolve how the report received by the Committee’s Chairperson last week from the Speaker of Parliament should be dealt with. The matter was very sensitive, and that should be the basis that would inform the resolution. The Chairperson explained that they would be discussing the process and not the content of the report. The investigation had been requested by the Speaker and Executive authority, and the main recommendation was that there should be a fully-fledged disciplinary hearing. What was missing in the report was who should conduct the disciplinary hearing, and when. The question was to find a procedural process of dealing with the report and not to discuss the contents.
There were two proposals on how to deal with the report: to vote for getting a copy, and sign a pledge of confidentiality; or vote for keeping the copy under lock and key, and allowing it to be read on request, under supervision. The Committee accepted the second proposal, with only DA Members voting for getting a copy and signing for confidentiality.
Parliament’s 2017-18 mid-year performance and expenditure
Ms Baby Tyawa, Acting Secretary to Parliament, took the Committee through presentation. She said that their research team had used the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) index. Parliament would engage in activities which would require the measurement of accountability. Parliament exercised an oversight over the executive. The research term would develop the index.
Parliament had six oriented outcome goals:
- Enhancing Parliament’s oversight and accountability over the work of the Executive to ensure implementation of the objectives of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2014 – 2019;
- To co-operate and collaborate with other spheres of government on matters of common interest and ensure co-operative and sound intergovernmental relations;
- To enhance public involvement in the processes of Parliament to realise participatory democracy through the implementation of the public involvement model by 2019;
- To enhance Parliamentary international engagement and co-operation;
- To enhance the ability of Parliament to exercise its legislative power through consolidation and implementation of integrated legislative processes by 2019 in order to fulfil its constitutional responsibility; and
- To build a capable and productive Parliamentary service that delivered enhanced support to Members of Parliament in order that they may efficiently fulfil their constitutional functions.
Regarding Parliament’s overall performance, there were 29 indicators in the 2017/2018 Annual Performance Plan. Only 11 indicators were applicable during the mid-year period, whereas 16 indicators were annual. Two indicators in the APP had no targets, as they had been consolidated into another indicator. Seven of 11 indicators had met their targets for the period. This translated to an institutional performance of 68%. Four targets had not been achieved for the period,
Ms Tyawa, reporting on the financial performance, said that Parliament had spent R1.091 billion during the first half of the financial year, which was 44.89% of the annual budget of R2.430 billion. Indications were that Parliament would spend the full amount of the operational budget at the end of the financial year, except for direct charges, where indications were that there would be an under-spending of R105 million, which would be surrendered to the National Revenue Fund (NRF) in line with section 23(4) of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2009 (FMPPLA).
The 2017/2018 mid-year report showed great progress towards the achievement of the six strategic outcome-orientated goals envisaged by the 2014-2019 strategic plan of the 5th Parliament. Of the 11 indicators that were applicable for the mid-year period, seven had met target, indicating an institutional performance of 68%. Progress on annual targets had been reported on and they were tracking according to trajectory. Indicators that had been indicating persistent performance challenges were being addressed through the tracking on action plans for performance improvement. Capacity constraints and budgetary pressures remained as challenges, but were to be addressed. Critical vacancies were being filled and on-going engagements with National Treasury and the Minister of Finance were in progress to revise the baseline budget of Parliament. A strategic review session had been conducted with the presiding officers to reprioritise deliverables of the 2014-2019 strategic plan, in recognition of the economic and budgetary pressures. The 2017/2018 APP and strategic plan were under review.
Mr J Steenhuizen (DA), referring to finances, said that it had been indicated that there would be re-alignment in terms of institutions supporting democracy. They had previously noted that there were major problem with these institutions in terms of processing the Chapter 9 reports. He asked whether the Acting Secretary could explain how they intended to improve their performances.
Mr N Singh (IFP), referring to slide 21, said that the average number of days to reimburse Members had been reduced to 2.7 days. He commented that as a Member, he had noticed an excellent turn around in that department in terms of payments. He would like to know whether they had a full complement of staff, or not, or whether the staff was overworked. Was the 39% of remuneration not spent because they budgeted for an increase annually? He recalled that the Commission for Remuneration had recommended an increase of 4.6%. Had they received a notification from the Office of President that an increase had been accepted, or when did they expect the correspondence to come through?
Ms N Mente (EFF), referring to slide 7, commented that spending for the compensation of employees against the annual budget was 46% for the mid-year, and 96% against projections for the same period, and there was an actual under-spending of R34 million as at the end of the financial year due to resignations during the year. How many people had resigned who could have been paid R34 million? How much did they get paid? It seemed like it was a mass resignation.
Ms E Coleman (ANC) asked what reasons for the resignations were. There were posts that were not filled, including critical positions that had not been filled for more than three years. Why was it difficult to fill these positions? What positions had been filled? There was a continuation of under-spending because many posts were not filled. With regard to the support of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) towards the Committee, she asked whether the support was limited to this Committee, the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Finance, or whether other committees received support.
Mr M Waters (DA) asked why there was over-spending in the support of parties with respect to the provision of allowances.
Mr Steenhuisen asked for an explanation on the under-spending on direct charges. Was there any way that the money should be used to avoid under-spending?
The Co-chairperson asked why annual targets were not broken down quarterly, and how the targets could be monitored and evaluated if they were not broken into a quarterly system.
Ms Tyawa responded that a strategy had been established on how the report of Chapter 9 institutions could be submitted and to ensure that they were processed on time.
Not all employees of the PBO were working in permanent positions. Some were working on a contract basis.
They had not yet received a notification from the Office of President on the increase of 4.6%.
The R34 million was for the resignations from April 2017, which had accumulated. There had been only 17 advertisements for employment. There had been an assessment of critical positions. There had been a cut in personnel by National Treasury. The cut applied to all departments engaging with Parliament. They were dealing with a backlog in terms of employment. However, National Treasury had acknowledged that Parliament had intensive work. There had been a turnaround in terms of employment. She said that further responses would be submitted in writing.
Mr Singh said that there was a problem that had been faced by Parliament for almost 20 years. When a Bill was tabled in Parliament to be considered as legislation, there were financial implications. It was always asked whether there would be financial implications, whether the Bill was initiated by the executive or the lawmakers. These issues were also a concern with the PBO Bill. The Bill had been initiated by lawmakers and not the executive. The Bill was passed so fast without considering the financial implications. The Committee should review the PBO legislation in terms of the timeframe set for monitoring. The legislation was making it difficult for the PBO to function properly.
Mr Steenhuisen also noted that the PBO was facing financial constraints. This was because of things that were being done, such as taking Parliament to the people.
Mr Singh asked whether unspent money could be diverted somewhere else.
Mr C de Beer (ANC) said that the Money Bill was under review, and was expected to be completed before the budget was tabled next year. There was a need to appoint people qualified to assist the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the PBO legislation could not be left as it was. It had an impact on staff and Members of Parliament. A letter should be written to the executive and leadership to ask them how the situation could be resolved.
Parliament’s Revised Performance Plan for 2017-18
Ms Tyawa said that the policy priorities and strategic plan for the Fifth Parliament, 2014-2019, had been tabled on 27 February 2015, and the annual performance plan for 2017/18 had been presented to the Executive Authority in May 2016. Institutional planning sessions held during 2015, 2016 and 2017, had developed and followed a new framework for the APP, including:
Long-term implementation outcome milestones and indicators aligned to the policy priorities;
- A new budget programme structure for Parliament;
- Programme indicators and targets for 2016/17 to 2018/19;
- Operational plans for 2016/17 to 2018/19, to implement the APP; and
- Resource and budget requirements for 2016/17 to 2018/19, aligned with requirements for the implementation of plans.
Mr Steenhuizen (DA) said the main challenge Parliament had was Members going abroad to attend conferences or workshops. Members should start discussing how plenaries could be used for certain discussions. Regarding the usage of facilities, he said that there were facilities which were not used by the Committee. Some Committees were holding meetings in hotels and not making use of Parliamentary facilities. That was a waste of money. How was the work done by the high level panel measured?
Mr Singh said that he appreciated Parliament’s engagement with academics and civil society. There were issues raised through the public participation and communications. This should be taken into consideration and be incorporated into the Committee’s plan. He raised concern over Members who came to attend a meeting and arrived five minutes before the closure of the meeting. These Members had taken flights from all over the country. Sometimes, they could come to find a meeting was postponed. Parliament should be creative and opt to use teleconferencing for meetings. Those Members who could not be present should make use of new technology. The same could be applied to executive officials. They should not enjoy a ride to come and brief a committee on a small matter. Technology usage would not only save money, but also save time.
Ms Mente said that she was concerned with expenditure on printing for newsletters, brochures and magazines. She felt that they should save money and reduce these materials to soft documents, uploaded to the website of Parliament. A lot of money was spent on printing these materials. The truth was that 80% of Members were not reading them. What plan was in place to ensure that employees of Parliament were empowered, to ensure that they had a capable workforce?
The Chairperson said that there were not enough people to assist Members. There were not enough researchers for Committees, and the research capacity was problematic. They talked about optimising service delivery to Members and asked how this would be done. He asked how the efficiency of service delivery would be improved.
Ms Tyawa responded that they no printed out magazine, as theirs was a soft document. However, the questions of having materials as soft copies would be considered. She knew that Mr Singh had raised the same issues somewhere else, and these recommendations would be taken into consideration.
Investigation Report: Allegation levelled against Secretary to Parliament
The Chairperson said that the Committee should consider how the Audit Committee report which he had received last week from the Speaker of Parliament should be dealt with. Any proposal should be informed by motivations. The issue was very sensitive.
Mr Steenhiuzen asked why proposals should be motivated. The rules of Parliament, together with the principles of the Constitution, determined how sensitive and confidential matters should be dealt with. He was unsure of whether the report would be tabled for discussion, and was wondering why the deliberation on the report should be confidential. He felt that the report did not meet the threshold of being classified as confidential.
The Chairperson reiterated that they were discussing the process and not the content of the report. The report had been requested by the Speaker and Executive authority, and the recommendation of the report was known by all Members. There should be a fully-fledged disciplinary hearing. What was missing in the report was who should conduct the disciplinary hearing, and when. The copy had been handed over to him on Friday; two days after Parliament had officially announced it had asked its Secretary to Parliament, Mr Gengezi Mgidlana, to give reasons why he should not be put on cautionary suspension pending the finalisation of disciplinary hearings. He had not yet discussed the report with anyone. The Executive authority had stressed that the Committee should deal with the report in a manner which did not jeopardise the big picture, which was the disciplinary action. He had given an undertaking that no one else had seen the report. He had tried to arrange a meeting with the Speaker to get all Members together, but they had been unable to meet. In his discussion with the Speaker, she indicated to him that Mr Mgidlana had not been given the report. Rather, he read the report under supervision – in the presence of the Chair of the Committee. There was no total disclosure. The question was to find a procedural process of dealing with the report, and not to discuss the contents.
The Co-chairperson said that he was supporting the proposal of Mr Singh, which he had proposed earlier that day. Mr Singh had noted with concern that the Office of the Speaker of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was managing the process, and it had not yet been finalised. The process, in particular, was very sensitive. It was a sensitive matter that should be dealt with care. He warned that if Members were not careful, they would prejudice the process. They should allow the process to run its course and play their oversight role. In his view, the best approach was that the investigation report should be taken back.
Mr Gcwabaza commented that he did not that that they should discuss the issue as it was a human resources (HR) matter. It should be left to be concluded by the Executive authority to finalise it, and the Committee should simply conduct oversight, particularly where it referred to the finances, if there were any Parliament-related finances. He totally agreed with what the Chairperson was putting forward.
Ms Motala remarked that when this Committee was established, Members had said that they should not turn the Committee into something which it was not. According to rules of Parliament, the matter before the Committee was not something relating to oversight. She reminded Members that the Committee had received a presentation from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), which the Committee had not entertained. It was made clear that the Committee should not turn into a bargaining forum for the union and management. They should not use the Committee to referee them. They had to resolve their issues to make sure that Parliament ran smoothly and effectively. Those issues should not affect the manner in which Parliament functioned. This was an HR matter. There had been an investigation. She said that if the report should be made public, it should be made public to all Members first, and not only to Members of this Committee. She stressed that Members should allow the process to run its course. It was very important that the first process should be concluded.
Mr Singh said he had no interest in reading the report. He was of the view that the report should be shared with Members electronically, and not in print. Of concern was that the report might be leaked, and if it was leaked, it would prejudice all the processes and defeat the objectives of the processes. The report contained evidence and the evidence should not be made public. The question was what process the Committee should follow to decide on the matter. Members should bear in mind that when the police was investigating a matter, people could not go and ask for the gathered evidence from police. This was what Members were trying to do. They were just requesting evidence. This was not right. If the report should be handed over to Members, this should be done provided that the pledge of secrecy had been signed.
Ms Coleman said that she wanted to check with Members on why they were suspicious that there might be arrangements made outside this Committee. Why would they leak the report to people outside the Committee? The main concern was the leaking of the report. In order to address this issue, she proposed that the report should be put before the Committee only if the mechanism of confidentiality had been clarified or established.
Mr Walters said that according to previous discussion, there were two proposals. The first proposal was to vote for getting a copy and sign confidentiality, or vote for reading a copy somewhere in a room under supervision.
The Chairperson agreed. He said that these proposals were still on the table and no proposal had been excluded.
Mr Walters said that since no one had read the report; it could be assumed that all that was being said were mere allegations. There was an investigation report which was ready. Members should know the truth. They had been asking for the release of the report many times. Once the report was completed, they were against the release of it to be read. He was supporting the distribution of the report provided that the information contained in it was kept confidential.
Mr Steenhuisen reiterated that there were rules and procedures to follow when a confidential document was tabled to Parliament. He read out those rules. After reading the rules, he remarked that it was not the first time that he had made a request that the report should be distributed. Every time he made a request; he was given an answer that an investigation was still under way. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the report was kept away.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM) said that he supported Mr Singh’s proposal. He remarked that what he knew was information read in the media. However, the report should be treated with care.
The Chairperson said that there were precedents that could guide the Committee on how to deal with the report. It was not the first time for Parliament to deal with a sensitive matter. In cases such as this, the report was kept under lock and key and only made accessible to Members solely for reading under supervision. The key was kept by the Speaker and accessibility was made per request. In this way, any Member who would like to read the report could do so by request. He stressed that this Committee was not super committee, and its Members were not super Members. They were on the same level as other Members of Parliament. The fact that he had received the report should not compromise the process. He supported Mr Singh’s proposal. Accordingly, the report should be placed in the safe and the key should be in the hands of the Speaker.
Mr Steenhuisen reiterated that he supported the motion of tabling the report and for the information to be treated as confidential.
The Chairperson said that there were two motions on the table: whether the report should be made available (tabled), or whether it should be accessible under supervision. He was in support of the latter. He asked if there was any seconder.
Mr Gaehler and Mr Singh seconded.
Mr Waters asked why the Chairperson had a copy and Members did not have one. What made him so special? What would he do with a copy? Would he give a copy back to the Speaker? Was he a super Member? Were they not equal Members?
The Chairperson responded that the report had been communicated to him for consideration as a Committee. He said that some Members were in support of the motion that the report should be made available under supervision.
The Co-chairperson said the issue on table was to deliberate on the procedure, and not about discussing the Chairperson.
Mr Gccwabaza raised a concern. If someone was allowed to go and read the report under supervision, how would the leaking of information be managed? What if, after reading the report, one spoke to the media? Would there be a rule preventing Members from speaking to media? How would Members be stopped from speaking once outside?
Ms Coleman stressed that she would not sit in a meeting in which the authority of the Chairperson was questioned. All Members were aware that the Chairperson was a presiding officer in the absence of the Speaker. The Chairperson was a conduit of the Speaker to convey messages to them. The report under discussion had been sent to the Committee through the Chairperson. Members were discussing how the report in his possession should be handled. The authority of the Chairperson could not be allowed to be undermined. He was the Chairperson of the Committee. She thought that all Members were honourable, who should engage honourably, and this was where respect should start. No one should be allowed to undermine or question the authority of the Chairperson.
Mr Steenhuisen stressed that the Chairperson was a Member, like the rest of the Members.
The Chairperson responded that he had a report because he was the Chairperson. He would like to request Members who supported the tabling of the report, subject to confidentiality, to raise hands. The other motion was that Members should access the report in the safe house and under supervision.
Mr Waters, Mr Steenhuizen and Mr Essack raised their hands in support of the first motion.
The Chairperson and Co-chairperson as well as other Members -- Ms Motala, Mr De Beer, Mr Gaehler, Mr Singh, Ms Mente, Ms Coleman and Mr Gcwabaza -- supported the motion that the report should be kept and safe and key.
The Chairperson said that the report would be accessed under supervision.
The meeting was adjourned.
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