The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament had an information-sharing session with the Parliamentary Service Commission of the Malawian Parliament.
The main purpose of the visit by the Malawian delegation was to learn about how the South African Parliament had kept its democracy vibrant and transparent, and how that could be inculcated into the Malawian system. As a result, the Malawian delegation was taken through the workings of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament (JSCFMP), which maintains oversight over the financial management of Parliament, other than policy matters.
The Committee informed the Malawian delegation the JSCFMP was established in terms of section 4 of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act No. 10 of 2009. The JSCFMP consisted of Members from the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It consisted of 14 members who were proportionally determined -- nine from the NA and five from the NCOP, in which all parties were represented.
The mandate of the JSCFMP was to maintain oversight of the financial management of Parliament, consider instructions issued by the executive authority, and consider the annual report tabled and referred by the Speaker to the Committee. In terms of the legislative requirements, the Committee had to scrutinise the strategic plans, consider quarterly reports, interrogate senior management and the executive authority, and eventually report to a joint sitting of the House.
The delegation wanted to know if the South African Parliament had achieved financial independence; whether the Committee was taking care of the interests of Members without jeopardising the work of Parliament, because in Malawi the Commission recruited all Members of Parliament; if the Office of the Auditor-General reported to the whole House; if all the committees had Whips; and whether the Speaker of Parliament had ever been held to account for mismanagement of funds.
Role of Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament (JSCFMP)
The Chairperson, in her introductory remarks, said the Members of the Committee were coming from the school of “each one, teach one”. The visit by the Malawian delegation was not a one-sided affair, because the Committee was going to learn from the delegation as well. The visit came at the right time when the Parliament was still new for the country. South Africa and Malawi were experiencing the same challenges, such as poverty, unemployment and diseases.
The Chairperson then briefly told the delegation the JSCFMP was established in terms of section 4 of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act No. 10 of 2009. The Committee consisted of the Members from the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The number of Committee members was determined by the Joint Rules Committee. The Committee consisted of 14 Members which were proportionally determined -- nine from the NA and five from the NCOP, in which all parties were represented. It was chaired by the co-chairpersons, one from each House (NA and NCOP).
The JSCFMP performed its oversight function over Parliament, focusing on political, administrative, financial, ethical, legal and strategic elements. Through its oversight role, it detects and prevents abuse, illegal and unconstitutional conduct by the executive authority and the accounting officer of Parliament.
The joint sitting of the NA and NCOP may, by resolution, assign any other function, task or duty to the JSCFMP within its area of competence. It may proceed with the business of the day if at least one third of the members were present, but it takes a decision only if a quorum is present. The Committee recommends to the House (joint seating) and its recommendations are expected to be implemented by the executive authority and the accounting officer.
Furthermore, the work of Parliament was grouped into two wide streams or categories -- core business and service administration. The Parliamentary core business was conducted through plenary sessions of the NA and the NCOP, while the Parliamentary service administration was providing administration and support for all mechanisms and structures in which the Parliamentary core business was conducted.
Lastly, in terms of the legislative requirements, the Committee had to scrutinise the strategic plans, budget, and annual reports of Parliament; consider quarterly reports and financial statements; interrogate senior management and the executive authority; and eventually report to the joint sitting of the House.
(Tables were shown to illustrate key legal and institutional frameworks, stakeholders, and operational instruments)
Mr B Radebe (ANC) observed it was important to share the experiences of both parties. He made it clear to the Malawian delegation that Parliament was overseeing the executive authority of the country. In turn, the Committee had the responsibility of policing the Parliament. Everything was done according to the prescripts of the constitution. He pointed out SA had the same challenges Malawi was facing on issues of albinism, and many others.
Dr George Chaponda, Chairperson: Parliamentary Service Commission, Malawian Parliament, indicated it was good to learn the Committee was doing oversight on the national Parliament because that was a sign of a vision to strive for when one wanted the independence of Parliament. His delegation was on a mission to learn about SA’s vibrant democracy, so that it could be inculcated into the Malawian system. He wanted to know if the SA Parliament had achieved financial independence.
The Chairperson responded that independence was coming in many ways. Committees were the cornerstone of democracy. The Committee was striving for perfection, while it was trying to understand it was not part of the other committees. The Committee had nothing to do with the state departments. It was focusing only on Parliament, both secretaries of the NA and NCOP, and the budget allocation for the day to day running of the parliament. The independence of the Committee was defined by different legislation, which was the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act No. 10 of 2009. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) was what governed state departments and other committees. She added that the 6th Parliament had to resolve by the end of the term where funding for the Chapter 9 Institutions was supposed to come from, because the matter had not been resolved by the previous administration.
Mr Richard Banda, Commissioner, wanted to know if the Committee was taking care of the interests of Members without jeopardising the work of Parliament, because in Malawi the Commission recruited all Members of Parliament.
The Chairperson explained that Members’ interests went as far as accommodation, because they came from different parts of the country. The Committee had to ensure Members were housed comfortably in Parliamentary villages and provided with transport, and there was also a provision of scholar transport for the Members’ children.
Mr Chrispin Mphande, Commissioner, asked if the public accounts committee was not clashing with the JSCFMP. He also asked about the relationship was between the Committee and the Minister of Finance.
Mr Radebe explained the SA Parliament had a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) which scrutinised all the reports of the state departments and state-owned entities. SCOPA did not have a relationship with any of the Parliamentary committees and state departments. The Committee was independent from National Treasury, even though the budget was determined by National Treasury. The executive authority of the country had more resources than Parliament, which was why the Committee was trying to address this anomaly. Through the reports that came from the Committee, recommendations were always on the needs of Parliament during budget preparations. The Committee was also providing oversight to the executive authority of Parliament. The executive authority of Parliament had to come with annual performance plans.
Ms Lilian Patel, Commissioner, wanted to find out if the Office of the Auditor-General was reporting to the whole House. She also asked if all the committees had Whips.
The Chairperson said all committees had got Whips. It was not only the ruling party that had Whips, but also the opposition and smaller parties. She said the Office of the Auditor-General was reporting to the NA and the NCOP. The audit reports focused on the business of Parliament.
Mr Hadebe added the Auditor-General audited the books of state departments and their entities, and Parliament. The Committee also oversees the Office of the Auditor-General with regard to how it handles its business. Everyone had to account. Even the President accounted to Parliament, unlike in other countries where the president accounted to no one. He clarified his point by recounting the story of a suicide that occurred at Parliament last year. He said the executive authority of Parliament had to account to the Committee to avoid a reoccurrence of the incident.
Mr J Julius (DA) wanted to understand how Malawi was doing in terms of appointing staff to Parliament, because there were challenges in SA around nepotism and cronyism. He said that SCOPA in the South African Parliament was chaired by an opposition party. Even this Committee was supposed to be chaired by one of the smaller parties. This was something Malawi should start to look at.
Dr Chaponda said the Public Service Commission was also involved in the recruitment of Parliamentary staff and conditions of service. Rigorous procedures were being followed. There was also an Appointment Committee, which scrutinised all the appointments made by the president. The Public Appointments Committee was responsible for all public appointments that were not related to Parliament.
Mr Mphande asked if the Members of the Committee were serving on other committees as well, or were confined only to the JSCFMP. He also enquired if the Speaker of Parliament had ever been held to account before Parliament for mismanagement of funds.
The Chairperson explained the Committee was comprised of 14 members who came from different political parties and represented the two Houses of Parliament, even though the majority of them came from the ruling party. Members got deployed to other committees of Parliament by their respective political parties. The Parliamentary programme was planned by the ANC’s Strategic Committee to ensure all committees ran smoothly, even if Members belonged to more than three committees.
She added that the Speaker did appear before the Committee if there were matters that were directly related to him or her. The Secretary to Parliament was the one who represented the Speaker and attended the Committee meetings, when there was a need, on behalf of the Speaker.
Dr Chaponda commended the Committee for being able to scrutinise the Speaker -- that was something they had to look into in Malawi, including that of committee Whips. He commented that the chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission in Malawi was also the Speaker of Parliament. He appreciated the vibrancy and transparency in the manner things were done in South Africa. He said Malawi had 21 committees, and for the JSCFMP to police Parliament was a good thing.
The meeting was adjourned.
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