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JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
19 September 2000
CORDER REPORT: DISCUSSION
Chairpersons: Ms Chohan-Kota; Mr Suka
Report on Oversight and Accountability
The Chairperson, Ms Chohan-Kota, welcomed members of the Auditor-General's Office. She noted that there were fewer people in attendance because of Portfolio Committee meetings, which were happening at the same time. She pointed out that it was important that at least one member of each party be dedicated to attending the meetings of this subcommittee as this would ensure continuity.
The minutes of the previous meeting were adopted.
It was pointed out by the Chairperson that this committee would have to revisit the Report itself and make its own recommendations, as it did not have the resources to request people to do further research for them. She thanked the researchers from UCT who had done the initial Report.
Ms Chohan-Kota noted that the terms of reference of the Corder Report would be used as terms of reference for the discussion. There is a need to assess whether the Corder Report addresses all the issues in the terms of reference. There is a need to examine carefully, for the purposes of any future discussion, what is meant by the terms oversight and accountability. There is a constitutional obligation on the National Assembly to provide mechanisms of accountability. The four issues which would form the basis of future discussions, would be:
- What do accountability and oversight mean in terms of the Corder Report?
- Discussion on the separation of powers
- The electoral system - how does our electoral system affect oversight and accountability?
- Is the oversight role meant to be exercised by opposition parties only?
Mr F Cassim (IFP) briefly presenting excerpts of his paper on the meaning of accountability. Accountability was to be defined in a broad sense and not only "to account for spending". There is a need to look at ministerial responsibility to Parliament and also the accountability of Directors-General and Heads of Departments. This is so, specifically in light of the Public Finance Management Act and the responsibilities placed on these individuals. Individuals are also responsible to their parties. Oversight was exercised over the manner in which legislation was implemented and the efficacy of such implementation. Mr Cassim also raised the concept of mutuality, that is, moving away from adversarial politics to a system based on joint oversight and accountability.
The Chairperson pointed out that there was merit in keeping the definitions as wide as possible. These definitions could always be revisited, however, it was important for the subcommittee to have a functional definition of oversight and accountability.
Mr Matthee (NNP) agreed that the concept of accountability needed to be taken much further than accountability in spending money. There is a need to look at the performance of a particular Department regularly and whether it is on track in fulfilling its mandate. This performance audit needs to be done.
It was agreed that the parties could circulate documents on their definitions, which would facilitate discussion around the definitions.
Mr Lever (DP) was of the view that the more the concepts were spoken about, the more they would develop into functional definitions. The Corder Report was lacking in defining oversight and accountability fully.
Some debate followed regarding the separation of powers. However, it was agreed by all, that this was a doctrine, which was not within the brief of the committee to discuss.
Finally, the Chairperson raised the question for discussion at the next meeting: whether the close links between the legislature and the executive impedes oversight at all? There is a need to keep focussing on the mechanisms which are needed to ensure accountability and oversight.
An important consideration raised by Mr Matthee was the lack of resources available to Parliament to deal with the constitutional obligation.
This will be followed by an examination of electoral system and the way in which that affected oversight and accountability.
Mr Surty (ANC) advised that the Rules Committee would be looking at Chapter 3 of the Corder Report. Once this had been done the subcommittee could resume its work, as its work would be informed by any decisions of the Rules Committee. Hence the next meeting would not take place the following day but would be announced.
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