Parliament Mid-Term performance 2017/18: briefing by content adviser

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

13 March 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Monakedi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met for a presentation from the Content Advisor on the report on Parliament’s performance in the first half of the 2018/19 financial year. The presentation would prepare Members for the briefing by the management of Parliament slated for next week.

The Committee’s Content Adviser highlighted some anomalies emanating from Parliament’s Mid-Term Report for 2017/18 financial year. The rationale was to get some clarity from the management of Parliament with regard to identified anomalies or concerns. For the mid-term, ending 30 September 2018, Parliament spent R1.157 billion against a Budget of R1.189 billion. This spending represents 47 percent of the annual budget of R2.466 billion, against a Budget of 48 percent of the annual budget for the 2018/19 financial year. Notably, the R1.157 billion (47 percent of the annual budget) was due to the 22 percent (R587 million) spending recorded in quarter 1 and 25 percent (R610 million) recorded in quarter 2. The low spending programmes were Programme 1: Strategic Leadership &Governance, and Programme 2: Administration. Programme 1 underspent by 4 percent, while Programme 2 underspent by 6 percent. For Programme 1, no explanation was given for the variance, other than noting that this programme had achieved more than its set targets for this period. Thus, the Committee would need to ask for reasons for this underspending. Further, the Committee would need to seek clarity about how the programme over-achieved its targets while it underspent (non-alignment of spending and achieved targets). During the period under review, the number of disputes internally and externally had shown a steady decline. For this period, there were four disciplinary cases initiated in respect of negligence, mismanagement, unauthorized absence and irregular expenditure. On the other hand, there were six grievances lodged, namely, abuse of power, verbal abuse and defamation of character, unfair treatment, discrimination, and bullying. The Committee would need to know how far the processing of these grievances had gone.

Members said the Committee had failed in its duties and responsibilities. Many of the issues raised in the 3rd quarter report were flagged the previous year, and had not been implemented. The Committee kept repeating the same things. There did not seem to be any consequence management for departments given that specific recommendations were made around performance agreements. This was brought to light when it was discovered that the then Secretary of Parliament had not signed a performance agreement with Parliament. The Committee was very specific at the time that every employer has to sign a performance agreement, and yet the Committee now had to sit and consider that very same issue again. There could not be a situation where employees and operations do not have performance agreements. The Committee took a decision in 2017 that the National Treasury ought to establish an office in Parliament to give guidance in terms of Treasury regulations- this had been outstanding for years. They wanted to know if the said office been opened.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and indicated the Committee would receive a presentation from the Content Advisor on Parliament’s performance in the first half of the 2018/19 financial year. The presentation would prepare Members for the briefing by the management of Parliament slated for next week. The Committee would only take decisions during the next meeting.

Briefing by Content Adviser
Mr Xolisile Mgxaji, Committee Content Adviser, in briefing, highlighted some anomalies emanating from Parliament’s Mid-Term Report for 2017/18 financial year. The rationale was to get some clarity from the management of Parliament with regard to identified anomalies or concerns.

Overview Mid-Term performance of Parliament
For the mid-term, ending 30 September 2018, Parliament spent R1.157 billion against a Budget of R1.189 billion. This spending represents 47 % of the annual budget of R2.466 billion, against a Budget of 48 % of the annual budget for the 2018/19 financial year. Notably, the R1.157 billion (47 percent of the annual budget) was due to the 22 % (R587 million) spending recorded in quarter 1 and 25 % (R610 million) recorded in quarter 2.

The low spending programmes were Programme 1: Strategic Leadership &Governance, and Programme 2: Administration. Programme 1 underspent by 4 percent, while Programme 2 underspent by 6 percent. For Programme 1, no explanation was given for the variance, other than noting that this programme had achieved more than its set targets for this period. Thus, the Committee would need to ask for reasons for this underspending. Further, the Committee would need to seek clarity about how the programme over-achieved its targets while it underspent (non-alignment of spending and achieved targets).

The Secretary’s Office had overspent by 8 percent during the second quarter, while internal audit recorded an over-expenditure of 111 %. For Strategic Management & Governance, and Registrar of Members Interest, an over-spending of 105 % and 114 % was recorded at the end of quarter 2. Whereas, the over-expenditure for the Secretary’s Office was due to the payment of legal fees for the ongoing disciplinary hearings, the over-expenditure recorded under Internal Audit Sub-programme was said to be due to audit software licences that were budgeted for during the first quarter but paid in the second quarter. In this regard, the Committee should ask for reasons for over-expenditure in other sub-programmes- (Strategic Management & Governance) and Registrar of Members Interest).

Performance management contracts with employees
It was reported that at the end of 31 September 2018, 84.9 % of employees submitted performance agreements, and 53. 8 % had submitted Performance Development Plans (PDPs). 50.7 % submitted both performance agreements and PDPs. Notably, the non-submission of performance agreements by employees on the due date constitutes a contravention of Policy on Performance Management, which requires all employees to sign performance contracts and that they be evaluated on the basis of their performance. It would thus be important for the Committee to get clarity on the reasons why some employees were not signing and submitting performance agreements. Further, it should be interrogated how these employees would be evaluated to ensure that they deliver according to their job description.

Labour relations
During the period under review, the number of disputes internally and externally had shown a steady decline. For this period, there were four disciplinary cases initiated in respect of negligence, mismanagement, unauthorized absence and irregular expenditure. On the other hand, there were six grievances lodged, namely, abuse of power, verbal abuse and defamation of character, unfair treatment, discrimination, and bullying. The Committee would need to know how far the processing of these grievances had gone.

Discussion
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) said the Committee had failed in its duties and responsibilities. Many of the issues raised in the 3rd quarter report were flagged the previous year, and had not been implemented. The Committee kept repeating the same things. There did not seem to be any consequence management for departments given that specific recommendations were made around performance agreements. This was brought to light when it was discovered that the then Secretary of Parliament had not signed a performance agreement with Parliament. The Committee was very specific at the time that every employee has to sign a performance agreement, and yet the Committee now had to sit and consider that very same issue again. There could not be a situation where employees and operations do not have performance agreements. How would they be measured or held accountable? How are they paid bonuses without performance agreements in place? There were just too many holes and the Committee’s directions and recommendations had been ignored on the whole. This was something the sixth Parliament should grapple with.

Mr F Essack (DA, Mpumalanga) agreed with Mr Steenhuisen and noted that the report pointed out to key milestones which were not there. This was something the Committee needed to take cognisance of and would have to address seriously.

Mr C De Beer (ANC, Northern Cape) reminded Members that the Committee took a decision in 2017 that the National Treasury ought to establish an office in Parliament to give guidance in terms of Treasury regulations- this had been outstanding for years. He wanted to know if the said office had been opened. If not, why? This was something the Committee needed to follow up on.

Mr Mgxaji agreed that the Committee had consistently recommended that Treasury set up a parliamentary advisory office. However he was not sure whether this had been done. He further noted that Parliament was doing virements and shifting funds but not reporting on this. This was something the Committee should note and raise with parliamentary management.

The Chairperson appreciated the briefing and inputs as they were of assistance in preparation for the engagement with the management of Parliament the following week.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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