The Committee was briefed about the mandate of Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament (JSCFMP), its powers and functions, their connection with the mandate of the Parliament, as well as the issues and challenges which required its existence. It was also briefed about the key issues and the roles this committee plays in operation, as well as its statutory and non-statutory duties.
Members were concerned about the high number of absentees, and suggested alternative days for meetings, as Fridays had never been suitable.
The Members expressed their confusion over the exact role of this Committee. They said they were uncertain of the exact powers that they had, as the Committee did not have the power to directly influence policy, but only to make recommendations. They suggested changing its name to the “Joint Standing Committee on Parliament.” They also asked about the regulations which governed how Parliament procured goods and services. The consensus was that this Committee was needed, but because of its role being unclear, Members asked for more information about its relationship with the other committees in Parliament.
The Chairperson asked the Committee secretary to make apologies on behalf of the Members. The secretary said apologies had been received from Ms D Dlakude (ANC), Ms R Lesoma (ANC), Mr X Qayiso (ANC), Mr J Steenhuisen (DA), Mr N Singh (IFP), and Mr S Emam (NFP).
The Chairperson asked Members to comment on the apologies.
A Member stated that apologies needed to be substantiated with valid causes and that they could not be made on the grounds of invalid reasons, such as going to the mall.
The Chairperson said that she took it for granted that Members were responsible people.
The Member insisted that the causes of their absence needed to be known.
The secretariat gave the reasons:
Ms Dlakude had important Parliamentary business to attend to on 19 July;
Ms Lesoma was off for two weeks
Mr Qayiso was attending the Standing Committee on Appropriations;
Mr Steenhuisen was unwell;
Mr M Rayi (ANC) had commitments in East London;
Ms T Mokwele (EFF) only gave an apology;
Mr Singh (IFP) had commitments on 19 and 26 July.
Mr Emam asked about the causes of the apologies.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA) asked if the day of the meeting could be rescheduled, because many Members had duties on Friday. He suggested a Tuesday, Wednesday or even a Thursday evening, or other days when it was not busy.
The Chairperson said that the meeting day of Friday had previously been agreed upon.
Mr J Julius (DA) raised concern about his flight booking.
The Chairperson asked Members if administrative issues could be set aside for now. The co-Chairperson and the secretariat of the Committee would seek advice from both Houses.
Mandate and functions of JSCFMP
Mr Xolisile Mgxaji, Committee Content Advisor made the presentation on the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament (JSCFMP), which was divided into four sections:
- Introduction and mandate of the Committee;
- Its powers and functions;
- The mandate of Parliament;
- Issues or challenges which required its intervention.
Mr Mgxaji explained the difference between a standing committee, a joint committee and a portfolio committee. The JSCFMP was established by the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA) and Amendment Part 6A of the Joint Rules of Parliament, so the mandate, powers and functions of the Standing Committee were derived from the FMPPLA and the Joint Rules. The mandate of Parliament was derived from Chapter 4 of the Constitution, which was to pass laws and scrutinise Executive actions.
The powers and functions of this Committee were derived through the FMPPLA from mandates stipulated in Sections 56 and 69 of the Constitution. Additional powers may be given by both Houses to this Committee.
The legislative powers of the Committee were:
- To consider the annual report submitted by Parliament;
- To consider monthly, quarterly and mid-year reports;
- To consider draft and adjusted budgets;
- To consider strategic plans and the annual performance plan (APP) of Parliament;
- To consider instructions and directives from Executive Administration (EA);
- To perform other functions specified in the Act, or by the Rules of Parliament.
Mr Mgxaji outlined some of the key issues as well as challenges this Committee would be dealing with. There was the reporting of the strategic plan and APP not being adequately measured, and the need to expedite the Parliamentary budget process. The Committee had the power to monitor the establishment and the functioning of the Treasury Advice Office (TAO). In the field of labour relations, in light of the deteriorating relations towards the end of the Fifth Parliament, it ought to suggest that the Executive branch submit a report compiled by an independent commission to look into this issue.
He advised the Committee to be abreast of the proper monitoring of the constituency-offices in this term. Members should review and implement a better oversight and accountability model to ensure a responsible and accountable government. There was also the disciplinary proceedings against the Secretary to Parliament which still had to be attended to. Lastly, he recommended benchmarking, and suggested the Committee arrange a study tour to countries that had similar oversight models.
Parliament’s responsibilities in terms of the FMPPLA
Mr Mbuyiselo Hlekiso, Committee Researcher, said that the content that he presented may overlap with issues covered by Mr Mgxaji.
He explained and emphasised the Parliamentary oversight power, highlighting its connection to the Constitution. The oversight power, and the summonses issued by Parliament, were irrefutable.
He described the unique features of the Committee and the Parliamentary Oversight Authority (POA). The mandate of the POA was to put in place an appropriate system of governance by which Parliament is managed and controlled in support of the administration. He emphasised the separation of power between the legislature and administration as to what each branch can or cannot do. He added that the detailed responsibilities of the POA would be provided in due time. The POA was established by the Joint Rules of Parliament and was responsible for all governance matters, such as directing, planning and determining resource requirements, as well as reporting on operations.
Key issues the Committee faced included:
- The lack of regulations on the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2009. There was no reporting mechanism because of this gap.
- The JSCFMP focused on financial matters, which side-lined the policy makers.
- Not all the key recommendations by this Committee were implemented.
Mr Hlekiso said that the work of Parliament could be grouped into two categories – its core business and service administration. He showed Members the procedure of the main focus in the Budget and the Annual Report of Parliament.
In addition to the key legal frameworks mentioned earlier, he also briefed Members on the key institutional frameworks, partners and external stakeholders, as well as the key operational instruments. He finally explained how this Standing Committee’s functioned in relation to other committees, as provided by the FMPPL Act.
Mr Brauteseth sought clarity on the job of the Committee. Was it correct that its job was to call anyone who was in Parliament to account? Secondly, regarding renaming the committee, he suggested the name of “Joint Standing Committee on Parliament.”
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Brauteseth, and remarked that the current name of the Committee was restrictive.
Mr Julius asked what this Committee could do to extend their mandate beyond the domain of finance.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) asked if the Act which governed Parliament was not attached to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and what regulations the Parliament used to procure goods and services.
The Chairperson agreed with the point raised by Mr Radebe’s, and asked the presenters where the model came from. The situation of this Committee was confusing, since it did not have the power to influence policy but only to make recommendations. She asked how the Committee would was going to approve any budget if there was no strategic plan, which this Committee had no power to mandate.
The co-Chairperson summarised Members’ inputs, saying that “Members are getting much clearer and are also getting more confused and the situation more complicated”. She asked the presenters what this Committee’s relationship was with the legislature. However, she reaffirmed that it was definitely not a “by-the-way” committee. This committee was being allocated funds, so there was a duty to hold people accountable. She also agreed with Members’ input on the change of name of this Committee, as the name itself constrained its ability to carry out its duties. She also asked about the origin of this model. She hoped that the Sixth Parliament would not see this Committee as a “by-the-way” committee, and suggested an alternative meeting time be made, since Friday meetings had never worked in the past 20 years.
The Chairperson assured the presenters that Members were not being hard on them, but they needed more clarity on the duties and line functions of the Committee in order to better engage with the Executive. She then asked them to respond to Members’ questions.
In response to Hon Brauteseth’s question, Mr Mgxaji said that this Committee could theoretically summon anyone to come before it, like any other committee, but it may not be the case in reality.
He assured Mr Julius that the Committee had the power to hold any other Parliamentary committee accountable. His view was that it would have the power, for instance, to instruct and them to initiate some process. What differed in the check on power from other committees was that this Committee holds people within Parliament to account, unlike other committees that hold executives to account.
In response to the question on the responsibilities of the Committee, Mr Hlekiso replied that Members had to go back to review Section 4 of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. Therefore, as long as the tasks carried out by Members were consistent with Section 4, it was in line with the law.
In response to the question on the Committee’s relationship with the legislature, Mr Hlekiso said that it did indeed have a relationship with other committees, and the common objective that all these committees aimed to achieve was what bound them together.
Regarding the question on budgets, he clarified that this Committee did not deal with money bills. Its mandate was Section 18, which gave it the mandate to approve and support budgets. He commented that others were just concerns and worries.
Mr Mark Sweet, Head: Research and Development Unit, commented that this Committee needed to be more assertive itself in order to be treated in exactly the same way as other committees, since it had not been given the power to vote and directly influence policy.
The co-Chairperson concluded that all the important issues had been covered.
The meeting was adjourned.