Committee Reports: Parliament Strategic Plan & Annual Performance Plan; Quarter 3 & 4 performance

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

02 September 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC) & Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament (NA & NCOP)

Committee Report on Parliament Quarters 3 & 4 of 2019/20
Committee Report on Parliament Strategic Plan & 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan

The Committee Content Advisor went through the Committee Report on Parliament’s performance in the third and fourth quarters of 2019/20 and the Sixth Parliament’s Strategic Plan (2019-2024) and 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Budget. There were several recommendations that needed to be addressed. Targets should have been prepared on a quarterly basis instead of an annual basis, so that progress could be monitored efficiently. A crucial concern was the critical vacancies of Secretary of Parliament, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Treasury Advice Officer and Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). The accessibility of Parliament to the public needed to be considered, possibly through the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Parliament did not have the correct framework for strategy planning as the regulations required each programme have clearly stated objectives and outcomes. The inclusion of International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) stood to address these inconsistencies.

Meeting report

It was noted that the meeting could not proceed until more NCOP Members joined the virtual meeting as a quorum was needed to adopt the Committee Reports. Seven National Assembly (NA) Members were present, which was sufficient. Mr N Singh (IFP) said that he had to leave early. Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KwaZulu-Natal), who had been a part of another meeting that included Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape), joined the meeting to meet the quorum.

Committee Report on Parliament 2019/20 Quarters 3 & 4 performance
Mr X Mgxaji, Committee Content Advisor, said that the presentation for the third quarter and fourth quarter report from Parliament had been considered, after deliberations. One of the observations was that some of the targets were appeared only on an annual basis, not on a quarterly basis. It had always been emphasised that all targets should be broken down on a quarterly basis so that the Committee could monitor the progress. In the previous year, there was discussion of over-expenditure in the direct charges, which was due to loss of office payments and exit gratuities. Every quarter, this had been spoken about. There was the point about the critical vacancies, as currently Parliament did not have a CFO, PBO Director and Treasury Advice Officer, despite Parliament having said that they had initiated the process. Another finding was that Parliament did not have a television channel which could be accessed by the majority of South Africans on a free channel, such as SABC rather than on a paying channel as one of the targets of Parliament is for the population of South Africa to be aware of the activities of Parliament. These were the observations that the Committee was addressing in the Report.

Ms B Mabe (ANC), Co-Chairperson, said that one thing which might have been omitted was the appointment of the Secretary to Parliament, as they have had an Acting Secretary for a very long time. Was it reflected anywhere?

The Committee Secretary said that the appointment of the Secretary to Parliament and the CFO and all the other critical vacancies had been captured under paragraph 5.4.1 of the observations.

Co-Chairperson Mabe said that these were the main role players in Parliament, and asked for the point to be highlighted in red. The whole Committee, during the presentation of the Committee Report in plenary, should reflect and highlight that matter. The over-expenditure related to medical aid and gratuities for exiting Members of Parliament was also a call for concern. There had been no satisfying response on that, and perhaps Parliament had not initiated a meeting with Treasury, as had been recommended previously, to finally resolve the matter. The channel for ordinary members of South Africa would be an SABC channel, moving Parliament from a privatised broadcaster so that it could be accessible to all South Africans. She asked the Committee if there any other aspects to highlight or emphasise, before adopting the report.

Mr J Julius (DA) said in Paragraph 6.3 the Committee needed to look at the breakdown of Parliament and the nine provincial legislatures, and come to a conclusion about that to make it more affordable for Members.

Co-Chairperson Mabe asked if at some point the provincial legislatures could come and present to Parliament on their plans on how they would implement that.

Ms N Mahlo (ANC) said that the Co-Chairperson had been correct in saying that the legislatures needed to come and present their side of the story, so that the provincial legislature would take responsibility for the cost. She was in support of the idea that the provincial legislature come and present so the Committee could hear their plans.

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) said that in 5.4.1, the matter should receive a clear recommendation, because a concern was raised. It should be straightforward recommendation for the Secretary post to be filled, and it needed to be done within a short space of time. It had been a lengthy vacancy and, as the Committee was in charge, there could be no excuse for having a prolonged Acting type of situation for a very critical position in Parliament. It should be written in a straightforward manner.

Co-Chairperson Mabe asked Mr Qayiso to be specific, if he meant within this financial year?

Mr Qayiso replied that within the second quarter of 2020/21 was fine.

Co-Chairperson Mabe said that the end of September was too soon, and it should be documented for within the financial year.

It was agreed that it be written "by the end of the 2020/21 financial year" under 6.5.

Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) specified that it was not only the Secretary post, but all the vacant posts that were critically important and should be filled.

The report was adopted.

Committee Report on Sixth Parliament Strategic Plan; 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan & Budget
Mr Mgxaji said that the strategic plan for the Sixth Parliament had been considered the previous month, and the revised APP 2020/21 with the Special Adjustment Budget presented by Parliament in the previous weeks. One of the aspects raised as an observation was that the strategic plan in question had been drafted using the guideline for the implementation of the framework for strategy planning which was from the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). Parliament did not have a framework for the APPs which were being envisaged after Parliament had taken time to draft and adopt the regulations as required by Section 65 of the Financial Management of Parliament Act. Since the Committee did not have their own framework for drafting strategy plans for the APP, Parliament had opted for the DPME one.

Section 42 of the Financial Management of Parliament Act also outlined what should be included in the strategy. Mr Mgxaji said that he found the strategy plan which had been submitted to be inconsistent with the provision of the Act, in particular Section 42. Under each and every programme, there should be a straight objective. It should record the objective and outcomes for each programme. Another aspect was that risks were identified per programme, but there were no mitigation plans, for those risks which was also required.

With regards to the revised APP, there were to be five programmes to implement the APP. The 2020/21 APP and budget was submitted with three programmes. There could not be a strategic plan with five programmes, and then an APP with three programmes. Therein lay the contradiction. It would be much more relevant in the 2021/22 APP and budget, because in 2020/21, it was still the implementation of the old strategic plan, not the new Sixth Parliament one. The first APP implementing the new Parliament strategic plan would be 2021/22.

Mr Mgxaji noted the PBO was an office reporting directly to the Speaker of Parliament after the amendment of the Money Bills Act. The PBO did not have leadership as there was no PBO director and the Committee should have information about their plans. What had been highlighted was that there were offices like the PBO that would report directly to the executive authority, after the amendment of the Money Bills. A proposed plan for the PBO should be received as it was no longer to be accounted for under Parliament administrative services. It would be independent entity.

The other issue raised in the Committee Report on Quarter 3 and 4 was the Treasury Advice Office had still not been established. The television channel spoken about in that report needed to be considered.

The Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA) still had no regulations to implement the Act. The regulations required for Section 65 of the Act were so that the Committee could have its own framework to draft the strategic plan and APP. Officials should have had their own framework, as envisaged in Section 65. Parliament should expect the drafting of regulations in order to have a smooth running implementation of the Act holistically.

Co-Chairperson Mabe agreed that Parliament was regulated through FMPPLA, not the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), and if there was the desire to mix the two pieces of legislation, and use one where the Committee felt most comfortable, it could not happen, as that was illegal. There was the concern whether Parliament used the PMFA when it suited them? It was important to get an understanding of legislatures and how they operated, but for Parliament, the Committee should insist on drafting its own regulations. That would then guide the smooth implementation of that Act so there would be no contradictions as to what the Committee was responsible for, what needed to be done by Parliament, who did what and when.

Once the critical posts had been filled, whoever came in would then have to adhere to compliance with the legislation. If there were no compliance with legislation, there would be no way that the Committee would do anything right, hence the many transgressions and challenges.

The point was made about the risks being identified without a mitigation plan, the APP that was not in line with the strategic plan according to the number of programmes, the television channel, and the critical vacancies – these were all highlighted as concerns. Did Members have any further comments?

Ms Mahlo said that the slow decision-making processes and outdated policies could also be included as critical issues to be looked into. It was necessary to check which outdated policies needed to be taken into consideration, as well as the lack of proper charter. Inconsistency with the Act on the need for an objective for each programme should be taken into consideration. If one went deeper into the lack of consistency with the provisions of the Act, one could ask which tool was being used for Parliament. Although one could look at ISO, in Government it spoke about the languages that the standards needed to follow so that inconsistency could be reduced.

If one listened to the researcher, he spoke about the PBO which needed to report to the Office of the Speaker, nor did it have leadership in the PBO, and plan was supposed to have been submitted – which was a challenge to the Committee. The Committee needed to come up with a decision, on when and how this should have happened. How does the Committee then ensure that the PBO is operational?

Adoption of minutes
Co-Chairperson Mabe wished to mass adopt the minutes, as there were around 20 to get through.

Ms O Maotwe (EFF) said that she was not in the Committee from July 2019 and thus could engage not engage in the adoption of the minutes.

Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga), Co-Chairperson, said that the Member was allowed to remain part of the meeting for quorum, however Ms Maotwe would be unable to move or second. Secondly, the minutes should be followed page by page.

Mr Brauteseth agreed with Co-Chairperson Mahlangu, and said that the minutes had to be adopted one by one. There was no time to make alterations as that opportunity had passed, but it was important for the Committee to move through the minutes individually, and to ensure that the Members moving and seconding the minutes were in fact in those meetings at the time.

Committee Minutes dated 11 & July 2019; 27, 28 (am) & (pm), 29 August 2019; 5 & 11 September 2019; 9 & 30 October 2019; 6 November 2019 am) & (pm); 13 November 2019 am) & (pm); 4 December 2019; 10 March 2020; 12 & 28 May 2020; 28 July 2020 were adopted.

Co-Chairperson Mahlangu asked what informed the attendance register as there were names marked as present; however they had not been present, and thus this was a legal error. Some members might not remember.

Co-Chairperson Mabe said that the Committee needed to improve on working on outdated minutes, and that there should be a quorum for the Committee to be able to adopt minutes.

Closing Remarks
Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked the Members for their participation and took responsibility for the minutes. She requested that where a quorum was required, Members should prioritise the Committee as it was not often that a quorum was required. The Committee would attempt that the minutes be dealt with quarterly, so that previous minutes were not left for so long.

Mr Brauteseth understood about the prioritisation of the Committee as it was very important. However there had been another extremely important meeting on the Investment Infrastructure Plan which had to be missed due to the Programming Committee’s prioritisation of the current meeting. Those who did the programming should have considered the programme more efficiently, and not overlapped such important scheduled meetings.

Co-Chairperson Mabe said that most programming was approved in advance, unless there was a special request, as was the current meeting, as Members had to present reports on Thursday in plenary. There was always the consideration of Members of the NCOP, as without them, there was no other way to reach the quorum. There will be an improvement on the adoption of minutes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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