Committee Report on Parliament’s Q4 2022/23 Performance; Study Tour Report; Committee Programme

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

15 June 2023
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC) and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary


Tabled Committee Reports

The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament discussed its study visit to France and Belgium in an effort to increase its involvement in the budget process and learn how to rebuild Parliament.

The goal of the study was to collaborate with their international counterparts to learn how to actively participate in the budget process and play a significant role in budget scrutiny. The objectives of the tour also had to be in line with financial scrutiny of the best practices in relation to a parliamentary system, in which the budget is appropriated by Parliament.

Because of their experience with budget scrutiny, which the Committee wished to implement, nations with a Francophone system in their Parliaments, such as France and Belgium, were the best to learn from. The Francophone Parliament executes clear budget changes to address political issues, improve political discourse, and enhance the role of Parliament in the budgeting process. It also has greater impact over budget appropriation. In contrast to the Westminster system, which originated in the UK Parliament and was the same system South Africa had adopted, Hlekiso stated that the trip would primarily focus on the Francophone system.

A Member said financial management encompasses both planning and spending. Therefore, he believes both should be prioritised, and study tours should be made to England and France if the study demonstrates that the Westminster budget is good at expenditure and the French are excellent at budgeting.

The purpose of the tour was also to learn from the incident that resulted in the Notre Dame Cathedral being destroyed by fire in 2019 and the French government's financial inspection. The trip could serve as a blueprint for South Africa's approach to repairing its own Parliament in Cape Town after a fire badly destroyed it.

Members generally felt these visits would allow Members of Parliament to actively participate and assist in how they advise on what needs legislation reform. The Chairperson suggested further enquiry into whether there will be value for money from these visits to ensure that the final recommendations reflect the empowerment that will come from these visits.

The next Committee meeting will cover the specifics of the trip date, the destinations, and other information.

The Committee’s Report on Parliament’s performance in the fourth quarter of 2022/23, dated 15 June, was also considered and adopted.

Meeting report

Proposal for Committee Study Tour
Mr Mbuyiselo Hlekiso, Committee Researcher, took Members through the high level proposal for a study tour. He spoke about the objective of the study tour having to align with the mandate of the Committee, to prioritise financial scrutiny over policy. Parliament has no clear budget cycle, although the Act says it should. In the absence of the budget process, the Committee cannot actively participate in the budget scrutiny of Parliament. As a result, the two Parliamentary systems had to be compared: Westminster and the Francophone system.

He said that the Committee should look into visiting the countries that deal with budget scrutiny. The purpose of this paper is to ensure that the Committee learns the best practices from the countries that deal with budget scrutiny. Francophone countries deal with budget scrutiny better than Westminster countries, but they struggle with spending scrutiny. Hence, the proposal that the Committee visits France because the Francophone system originates from there and a lot can be learnt from there.

For instance, France faced the same incident in SA whereby the Notre Dame cathedral was burnt and the cause is still unknown – similar to South Africa’s Parliament. Visiting France could help understand how they dealt with the restoration of the cathedral. The Committee should also visit Belgium because it is not far from France, and it should also use the Francophone system.

[See presentation document for more details]

Mr B Radebe (ANC) appreciated the extensiveness of the report and pointed out that Parliament is expected to table the issues of regulations around the law governing Parliament finances and legislatures. “With the Francophone system, we should note that we are located in Africa, which is why it would be ideal to consider other African countries that are Westminster, because the strategic plan of Parliament has the constituency office at the base”, he said. The previous minutes show that there is no standardisation of constituency officer and now that is corrected because political parties run them. Parliament is about the people, and the logo of Parliament signifies how those offices must represent the people. The Westminster system is constituency-based, as in the case of Ghana and Uganda. It would be of interest to know how they fund that, so that there can be a better understanding when Parliament engages with the FinMin and can advise accordingly. Visiting Ghana or Uganda should be considered.  

Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) asked if the modus operandi of the Parliaments to be visited was similar to South Africa’s modus operandi. Are they more advanced to ensure that these visitations are beneficial?

Mr Brauteseth (DA, KZN) asked when the trip was planned for. He noted an emphasis on the budgeting expertise of the French and the Belgians, and an argument that Westminster focuses mainly on expenditure. Financial management includes both budgeting and expenditure. If the study shows that the Westminster setup is very good at expenditure, and the French are good at budgeting, then maybe the visits should be to England and France. The two countries are close to each other. There would be more value from the Westminster system, which is the basis of SA’s parliamentary system. Thereafter, the Francophone would be considered to see how it differs. The English system is based on the constituency system. All Members of Parliament are directly elected by their constituencies.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) acknowledged that the presentation was well thought out in that it appreciates the electoral legislative reform that mixes party representation and proportional representation in terms of region-based or constituency-based representation, as 2024 approaches. It is logical that, to learn from other countries, they should not be only because they are the best but also for comparison purposes. These visits would allow Members of Parliament to actively participate and assist in how they advise on what needs legislative reform. But there is a foundation. Other African countries have been conquered by other countries whose systems SA tends to mirror. The application [for the tour] should be made as soon as possible.

Mr Hlekiso indicated that those countries are better regarding budget scrutiny, but South Africa is far better with spending scrutiny because it subscribes to Westminster. There can be visits to the Westminster countries, but South Africa looks better regarding spending scrutiny because there is transparency in SA. The Auditor-General’s report is detailed and transparent, while other Westminster countries are not as transparent with spending scrutiny. It looks like South Africa is better than the UK, although SA lacks budget scrutiny. With the Francophone, the funding of constituents is unclear, which the Westminster countries can be visited for.

The Chairperson suggested that the question from Mr Moletsane be discussed further – the question on whether there will be value for money from these visits, to ensure that the final recommendations reflect the empowerment that will come from these visits, if any, and that the money that is approved is spent accordingly and that there is accountability.

Mr Radebe explained that learning is important, and the visits have value for money. Parliament must not be treated like a department, and its allocation must be better appropriated than that of departments. That is why Parliament’s secretary and executive authority have to thoroughly engage the Finance Minister, so that the budget of Parliament can reflect its mandate. The issue of constituency is an aspect that is lacking in South Africa. The Parliament's strategic plan shows that constituency offices are at the base and are expected to give input on national issues there. When dealing with the issue of public participation, the core business of Parliament was clear that there is no standardised constituency in Parliament. For instance, when visiting Kenya and there is an allowance for a car, MPs are also provided with cars so that they can service their constituencies. In Uganda, when dealing with the budget of Parliament, the minister, the speaker, leader of government business, leader of the opposition and some MPs are all involved and called a commission. The commission determines the budget of Parliament, which is new, and Treasury imposes the budget. With the current budget, the secretary admitted that there was a nominal increase in the budget of the constituencies. Parliament is expected to present the regulations on the legislation which can be crafted in such a way that Parliament is taken seriously.

Mr N Singh (IFP) supported the idea that these visits are for learning. He said that the key things to be learnt are budget control over Parliament, the allocation of resources to Parliament; the support for Members of Parliament in other countries – Members of Parliament get researchers and officers, and are well supported to do their work, which countries do that and how do they do that. This should be left to the co-chairs and one or two others to get the researcher to do more work on this and answer the question about the value for money. A meeting can then be held to take it forward.

The Chairperson agreed that more work should be done on the study tour and be approved so that formal engagements and preparations can be done, while also providing answers to issues raised.

Mr Brauteseth reiterated that the Westminster system in the UK is constituency-based. The best place to learn is from the UK Parliament to get a good idea of how it works. Thus, the visits should be to the UK and France. Is there any idea of the date?

The Chairperson stated that the ideal date would be around August.

Mr Radebe confirmed that the date would be around August.

The Chairperson said a special Committee meeting would be organised to discuss which countries would be visited.

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) was concerned about the timeframes, as submissions are being made on which countries should be visited. The presentation made a lot of sense, but timeframes should be considered with the new additions and submission.

Mr Radebe agreed with Mr Singh’s suggestion.

The Chairperson said that it would be resolved by Tuesday.
Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament on the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa’s 2022/23 Fourth Quarter Report
The report was adopted.

The Committee considered and adopted the minutes of a prior meeting and its programme for the next term.

The meeting was adjourned.

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