Parliament Division Managers on their scope, mandate & funding-related challenges
Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament
28 August 2019
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC) and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga)
The Committee was briefed by four divisions of Parliament: the Strategic Management and Governance Division (SMG), the Core Business Support Division, the Knowledge and Information Services Division and the Human Resources Management Division. The objective was to brief the Committee on the background, key performance areas, the budgets and challenges of these divisions.
Members requested the SMG division to provide definitive time frames, key performance indicators, and how the indicators were informed to support Parliament as an institution that supported democracy. Other issues raised were the division’s relationship with the Chief Financial Officer, and how the services the division provided were budgeted for.
The Human Resources division was questioned about the delays in Parliamentary disciplinary outcomes. Members also enquired about the bursary fund that was exclusive to members and whether it was being misused. They were concerned that the Acting Secretary had been in the position for three years, while the suspended secretary was still being paid. The division was urged to speed up the filling of vacant positions. Other issues raised were the training of Parliamentary support staff, the automation of the performance management system, and the process to assess Parliamentary employees’ work performance quantitatively.
It was recommended that the Core Business Support Division should incorporate the High Level Panel report into the 6th Parliament so that the legislature could evaluate the effectiveness of the past laws and be well informed on what improvements needed to be made. A Member complained that poor research work was being provided by Parliament’s research team. Support was expressed for going paperless in Parliament in order to streamline procedures and increase efficiency.
The Knowledge and Information Services Division was asked about its Hansard operations, the accessibility of the “Press Reader,” the sign language services being provided in Parliament, and the relationship between the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) and Parliament.
Briefing: Strategic Management and Governance Division
Mr Ravi Moodley, Executive Head: Strategic Management and Governance (SMG) Division, said the division served to enhance decision-making in the institution at both strategic and operational levels, to advocate and enhance good corporate governance, facilitate strategy execution and change management, and to drive innovation through strategic initiatives and projects to ensure a more effective and efficient institution.
The Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA), Act 10 of 2009 as amended, required that the Accounting Officer (Secretary to Parliament) of Parliament:
- Submit a 5-year strategic plan;
- Submit a 3-year annual performance plan (APP);
- Submit the annual budget;
- Appropriate and approve the use of money for each financial year;
- Facilitate the tabling of the strategic plan, the annual performance plan, and budget;
- Submit monthly financial statements;
- Submit quarterly performance reports;
- Submit a mid-year budget and performance assessment;
- Submit the annual report; and
- Facilitate tabling of the monthly, quarterly, mid-year and annual reports.
The SMG division provided the following services:
- Strategic planning and strategic advisory services to enhance decision-making;
- Facilitation of strategic and governance processes;
- Publication of governance documents;
- Project and programme management services;
- Risk identification and risk management services;
- Assurance services;
- Business intelligence and analytical services; and
- Monitoring and evaluation of strategy implementation
Outlining the division operational plan, Mr Moodley explained the divisional value chain as well as the key performance areas of his Department. The various key stakeholders and the engagement model was unpacked and explained to Members.
There were currently two people working in the risk management office. The greater emphasis was placed on risk identification as one of the four key dimensions of risk management.
A comparative operational budget graph was provided to the Committee.
Mr Moodley identified the four areas in support of the APP as:
- Increasing strategic maturity of the institution
- Frameworks and guidelines;
- Capacity development interventions.
- Increasing risk maturity of the institution
- Frameworks and guidelines;
- Capacity development interventions.
- SMG client value proposition
- Team coaching interventions.
- Establish strategic execution capability
- This was a priority under the Institutional Re-alignment Project.
- Establish a holistic enterprise-wide risk management function
- This was a priority under the Institutional Re-alignment Project.
Mr Moodley concluded his presentation with the challenges and mitigating strategies of his division.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) asked the SMG team for clear deadlines on what needed to be done, by whom and the reasons why.
Mr M Rayi (ANC; Eastern Cape) asked about the number of targets in the key performance areas. He also asked about how these targets were related to an institution such as Parliament, to support democracy.
The Chairperson asked about SMG’s relationship to the Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO’s) office. She asked about budget’s relationship with the services and products that SMG provided.
Mr Moodley said that timelines were not within his authority to guide Parliament. He clarified the difference between public and private sectors. He believed that there was a need to drive a strategy rather than reporting later why it had failed or succeeded. However, he understood the reason for the question.
When an APP was produced, it was produced by the SGM and was simply the perspective of his division. He worked very closely with the CFO to produce budget and performance information. There was a strong relationship between strategy, performance and budget.
Ms Lesoma referred to objectives, and commented that targets were needed in order for Members of Parliament to perform their oversight function. On the issue of remedial actions, she said that Parliament needed not only to monitor the executive, but also to propose actions to remedy mistakes.
Mr Rayi commented that there was no response to the challenges that the APP had identified, and asked if Mr Moodley’s division had come up with a solution to address the issue.
An SMG delegate responded that the work of Mr Moodley was to compile the targets to produce a document. The strategic objectives defined both key performance indicators and targets.
Briefing: Human Resource Management Division
Mr Mpho Mokonyana, Executive: Human Resource Management Division, said the purpose of the division was to ensure that Parliament was able to attract the required skills, develop current employees and retain those whose competencies were critical to the organisation, as well as to create a conducive environment for an engaged and productive workforce. It also managed the wellness support programme for Members of Parliament.
The following services provided by his division to Members:
- Management of wellness support to Members of Parliament (MPs) and employees in the administration, including on-site emergency medical services (a clinic) and comprehensive counselling services;
- Human resources administration, such as payment of salaries and benefits to employees, and management of employee information and records;
- The acquisition of talent that Parliament requires to implement its strategic plans, involving recruitment and selection, and the induction of employees;
- The development of employees to ensure that Parliament has the skills it needs to successfully execute its plans -- awarding of bursaries, and structured training in line with Personal Development Plans (PDPs);
- The creation of a conducive environment to enable employees to achieve their performance goals and reach their potential through the implementation of a performance management system, maintaining good working relationship with organised labour, and annual employee engagement surveys;
- The design and implementation of organisational development interventions to improve organisational effectiveness, such as the re-engineering of business processes.
Mr Mokonyane said that due to the deficit in the budget allocation from National Treasury, Parliament was not able to fill all the vacant positions. Management had therefore taken a decision to prioritise vacancies that were critical to the core business of the Institution. In line with government’s efforts to manage the public sector wage bill, the division was in the process of engaging with both National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to explore early retirement opportunities for some of the staff, and approaches had already been made through their union.
As part of the Organisational Realignment Project, instead of just growing the staff establishment and recruiting skills externally, they were first looking at how they could optimise their current human resources by incorporating development interventions to cross- and multi-skill employees to be able to operate within the new roles that would be more focussed on cross-functional and collaborative work processes. Hence the introduction of a shared services approach.
Through the skills audit process that they were currently undertaking, they would look further at how they could optimise current underutilised skills and use them more effectively in a way that would benefit both the institution and the employees themselves through opportunities to gain different work experiences.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) asked about the responsibility of Mr Mokonyana’s division for disciplinary procedures. He expressed his disappointment for it to take three years for a disciplinary procedure which had resulted in the Acting Secretary to be in an “acting” position for three years, which did not provide for a conducive work environment. He suggested the division should reflect on Parliament’s HR procedures
On bursary issue, he asked whether the bursary that had been provided for the Secretary of Parliament had been recouped.
Mr Rayi asked for a breakdown of the different positions for vacancies. Could the reasons for resignations be provided to the Committee? Were any of the causes of resignations be related to the conducive environment? He commented on the absence of statistics on the percentage of women and people with disabilities for employees. He asked about the relationship between the employees working at Parliament and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). Had the issue of vetting of Parliamentary staff been resolved?
Ms Lesoma commented that the time period for which the Acting Secretary had remained in the position had become unacceptable, and asked if the position had been budgeted for. She commended the automation of the performance management system, because it would greatly help the Committee to perform its oversight function by quantifying performance. She asked if the training of all the Parliamentary workforce was done according to the work skills set plan, and urged the HR division to be mindful of the issue of demographics and gender equity in the recruitment process.
Mr Steenhuisen asked for elaboration of the process the HR division used to measure a conducive working environment. He mentioned incidents where Parliamentary workers had committed suicide, which he said were a clear sign of an un-conducive work environment.
The co-Chairperson referred to the support provided to MPs and employees of Parliament, and commented that the services described in the presentation had not been provided to Members. She asked whether the active vacant posts were budgeted or funded posts. Had they looked into other strategies to make a replacement model? She commended the 12-week time frame provided by the HR division. Regarding the Acting Secretary, she commented that the acting position constrained the person on duty to perform their job to the best of their ability, and caused instability within the institution. She asked about the power limitations of an Acting Secretary.
The Chairperson pointed out the irregularity of expenditure in the cost of employees identified in the Auditor-General’s report. She said that in a situation where an Acting Secretary was being paid whilst the suspended secretary was also being paid at the same time, this would be a cause for irregularity, and she sought clarity. Referring to the low percentage of members in the bursary scheme, she encouraged Members to use the scheme. She asked how many Members were active under the scheme.
Mr Mokoyana confirmed that the bursary scheme fell under the Members’ support system. MPs were eligible to access the scheme.
The challenge regarding the Acting Secretary position lay in the investigation process to find out whether the individual was found guilty or not.
The Chairperson interjected that the process must begin, regardless of the outcome of the investigation.
An official of the HR division said that the appointment of the Secretary was not within the authority of Parliament, nor the division. It was a matter that needed to be raised with the executive authority.
The Chairperson responded that the Committee would indeed write to the executive authority to conclude the Acting Secretary issue.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA) commented that having a person in an acting position for a year or two was contrary to the law.
Mr Steenhuisen added that the Committee would need some definite timelines in which the process should be completed.
The official suggested the Committee should communicate with the executive authority to get more clarification on the definitive timelines.
Ms Lesoma referred to inviting and communicating with the executives, and commented that executives must also be made to understand the roles and expectations of the Committee as an oversight body.
Mr Mokonyana said that information on employment equity would be included in the slides for the next meeting.
On the relationship between the DPSA and National Treasury, National Treasury needed to fund those employees who wished to take early retirement.
In response to Mr Steenhuisen’s question, he said the bursary fund had been recouped.
There had been no dismissals in the last financial year.
Regarding the vetting process, the HR division had a process to ensure that government employees understood that why certain requirements had to be complied with for them to be employed.
Mr Brautenseth asked whether the staff members of the National Assembly (NA) and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) were being remunerated at different salary scales.
Ms Lesoma asked when, in light of the new National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act, the HR division would start the process of verifying the qualifications of the Parliamentary staff so that those with had misrepresented their qualifications in their resumes would be punished.
Mr Mokonyana denied the claim that there was a pay difference between the staff members of the NA and the NCOP. There might be a difference for the different roles that these members performed. Work performance was the only differentiator in deciding their salaries.
Mr Brauteseth asked if work performance was subjectively decided, or if there were benchmarks to determine work performance.
Mr Mokonyana said that there was no discretion at all, as every employee entered into a service agreement with specific mark ups indicating the expectation of their services.
Mr Rayi suggested the HR division should investigate this matter and report back to the Committee.
Mr Mokonyana commented on the “conducive work environment,” and said that his division handed out a client survey to staff members annually in order to check whether the targets to improve the workplace environment had been achieved.
On the verification issue, he said that the division had not begun the process yet, but it should take place soon.
He said that employees who worked at Parliament were allowed to do business with Parliament, but they would need to disclose their links to Parliament.
Mr Steenhuisen asked what the key issues that emerged from the client surveys were, and suggested that it may be good to unpack the last client survey at a later stage.
Briefing: Core Business Support Division
Ms Ressida Begg, Division Manager: Core Business Support Division, said the objective of her division was to provide a professional, non-partisan support service to Committees of the Houses in relation to law-making, oversight, public participation, international engagement and co-operative government. In addition, her division also was responsible for:
- Implementing the oversight and accountability model;
- Implementing the public participation model;
- Improving the timeliness and quality of advisory and information services;
- Developing and implementing models to ensure an increased quality of legislation and improved cooperative government oversight;
- Improving access and participation in Parliamentary processes, and improving support for Parliament’s international engagements.
The division’s operational plan, key performance areas and costs were provided to the Committee. A detailed breakdown of its members, the functions of their positions and their remuneration, were also presented.
Among the achievements of the division were the Committee minutes and reports. Performance was at 100% for both Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATCs) and legal advice. The legal drafting unit had been involved with 21 Private Members’ bills (1 passed), nine Committee bills drafted (5 passed), 200 laws passed in the 5th Parliament (119 passed), the audit of apartheid legislation on statute books, litigation management (74 litigation matters processed), the vetting of contracts, and legal advice on labour matters as well as governance related to improved compliance in management reporting to the Audit Committee.
The issue of public participation in Parliament affairs was explained. The division was working to expand the accessibility of Parliament to the South African citizenry.
Ms Begg briefed Members on the various shared services that the division had with other Parliamentary bodies. These included information communication technology (ICT), cooperative government, public involvement, oversight and law making. She outlined the budget of the division to the Committee.
The key challenges facing the division were funding and the freezing of key posts.
Mr Steenhuisen expressed his appreciation of the division’s work. He believed that the work of the High Level Panel report had not been included in the oversight and accountability model. He commented that the legislation that had been passed had to be assessed for its impact and effectiveness so that the targets and effectiveness of these laws could be monitored constantly. This could also serve to inform Parliament on adjusting laws in the future.
Mr Rayi commented on the lack of monitoring mechanisms to ensure the programmes were indeed taking place in committees. He also commented on the poor quality of the research work done by the Parliamentary research team, saying that sometimes their work was merely a repetition of what the Department had briefed the Committee on.
The Chairperson suggested that the challenges of Ms Begg’s division could be resolved if they worked with the Human Resource division, particularly in respect of the turnaround time and staff vacancies.
Ms Lesoma suggested that since ICT was the modern day trend, was it possible for Parliamentary work to be done in a paperless and more digitalised manner? A lot of the long turnaround issues were caused because of one paper document going missing in the process.
In response to Mr Steenhuisen, Ms Begg affirmed that part of the Committee programme in the 6th Parliament would be to incorporate oversight of past legislation. In addition to that, her division was working on producing a legislation framework portfolio so that the Committee could be informed of the effects of certain legislation, and which legislation it was performing oversight duties on. She recognised the need to develop and improve the oversight and accountability model.
She said that there were 10 legal advisors and three senior legal advisors in the legal services unit. Because of their limited number, it was difficult to allocate them to different meetings. She would, however, speak to the Chief Legal Advisor to address the issue.
She agreed that the division shared the same view as the Member regarding the quality of the research work produced by content advisors and researchers. She commented that the quality could be related to a researcher’s position and experience in the structure, because Parliament did have senior researchers and junior researchers. The structure for content advisors was slightly different, and the division would look at ways to address the issue.
The challenge on staff vacancies was not about working with the HR division, but more to do with funding. If there was no funding, HR had no option but to freeze these posts.
Regarding the increased use of ICT, Ms Begg said that the whole purpose of “My Parliament” was to go paperless. Her division was dedicated to try and reduce the use of paper to protect the environment.
On the turnaround time for applications, she said that her division would have a discussion at the National Assembly induction session to see how the procedures could be streamlined. She suggested that the process of approval and the process of funding applications could be merged.
Ms Begg explained that ICT provided support to the core business of Parliament. This was also in line with “Taking Parliament to the People” -- to provide citizens an opportunity to comment and to get feedback on Parliamentary affairs. The division was responsible for sorting out who the commentators were, and what they were commenting on.
The Chairperson remarked that the Committee was not there to accuse anyone, so there was no need to protect the HR division. The point of the meeting was to improve accountability.
Briefing: Knowledge and Information Services Division
Dr Leon Gabriel, Division Manager: Knowledge and Information Services, said the purpose of his division was to:
Plan and implement knowledge development, knowledge collaboration and knowledge-sharing initiatives, including seminars and discussion forums on matters pertinent to the work of Parliament;
Conduct reactive and proactive research for Committees and individual Members of Parliament in their legislative and oversight roles, incorporating public participation processes. Analytical research briefs, background papers and fact sheets were also produced in support of the participation of Members in various multilateral Parliamentary bodies and other international engagements.
Provide simultaneous interpretations into all 11 official languages and South African sign language at all plenary sittings of the Houses, and at some committees and public hearings, depending on capacity.
Produce the official record of the sittings of the Houses through the Hansard report, including translations from the language of the floor into English, as required.
Facilitate public participation and the development and promotion of multilingualism through the translation of daily papers and other official Parliamentary publications, as required.
Manage electronic documents through the development and implementation of a file plan and facilitation of implementation of the electronic document management system (uVimba/Alfresco).
Administer a full library service, including inter-library loans, portfolio development and access to electronic information resources, including journal subscriptions and electronic newspapers.
Dr Gabriel briefed the Committee of the division’s strategic objectives. The key outputs, divisional objectives, outcome goals and performance indicators were presented.
The division chaired four types of service divisions -- language services, research, the Parliamentary information centre, as well as documentation. The issues of translation and interpretation units were explained in detail.
The key challenges the division faced were the lack of a dedicated budget, technical equipment and tools of the trade, and unfunded posts.
Mr Rayi asked about the accessibility of the Press Reader.
Mr Brauteseth asked about the challenges involving Hansard.
Ms Lesoma asked about the translation capacity, particularly in the area of sign language. Would the translation capacity be able to cover more occasions, such as at the Women’s Parliament in order to be inclusive of the diversity of society?
Dr Gabriel responded that Press Reader access was probably a technical problem, and he would request someone to check it.
On the Hansard challenges, the operational target was to produce reports within five days of a sitting. The report indicated that there had been a shift in achieving the targets from 35% two or three years ago, to 95% in the last few financial years.
On the issue of translation capacity, Dr Gabriel said that they had had discussions with the language services and expected a cost-effective plan to be rolled out in due course. Regarding sign language at Parliamentary events such as the Women’s Parliament, he assured the Committee that there would be a sign language interpreter at the upcoming event. The minimum standard stated that there needed to be four language practitioners per language. However, if there were more than two consecutive sittings, then there would be challenges regarding the number of staff available.
Mr Rayi complained about the lack of information on Committee proceedings that Members received. He expressed his concern to learn that not all Committee meetings were recorded - he thought the availability of mics and speakers automatically meant the meetings were recorded. This is problematic if someone questioned what occured in a Committee meeting. it seemed the only source of recordings are the ones done by PMG. Even now, a Committee is facing legal action as someone is alleging Members were not given enough time to consider a Bill in a meeting - there is no official recording to verify this.
Ms Lesoma asked about the legal relationship between Parliament and the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG).
On the recording of meetings, Dr Gabriel answered it was not the division’s mandate, and Parliament did not have the capacity to provide such services. Nevertheless, most Committee venues had facilities to record upon request.
He said that Parliament had no legal relationship with the PMG. It was a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that had an interest in Parliamentary proceedings. However, Parliament was a subscriber to the PMG website.
The Chairperson commented on the issue of recording, and suggested Parliament should invest in recorders.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mahlangu, Ms DG
Brauteseth, Mr TJ
Lesoma, Ms RMM
Rayi, Mr M
Steenhuisen, Mr JH
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