The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament welcomed the presentation of Parliament’s Fourth Quarter report. Members were told that Parliament had been able to achieve 13 of its 15 performance indicators that had been considered applicable targets in the Fourth Quarter. R513 649 million had been spent of the allocated R604 249 million for the Quarter.
The members expressed support for the management of Parliament to fill vacant positions in order to address the instances of underspending in the Service. Members also urged that engagements with National Treasury over additional funding be continued, particularly in order for MPs to conduct more effective constituency work.
The Committee emphasised the need to ensure the awareness of Parliament across the South African population. This included suggestions that Parliament explore alternative methods for measuring the levels of awareness of Parliament among the population.
The Committee was informed that COVID-19 had required the administrators to be agile and get out of their comfort zones. It had shown that the best could be done in the worst situations. All division managers had addressed the needs of the staff, ensuring there were systems around them to assist in doing their work.
Co-Chairperson Mabe welcomed the members present from the Executive.
The meeting agenda was to deal with the briefing on Parliament’s performance in the Fourth Quarter of 2019/20. She asked members to move for the adoption of the agenda.
Mr J Julius (DA) informed the Committee that Mr T Brauteseth (DA; KwaZulu-Natal) had another meeting and had apologised.
Co-Chairperson Mabe agreed that the agenda had been adopted and moved to the apologies.
Ms Cindy Balie, Committee Secretary, read out the apologies and confirmed those present.
Co-Chairperson Mabe invited the Acting Secretary to Parliament, Ms Baby Tyawa, to take the members through the presentation. She congratulated Ms Tyawa on a successful holding of a meeting the previous day which had seen over 300 Members of Parliament logging in. It had been a success. It had also proven that the IT Department of Parliament was well-skilled. This was particularly important when considering the trajectory moving towards permanently holding meetings of Parliament through virtual platforms. She also wished to note that over 200 virtual meetings of Parliament had been held under lockdown conditions, which was a milestone in continuing exercise of oversight and adaptation during a difficult period.
She said the Fourth Quarter report would lay the foundations for Members of Parliament to know the future plans of the Legislature. This included how the activities of Parliament would be conducted, including budgeting, alterations, and support functions that Parliament played, going into the future.
She asked for any apologies from members of the Executive.
She thanked Co-Chairperson Mahlangu who was unwell but present in the meeting. The Committee needed at least five members to begin proceedings, so she asked Ms Mahlangu to remain with the meeting.
2019/20 4th Quarter Institutional Performance
Ms Tyawa thanked the Chairpersons. She said the Executive was aware they would be engaging with the Committee soon. A letter was being written containing measures to discuss workarounds for issues of timing and logistics presented by lockdown conditions. She said the Executive was in formal correspondence with Ms Balie on the matter.
She said the CFO of Parliament and the usual managers were present as part of her delegation.
Ms Tyawa said the report measured the performance of Parliament in the Fourth Quarter of the financial year ending on 31 March 2020. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) contained 16 performance indicators. 13 of the 15 applicable indicators for the quarter had been met.
Fourth Quarter Performance Non-Financial Indicator Snapshot
Targets that had not been met had been reported in the past. This meant Strategy Objective 1.3 on the number of programmes implemented had no Fourth Quarter target.
Budget Allocation per Programme
There were no anomalies in finances from the budget of R753 007 million for the Fourth Quarter.
Financial Performance: Appropriation Statement by Programme
There had been overspending in the associated services division. This had been addressed by moving unspent budget from other divisions to settle the variance, resulting in no over-expenditure.
Financial Performance: Appropriation Statement by Programme (cont…)
Associated services had spent 101% of the annual budget. The Service would be addressing this. Ms Tyawa said the CFO would be able to clarify this matter.
Budget Allocation by Economic Classification
The budget allocation by economic classification captured the direct charges of the Service, which included: transfer payments, capital expenditure, member compensation, the bulk was compensation of employees, and goods and services.
Nothing untoward was shown by the figures except for the amount of money still expected to be received for payment of the loss of office by members. The Service did not hold hope of getting the funds from Treasury, but nonetheless carried it as a direct charge debt in their books.
Financial Performance: Appropriation Statement by Economic Classification
Ms Tyawa said the slides contained explanatory notes and showed nothing untoward.
Programme 1: Strategic Leadership and Governance
The slide showed the various performance indicators and their outputs against the programme(s). Of the four indicators; three targets had been met.
Programme 1: Strategic Leadership and Governance (cont…)
The number of analytical reports per year’s reasons for variance and subsequent mitigation factors were that the increased performance had been seen as a result of the increased demand for PBO services by Parliamentary Committees. These demand-driven requests were difficult to project and often led to positive performance variances.
In the coming APP, the Service would not report on the PBO; they would be responsible for their own work.
Programme 1: Strategic Leadership and Governance (cont…)
Targets had not been met regarding turnaround times of strategic, procedural, legal advice, and support that were provided. The reason for this was that while all procedural and legal advice had been produced, in one instance it had not been produced within the stipulated seven-day timeframe.
The slides overall showed no red flags. There were seven instances where shifting of the Service’s budget had been required.
Programme 2: Administration
Programme Two had 100% target achievement of the indicator that had been measured. The second indicator had not been measured because it had been deemed not applicable due to it not being implemented because of the election.
The programme was the induction programme for Members of Parliament. This had not been scheduled for the fourth quarter but the second, therefore was not applicable.
Programme 3: Core Business
All three targets for Programme Three had been met.
The percentage of information available as per Service Charter levels had sub-indicators that measured the delivery levels of core business. This included legal advice, for example. The Service was focussing on improving the turnaround time with these matters to further increase performance.
The breakdown of the indicator measurement and strategic objectives showed generally positive performance with nothing untoward. Some areas had positively exceeded the performance targets.
The first column had been added following a request by the Committee for the financial performance per division to be shown for the term versus the annual expenditure to date. This allowed for matching projections against current spending to judge the variance, as well as cross-tabulation against annual allocations.
Programme 4: Support Services
Support Services had pertained to or contained too many annual targets. The entire programme stood at 80% performance.
Client satisfaction level was a performance indicator measuring the percentage of clients that were satisfied with service levels. This was an area using surveys.
The percentage of the population aware of the business of Parliament had dropped by four percent. The survey used to determine this had spoken to awareness of the public of work of Parliament. The measurement index had been changed, so that those who responded that they “Knew Parliament a little” had been excluded. This was due to it potentially being a disadvantage to include that number of respondents into the average target because it presented the potential distortion of statistics, leading to overclaiming. This changed output would better assist the Service in defining targets and clients through population stratification.
The percentage of universal ICT access of members and staff target had been met. It contained a positive variance. This linked positively with the 200 virtual meetings of Parliament that had been held, as well as the hybrid sitting. The objective reflected how the service could assist in the enabling of the business of Parliament. The continuation process would be targeted, measured and improved upon.
The expenditure outlined per sub-programme / division showed nothing untoward. Ms Tyawa said the CFO would expand on the financial performance figures.
Programme 5: Associated Services
Associated services was the area where the APP target would not be entered. It was a transactional process with money coming in and out. This meant it may not be fruitful to be projected into the future. It would be included in the operational plan in 2021.
The budget footnotes contained more detailed explanations of what the figures meant. Ms Tyawa said she could not think of anything jarringly concerning contained therein. She highlighted the inability of National Treasury to provide the Service with compensation for the loss of gratuity payments which had not been planned for.
Compensation of members was the spending that was shown. This included the loss of office gratuity that had been spoken about. There was an over-expenditure of R21 million. It would be indicated in the financials.
The spending on direct charges was R130 051 million which amounted to 87% of the fourth quarter budget of R 149 758 million. It amounted to 104% (R621 961 million of the allocated R600 518 million annual budget). The overspending for the financial year amounted to R21 433 million.
Ms Tyawa concluded the presentation and thanked the members for their attention.
Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked Ms Tyawa for the detailed, comprehensive presentation. She asked the members if they were still present and asked them to raise their hands for questions.
Co-Chairperson Mabe asked about slide two; performance by strategic objectives and the indicators. On the question of what percentage of the population were aware of the business of Parliament, since the Sixth Parliament had identified the strengthening of oversight and accountability as a critical priority, as well as the current situation under COVID-19 lockdown where it was not “business as usual”, people had to provide or use other means of relating to Parliament, meaning that indicator needed to be improved upon. If this target had not been met under normal conditions, how would it be met under the current circumstances? She noted that the Parliamentary channel was broadcast on DSTV channel 408. However, those without a DSTV subscription had no way of accessing the full Parliament activities. The only other time people were given the full chance to follow Parliamentary activities was to watch The View from the House show which followed The Morning Live show. This was a 30-minute show that did not provide a detailed account of what transpired in Parliament. People could not be subjected to spending large amounts of data or paying private institutions to get access to Parliament.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) appreciated the high-level presentation by the acting secretary, Ms Tyawa. She said more needed to be done on citizen education of the activities of Parliament. One example she pointed to was increasing public participation as an activity of that programme. More needed to be done to ensure value for money in those processes.
She asked for clarity about the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). The funds had to be counted somewhere. She had thought the PBO received money from the budgetary coffers of Parliament from the reserves and were governed by the Act. Where did the money account?
She appreciated the core service of Parliament providing members of Parliament with legal services and research. She said the usefulness of the content provided to members needed to be examined. This needed to be user friendly information for members to comprehend and take decisions from. Turnaround time for advice was easy to measure but the issue was how to measure quality assurance and performance of the advice that was provided.
There needed to be engagement with the matter of unfilled posts. This required an appreciation of the programme’s planned status and the estimations of when the vacant posts would be filled.
Other than these issues she had really appreciated the presentation. Other issues had been dealt with in previous meetings. These included issues such as looking at the face of Parliament. The meeting was scheduled with both the NCOP and National Assembly chairs. She looked forward to that engagement.
Mr Julius asked about the four percent drop in awareness of Parliamentary activities. How did awareness drop, people were either aware of something or were not? He said that maybe the measure being used to find the outcome was misdirected and that the questions in the survey may not be correct. He suggested using other measures to determine the result. He said that surveys were scientific tools with many benefits but could also be misdirected. He asked for an explanation for how the levels of awareness had dropped from 27% of the 29% target by four percent to 23%.
He drew attention to an issue from a previous meeting on core programmes. He did not see how the Service’s core programmes impacted on poverty, unemployment and inequality. Poverty, unemployment and inequality were the goals of the Committee, the Department and Parliament itself. Not seeking to address these issues was misguided. He said the Service should stick to the core goals of addressing poverty, inequality and unemployment in the core programmes.
Mr N Singh (IFP) thanked Ms Tyawa for the presentation. He asked about the awareness of Parliament. Parliament was often criticised by the public for not working or perceived members of Parliament as being lazy and loafing in their work. This period showed otherwise, with Parliament having held over 200 virtual meetings since lockdown began. This was exercising oversight of the Executive. However, “some colleagues and some political parties still said there was no oversight”.
On Ms Lesoma’s issue about vacancies which had resulted in underspending, which were the components of the organisation where the vacancies occurred? In legal services?
About the underspending on capital expenditure, when the members of Parliament returned to work at Parliament, he hoped to see that the work on the Old Assembly Building completed. He knew this was a matter for the Department of Public Works as they were responsible for the renovations.
He voiced concern that Ms Tyawa had not sounded confident on the matter of the outstanding R66.7 million from National Treasury.
He asked whether the Acting Secretary to Parliament (ASTP) had started working on what savings had been made in the past two months where, under COVID-19 lockdown conditions, there had been less expenses garnered by members of Parliament due, for example, to no travelling taking place.
On the fourth quarter spend on members facilities, he was unclear whether this was an over or underspend.
Co-Chairperson Mabe said Ms Lesoma’s hand was still up.
Ms Lesoma said she had omitted one point and asked if Ms Tyawa could respond whether, in terms of the tools of the trade, the department’s workers were able to conduct their work outside of Parliament. This could pertain to access to data bundles, for example. The ‘business unusual’ environment required a response to continue to be able to work.
Co-Chairperson Mabe said the target for the programme on institutions supporting democracy had never been met. Given the reasons for never attempting to do any work in regard to this target, what were the hindrances in achieving it? She asked for a commitment to see positive feedback on achieving the target in the next report.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) apologised for his late arrival. In terms of moving forward, he had not seen the Africa Agenda included in the presentation insofar as the strategic plans were concerned. A basis had been set about a role in Africa. This needed to be advanced through the work of Parliament and demonstrate internationalism on the continent. The strategic plan for this, moving forward, needed to be fast tracked. These had origins in the plans set by Kwame Nkrumah. They had been continued by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as the former ambassador of South Africa to the African Union. Parliament needed to ensure work being done and taken into the parliamentary programme was reinforcing these initiatives.
Ms Tyawa said she would share some questions with the CFO.
On the question of the percentage of population that was aware of the activities of Parliament and the platforms that were being used to spread awareness, she was aware of the impact of COVID-19 on people. The methodologies used may not be able to reach everybody. However, the benefits of surveys were that they assisted to strategize. This aided the Parliamentary Committee Services in a developing their strategies.
In this regard, they were linking with numerous community radio stations in an effort to connect to more of the population. With the current plan using links with 250 radio stations, they were likely to reach 11 million people.
She also said that Parliamentary Committee Services had been doing a lot. The YouTube and Facebook hits had increased substantially under the lockdown. This meant the strategy had to adapt in line with meeting these changing conditions.
On Mr Julius’ issue of the awareness of Parliament decreasing by four percent, she had explained that the indicator had been changed. The number of people who said they were a “little aware” of Parliament’s activities were no longer included in the measure of those who were aware of Parliament’s activities. This had resulted in the drop-in awareness reflected in the statistics. The advantage of this was not to perpetuate an imagination that more people actually knew the work of Parliament than was the case for once those who knew little of the work of parliament were added to the statistics, it could result in distorted figures which may not be trusted. She agreed with Mr Julius however, that “surveys were surveys” and should only be relied upon whilst remaining aware of their limitations. She said the Department was refining data collection techniques which would enter in the next APP. There had been a long conversation with core business on what measures would be introduced and ensuring these contained targets that could be measured.
Co-chairperson Mabe said questions on this matter had come out strongly in all the members’ questions. She wished to single it out and move in one understanding going forward. She checked if the members were satisfied with the response. She mentioned 11 radio stations where Parliament could be accessed, but this did not include the public broadcaster. SABC 1,2 and 3 were the best means where all people could access the activities of Parliament. This was where she wanted Parliamentary activities to be broadcast, not on a channel where monthly subscription fees were required. She said this partnership with the public broadcaster should have happened already.
Mr Qayiso said the Parliamentary Committee Services needed to be aware that the nature of South Africa’s population was such that it was working class. This meant he was referring to people who did not have sufficient resources. These people could be exposed to advanced information such as that which was dealt with at parliamentary level. This needed to be handled diligently so that each citizen could access the information very cheaply. Parliament had to move with speed and for Ms Tyawa to put the matter forward in future.
Mr Singh agreed that much needed to be done in terms of the relationship of the public broadcaster in terms of the accessibility to Parliament. He also wished to draw attention to print media and community newspapers for example. The members and the presentation had only spoken of electronic media.
Ms Tyawa thanked the members for the refinement of more questions around the matter. She had indicated how a strategy towards communication of the activities of Parliament had been developed. There had needed to be some segmentation, determining what parts of the population were consuming what forms of media, whether this was committee media releases, community radio station media, or commercial radios for example. What needed to happen was an agreement with the SABC on scheduled programmes that committee chairpersons could use instead of releasing printed statements after meetings. The detail would have to be dealt with in the committee strategy meeting with the Parliamentary Committee Services. Various platforms and locations had been discussed. These included various African language stations. Another would be the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) stream of SABC. Under the Division Manager, the strategy would look at expansion so the population was able to access information of the activities of Parliament, particularly over and above DSTV. Parliament is working with partners to implement a plan for the Legislature to have its own broadcast studio in the next three years. In the meantime, the platforms of community radio stations had been used.This communication strategy would be evolved for the next term to be looked at to reach the maximum population of South Africa through segmentation.
On Ms Lesoma’s question about the PBO, the amended Act had been reported to the Joint Standing Committee on Finance. The PBO reported to the Executive Authority. It had its own APP and targets and reporting. The PBO did not have a dedicated vote. The PBO received a transfer from Parliament’s baseline budget. Mr Singh had continuously raised the matter. Since arriving in Parliament in 2014, she had been submitting requests to fund the unfunded mandate. Usually, the amount was just transferred from the baseline. This was never adjusted to include the PBO. There had been discussions with the PBO, OISD, National Treasury, as well as the legislative sector, but Parliamentary Committee Services had not received any money. In 2014 Treasury would not have provided funds as the Service had still had unused funds. Until exhausting their own funding Treasury would not step in. It was now “crunch time”. Ms Tyawa did not foresee any baseline revision of the budget given the problems in the country. The PBO would continue reporting to the executive authority. Parliament would still reflect them in the financials as they were still carrying the budget. It was simply a transfer. Performance would be measured in the executive authority however.
On Ms Lesoma’s question on the usefulness of information provided to members of Parliament by the Parliamentary Committee Services, she said they were managing reporting on turnaround time. Members needed presentations on the usefulness of support provided. The measurement of usefulness needed to be shown. This was how members would give feedback on what information was received as members of Parliament, what information they were not receiving at the time and wanted. This would be reflected in the APP going forward. In terms of research committees, the matter was procedural, and the procedural modalities would be worked on in terms of measuring the usefulness. In terms of receiving feedback from members of Parliament, who were the users, this was important because the information that was provided that was not useful disempowered oversight.
On quality assurance, a division on SMG at the Service conducted quality assurance. This had shown indices of a quality of product production were required. The Parliamentary Committee Services were currently not in that direction. There was a lot of work that core business managers needed to craft. Whether this was done on a quarterly or annual basis, it was taken on board.
About the provision of laptops, there had been extensive requests for this, and division managers had done their work in sourcing the laptops. They were also ensuring the increase and augmentation of data bundle provision. The department was in the process of purchasing laptops. The need was widespread as, for example, the chef ordering food for members of parliament would need to do orders of the precinct to deliver food differently. There was a lot that COVID-19 had imposed and this had required the administrators to be agile and get out of their comfort zones. It had shown that the best could be done in the worst situations. All division managers had addressed the needs of the staff, ensuring there were systems around them to assist in doing their work. Where there were challenges, she asked her colleagues to speak to their division managers to voice what was constraining them from doing their work.
On Mr Julius’ question on the impact of Parliament on the reduction of poverty, this had been spoken to in a previous meeting. The department had shared a strategy map aimed at addressing parliament’s role in this. This had included targets and indicators such as the need for the reduction of unemployment and inequality for example. Parliament had to set targets by exercising oversight and moving budgets from one department to another to address the targets that it felt were key to addressing Mr Julius’ issues. These could be, for example, the reduction of South Africa’s Gini Coefficient or income poverty. The department had said this would be done in the previous meeting; the baselines were dictated by the members. It was up to the members to say how they measured parliament. This could be modelled, for example, on work done by organisations such as Afrobarometer which measured the work of parliaments in Africa.
Ms Tyawa said she would return to the question on the OISD after the CFO had spoken. She asked the CFO to deal with all budget issues from the questions, the matter of capital expenditure, the R66.7 million, the savings from COVID-19 lockdown, and the 150% of member usage facility.
Mr H Njuna, Acting CFO, Parliament, said there had been overspending of R214 000. There had been engagement with National Treasury. In 2019 Parliament had seen overspend on charges. A letter had been written to National Treasury to be refunded in terms of Section 23. There were no problems there.
The overspending on capital expenditure was correct. The problem was the timing of the report. Reports normally submitted to National Treasury were done on cash basis but Parliament’s finances were done on accrual. As a result, there was in fact no overspending as when the 2019/20 report was delivered in March 2020, the amount had not yet been paid. By April 2020, it would have been paid. Therefore, the finances done on accrual would not reflect the overspending.
Ms Tyawa, on the OISD not meeting the target, said work was being done in that regard. The policy advice turnaround within seven days had not been met. However, the work had been done. The question was whether there was a need to go back and bean count the days within which information was provided, or to ask Ms Lesoma’s question on the usefulness of information that was provided. For example, information being a day late could reflect the fact that it had needed more in-depth analysis and improvement of the quality in refining it which had required more time. This information was still useful even though it was not provided within seven days.
On the African Agenda question from Mr Qayiso, the Service was engaged in numerous bilateral and multilateral agreement arenas. In these environments, clarity was able to be sought on the expectations on reporting on Parliament under the international engagements. She sat in various bodies and reflected on decisions to be promoted. These included, for example, agendas to change the composition of certain international bodies to be more representative. She asked Mr Qayiso for more clarity on the question in order to address it in depth.
Co-Chairperson Mabe said Mr Qayiso should come in to elaborate.
Mr Qayiso said he was referring to the important activities that needed to be put and advanced through Parliament. This included working relations with African countries. There were a whole lot of issues enshrined in the 2063 agenda to be taken forward.
Ms Tyawa asked Division Manager Dumisani Sithole who was responsible for International Relations and responsible for PGIR to answer.
Ms Tyawa said the member was not at their computer. She understood the question was about aligning strategy with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2063, the National Development Plan (NDP) for example. This needed to be discussed with Parliament on how to align objectives. She took the suggestion on board.
Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked Ms Tyawa and asked if any members wished to follow up.
Mr Singh said it was important for the meeting with Treasury to take place at a political level to resolve the impasse of funds
His question on divisions in which vacancies occurred had not been answered. Which posts were these that had been frozen?
Ms Lesoma said she had connectivity issues. She picked up the introductory remarks of appreciating the work done in relation to virtual meetings. She thanked Ms Tyawa for the work that had been done.
She said the office needed to look at its relationship with PCOs and Parliament in terms of taking Parliament to the people. Public participation was important.
Mr Julius proposed closure of the meeting.
Mr Singh raised a point of order. He had not received his answers.
Ms Tyawa thanked the members for the positive messages and genuine criticisms that had been posed. These were meant to build up the Parliamentary Service. It was affirming. Nobody would have thought Parliament could pull together in the current environment. The work done by her office was meant to make the face of Parliament look good and they put effort into making sure they succeeded.
On the meeting with National Treasury, she agreed with Mr Singh. A meeting had been scheduled to be held prior to COVID-19 with the Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni. The last time they had been in touch had been prior to Mr Mboweni going into the House to present the budget. They had committed to having a meeting. There continued to be engagement with National Treasury and there was a good working relationship with their colleagues. The issue had to do with the condition of the country. She said it was at the lowest point. The discussion would therefore be forward looking on how to improve the situation, trying to reorganise ways of effectively using the budget. There had been savings from COVID-19 for Parliament. The question of what was to be done with them was important because the effects of COVID-19 would be around forever. There needed to be screening and tracking, the capacity for which would need to be funded. Another was ICT improvement that would need to be funded. The savings thus far that would not be used would be put toward to capital expenditure and ICT which had not received enough budget.
She said she would provide the Committee with the details of the vacancies and positions they pertained to. They had not been included in the report. The position of the Secretary was up to the Executive Authority to fill. Things had “been stuck” with COVID-19. They would need to be revisited. For example, the Chief Audit Executive of the internal audit team had resigned. The CFO position was also filled by an acting executive. Several senior positions for compliance matters needed to be filled. The CIO position had been filled. She would bring the Committee the status of the Human Resources report. Hiring for the filling of critical positions had been halted in the middle of the processes due to COVID-19. Working through virtual meetings would continue to fill the positions. This was a necessity as the positions had supposed to have be filled already. The department had to find a way of completing them.
She appreciated the members’ guidance and questions. The work could always be done better.
Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked Ms Tyawa. She wanted Parliament to reflect a high quality when it came to standards. She urged Ms Tyawa to uphold the strengthening of oversight, accountability and accessibility. This was what had been reported in the main details of the fourth quarter report. The matters would be accepted or declined in the various caucuses. She thanked Ms Tyawa for the commitment and overall support given to committees to ensure there was life in Parliament and to hold the Executive to account.
She thanked the members and said the Committee was never about politics. The members came in one spirit to promote accountability. She wished co-chairperson Mahlangu a speedy recovery.
The meeting was adjourned.
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