Introductory meeting with Secretary to Parliament, including situational analysis of the administration

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

25 August 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament met on a virtual platform with the newly appointed Secretary to Parliament. The Secretary presented a detailed situational analysis of the state of Parliament, identifying various risks and areas requiring urgent attention. Regarding the fire, it was reported costs estimates for restoration had been quantified and these will cost R389 million for Old Assembly and R990 million for the New Wing just for buildings (excluding furniture and ICT for offices and committee rooms).  

The Committee welcomed the appointment of a permanent Secretary to Parliament after years of effort to fill the position. Members enquired about the vacant posts in Parliament's management besides the positions of Chief Security Officer and Chief Financial Officer. The Committee asked about Parliament's engagement with Treasury on securing sufficient funding and resources to enable Parliament to execute its mandates. Members noted that the critical position of Registrar of Members Interests had been vacant for some time.

Members raised the importance of observations from the Zondo Commission on Parliament's work, notably oversight. The Committee needed to consider the appropriate financing of portfolio committees to ensure that Parliament's committees were delivering quality work. 

Other matters touched on in discussion included accessibility of Parliament's communications, intergovernmental coordination, legislation not dealt with, legal advice and staffing matters. 


Meeting report

The Chairperson announced that the meeting was officially open.

The Committee had noted the apologies submitted by Co-Chairperson D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga) and Ms S Gwarube (DA) as both were attending a Commonwealth Parliament conference. Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) submitted his apology as he had another commitment.

The Chairperson noted all the apologies and outlined the meeting agenda for the newly appointed Secretary to Parliament, Mr Xolile George, to make his introductory remarks and present his situational analysis on the state of Parliament to Members. Mr George took over the office on 15 June 2022.

The Chairperson invited National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to make her opening remarks. Unfortunately, the Speaker could not be reached on the platform.

Mr Mike Ramagoma, Special Advisor to the Speaker, informed the Chairperson that the Speaker was listening through his phone but she may have been struggling with some connectivity issue.

The Speaker then introduced Mr George to Committee Members. She informed the Committee that Mr George would be highlighting the various administrative, resource as well as human resource challenges of the institution in his presentation.

The Chairperson invited all political parties on the platform to comment on the newly appointed Secretary to Parliament.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) appreciated the work of the executive as well as the Joint Committee in ensuring the appointment of Mr George. He hoped that Mr George would have all the necessary support to carry out his work and ensure that Parliament was organised.

Mr Radebe expressed his joy at finally having a permanent Secretary to Parliament. As for now, the positions of Chief Security Officer and Chief Financial Officer are still vacant. He hoped that Mr George would be involved in the recruitment process.

The Chairperson asked Mr George to proceed with his presentation.

Situational Analysis Presentation By Secretary To Parliament

Mr Xolile George, Secretary to Parliament, presented the situational analysis of Parliament two months after he had taken over the office. The analysis highlighted his observation of the state of Parliament and matters that should be prioritised going forward. He expressed his appreciation and respect for the sacrosanct institution he would serve.

The areas that need urgent attention in Parliament are:

  • Implementation and operationalisation of the Financial Management Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act  (FMPPLA)
  • Fire incident- reconstruction, stability and restoration of Parliament Houses
  • Overhaul of the safety and security of the parliamentary precinct
  • Working relationships with the following key stakeholders: Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and National Treasury
  • Shortfall in the parliamentary budget
  • Filling of critical posts: Head of Security and Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Improve on facilitating and fostering co-operative governance and intergovernmental relations
  • Improvement on how Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO)- Treasury Advice Office and Internal Audit interphase with parliamentary administration
  • Reporting lines of the TAO, PBO and Internal Audit
  • Empower the National Assembly (NA) to use the powers it has to amend the budget in terms of Money Bills
  • Improve coordination of sectoral engagements
  • Strengthen the interphase with other spheres of government -  particularly the local sphere
  • Work cooperatively and/or collaboratively with provincial legislatures on international engagements.
  • Improve systems and processes around delegation of authority environment
  • Rethink performance management framework to go beyond client satisfaction surveys
  • Improve coordination and collaboration between Parliament and the executive in determining the annual law-making agenda.
  • Enhanced law-making capacity, including legal drafting, research and advice into sharper focus.
  • The full value chain of oversight and accountability needs to be strengthened
  • Resolutions tracking mechanisms in the NA and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) should be improved and utilised optimally.
  • Streamline and centralise capacity building:
  • Leverage and tap on the resources of the new Legislative Sector Institute:
  • Improve on labour relations issues:
  • Improve the institution's nascent risk management architecture

Mr George provided updates on Parliament's engagements with the Head of Hawks on the investigation into the fire incident, with the National Commissioner of Police to identify lapses in Parliament's security system, with DPWI to discuss the repair of parliament buildings as well as with National Treasury to discuss the cost of restoration.

The presentation detailed the updates on stakeholder relations including with the Hawks, National Commissioner of Police and DPWI.

Fire update

  • Costs estimates for restoration have been quantified and these will cost R389 million for Old Assembly and R990 million for the New Wing just for buildings (excluding furniture and ICT for offices and committee rooms)
  • Parliament still needs to equip the offices, committee rooms and chambers to make them usable.

Further information was provided in the presentation on funding and alternative venue options for the work of the NA.

The following arose from the 2022/23 financial year:

  • Disruption of the work of Parliament
  • Inability to execute change management initiatives
  • Inadequate and ineffective public participation and involvement in the business of Parliament
  • Inadequate co-operative and sound intergovernmental relations
  • Ineffective inter-parliamentary collaboration
  • Ineffective oversight by Committees and the Houses over the Executive and organs of state
  • Legislation passed does not  meet constitutional requirements
  • Poor management of evolution of the organisation which results in structure of the administration of Parliament not aligned to both human capital capability and competency, as well as strategy
  • Inadequate accommodation for the work and support for the work of Parliament due to the fire
  • Insufficient financial resources to effectively fulfil the constitutional mandate of Parliament
  • Lack of environmental social and governance strategy
  • Ineffective implementation of the performance management policy and system may negatively impact the performance of the institution
  • Ineffective and inadequate support to Members of Parliament to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities
  • Non-compliance to obligations
  • Infectious diseases
  • The response to the impact of Covid-19 global pandemic accelerating the adoption of technology to ensure the work of Parliament continued
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Potential unethical conduct which may negatively impact Parliament and its reputation/image

See presentation for further details


The Chairperson, on behalf of the Joint Committee, welcomed Mr George into his new position. She then invited the Speaker to make a few remarks.

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said that she and the Chairperson of the NCOP were confident in Mr George's presentation. Although he had indicated certain areas in which he was uncertain, given his very recent appointment, the Speaker believed that having a vision is more important at this stage.

Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) enquired about the vacancies in Parliament apart from the positions of the Head of Security and CFO.

Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) appreciated Mr George's resolve that he would engage with different political parties on issues of Parliament.

Mr Shaik Emam noted the extension of contract with Mr [Dumisani] Sithole for another year despite the Public Service Commission's enquiry report indicating that the person did not possess the qualification, skill, or experience for the job. There had also been protests on Parliament's premises against Mr Sithole. Hence, he questioned, in the extension of Mr Sithole's contract, whether the executive authority had neglected the will of the people.

Mr Radebe indicated that for Parliament to strengthen in areas such as oversight and accountability, public involvement and international forums, sufficient funding would be needed. The Zondo Commission had pointed out that Parliament had lapses in its oversight. The Committee needed to consider the appropriate financing of portfolio committees to ensure that Parliament's committees were delivering quality work.

Mr Radebe emphasised the necessity of good preparation before committees embarked on oversight visits. However, providing comprehensive reports prior to that would require extra resources. Given that medium term budget would happen soon, he needed assurance from Parliament that all processes and engagements had been followed within Parliament and with National Treasury to ensure everything was ready for running once the budget was tabled.

Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) clarified that many concerns raised by Members in the discussion require collaborative inputs from multiple stakeholders, including the executive authority.

Mr Rayi asked whether Parliament had its own mechanism to measure the reduction of poverty, inequality and unemployment other than the data provided by the executive branch of government.

Mr Rayi notified the Committee that the critical post of registrar of Members' interests had been vacant for a long time.

Mr Rayi noted that a centralised supervision system of committee staff in Parliament was lacking, which should be addressed. Often it would appear that content advisors, researchers, and committee secretariats, had their own bosses in the Committee to whom they reported. Mr Rayi suggested having a collaborative discussion with all relevant stakeholders in attendance to develop a more streamlined and centralised supervision system.

Mr Rayi expressed concern that Members would often encounter difficulties with the contradicting information provided by different legal advisors in various divisions of Parliament. This often led to difficulties for Members to make decisions on legislative pieces.

Mr Rayi noted that many bills had not been attended to in Parliament, which is also an area of concern.

Mr Rayi highlighted the lack of coordination between legislatures of different spheres of government. The issue becomes more prominent during committees' oversight visits. When a Committee arrives in a province, there is often no coordinating and organising committee in that province to receive them and provide the necessary guidance and assistance.

He supported a resolution tracking mechanism raised by Members consistently in the past.

Mr Rayi understood and fully endorsed public involvement in the law-making process. But Channel 408 [on DSTV] is not accessible to ordinary people. Although Parliament had agreed to follow up with the negotiation with SenTech, Members were not being updated with the latest development of that negotiation. He wanted that to be done so that ordinary people could access the activities in Parliament.

Mr N Singh (IFP) emphasised the issue of ensuring sufficient constituency offices for Members so they were capacitated to do their oversight work.  


Mr George acknowledged the utmost urgency in filling the vacant positions in Parliament. As he joined the institution, he had been informed that Parliament would be undergoing a review of its organisational structure and operational model. As the process unfolds, Parliament would then determine which vacant positions were more urgent to be filled. Those urgent vacancies would affect Parliament's strategic pillars and commitments in Parliament's Annual Performance Plan. Also, those vacancies need to be assessed on whether or not they are still needed for the operation of Parliament.

Mr George informed the Committee that there were 222 vacant positions in Parliament, of which 27 positions were at different stages of being filled. Mr George guaranteed that he would review those positions to ensure that there would not be unnecessary delays that would result in detrimental impact on Parliament.

Mr George responded to the issue brought forward by Mr Shaik Emam on a Parliament employee and the various allegations against that employee. He explained that given his recent arrival in the position, it was quite difficult to determine what position to be rid of, etc. He informed Members that he had renewed two positions at the senior level. One is for strategy and governance and the other for international relations. In his opinion, both positions are instrumental to the operation of Parliament's work. Both renewals are one-year period.

Mr George agreed with Mr Radebe that there is a need for much more structured funding for Parliament to discharge its responsibilities. He also noted the recommendations from the Zondo Commission on how Parliament should conduct its work and make its own assessment. He guaranteed those issues would be factored into Parliament's discussion with National Treasury. Parliament is pleading to get more funding from Treasury. One of the issues to be noted is that Parliament's budget is for the whole country and when the budget is presented, the total budget to the country could be roughly estimated at R2.3 trillion. That budget has to be effectively overseen by both Houses of Parliament. But that would also require sufficient support which Parliament should be able to provide to Members to oversee and account for the spending of the funds.

Mr George agreed with Mr Rayi and indicated that the operational model, currently being reviewed, would assist as part of Parliament's macro-design to ensure the interface between procedural officer and content officer at the level of central coordination is not creating misalignment. The management of Parliament would also deal with issues as soon as they surfaced so that there would not be unnecessary delays in addressing those issues which undermine the work of Parliament.

Mr George guaranteed that he would take the contradictory legal advice issue to the secretaries of both Houses. The issue requires Parliament to distinguish at what stage advice should be considered of a procedural nature or a content nature, if there are instances where procedural advisors venture into content advisors' space or vice versa.

Mr George noted the comment on the large number of bills that have not been attended to, but he needed to consult with secretaries of both Houses to find out more details on the nature of the issue.

Mr George acknowledged the importance of working with provincial legislatures and emphasised collaboration in inter-governmental relations and oversight.

Mr George noted the resolution tracking system and indicated that Parliament would review and consider how the matter can be operationalised. A concrete timeline would be provided to Committee on how Parliament planned to improve this matter.

On Channel 408 and people's lack of access, Mr George admitted that he did not have sufficient information to respond to this but would confer with the Head of Communication to get more input.

Mr George had not yet read the report for the training workshop for Members, but he would source it from Parliament's business unit and go through it. He commented that it was now the opportune moment to engage with Treasury on the business of Parliament, given that a fire had broken out earlier this year and the damning impact as revealed by the Zondo Commission report on Parliament's oversight work.

That concluded Mr George's responses.

The Chairperson thanked Mr George and indicated that this is an ongoing process. She also appreciated all the inputs that Members had made.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting. 

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.

Share this page: