Committee legislative mandate; activities & implementation of recommendations

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

24 February 2023
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament met on the virtual platform to receive a briefing on the legislative mandates of the Committee and a briefing on the Committees activities from 2019 to 2022. The Committee thought it had to re-assert its authority and engage with the Executive Authority of Parliament to monitor the progress on the various aspects of the operation of Parliament and perform a better oversight function.

Committee Members expressed general concern about the lack of progress on restoring the buildings in Parliament. They said that this limited the parliamentary functions that could proceed in person and forced most businesses to be carried out online. They decided to engage with Parliaments Executive Authority, the Minister of Finance and the presiding officers of both Houses to account for how they spent the R180 million budget allocated for the restoration. One Member hoped that restoring Parliament would be a project that would remind future generations of South Africas history.

Committee Members also voiced their concerns about the Minister of Finance bypassing this Committee and readjusting the budget allocated for Parliaments operation. They viewed this as undermining the authority of this Committee and pointed out the many grey areas where this Committees work overlapped with that of other portfolio committees.

Another issue that was raised was the breakdown expenditure of s194 committee. A Member expressed frustration over the difficulty of getting a detailed breakdown from the Speaker of the National Assembly. A Committee Member also complained about the lack of interpreters in Parliament, especially in NCOP sittings. The Member emphasised that having sufficient interpreters was a key aspect of ensuring participation as only then could people understand the discussion and engage meaningfully.

The Members agreed that they should take a firmer stance to deal with those who did not implement or respond to the Committees recommendations. They said the presentation showed that most of the recommendations were ignored. They suggested developing a metric to help the Committee monitor the progress of implementing its various recommendations.

Meeting report

The Committee acknowledged the apologies of Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape), who was ill, Mr N Singh (IFP), who had some other parliamentary business and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga), who had lost a family member.

Chairpersons opening remarks
The Chairperson said that the meeting had been convened immediately after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the budget speech because there were a few things related to the operations of Parliament that the Committee had to discuss in the meeting.

The Chairperson reflected on the previous year and stated that the significant restoration of Parliament was being undertaken and that work had been done even during Parliaments recess period.

Presentation by the Content Advisor/Researcher: Legislative mandate/role of the Committee
Mr Hlekiso Mbuyiselo, Committee Researcher, briefed the Committee on the legislative mandates of the Committee.

He emphasised that the mandate of this Committee was to oversee the financial management of Parliament.

He highlighted the key issues of the Committee's operation. Those included the lack of regulations on financial management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2009, neglected policy matters, and not all key recommendations being implemented by Parliament.

He outlined Parliaments key legal and institutional frameworks, stakeholders and operational instruments.

He also noted that the authority of this Committee seemed to decline compared to the previous Committee. As evidenced by the parliament fire incident, he observed that the Committee was struggling to perform its oversight role over the damaged site.

See attached for further details

The Chairperson repeated that she thought this Committee had done a fairly good job in improving those targets for compliance. However, she admitted that a lot of work still needed to be done. She remarked that the fifth Parliamentary Committee might have only adhered to those targets pertaining to the Public Finance Management Act whilst ignoring the fact that this Committee was governed by different legislation.

After that, she invited Members to speak.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) concurred with the Chairperson and said that the Committee must work with what resources were available.

Mr Radebe spoke about the Committees oversight role on the reconstruction of the parliament building after the fire incident. He admitted that the Committee had faced some difficulties in that regard. He indicated that the critical role this Committee could play in its oversight in this instance was to call the parliament secretariat to report on the progress of the reconstruction and report on how it had spent the adjustment budget of R180 million allocated to deal with the issue. He stressed the vital importance of ensuring the executive authority to account for their actions.

Mr Radebe expressed his concern that the Minister of Finance should not have the authority to bypass the Committee and readjust the budget for Parliament because this Committee has the sole mandate of overseeing adjustment budget of such a nature. The issue has been bothering the Committee since 2019. He argued that such a decision creates unequal power between organs of state as Parliament is one part of the organ of state. Therefore, he proposed to the Committee that the Minister of Finance had to be summoned to the Committee to also explain the matter.

He strongly urged the Committee to resolve the issue as the term of this Parliament was approaching its end and asked the Committee to re-assert its power to pass it on to the next Parliament.

Mr Radebe said that the issue of the parliament fire could be seen as the silver lining” that should inspire the nation to build a people-centred parliament that reflects inclusivity and aspirations of all people in the country so that future generations would know the history of this country.

Ms O Maotwe (EFF) welcomed the presentation, especially on the slide which referred to the budget and Annual Report of Parliament. She said she felt more energised when the presentation highlighted the importance of interrogating the accounting officer on the budget. Thus, she asked what the Committee should do to deal with an unresponsive executive authority. For instance, she mentioned that this Committee had written to the Speaker of the National Assembly on 2 December 2022 requesting to know the amount of funds spent on the s194 Committee [inquiring into the fitness of the Public Protector to hold office]. So far, no response has been received. The Committee then sent another reminder to the Speaker again asking her to attend to the matter. In light of that, Ms Maotwe wanted to know what the Committee could do if that information was not forthcoming. She emphasised that the public had a right to know how Parliament spent its budget.

Since she noticed that the Parliament Secretariat was also on the platform, she asked the Secretariat how much funds had already been spent since the commencement of S194 Committee, how much Adv Bawa [evidence leader] was being paid daily, and how much she had been paid to date.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) endorsed Ms Maotwes view on s194 and said  it was a blurring grey area. She recommended that straight line overlapping of the work of various committees should not be allowed and that point needed to be included in this Committees legacy report to the seventh Parliament.

For instance, some Members had complained about the lack of value addition for the support they had received in the previous committee from the Acting Secretariat. She said she now started to notice the improvement in work that Parliaments researchers provided. It showed that Parliament was taking the Committees input and was finding ways to improve itself. She applauded Parliament for that aspect.

Ms Lesoma suggested the Committee researchers work with the Content Advisor to develop metrics in a table that monitors the progress of all the recommendations that Members had raised in meetings.

Ms Lesoma stated there should be recourse if the Executive Authority did not take Membersrecommendations seriously and incorporate those inputs into action plans. She believed that it was time that Members should make the recourse loud and clear and perhaps even not approve the budget should the executive authority fail to oblige the Committees recommendations.

Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) pointed out that the issue of communication on slide seven had been raised a few times in the plenary. The issue of communication specifically referred to the challenge of interpretation in Parliament. He wanted to understand why Parliament often did not have sufficient interpreters to be present for the NCOP sittings, whether it was a lack of manpower issue or those interpreters were attempting to neglect their duties, etc. He highlighted the importance of having interpreters in sittings so that everyone was able to listen to the language they understood the best. Thus, he suggested the Committee ask the person in charge of this function to come to the Committee and explain.

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) said that the presentation had given an account of how the Committee had been established and developed. He said that currently, the Committees mandate, as its name suggested, only included the financial management aspect of Parliament. However, he also observed that the Committee was sometimes involved in some grey areas that fell outside the scope of its work as defined by its name. Therefore, he asked if the name of the Committee should be changed to include those grey areas.

Mr Qayiso endorsed the idea of the metric that Ms Lesoma had proposed.

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) concurred with Mr Radebe that the most fundamental issue facing this Committee was ensuring the proper functioning of Parliament. He said that at the moment, only one third of Parliament was functioning. He remarked that working in the Good Hope Chamber was not ideal because it did not accommodate all Members. Consequently, Members were working remotely on Zoom and members of the public still had no access to the National Assembly sittings, which he said was neither right nor acceptable. In the first meeting of this Committee in 2023 today, he would have expected that Parliaments Secretariat, the Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP would all be on the platform, which did not seem to be the case. He wanted to understand how the R2 billion would be spent on the reconstruction of Parliament. He stressed the urgency to restore Parliaments function to its full capacity, which should include not only the National Assembly sittings but also Committee meetings as the Zoom platform was inadequate for conducting certain parliamentary business.

Mr Brauteseth urged Parliaments Executive Authority to come to the Committee and account for their work. He said that his recent trip to Egypt and Germany had left him impressed by how those countries could build bridges in three months, whereas here in South Africa, the reconstruction of Parliament still had not been done a year after the fire despite the funds being readily available. He urged Parliaments Executive Authority to take action and get the construction work started.

The Chairperson noted Membersconcerns and suggested scheduling a meeting next week to get a clearer picture of the finances and spending around that R180 million.
Mr Mbuyiselo told Mr Qayiso that the Act did not need to be amended, nor did the name of the Committee need to be changed because the Act itself was sufficient to provide legal mandates for any activity which the Committee undertook. The issue at stake was about the regulations because the regulations were not made by this Committee but rather by the Standing Committee on Finance which had not received briefings from this Committee and would naturally lack knowledge of what this Committees needs were. Hence, he highlighted that it was important to link policies as well as the effectiveness and implementation of policies. Since the budget was determined by policies, Mr Mbuyiselo advised the Committee to evaluate value for money in relation to the policy.

Presentation proposing key recommendations to be pursued in 2023
The Content Advisor presented the key recommendations to be pursued in 2023 to the Committee.

The presentation included the Joint Standing Committees recommendations to Parliaments Executive Authority and the recommendations that came from the Zondo Commission.

The Content Advisor pointed out that the Committee had made over 100 recommendations to the National Assembly and the NCOP. The vast majority of them had not been responded to. Further, the adoption of recommendations seemed to be faster on the NCOP side. The Content Advisor highlighted a number of key recommendations including the filling of critical vacancies, organisational re-alignment project, compliance with the FMPPLA, public participation, Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy, Parliamentary Budget Office, performance management, parliamentary medical scheme, and budgetary constraints.

The Content Advisor then presented what the Zondo Commission had recommended Parliament do. Particularly, sufficient funding had to be guaranteed to ensure effective parliamentary oversight.

Finally, the Content Advisor outlined the decisions which were yet to be taken by the Committee. Those included its approval or amendment of items emanating from previous recommendations; approval or amendment of the JSCFMP Action Plan, and tabling of its draft Annual Plan on 17 March 2023.

Overall, Mr Radebe agreed with the recommendations in the presentation.

He suggested deferring the meeting on 24 March to 4 April because it was close to Human Rights Day. He also said that the co-Chairperson should be consulted about the new date. He believed it was an important meeting where all stakeholders should be present.

Ms Lesoma welcomed and accepted the year plan and understood it was a work in progress because some dates might change depending on the circumstances.

She said the meeting with the Parliamentary Budget Office would help address Mr Brauteseths concern about how the allocated expenditures were being spent. She also suggested inviting the Auditor-General to get a clearer idea of the audit timelines.

She said that she had heard, although she could be wrong, that Parliament was entering into a tripartite MoU with the Department of Public Works and implementing agencies on restoring buildings in Parliament. Therefore, she emphasised that it was crucial for this Committee to figure out how to play its oversight role.

She reminded the Committee to understand how the Chairs of Chairs operated in terms of supporting the issues raised by this Committee in its upcoming engagement with Parliaments Executive Authority. She stressed the importance of having a clear working relationship with that office to better support Parliaments operation.

That was Ms Lesomas final remark and it ended the Committees discussion on the presentation.

Since there was no quorum at this point in the meeting, the Committee agreed to postpone the adoption of the Committee reports to the next meeting.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would engage with the Executive Authority on the restoration of the buildings in Parliament and on the letter which Ms Maotwe had sent to the Speaker for an update on the expenditure of the S194 Committee.

Ms Lesoma proposed that the Speaker should also give a presentation on the expenditure of the S194 to this Committee.

Mr Brauteseth asked for the Committees indulgence if the meeting could begin at 8:30am as his flight from Cape Town only landed in his constituency at 8am. That half an hour could give him some time to log in.

The Committee agreed that 8:30am would be fine.

The meeting was adjourned.

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