In the presence of the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the Committee met with the Administration of Parliament to be briefed on the annual report of the legislature for 2022/23 on a virtual platform. The Speaker said she was generally happy with the way Parliament was discharging its functions. Although there was room for improvement, the ninth consecutive clean audit was commendable. The fire in Parliament created a lot of instability but operations continued to run.
The Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) also briefed the Committee on their audit findings. It reported that Parliament improved their controls for reporting on performance information and thus, no findings were identified.
Parliament’s Administration then presented the Annual Report, reflecting on performance of the institution’s core functions for the year under review. They reported 100% of performance targets for 2022/23 were attained, clean audit for 2022/23 (9th successive) and restoration of buildings were proceeding well with completion of planning and preparation phases.
Committee Members probed a variety of areas of the performance of the institutions and raised concerns on matters such as unanswered questions by the Ministers in the NA and NCOP, questioning accountability and consequence management in this regard – they said “Parliament was held accountable for their actions all the time; why was the same not being done for the Executive?” Members wanted answers on the high salary of the Secretary to Parliament (STP). It was agreed a report on the matter would come before he Committee before the end of the year as a priority item. Members were concerned about some areas of performance of parliamentary committees, especially concerning public participation and oversight visits. It was agreed that the Administration would provide the Committee with a report on public hearings in the provinces and oversight visits of specific committees and areas of failure. Other questions related to parmed, allocations to political parties, legislation not passed, monitoring performance of the provincial legislatures and appointment of a Registrar of Members Interests.
Members sharply raised the expenditure of the restoration of Parliament and progress made. The Committee resolved to hold a meeting dedicated to an update on this matter at the end of the month.
Chairperson Mahlangu said she looked forward to welcoming the Springbok rugby team as they made their victory tour around the country. She mentioned that the Committee was pressed for time and asked that each person be aware of this when giving a presentation or commenting. She welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Speaker Opening Comments
Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Speaker of the National Assembly, said she would not be present for long because she had to catch the bus going to Parliament, to receive the Springbok team. [The network was unstable but PMG has tried to capture as much of the Speaker’s comments as possible].
She thanked the Committee for the invite, even though the meeting took place weeks later than scheduled.
She was generally happy with the way Parliament was discharging its functions. Although there was room for improvement, it was important that money allocated to Parliament was well-spent. The institution did well with public engagements and stakeholder engagements. Operations ran smoothly regarding consultations with pieces of legislation and she was confident they could sort out such issues.
The fire in Parliament created a lot of instability but operations continued to run. She mentioned the issue of transferring funds from Parliament to political parties - this matter had not yet been entertained by the two arms of state; the Executive and the Legislature. Said funding stemmed from the baseline of the budget of Parliament. She felt there should be a direct transfer to the parties rather than a baseline. This was very concerning. Parliament had been engaging with National Treasury to make the suggestion of direct transfers to parties. The changes impacted the work done by Parliament.
Although the institution could do better, she was happy with the audit report. The chief vacant posts had now been filled - this was important. Parliament was more than just an arm of the state - there should be an agreement on how to spend the money allocated to them.
The restitute process was underway and there was a way for Members to continue with their work. They were taking baby steps and doing well to meet the deadline of the restoration date. She then asked to be excused to go and catch the bus.
Chairperson Mahlangu echoed the Speaker’s comments and allowed her to depart early from the meeting.
Ms Sharonne Adams, Corporate Executive, Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), took the presentation.
In 2021/22, the AGSA recommended:
• Parliament to strengthen the control environment supporting the system used for reporting on indicators for predetermined objectives.
• Parliament to perform a detailed review of its property, plant and equipment located in the Houses of Parliament impacted by the fires of 2 January 2022. Parliament committed to notify the AGSA when access to these buildings is granted for management to rectify the uncorrected misstatement relating to property, plant and equipment included in the management representation letter dated 29 July 2022
Overall reflections on implementation of recommendations:
• Management has investigated a variety of statistical software and found a service provider which had all the functionality Parliament required, as well as the ‘mail collector functionality’ recommended by the audit office. Parliament procured an online subscription service which allowed them to track responses and ultimately address the deficiency identified in the prior year.
• Parliament appointed the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to spearhead rebuilding the buildings impacted by the January 2022 fires. The impacted buildings were in the custody of the HAWKS as it was an active crime scene. The buildings were handed over to Parliament in April 2023, which gave them less than two months to quantify the damage for the financial reporting period. Despite significant efforts by Parliament, a number of findings were still identified, thus some prior year matters relating to assets in the red zones of the burnt building remained unresolved, although not material and impacting the audit report. The matter is therefore still in progress
The presentation looked at the overall improvement in the audit outcomes of Parliament and the provincial legislatures – see attached
Parliament’s quality of financial statements
•Parliament submitted their annual financial statements on the legislated deadline of 31 May 2023. Although findings for the financial statements were identified and subsequently corrected by Parliament, these findings were not significant to the users of the financial statements. Majority of the findings identified during the current year related to property plant and equipment located in the buildings that were impacted by the fire. Management is encouraged to continuously monitor the rebuild process and implement adequate controls to ensure these findings do not reoccur in the next financial period.
•Parliament improved their controls for reporting on performance information and thus no findings were identified. It should be noted that the report on predetermined objectives was audited in line with the FMPPLA as there is currently no approved framework for Parliament and legislatures regarding the audit of performance information.
•No material findings for the subject matters scoped in for compliance with laws and regulations were identified for the 2022/23 financial period.
Annual irregular expenditure
•Parliament was able to recoup the prior year irregular expenditure incurred from the political parties.
•The main reason for the current year irregular expenditure relates to approvals not granted by the accounting officer for not obtaining three quotations per the procurement requirements of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (FMPPLA).
See attached for the financial health assessment and lived experiences.
2022/23 Annual Performance Report: Parliament
The presentation began by looking at the performance of the national legislature over 2022/23:
Parliament passed 28 bills last year, each serving a specific purpose in tackling pressing social and economic issues. Money Bills focused on the allocation of financial resources to support poverty alleviation programmes, employment initiatives, and inclusive economic growth
In fulfilling its critical oversight mandate and upholding democratic governance, both Houses held sittings dedicated to debates and sessions for making statements and asking critical questions on the performance of the Executive. There were 78 oversight visits by committees of Parliament
1 300 committee meetings were conducted, mostly focusing on monitoring legislation and scrutinising budgets and performance
In the past year, Parliament conducted 198 public hearings on various Bills. These hearings provided opportunities for diverse stakeholders to engage directly with legislators and contribute to the policy-making process.
•100% of performance targets for 2022/23 were attained
•A clean audit for 2022/23 (9th successive)
•Restoration of buildings proceeding well with completion of planning and preparation phases
Members were taken through performance over the past year regarding government interventions and international engagements – see attached
Restoration of Parliament
•A business continuity framework to minimise disruption to Parliament’s business;
•Assessment and quantification of damage and costs by various agencies;
•Adjustment of Parliament’s budget to include funds for the restoration project, resulting in over R 2 billion being allocated for the rebuilding of buildings, and R 118 million for unavoidable expenditures as a result of the fire and Covid-19;
•Partnering with the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) for the purpose of the project, including capacity development, technical support, and implementation of infrastructure projects; and the
•Near completion of the remodelling of 155 offices for Members in the 90 Plein Street building
See attached for Members' satisfaction surveys results and detailed performance information.
Mr N Singh (IFP) apologised for the background noise (the cheering for the Springbok team). He had two concerns. Had Parliament managed to finalise any discussions with National Treasury on the Parmed? The Committee would soon retire [as the Sixth Parliament ends], so they needed an outcome on the issue. Secondly, he and his party were concerned about the unanswered questions by Ministers in the National Assembly (NA). Questions asked in February 2023 were unanswered by certain Ministers in the National Assembly. What more could be done?
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) raised the contestation on the Secretary to Parliament's salary (STP) salary - this was ‘a large elephant in the room’. When would they receive a wholesome answer to the questions about the salary and an answer as to why the salary increased so rapidly? What were the ‘deals’ made behind the scenes which were not brought forward to the Committee? The matter was not discussed with the Committee but they were informed that the STP would now earn a massive salary.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) welcomed the presentation. It was reassuring to learn that the funds were being managed appropriately and Parliament had been given a clean bill of health.
There were certain priorities which the National Development Plan (NDP) required of them, and said priorities formed part of Parliament’s Strategic Plan, such as fighting inequality and poverty, among others. As the AGSA conducted its auditing, did it interact with the Committees of Parliament? Did the AGSA sample the Committees and interact with them to assess their plans? The work of Committtees needed to be more than just ‘ticking boxes’. The issue of public participation was a constitutional imperative, especially when it came to legislation. There were instances where public participation was very poor, such as with the Portfolio Committee on Transport when they handled the Railway Safety Bill. Could the STP provide a report in this regard, especially with the work done in the Free State? Did the public participation unit in Parliament do its job?
He was very happy with the oversight done by the committees, however the country almost suffered the embarrassment of nearly losing the right to hoist the South African flag and sing the national anthem [referring to the non-compliance by the South African National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADO) is a result of legislation not in line with the 2021 Code]. The Portfolio Committee of Sport, Arts and Culture said they conducted no oversight and they did not go anywhere - please would the STP provide a report on the number of oversight tours which said Committee did? If not, what was the reason for this?
The salary bill of Parliament was very high. The parliamentary staff was not public service staff - there should be a bargaining chamber to deal with such. What was the update on this?
He agreed with Mr Brauteseth on the issue of the STP’s high salary - he would not expect the STP to respond on this issue but he suggested that before Parliament rose at the end of the year, the Executive Authority should provide a full report in this regard. As legislators, they should carry out their duties.
Chairperson Mabe agreed they should request a formal report in the form of a formal meeting from the Executive. This was a priority item.
Co-Chairperson Mahlangu agreed with the aforementioned suggestion. They urgently needed answers. She welcomed the presentation. She welcomed the engagement between Parliament and Treasury. The Committee was concerned about the allocation directed to parties as it was taking away from the budget of Parliament. Additionally, how could the Committee conduct oversight in this regard to ensure that the Minister of Finance accounted for the funds?
She was greatly concerned about the appointment of the head of the Ethics Committee. Had Parliament yet begun the recruitment process?
Ms O Maotwe (EFF) echoed the comments about questions [to the Executive] which went unanswered. Since this was not the first time this was raised, what was the accountability and consequence management process for the Ministers who failed to answer questions? Parliament was held accountable for their actions all the time; why was the same not being done for the Executive? This was unacceptable.
The report stated that R2 000 000 000 had been allocated for the restoration of Parliament - how much of this had been spent to date? And was the spent amount correlating with the work on the ground? When was the expected date of completion, and how far was the progress in this regard? She asked because this information was not in the report.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) welcomed the presentation and said the Administration made great efforts and their hard work was appreciated.
There were resolutions taken on some of the legislation passed in Parliament - what was happening with those not yet passed? What were the issues in this regard?
She did not hear about the issue with Treasury, only that they were to meet with Treasury to find out what was happening. Parliament could not operate as a department; they were an upper arm to the departments.
She noted the legislative arm also comprised nine provincial legislatures. What were the monitoring and evaluation tools for said legislatures? They all needed to report to Parliament so that the progress reports could be assessed. She was not clear on this and asked for clarity. This would also assist in overseeing the municipalities to find out where they were failing and why. Failed service delivery brought down the dignity of Parliament. She was very concerned about this.
Mr Brauteseth mentioned that the [YouTube] streaming services for Parliament had been interrupted. This made it difficult for the public to follow the deliberations of Parliament - he requested a response from the STP. This was unacceptable.
When there was a cluster of Ministers answering questions the Houses, there was often a breakdown in the hybrid system when Ministers appeared online and were unable to answer questions. When would Parliament demand that Ministers appear before the House in person? The system was failing them if Ministers felt that they could not answer questions as it may threaten the security of the state. This should not be allowed to happen and they should establish the breakdown thereof.
Mr Brauteseth expected both Executive Authority figures to be present at the meetings - was the Speaker invited to the meeting? If so, why did the Speaker not attend the meeting?
Chairperson Mabe confirmed that the Speaker was indeed invited and present at the meeting and gave opening remarks; she was excused early with permission.
It was unfortunate that Ministers would choose which questions to respond to and which to not respond to; there should be measures to hold them accountable.
Mr Amos Masondo, Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), echoed earlier comments and said that he had nothing further to add.
Mr Xolile George, Secretary to Parliament, confirmed that the online streaming services had been fully restored, since 1 November. He apologised to the Committee that on 23 October 2023, when the services were terminated, it was as a result of an expiry of the contract rather than non-payment of a service provider. And it expired at a time when they thought supply chain services would be concluded. They were in the process of resolving this. He sincerely apologised.
On monitoring and evaluation of provincial legislatures, he said this would be an area worked on in the macro strategy framework. Two of the pillars spoke to building responsiveness within Parliament. They had already taken said strategy to the provincial legislatures through the Provincial Speakers Forum, and this was widely accepted and well-endorsed. They would invest in data collection to improve on oversight.
On restoration of Parliament, he suggested that the Chairpersons re-invite them before the Committee to provide a full account of where they were on the restoration of Parliament. They had not expanded on the capital amount for restoration. They were still in the design phase of the restoration. So far, they spent funds on technical work, designs and removal of rubble. The second area of expenditure was on offices for Members. The bulk of the expenditure would be spent once they started breaking down on the restoration. This would be a special focus at the next meeting.
On the finality of the appointment of the Registrar - this work was a priority and they would update the Co-Chairpersons and the Ethics Committee.
They had started the work on bargaining processes for employees of Parliament as a distinct arm of the state, in the domain of policies. They had a bargaining structure where legislatures all sat around this matter except the Western Cape province.
He endeavoured to produce a report on what happened in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Pretoria public hearings regarding the Committees who filed complaints. They were making interventions with intentions of improving.
The parliamentary Administration was working with Treasury on the matter of finalising the parmed issue. Their intention was to offload this matter from Parliament. They had requested a meeting with Treasury, and there they would discuss the budget of Parliament so that Parliament was empowered to give support where necessary.
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, responded on the issue of failing to respond to questions. In the NA, there were three steps which the Speaker followed. The first was to write to the Minister to ask for reasons, and the second was to appeal to the Leader of Government Business (LOGB) to intervene when there was no improvement. The final step was to reprimand. The Speaker was very concerned with the lack of responses to questions. She had scheduled a meeting with the LOGB to discuss the matter - but the date still needed to be confirmed. Should there be no improvement in this regard, then the next step would be to issue a reprimand in the House.
Legislation was dealt with case by case. It would therefore be difficult to give reasons for a Bill not being passed. Committees dealing with legislation could report to the House to say that they did not agree with the Bill. Bills which were still not passed before the upcoming election would lapse. Some situations were very specific.
Adv Modibedi Phindela, Secretary to the NCOP, said the matter which Mr Brauteseth raised on the proceedings in the NCOP fell on the shoulders of Members. If there was a need to amend the rules, this would be up to the House. A Presiding Officer could do anything regarding responses from the Ministers on certain questions. It was up to the Members to follow up on these issues. The questions were published for oral responses and if the Department was not happy with the responses, then they would approach the STP. In this instance, they received no word from the Department as yet. It appeared to him that this was how the Minister wished to respond to the questions which required her to share sensitive information with the public. The rules needed to first be amended before anything could be resolved; there was an NCOP Rules Committee.
Chairperson Mabe thanked all for their time and participation - they would reschedule another meeting soon.
Mr Brauteseth interjected to say he acknowledged that the Administration could not get involved, but surely a letter of caution could go to the departments from the Houses requesting the Minister to write to Parliament when he/she not in a position to answer questions? Perhaps the questions could be rephrased. He worried there would be no sanctions against the Minister who refused to answer the questions.
Mr Radebe agreed with what Mr Brauteseth said. If the Ministers had an issue with the questions, they should inform the Houses well in advance. It would be unfair to those who asked the questions and the public if the Minister simply refused to answer. Please could the STP work on this. Some matters were very sensitive. In certain countries, the issues of foreign affairs and intelligence were not even open to the public. He wished the Springboks and the Proteas well.
Chairperson Masondo said that if there were suggestions raised, this could be done on a separate meeting platform. Could this platform be used to raise any other issues? There needed to be limits in place.
Chairperson Mabe said the meeting on the restoration of Parliament would take place on 30 November 2023.
The meeting was adjourned.
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