The purpose of the meeting was for the Acting Secretary and parliamentary leadership to brief the Committee on Parliament’s performance in the first quarter of 2020/21 and the draft 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan (APP) and budget. The meeting took place on a virtual platform.
Regarding its performance in the first quarter, Parliament reported that against the 16 indicators that were tracked for the first quarter, ten had quarterly targets that were measured, and six had annual indicators that were not tracked. Of the ten measures that were tracked, eight had met their targets. The overall institutional performance for the first quarter was 80%, but the Committee was told to bear in mind that the performance had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown conditions, with all employees and a majority of plenary and committee activities merging to online formats.
A budget of R536.3 million had been allocated for the first quarter, and Parliament had spent the full amount. The actual expenditure for the first quarter was regarded as the budget, as the business units had not yet been allocated a budget and could not provide the projections for the quarter before the start of business. The indications were that there would be a full spending of the R2.7bn annual budget by the end of the financial year
To adhere to the new guidelines, the draft APP for 2021/22 would have a different format than earlier plans. The programme budget structure would be changed to reduce the number of programmes from five to three. A Parliamentary budget shortfall of R84.44 million was projected. However, the budget could change drastically, depending on the financial situation of the country. The final audit report would be issued on 30 September.
The Chairperson condemned the late submission of Parliament’s annual financial statements. It was unacceptable to delay the Auditor-General’s work because the required documentation had not been submitted on time. Members expressed concern over their inability to complete their academic studies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clarity was sought on the actual expenditure in the first quarter compared to the current budget, and what the underlying assumptions were that the APP and budget had been formulated upon. Members urged Parliament to explore funding options to improve the television access of citizens to view the activities and meetings of the committees. They emphasised the importance of continuously saving money, to make it easier to balance the budget and eliminate having a budget shortfall.
Chairperson Mahlangu welcomed the Members and the Parliamentary delegation to the virtual meeting. The purpose was for the Acting Secretary to Parliament to brief the Committee on Parliament’s performance in the first quarter of 2020/21 and its draft 2021/22 APP and Budget.
Ms Cindy Balie, Secretary to the Committee, noted the apologies of Mr J Julius (DA), Ms N Mahlo (ANC), and Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State). She said the necessary quorum for the meeting was present, but that it may be necessary for the Committee to postpone the adoption of minutes and reports to a later date.
Parliament’s first quarter performance
Ms Penelope Tyawa, Acting Secretary to Parliament, said the briefing would focus on the performance of Parliament during the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year. The indicators and targets of the 2020/21 annual performance plan (APP) had been tabled on 31 May 2019, but an appropriate budget had been lacking. The final draft of the APP had been tabled in 2020 after revision of the budget.
Against the 16 indicators that were tracked for the first quarter, ten had quarterly targets that were measured, and six had annual indicators that were not tracked for this period. Out of the ten measures that were tracked, eight targets had been met.
The overall institutional performance for the first quarter was 80%, but the Committee must bear in mind that the performance was done in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown conditions, with all employees and a majority of plenary and committee activities merging to online formats.
A budget of R536.3 million was allocated to the first quarter. 45% of the budget could be used if it was not appropriated. For Programme 1 (Strategic Leadership and Governance), an amount of R 21.07 million was budgeted (4%). For Programme 2 (Administration), an amount of R 29.53 million was budgeted (5%). For Programme 3 (Core Business), an amount of R 126.37 million was budgeted (24%). For Programme 4 (Support Services), an amount of R 86.42 million was budgeted (16%). For Programme 5 (Associated Services), an amount of R 151.95 million was budgeted (28%). Other direct charges amounted to R120.96 million of the budget (23%).
The expenditure of the R536.3 million budget for the first quarter could be economically classified as follows: capital expenditure (R2.06 million), compensation of Members (R120.96 million), compensation of employees (R266.72 million), goods and services (R15.98 million), transfer payments (R124.18 million), and Members’ facilities (R6.39 million).
Parliament had spent 100% of the allocated budget. The actual expenditure for the first quarter was regarded as the budget, as business units were not yet allocated the budget and could not provide the projections for the quarter before the start of business. The indications were that there would be a full spend of the R2.7bn annual budget at the end of the financial year.
Programme 1 -- Strategic Leadership and Governance
All of the quarterly targets were met. The only positive variance was an increase in analytical reports. A total of 13 analysis reports were produced in the first quarter by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). Requests for reports from the PBO were driven by the work of Parliamentary Committees, which was challenging it to project in advance. The procedural and legal advice were provided within the required timeframe of seven days. The Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD) prepared detailed quarterly reports and weekly schedules to ensure timely communication and tracking of resolutions for seamless processing of matters before Parliament.
Programme 2 – Administration
50% of the quarterly targets were met. The target of implementing two programmes was not met. For the first quarter, no capacity building programmes were implemented as planned due to academic institutions impacted by lock-down conditions. The registration of Members for academic programmes at the University of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand were processed. The report on the implementation of the sector strategy outlined work towards improving the coordination and intergovernmental relations between Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures. During the induction of the Speakers’ Forum for the 6th term, the Forum had pronounced on the priority areas that the South African Legislative Sector (SALS) would be focusing on this term.
Programme 3 (Core Business)
One quarterly target was not achieved -- of having 94% of information available as per service charter levels. Overall, eight of the 13 sub-indicators had met the set target, with three exceeding the set target. Several challenges were experienced as a result of lockdown regulations that contributed to decreased performance, including illness, restricted permissions to work on precinct, unavailability of staff with co-morbidities, limited access to the precinct during the hard lockdown, a lack of adequate tools of trade for those working from home, and limitations of available technology. Both indicators had annual targets that were measured through surveys. In the first quarter, specifications for the survey and terms of reference were drafted.
Programme 4 (Support Services)
All of the quarterly targets were achieved. During the first quarter, the provision of information communication technology (ICT) and technical support enabled Members of Parliament and committees to continue exercising the functional mandate of Parliament under the nationwide lockdown through the implementation of key ICT interventions which had been critical in keeping Members and staff connected to key tools and systems which were ordinarily available onsite. While planning was under way to ensure the annual survey would be undertaken in the fourth quarter of the 2020/21 reporting year, the research findings of the 2019/20 survey had been presented to the management team, and the insights gleaned were being considered. Other considerations for the Sixth Parliament include a shift to deploying frequent measurement instruments, and for more immediate feedback from clients to continuously improve services throughout the reporting year. To improve the level of awareness of Parliament amongst citizens, the Parliamentary Communications Services supported the programme of Parliament as it pertained to the Houses and their committees, stakeholder management with both internal and external audiences, and maximised audience reach through publications and social media platforms. A Sixth Parliament communications strategy was currently under review.
Programme 5 (Associated Services)
All of the quarterly targets were achieved. The average turnaround times for claims had normalised to 2.31 days, as volumes had normalised after the election year.
Parliament’s draft 2021/22 APP & budget
Mr Ravi Moodley, Executive Head: Strategic Management & Governance, Parliament, said that the draft 2021/22 APP was the first forward-looking document since the finalisation of Parliament’s strategic plan.
The strategic planning had five key components -- policy development, policy planning, operational planning, focus on resource allocation, and the implementation modalities. The cycle worked in a way that the PBO must report back and evaluate the methods that were working.
With the inception of the Sixth Parliament, there had been quite a significant process, from the development of policy priorities to the tabling of the strategic plan. The development of the draft APP completed the process of strategic planning. The draft APP and budget for the 2021/22 financial year had been tabled on 12 June.
There were new governmental guidelines for strategic plans and the development of APPs, which included new methods of conducting strategic analysis and tools, such as SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) results-based management. These new guidelines created a better separation between strategic development (strategic intent) and the implementation modalities (strategic execution). The strategic plan focused on a 15-year impact goal and five-year achievable outcomes. There was also a heavy emphasis on adhering to the new requirements for operational plans.
To adhere to the new guidelines, the draft APP for 2021/22 would have a different format than earlier ones. The programme budget structure had been changed to reduce the number of programmes from five to three.
Programme 1 (Administration) would include the offices of the Executive Authority, the secretary, and corporate and support services.
Programme 2 (Legislation and Oversight) would cover the core business of Parliament, with an emphasis on public participation, external relations, and shared services (including legal advice and research).
Programme 3 (Transfers and Members’ Facilities) included the direct transfers, Members’ facilities, and transfers to political parties. The draft APP sets out clearly that there is a parliamentary administration, but also other offices that report to the Executive Authority, including the PBO, the legislative support sector, the Treasury Advice Office, and the OISD.
Parliament was a service-based institution, and had to implement measures that were useful to service-based industries. Client satisfaction feedback measures must be put in place to determine the usefulness of Parliament as a service-based institution. For example, it was not good enough to say that a research paper was done in eight days without investigating the true usefulness of the research. In the past, Parliament had started the process of doing client satisfaction surveys. The draft APP’s objective was to move all its service offerings in this direction -- of determining the value and quality of its services.
Key focus areas per programme
Programme 1 (Administration)
One of the key focus areas included the need to develop a new business model for parliamentary service, to address the future way of work. It was an important strategic imperative that Parliament’s core business was redesigned and optimised using technology and skills-based programmes. The current service office must be collaboratively integrated for Parliament to provide a holistic service, rather than separate services from various parts of the Parliamentary administration. There was the need to improve Parliament’s facilities, tools of trade, and policies around operating remotely. Parliament needed to become digitally mature and use technology as an integral way of conducting business.
Programme 2 (Legislation and Oversight)
The emphasis was on developing a shift towards prioritising constituency, committee and plenary sessions, while also incorporating joint committee and intersectional work. A new programme must be developed for Parliament. A key focus for the area of public participation was to emphasise public education and information programmes. There was a need to facilitate virtual public meetings in the form of e-hearings and e-petitions, to take public involvement to the technological stage. Parliament must also focus on improving cooperation with other partners and public stakeholders. It was necessary to coordinate the programmes of constituency offices to increase their efficiency and to consolidate the capacities of the various programmes and resources.
Programme 3 (Transfers and Members’ Facilities)
This emphasised the need for facilities and financial support of political parties. It was typically centred on funding, and did not have performance targets or indicators. It remained unchanged from Members’ facilities, administrative and constituency support, and transfers.
Political activities on institutional oversight
For the Sixth Parliament’s strategy to be successful, it was necessary to obtain inputs from Members as provided by the Parliamentary service, and to incorporate them into the draft APP. A plan was needed to measure the performance targets of Members in constituency committees and plenaries. The oversight plan focused on the activities that constituted service delivery from the Members.
Remarks by CFO of Parliament
Mr Joe Nkuna, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Parliament, said there was a parliamentary budget shortfall of R84.44 million. However, the budget could change drastically, depending on the financial situation of the country. If there were no improvements, the budget would be reduced further, resulting in the need to revise the budget in November, or after the adjustment budget was promulgated. The revised budget would then influence the APP for the 2021/22 financial year.
The audit process of the 2019/20 financial year would normally have been concluded by now. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had not yet been finalised. Parliament was supposed to have the audit report by 21 July. The first delay in the process was from Parliament’s side due to the late submission of its annual financial statements. The Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) was required to submit its audit report by 31 August, but had informed Parliament of its revised timelines. On 7 September, the AGSA would issue the draft management letter, and on 15 September the final management letter would be issued. The final audit report would be issued on 30 September.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) enquired about the completion of Members’ academic studies. Parliament and the relevant officials needed to provide clarity on why Members who were enrolled for courses at academic institutions could not complete them or could not register for courses.
Mr N Singh (IFP) asked what the actual expenditure in the first quarter was, compared to the current budgets. The Committee had expected targets not to be met because of the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were similar figures of expenditure, which also showed significant savings on the budget of R 536 million. If that was the trend, then they were looking at the fact that the pandemic had both benefits and disadvantages. A benefit was that the pandemic allowed them to catch up on balancing their budget and avoiding a shortfall unless there were significant additional expenses. R580 million was projected as the overall savings, but the presentation stated that 100% of the funds would be spent on international relations and protocols. How was it possible that all the money would be spent if Members were not travelling?
Regarding the 2021/22 APP and budget, the approach was exceptionally clean and neat. On what assumptions were these plans based, and how did the COVID-19 pandemic factor in? Were they assuming that all Members of Parliament would return at a certain stage? It was the assumptions underlying the APP and budget that would impact the plan to move forward. Regarding the annual financial statements, he enquired whether all parties had eventually met the deadline to submit their audited statements on the constituency allowances.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) agreed with the Acting Secretary’s suggestion on gauging the satisfaction of Members and employing a company to conduct the surveys. Internal survey processes should also be implemented, even on a quarterly basis. He suggested making the areas of public participation quarterly targets, instead of annual targets to ensure improvement in the area. It was disappointing that it seemed like there were no proposed solutions to address the issue of the Hansard service.
Regarding the screening of those who come to work, he suggested that the symptom checker method be shared with other sectors to supplement the protocol of screening employees for COVID-19 only by taking their temperatures.
The Committee should consider having an annual committee strategic planning session to develop its own strategic plan that it could use as a basis for oversight during meetings with departments. This would help the Committee plan how it conducted oversight and interacted with the leadership of Parliament.
When was the Treasury Advice Office going to be established? He reflected that research staff should not summarise documents, but should conduct in-depth analytical research that was of use to the Committee, and measuring the quality of these documents would increase the efficiency of the Committee. There should be a clear framework for Members on when and how they could source resources from researching institutions when there was limited research capacity within Parliament. Parliament could explore funding options to improve the television access of people to view the activities and meetings of the committees.
Chairperson Mahlangu responded to Mr Rayi’s comment on funding by stating that Members expected funding without conditions, to avoid being cornered.
Ms O Maotwe (EFF) said that the presentation had been helpful in engaging with the achievement of targets, but not in showing the actual expenditure so that Members could engage with the figures. What had the impact of COVID-19 been on the budget for the first quarter? She requested clarity on the nature of the overspending on the ICT target. The ICT surveys were welcomed, because it took time for Members to get their tools of trade, and if Parliament was more informed on the issue, it would enhance the work being done. Regarding the company that would be employed to conduct the survey, the EFF had submitted the financials at the end of May 2020 and had been well on time. It was unacceptable that Parliament had a part in why the issuing of the AGSA’s audit report had been delayed. Further clarity, and a line-by-line breakdown of what constituted ‘goods and services’ in the APP was required to avoid the potential for corruption.
She emphasised the point made by Mr Singh, and asked for clarity on what assumptions the APP had been based. The underlying assumptions must be outlined, and a plan must be put in place for how the associated risks could be mitigated. How would Parliament improve access to its activities and meetings for people who were not connected on social media, or who did not own television sets? While Parliament was moving to more technologically advanced ways of working, one could not exclude the citizens. Parliament should strongly consider having a dedicated South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) television channel to broadcast Parliamentary programmes. When was Parliament planning to make the move to the technologically-orientated future that it envisaged?
Chairperson Mahlangu condemned the late submission of Parliament’s annual financial statements. It was unacceptable to delay the AGSA’s work because the CFO, who was aware of budget cycles, and the PBO, had not submitted the required documentation on time. Various Members from different political parties were affected by the problem of not being able to continue with their academic studies. Parliament and tertiary institutions needed to engage and find a solution regarding online learning for Members. However, a decision should be reached only after consultation with the affected Members. She said there was a need for impact assessments to be implemented when policies or targets were put in place by Parliament.
Response from Parliament
Ms Tyawa agreed that there should be a separate meeting where the issue of Members’ training and academic studies was discussed, and where the strategic plan’s goal of continuous training was brought into play. Normally, Parliament would get the budget and then state its projected expenditure in the operational plans, and thereafter it would be necessary to reconcile actual expenditure against the budget. However, there was not a linear budget process. In the next presentation, the Committee would receive an analysis of actual expenditure against the projections, and Members would be able to engage with the underspending or overspending of Parliament, according to its budget.
The Committee would be provided with a cost breakdown of the goods and services, as it was available at an operational level. It contained a line-by-line breakdown of the costs of goods and services in terms of accommodation, transport, office expenditure, etc. Parliament had submitted a narrative of the APP and the underlying assumptions were outlined on pages 29 and 35. It had outlined the different potential scenarios and the implications of their associated risks.
The Parliamentary communication services were putting together a segmentation methodology that would look at how Parliament could reach rural communities and include them in Parliamentary activities and hearings. Parliament currently used the DSTV channel 408, various social media platforms, and even 79 community radio stations that reached between 15 and 20 million South Africans. The segmentation methodology would ensure that Parliament’s communication targets would be reached. Members should also consider using their constituency offices to become hubs of community communication, to reach the population of South Africa on a deeper level. There should be more political decisions around establishing integrated programmes to allow Members more flexibility in how to conduct their plenary, constituency and committee work.
Mr Moodley recognised that the frameworks from National Treasury did not go significantly deep enough into scenario planning, and Parliament needed to subsidise the planning process. Parliament outlined the narrative with several internal and external assumptions, and their rationale for inclusion. However, even if faced with significant changes, Parliament had a process of strategy review to make the necessary adjustments, depending on the circumstances. Assumptions were connected to trigger points that made it necessary to conduct a strategy review, and these assumptions were constantly monitored.
Ms Tyawa said that because they were working with the APP of the institution of Parliament, the strategy and governance unit was going to facilitate the various operational plans of the various divisional managers. In that way, the timelines of every target would be outlined, as well as the details of the various milestones. There was going to be a need for this Committee to discuss its plans regarding oversight, public participation and research.
Mr Nkuna said that when the 2020/21 financial year started, the Executive Authority had indicated the need for them to influence how the budget of Parliament was allocated this year. National Treasury had then communicated that there would be a special budget adjustment where they would reduce the budget for Parliament by R346 million, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through engagement with National Treasury, it had been agreed to reduce Parliament’s budget by only R80 million. The actual expenditure for the first quarter was regarded as the budget, as business units had not yet been allocated a budget and could not provide the projections for the quarter before the start of business. The indications were that there would be a full spending of the R2.7bn annual budget by the end of the financial year.
Mr Singh stressed the importance of continuously saving money, to make it easier to balance the budget and eliminate having a budget shortfall.
Mr Rayi emphasised the need to gather donations to expand the reach of the broadcasting of Parliament’s activities. The comments on Parliament’s videos and content on social media was unpalatable, and a handful of them were advertisements. He suggested an investigation into the possibility of decreasing the amount of comments that were not relevant to the activities of Parliament that were being broadcasted.
Chairperson Mahlangu responded that the Department of Communications and ICT could be engaged as specialists, to have people in place to manage the social media platforms and the comments.
Ms Tyawa said there was a team of people who had to manage the protocols around Parliament’s social media. Work was being done to establish a Parliamentary studio, and within the next six months there would be an update available on the potential training of Parliament’s own “stringers,” communication specialists and hosts. 10% of the work done by committees would be hosted. There had been a lot of progress on addressing the presence and footprint of Parliament with respect to unmediated communication.
Mr Brauteseth asked for the Committee and the Acting Secretary to make a commitment to set up a meeting in the next week to discuss the issue of Members who were currently unable to complete their academic studies.
Chairperson Mahlangu responded that they would set up the relevant meeting with the Acting Secretary and the relevant officials within the Parliamentary administration.
She added that the requisite quorum of Members was not present, so the adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting, the report on Parliament’s Performance for the first quarter of 2020/21, and the report on the draft 2021/22 APP would be postponed to the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.