Strategic priorities of the Sixth Parliament

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

12 May 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC) and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament 12 May 2020
Audio: Strategic priorities of the Sixth Parliament

The Committee was briefed by the Acting Secretary to Parliament on the Policy Priorities and the Strategic Plan of the Sixth Parliament (2019-2024) which was tabled on 9 March 2020. The Acting Secretary stressed that the Strategic Plan reflects what the MPs said that Parliament must pursue this five-year term. The Strategic Plan stipulates the three high-level development impact indicators, including poverty, unemployment, and inequality reduction. The outcome is to increase government’s accountability by strengthening oversight over the Executive by 2024. Seven crucial areas needing improvement were identified, which included the public’s demands for greater involvement, scrutiny of executive action and the need for Parliament to increase its oversight, improved structure and capabilities of Committees to ensure effective functioning, the need for technological renewal to make processes more efficient, skills development training for MPs and staff, address the limited resources available to Parliament, and improve the range and level of services to MPs. She noted that the Annual Performance Plan (APP) which will expand on the Strategic Plan and outline the targets and performance indicators is currently in its development phase.

In principle, the Committee supported the Strategic Plan. MPs noted the paradigm shift in the Strategic Plan from Parliament as an institution that supports the work of MPs to looking at how MPs perform themselves. The under-funding of Parliament was raised as Committees are committed to their oversight work but there are financial constraints to perform their duties. Members held the view that inadequate funding of political parties as well as under-resourced Parliamentary Constituency Offices impacted negatively on the ability of MPs to conduct effective constituency work.

Members stressed the effectiveness of Parliament in dealing with corruption must be incorporated into the Strategic Plan. Parliament must ensure that the goal of strong oversight over the Executive emphasises combating corruption. A member suggested clear guidelines on international relations.

Members asked about Parliament's COVID-19 pandemic business continuity plan. They asked about measures to protect staff and MPs and how many staff members are at work in the precinct currently. The requirement for virtual joint oversight meetings for MPs was noted so there is no repetition of briefings. Members stated that travelling costs were reduced through virtual meetings and asked how the savings would be spent. One member restated the idea of moving Parliament to another province to save on expenses. Others asked how MPs will be trained during the pandemic.

The Parliament CFO made the point that Parliament's 2020/21 budget allocation was scheduled for a 6% reduction (amounting to R133m) which though engagements with National Treasury was negotiated down to a mere 1% reduction (amounting to R33m).

The Secretary to Parliament agreed MPs need support when they conduct constituency work. She requested that she must receive a record of all the Parliamentary Constituency Offices (PCOs) including their physical addresses from political parties as Parliament must increase the public's on PCOs and how to utilise them.

Meeting report

Sixth Parliament Policy Priorities and Strategic Plan
Ms Baby Tyawa, Acting Secretary to Parliament, briefed the Committee on the Policy Priorities and the Strategic Plan of the Sixth Parliament (2019-2024) which was tabled on 9 March 2020. She pointed out that the APP and the Operational Plan are currently being developed and will be tabled by the end of May 2020. During the past two and half weeks, Parliament held workshop sessions with its divisions to discuss how the strategic objectives will be derived for each of the areas. She provided a summary of the strategic and policy priorities with reference to its 2024 outcome goal to ‘increase government’s responsiveness and accountability’.

Strategy analysis of the Sixth Parliament:
During the strategy formulation process, a scanning of the external and internal environment of Parliament was conducted to determine any issues or trends that could influence the institution. This information assists the institution to define its strategic priorities and key challenges Parliament is faced with. The content of the information was acquired from MPs from the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Seven crucial areas needing improvement were identified, which included the public’s demands for greater involvement and scrutiny of executive action, the need for Parliament to increase its oversight, the call to adopt improved Committee structure and capabilities to ensure effective functioning, the need for technological renewal to make processes more efficient, the requirement of skills development training for MPs and staff, the need to address the limited facilities and resources available to Parliament, and the need to improve the current range and level of services rendered to MPs.

The first area for improvement pertained to the public’s demands for greater involvement, more vigorous scrutiny of executive action, and consequently the need for a more open, responsive, and accountable government. When Parliament increases it oversight it means that their accountability is also increased. In doing so, the ultimate impact is an improvement in society and the quality of life of the people of South Africa, as it allows for the relieving of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

The second area for improvement is the demand for stronger oversight and scrutiny which requires better information, analysis, and insight from Parliament. It means a critical evaluation of the type of information utilised by Parliament and the way in which it is analysed to ensure that MPs are empowered to exercise effective oversight.

The third, fourth and fifth areas of improvement relate to Parliament being able to provide better information and insight to MPs and the public. Three aspects needs improvement: the structure and the capabilities of Committees to ensure effective functioning; the need for technological renewal to make processes more efficient; and the requirement of skills development training for MPs and staff. Efficiently structured Committees who can use modern and renewed forms of technology that are also equipped with the requisite skill sets to use them effectively, will make the current administration of Parliament more effective considering the national circumstances and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sixth and seventh areas of improvement relate to the facilities, resources, services, and budget available to Parliament. Having already faced constrained budget cuts, the COVID-19 pandemic raises the possibility of additional reductions to Parliament’s baseline budget. Parliament has limited facilities, resources, and budget available which needs to be addressed. An improvement of the current service culture is required to address and improve the range and level of services that are rendered to MPs.

Based on these identified areas of improvement, a Strategic Analysis document was drafted, and strategic priorities were identified. Parliament defined its long-term outcome goal for 2024 as to ‘increase government’s responsiveness and accountability’. To achieve this goal, Parliament will need to strengthen its oversight over the Executive which in turn will require deeper insights and scrutiny, and more effective involvement. Oversight and accountability were therefore identified as the key priority of the Sixth Parliament that will underlie the Strategic Plan, APP and Operational Plan.

Strategy map of the Sixth Parliament:
The impact goal for the Sixth Parliament is to reduce poverty, unemployment, and inequality by 2030. The long-term outcome goal for 2024 is to ‘increase government’s responsiveness and accountability’, which underlies the outputs of improving the quality of Money Bills and resolutions.
- For constituency oversight work, the focus will be on the individual activities of MPs.
- For Committee oversight work, the focus is on deeper scrutiny, more effective involvement and recommendations.
- For plenary oversight work, the focus is on facilitating questions, debates, and statements.

On the input level, consideration must be given to the time allocated to Committees, enhancing MPs’ capacities, allowing for deeper insights, and facilitating public submissions. Adopting these goals will strengthen the Sixth Parliament’s adherence to oversight and accountability requirements.

Strategy plan of the Sixth Parliament:
The new guideline for developing Strategic Plans and APPs includes a strategic analysis using the SWOT method, and new tools such as results-based management and balanced score cards. This will create an improved separation of the strategic intent of Parliament and its implementation modalities. The Strategic Plan now focuses on a 15-year impact and a 5-year outcome. The APP will now carry implementation details for outputs, activities, and inputs. The guideline also includes new requirements for the Operational Plan requiring its inclusion in the annual statutory audit.

Ms Tyawa briefly outlined the Strategic Plan which includes the mandate of Parliament (including a situational analysis), the strategic focus of the Sixth Parliament, performance measures (indicators for the impact goal for 2030 and outcome goal for 2024), budget, key risks and technical indicator descriptors. She noted that in the past the Committee has been briefed in a skewed fashion on only the administration’s performance that did not cover the details of what MPs had achieved during their time of office. The strategy of the Sixth Parliament flags the need for Parliament to have such indicators to better provide the Committee with the needed information.

The Impact Statement is to improve the quality of life of the citizens of South Africa. The Strategic Plan stipulates the outcomes to be achieved, which includes three high-level development impact indicators. The impact indicators include an indicator of poverty reduction, an indicator of unemployment, and an indicator of inequality. This will be measured using the NDP targets. These development indicators enable Parliament, provincial legislatures, and the public to monitor the overall impact on society, currently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Outcome Statement includes increasing government’s accountability by strengthening oversight over the Executive by 2024. An imperative to strengthen oversight and accountability will require more openness, transparency, collaboration, and more rigorous scrutiny and investigation. The discussion by MPs in both the planning sessions of the NA and the NCOP were dominated by the key themes of stronger oversight and more public involvement. The outcome indicators also measure Parliament's financial and non-financial performance, its responsiveness rate for replies to questions and undertakings implemented.

Development and structure of the new APP:
Ms Tyawa said the development of the APP included key engagements with the Executive Authority on 23 January and 25 February 2020. A Budget Lekgotla was held on 15 April with the Executive Authority to prioritise the Parliament budget in line with the Strategic Plan. Seven meetings were held with the Management Team during March and April, to develop the APP in line with Parliament’s approved Strategic Plan. The operational planning for divisions is currently in progress during May 2020 to finalise the objectives and indicators for the APP and the divisional Operational Plan. Parliament’s APP will be submitted for tabling in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Management of Parliament Act (FMPA).

The new APP structure means a change to the programme structure to ensure Strategic Plan alignment:
1. Programme 1, 2 and 4 will be consolidated into Programme 1 for Administration. As per the National Treasury guideline, Programme 1 (as now consolidated) is exempted from measurable objectives and indicators. This is due to the costs being of an administration nature which is not assigned to a specific programme but regarded as fixed costs or overheads. This includes these costs: Executive Authority, management, corporate services of HR and ICT, buildings and maintenance. These costs are mostly input related. Their objectives and indicators will be moved to the Operational Plan. Entities reporting directly to the Executive Authority will submit separate strategic plans (including shared services) and be funded through transfers.
2. Programme 3 Core Business will be reorganised to bring focus on the main work of the NA and NCOP. Programme 3 qualifies as the delivery mechanism of the final outputs of the Parliamentary Service. These outputs constitute the inputs required by MPs to perform their constitutional functions in the NA and NCOP, in various Committee and constituency proceedings.
3. Programme 5 Transfer Payments will be exempt from objectives and indicators, as per Programme 1.

Mr N Singh (IFP) commented that the Strategic Plan of Parliament and Departments is going to be a moving target during and after the COVID-19 pandemic as one is unsure how the pandemic will unfold. The Acting Secretary should consider whether it is feasible to restrict Parliament to this Strategic Plan given the current status quo. There seems to be a paradigm shift in the Strategic Plan from Parliament as an institution that supports the work of MPs to the view of looking at how MPs perform themselves. This paradigm shift must be unpacked. How much thought has been given to the Strategic Plan given the current situation COVID-19 pandemic? Clarification on the relationship between Parliament and National Treasury is needed. How does this pertain to the under-funding problem currently experienced by Parliament and its MPs? When issues are discussed with National Treasury (such as the payment of medical aid for ex-MPs), clarification is required on the role of the Parliamentary Budget Office and its independence in this matter.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) thanked the Acting Secretary for the presentation but noted that one would have thought that Ms Tyawa would have provided comfort to the Committee on the work done relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is not expected of the Acting Secretary to give a full breakdown of the actions and measures undertaken during these times, a promise of a future briefing on this matter is required. Parliament is aware that the Public Service and Administration Department is also exploring the need to restructure their Operational Plan in response to the Sixth Parliament’s Strategic Plan. What is expected from MPs in terms of their responses, reports, and support to departments? She asked the Acting Secretary to clearly differentiate between the NA and NCOP when explaining the requirements of community consultation or public participation. Moving forward political party funding policy needs to be considered. It is time that the Sixth Parliament take the bold step and looks at the remuneration of public representatives, especially the medical aid received by ex-MPs as mentioned by Mr Singh. She also raised the problem of being unable to perform oversight functions due to poor measuring systems or tool indicators.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) agreed on the need to consider having a yearly Strategic Plan due to the pandemic. She raised the internal funding of political parties by Parliament. There is a need to improve the support to political parties, as not all the party programmes are covered by the funding received from Parliament. The other issue requiring consideration is the salary structure of MPs and the subsidising of medical aid.

On Committee oversight, there is a definite need to strengthen the oversight work done. However, she raised the concern that while Committees are committed to their oversight work, some are unable to perform their duties due to financial constraints. How is Parliament going to assist MPs in doing their constituency work? Has Parliament investigated how MPs with special needs are supported? These services need to be improved as the current range of services is not enough. On public participation, the problem with public hearings is the size of provinces is not equal. Parliament is unable to cover most of the areas in vast provinces. How are the funds for travelling utilised as this has now been rendered unnecessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) raised the need for MPs to be able to conclude their community work in time, and training is required for this. The Sixth Parliament has repeatedly highlighted that its goals are to strengthen oversight and public participation. This makes it necessary that the Strategic Plan investigate this in its totality so after the reconfiguration of their duties, Committees can complete their work. The volume of work of the Sixth Parliament is unacceptable when various offices are under-resourced. The goals that Parliament seeks to achieve must be aligned with the resources of its various offices.

Ms N Mahlo (ANC) spoke about the improvement of members’ capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. How is Parliament going to facilitate the scheduled training and education of MPs in the current status quo? The evaluating and tracking of tabled laws needs clarification from Parliament. How will the passed laws and regulations be passed to the public? Parliament specified its two policy priorities as strengthening oversight and public participation. It is necessary to consider MP capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide for adjusted outcome goals. The effectiveness of Parliament in dealing with corruption must be addressed by the Acting Secretary as it affects the current government and must be incorporated into the Strategic Plan. In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliament must address the prevalence of red tape and bureaucracy that hinders the implementation of community programmes and constituency work.

Mr J Julius (DA) asked for clarification on exactly what Parliament will do to reduce poverty, inequality, and unemployment. He noted the problematic nature of being unable to measure the reduction in these key areas and the inability to track the progress of Parliament in achieving its goals. In performing their oversight function, Committees must be required to come back to Parliament with implementation ideas based on what was learned during oversight trips and meetings. What do we want from oversight?

Ms D Mahlangu (ANC), Co-chairperson, asked for clarification on how Parliament will provide support to MPs as indicated in the presentation. MPs were previously assessed by their own parties, but it is a good move towards ensuring accountability and transparency allowing Parliament to assess what MPs have achieved during their term of office. This will ensure that we can assess Parliament’s progress in achieving its impact and outcome goals. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliament was told that it was not part of the budget allocated by National Treasury when allocating department budget funding. However, now that the MPs and the Parliamentary offices are relying on technology to perform their duties, there are significant savings in expenses. How is Parliament going to contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic interventions? President Ramaphosa announced a budget aimed at relieving the impact of COVID-19. These funds are coming from departments, MP contributions and various other constituencies. How is Parliament contributing from its budget? She recommended procuring tools of trade (such as laptops) for Parliament officials, including secretaries, to allow them to conduct their work.

Mr Singh requested the Acting Secretary brief the Committee on the current situation in Parliament pertaining to the staff. How many staff members are at work and how many are at home? How many are gainfully employed? Are staff members coming to work provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them from infection?

Ms Mahlo requested the Acting Secretary provide a road map towards the achievement of the impact and outcome goals of the Strategic Plan. It is not clear exactly what Parliament will do to achieve its goals. The Strategic Plan milestones must afford the Committee an opportunity to hold the Executive Authority accountable in its implementation.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) thanked the Acting Secretary for the presentation and noted the difficult circumstances under which it is presented. In 2001, the Parliament budget constituted 0.164% of total government expenditure. In 2010, it rose to 0.2%. In 2019, it was 0.15%. This shows that the finances of Parliament have deteriorated with respect to that of the entire government. We must sympathise with the Executive Authority that they are operating under such conditions. However, the demands remain for Parliament to maximise its small allocation so that it can have a better outcome. In principle, the Committee supports the Strategic Plan because it is anchored on the NDP that outlines its goal is to improve the quality of life of the people of South Africa. Parliament must ensure that the goal is achieved by exercising strong oversight functions over the Executive and the emphasis must be placed on combatting corruption.

Mr Radebe said that it is problematic that the Strategic Plan does not outline how corruption will be addressed. We know that Parliament cannot hosting the Committees to discuss the Strategic Plans and APPs of the departments. How is Parliament going to mitigate this factor? He restated the idea of moving Parliament to another province to save on expenses. Out of the R2.2bn budget, only R240m is left for the operation of Parliament. The usage of these operational funds must be maximised. Will it not be better to look at the alternative of moving Parliament to another province where better spaces and facilities are available?

Mr Radebe said that the pace of manufacturing and verification must be improved as well as the pace of trade with our external partners. Our biggest trading partner in the world, per region, is the European Union. He expected the Strategic Plan to include clear guidelines on how international relations will be improved. Are we going to deepen the relationship between the South Africa Parliament and the People’s Congress of China? Are we going to deepen the relationship between the South Africa and European parliaments? The Strategic Plan only mentions Agenda 2063 when referring to the African continent, which is insufficient. Nothing was said about the tools and measures the African Union will use to expand trade within Africa, specifically the use of the Africa Continental Free-Trade Agreement. No mention is made of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum and how we will engage with them. He agreed with Mr Singh that it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of Parliament in reducing poverty, inequality, and unemployment if it does not deepen its international relations. He noted the Chief Whip of the majority party is recognised as the NCOP Chief Whip. When is the Chief Whip of the majority party going to be recognised as the NA Chief Whip? Constituency offices must be sufficiently resourced to ensure that the Strategic Plan reaches its goals.

Ms Dlakude expanded on the comments made by Mr Radebe. MPs are expected to represent their people. Parliamentary money is used to go out and learn about best practice but the implementation of this is lacking. How will Parliament address this concern?

Ms Tyawa replied that the Strategic Plan was built from the input of MPs on what they would like to see covered in it. We pulled together the document by conducting a SWOT analysis and considering the NDP. When you consider the NDP, SADC and the other forums referred to by Mr Radebe, it gives the Committee an indication of the type of environment that MPs will be operating in. The Strategic Plan reflects what the MPs said Parliament must pursue in the next five years. The APP will outline the specific indicators, the targets, the allocated budget and frequency of reporting measures. The APP is currently in its development phase which the Committee can use for the purposes of oversight and accountability. The APP is built on the completed Operational Plan of the various divisions. The deliberations on the APP has been concluded, and divisions are now compiling their Operational Plan which then breaks it into bits and pieces as needed by the MPs. The APP is the document that will expand on the Strategic Plan in the way requested by the MPs.

She brought to the Committee's attention that questions on MP salary and benefits do not fall into the purview of this mandate. Therefore, she is not able to speak to those matters. They should be referred to the dedicated Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers tasked with that mandate.

On the problem of Parliament under-funding , the Minister of Finance will be coming to Parliament to present an adjusted budget after the already tabled budget is passed by both Houses. She noted that the advantage of the APP is it is a living document adaptable to change that provides for unforeseen circumstances.

On indicators of poverty, inequality, and unemployment reduction, a baseline will be established using household surveys and other forms of measurement. The oversight exercised by MPs will determine if promises made have been delivered on. Parliament must ensure that MPs are provided with accurate and relevant information to empower them to track the progress and exercise their oversight duties. Officials must ensure that they unpack these indicators so that MPs can report on them and relate how they have exercised their oversight functions. MPs will then report based on data that explains that indeed a budget was spent on a certain population of people in poverty. It is at the APP level and through the Operational Plan that the granular details of the Strategic Plan implementation will be available to MPs.

Parliament’s relationship with National Treasury is strong and engagements are underway to establish the Treasury Advisory Office which will assist Parliament with the question of underfunding. There are still offices and mandates that are underfunded, but Parliament will be using its core budget to ensure the running of those offices. Even though Parliament asked for an adjusted budget, it was not granted last year.

We do have a pandemic business continuity plan presented to both the NA and the NCOP. It looks at the current business of Parliament and makes it work better and faster in this worst environment. We continue to update it. This document outlines how MPs and other staff members must come to work. The only staff members that come to Parliament currently are those involved with the conducting of the internal audit. There is a wellness team available and records are kept of the individuals that are screened when they enter Parliament. The wearing of masks and the implementing of hygienic practices are paramount. In the last week of April 2020, a services provider was contracted to conduct an environmental cleaning and sanitising of Parliament. Staff members were provided with masks and other available PPEs. A procurement process is underway to obtain more masks and PPEs to assist Parliament in ensuring the safety of its staff members. The temperature of staff members will be taken and a record kept. The division managers and NA and NCOP Chief Whips have the responsibility to ensure that Parliament is informed of any individual entering the precinct. Any person that presents with a fever or other threatening indications related to COVID-19 will be referred to the Cape Town Medi-Clinic for testing.

It is the responsibility of the NA and NCOP Committee Secretaries to ensure that there is rationality between the two Houses of Parliament for the joint oversight requirement so there is no repetition of briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Tyawa replied about Parliament’s measures to support MPs in their oversight, public participation and constituency work. What Parliament needs to do is structure the substantive content and information that is shared with the MPs for them to do effective constituency work. There is a need for a public participation unit within the administration to assist MPs in combining aspects of public relations, public education, and communications to ensure better structured and content-driven programmes. Parliament needs to improve what it provides to MPs when they conduct constituency work. The Secretary to Parliament must receive a record of all the Parliamentary Constituency Offices (PCOs) including their physical addresses. Parliament must also increase the knowledge of the public on PCOs and how to utilise them.

On the effectiveness and preparedness of Committees, the NCOP Committees have started to develop their APP and Operational Plan activities and programmes which must then be budgeted for.

Mr Joe Nkuna, Acting Chief Financial Officer to Parliament, addressed the concerns about medical aid of former Members of Parliament. If Parliament were a business, we would be insolvent as we are at net liability. We have engaged with the three former Ministers of Finance to check the liability of Parliament to pay for the medical aid of former MPs. It has been agreed in the budget that this matter must be taken to the Speaker’s Forum for each legislature to take over the payment of medical aid of their former MPLs. Parliament will then be left with the medical aid payment of former MPs and not of provinical legislatures.

On political party funding, discussions between Parliament, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and National Treasury are underway to determine if this is an issue that must be addressed by Parliament as it is a very heavy financial burden. The allocations to political parties amount to R500m which places a severe burden on Parliament’s already limited operational budget and causes a shortfall in funds. Parliament is of the view that this should not be its burden as it is distorting their financial record and results in violations.

On the question of whether Parliament is part of the government’s budget, Parliament is part of the public sector department budget. Parliament has a good working relationship with National Treasury. This is shown by the fact that Parliament was scheduled for a 6% reduction in budget allocation (amounting to R133m) which was negotiated down to a mere 1% reduction (amounting to R33m).

Ms Tyawa responded to the concern about the review of the budget. The FMPA allows for where there are unspent funds that Parliament engage with the Executive Authority on how it should be spent. On its current needs, Parliament must invest in its ICT capital expenditure and extend the bandwidth of Parliament. The connectivity throughout the country remains a national issue. By the end of March 2020, all division managers were requested to identify the tools of trade resources they needed for their staff. Data and voice bundles have been increased for secretaries of Committees so that they are able to do their work, but it does highlight an area that needs an improved response from Parliament.

On the concern about the volume of work and the limited resources of Parliament; this must be provided for in the APP and the budgets of the Committees. The milestone of the Strategic Plan must afford the Committee an opportunity to hold the implementing Executive Authority accountable in this regard. The APP will provide quantitative and qualitative measurable targets.

On the need for the tracking of laws, the High-Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change and the Executive Authority noted that it is the work of the Committees to assess and evaluate if the laws passed by Parliament are impacting positively on the people.

She responded to the concern that the Strategic Plan does not reflect on corruption, by stating that when the APP is compiled together with the outcomes of the State Capture Commission, it will definitively say what Parliament’s role is in terms of eliminating corruption and upholding its ethical code.

On measuring the reduction in poverty, inequality, and unemployment, it is the duty of the Executive to provide information on the delivery of programmes. Parliament’s role relates to oversight and it cannot be that Parliament sits and only states that the Executive did not deliver. Parliament will provide Committees and MPs with empirical primary data through regular reporting that reflects the indicators of these three areas. For example, if a department states that it will create 10m jobs in an industry, then it is up to the MPs to say that they have tracked the progress and realise that the target was not met. Committees and MPs will then explore the issues that result from not meeting the target.

Certain courses and training programmes cannot be presented to MPs during the COVID-19 pandemic as it is dependent on people moving, and until the national lockdown is eased to Level 1, some programmes will not be implemented. However, short-term training programmes (such as speed reading and synthesising data) have been included in the strategy to be unpacked during the pandemic for MPs to benefit from. Ms Tyawa replied that it is the task of the individual political parties within Parliament to decide if and how contributions are to be made to the Solidarity Fund as announced by President Ramaphosa.

Ms Tyawa responded to the query on the potential relocation of Parliament to another province. Parliament may do its own assessment on its feasibility by considering the need for deeds permission, permits, and an economic impact study must be submitted to the Executive Authority, and a variety of other factors. This requires extensive engagements with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure which have been heavily delayed due to the disruptions of construction work being done at 90 Plein Street. There is room available that will allow for the facilitation of Committee meetings on the premises of Parliament on an interim basis, because it is unfathomable that we can even think of bringing in the discussion of the relocation of Parliament. However, it is important for MPs to be empowered by receiving the report from the Executive Authority on the findings of the socio-economic impact of relocating Parliament.

Multilateralism, bilateralism, and the tracking of international agreements will be addressed in the APP driven by the Operational Plan of the various divisions. The risks to the safety of the virtual connectivity and the security of Parliament’s information will be addressed and the State Security Agency (SSA) will be engaged in this process. Our ICT team sit on the Southern African Innovation Hub which is a forum of ICT managers across the Southern region. They are looking at the challenges of using virtual platforms to conduct the business of Parliament and have noted that one can never be 90% secure on virtual platforms. However, various parliaments across the world have begun developing their own applications to conduct their business, which are then signed off by their security agencies. This is what the ICT team are exploring as the new norm.

It is the purview of the administration to address the question on the Chief Whip and it will be submitted to the decision makers. Parliament will revise its Plan for 2020/21, depending on the effect COVID-19 will have on the institution’s operations and finances. Institutions have had to change how they operate because of the pandemic. Part of the Strategic Plan is aimed at sharpening the skills of MPs to engage the Executive and to make effective use of technology.

Further questions
Mr Singh said that he heard from a journalist that MPs over the age of 60 should not go to Parliament as they are more vulnerable to infection by COVID-19. Can the Acting Secretary provide us with information?

Ms Mahlo noted that the Acting Secretary said that most of the decisions compiled into the Strategic Plan come from the MPs. However, the implementation of our decisions will take fifteen years after the end of our term of office and we will not be able to hold them accountable.

Ms Tyawa replied that one of her team members will explain to the Committee the protocol in place for managing the movement of MPs on the premises. However, in terms of the COVID-19 Regulations, individuals who are older than 60 or have a comorbidity have an elevated risk of vulnerability to COVID-19 and adequate measures must be put into place for them.

In response to Ms Mahlo, she said that countries in the world plan for the next 30 years and then break it down into the medium term strategic framework. Chapter 3 of the FMPA provides for the development of a strategic plan after every election under the guidance of the Executive Authority and instructing the accounting officer to evolve and develop such a plan. Subsequently, an APP will be developed and submitted. Section 15 provides for the accounting officer to submit and present a draft APP to the Executive Authority. Each time the APP must have targets related to each of the performances. The specific performance target will have performance measures and indicators to assess the performance of Parliament in the five-year period. We come to the Committee on a quarterly basis and the Committee has the authority to request the Executive Authority to continue to track and see if the targets are delivered upon.

Mr Mpho Mokonyana, Executive of the Human Resources Management Division, outlined the preparatory work in place for colleagues and contractors coming to Parliament, include political party staff members. Parliament has worked with the divisional managers where, in terms of the requirements of Parliament, they identified essential staff members who must come to Parliament for various administration purposes. Before individuals enter the precinct, the wellness team conducts the COVID-19 fitness test on the individuals that involves a telephonic questionnaire to determine their risk factors, such as age or underlying health conditions. High-risk individuals are identified in this way and are not allowed to physically come to Parliament. Individuals who are not at elevated risk and can come to the premises of Parliament undergo screening and sanitising measures, and those who show indications of COVID-19 are referred to testing and self-quarantine if needed. This process is followed for MPs, parliamentary staff member, contractors, SAPS officials, and political party staff. This is a daily process of preventative measures.

At Lockdown Alert Level 3, a maximum of 80% of Parliament’s administration staff can be on the premises, but it is dictated by the needs of MPs. Parliament still encourages employees who can work from home to continue doing so.

The number of people in the precinct of Parliament from 4 to 8 May were: three nurses, one doctor, two colleagues, 32 members from protection services, 34 from household services, 37 from SAPS, 26 from Human Resources, and eight other people. In total, 150 employees were on the premises last week.

Chairperson Mabe requested the Acting Secretary to Parliament to respond to in writing to the MP questions that she did not have time to answer. The meeting was adjourned.


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