Parliament Quarter 3 2023/24 performance

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

01 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms B Mabe (ANC); Ms D Mahlangu (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee met on a virtual platform to be briefed on Parliament’s third quarterly performance for 2023/24. Members were taken through a detailed presentation on the performance. The presentation covered a summary of committee activity in the quarter under review including oversight visits conducted, statutory appointments, legislation, study tours and public participation.

The institution had met 71% of targets in the period under review.

The Committee was then taken through the financial information for the quarter.

The presentation briefly touched on upcoming matters for the institution.

Members asked about the voluntary severance packages, progress made on disciplinary hearings for suspended staff, and unanswered questions for reply by the Executive

Members also asked for more information on specific targets such as the review of support for constituency offices.

Concern was raised about unfilled and acting posts and a particular piece of legislation sent for meditation in 2021 but was still unresolved.

Meeting report


Opening comments:
Chairperson Mabe welcomed all to the meeting and outlined the meeting agenda. Thereafter, said agenda was adopted. She asked whether the Speaker was present in the meeting. She was informed that the Speaker was absent from the meeting, and so was the Deputy Speaker.

3rd Quarterly Report 2023/24
Mr Leo Sibanda, Office of the Secretary to Parliament (STP), then took the Committee through the presentation of the quarter three performance report. The presentation covered a summary of committee activity in the quarter under review including oversight visits conducted, statutory appointments, legislation, study tours and public participation.

The institution had met 71% of targets in the period under review – see attached for detailed performance per programme.

The Committee was then taken through the financial information for the quarter.

The presentation briefly touched on upcoming matters for the institution including:
-legacy report for Sixth Parliament
-transitional plan for establishment of Seventh Parliament
-revised Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Budget for 2024/25 and draft APP for 2025/26
-preparation of Seventh Parliament Strategic Plan

See attached for full presentation

Chairperson Mabe opened the floor for questions and comments.

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked what progress had been made in holding physical sittings (sourcing venues) in the Seventh Parliament.

He asked whether the voluntary severance packages were incentivised so that those eligible could retire earlier.

He asked for a list of the number of unfilled and acting posts. He recalled seeing the status ‘acting’ for several of the senior managerial posts and asked for the reason for this. He was concerned about this.

What progress had been made in the disciplinary hearings regarding the suspended staff? And were there any timelines to ensure that said hearings would be finalised?

Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) forewarned of his network issues. He welcomed the presentation. Progress was made with the targets, especially those previously lagging (broadcasting strategy, stakeholder framework), and he was happy about this. However, there was still room for improvement in others.

He noted the target for review of support for constituency offices was previously marked as green but was now marked as red and asked why this was.

Under ‘strengthening oversight and accountability’, in the National Assembly (NA), there were 132 oral questions and 122 responses. What happened to the outstanding ten? Similarly, with the written questions, there were 1 083, but only 702 were answered. 381 questions remained unanswered - what happened to these? With the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), all 47 questions were responded to, but not with the written questions, where 17 were outstanding. He asked for clarity on this.

Under strengthening legislative capacity; there was one Bill awaiting referral from the Mediation Committee. He was interested in this because he was involved with the committee concerned. This would be tabled under the NA Programming Committee, but there seems to be no progress made here. He recalled that the National Gambling Board was dissolved in the fifth administration, and the administrator was running this without any accounting authority. This had to be escalated to the mediation process, but it had not yet been triggered. He had been engaging the Secretariat of the NCOP on this. The Bill could not lapse as it had not yet been formally referred to the Mediation Committee; perhaps this process could be triggered so that the department would know what steps to take. New legislation could not be introduced while this Bill was still in limbo. The department was being held at ransom and he was concerned about this.

He was shocked by the number of reports which would be submitted to the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR) meeting taking place next week. There was always a large gap between the last and second last PGIR meetings. He suggested that they strengthen the focus groups for the Seventh Parliament so that the reports go directly to the focus groups and that they can be capacitated. There were also policy matters that had to go through the two Houses.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) welcomed the presentation and noted the improvement from the previous report.
She was interested in the expenditure and customer output on the ground, especially the learner performance of grade 12. This was a multi-pronged approach as there were other stakeholders who played a role here as well as environmental causes too. She felt that the STP was too summative in this regard and wanted to know what other factors impacted learners in this manner. They should look into what other departments and multi-disciplinary committees could assist in this regard (and she provided examples of such committees).

There was a certain Bill which was going through the NA and to the NCOP very soon, they could share the technical capacity among all spheres of government. They should also look into how best to utilise the services of the content advisor and researcher assigned to the committees. She made an example of a sitting that started at 10h00, where they only had three hours to engage on the issues, and the content advisor and researcher were not given enough time to present their work to the Committee. This was of concern. She recalled that the Chairperson (reference unclear) had previously said that even 30 minutes was not enough time to hear presentations from the researchers.

It was good the report delved into the study tours, but it was also important to note what value the study tours brought. She was mainly covered by Mr Rayi’s comments made earlier.

Mr Sibanda responded, confirming that indeed, there were incentives for voluntary severance packages. For any employee relief, there was an additional three months’ enhancement of their retirement to encourage uptake. Engagements had been had between management and labour, where labour suggested a ‘six-month sweetener’. This request was difficult to accommodate due to the limited resources. Discussions were underway on how to reach a compromise, especially in evaluating the human capital of Parliament. They discussed whether to de-emphasise capacity growth in certain areas and enhance it in others, which would eventually lead them to a digitised operating model. They collaborated with labour on how to end the suffering of workers and how to improve Parliament.

The Committee would be provided with a list of “acting” and unfilled posts. Upon enquiring about the duration of ‘acting’ posts, he discovered that officials had been ‘acting’ in Parliament for 8 to 9 years. This was disturbing. These were much-needed positions such as the Registrar of Members’ Interests, - to date, the post has been vacant for seven years. This was being prioritised and along with other managerial areas. Vacancies had been filled in the security and finance (CFO) departments. An ad hoc committee was set up to ensure that all positions were filled. In line with policy, someone else was appointed to “act” and fill the position as an urgent intervention. The matter was being treated with urgency.

On suspended employees, Adv Zuraya Adhikarie, Chief Parliamentary Legal Advisor, responded by saying there were 12 matters which they were proceeding with, of which nine were suspensions and three disciplinary matters had been completed. They awaited the outcome by 10 March 2024. One matter was being placed on hold due to the person being ill, and 11 other matters were being proceeded with. There were delays because of the closing of Parliament and other individual delays, too.

Mr Sibanda responded that the work on reviewing resources to constituency offices was underway.

He heard that the mediation committee seemed not to be effective and alternatives were being reviewed to ensure a smooth running of the department. His colleagues may respond to this.

They would be able to assist with capacitation of focus groups. The macro organisational review was at an advanced stage, which may entail revisiting portfolios in each of the components of the business to ensure that divisions of Parliament were enhanced.

PGIR was being assisted in strengthening their work.

He agreed that the focus on the incongruences and the surface issues, as opposed to the underpinning issues, challenged the robustness of Parliament. Parliament should invest more in data analytics and data intelligence, and they have begun this. It was acknowledged that there may be environmental factors, such as material issues, which children faced at home that contributed to their departure from school. Part of the work was to surface such issues so that Parliament could work to track them consistently and forewarn the threats. In March 2024, they would meet with content advisors and researchers who would aid in deciphering the key areas to be strengthened.

Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, responded to the National Gambling Amendment Bill [B27-2018], sent for mediation. In 2023, the Speaker wrote to the Minister to establish the desirability of the Bill, but the response was still outstanding. Should this not be resolved by the end of the term, this Bill and others would lapse and the Seventh Parliament would decide on its future.

Regarding the questions and outstanding oral responses, he gave an example that one could have 30 questions prepared in a session, but 15 were posed. In that case, the Ministry would have to issue the responses to the outstanding questions in published form. This would also mean that the responses would not be issued immediately. The report would reflect the questions for written responses for the respective quarter. He proposed that what might have happened was that there was a lapse in the unanswered questions from a previous quarter.

Dr Leon Gabriel, Division Manager: Knowledge and Information Services, responded by saying they had looked at the re-organisation of the review of constituency offices. There were further engagements with other Members of Parliament. They were gathering the data and consolidating the report, and they were developing a concept document for consideration.

Adv Modibedi Phindela, Secretary to the National Council of Provinces, responded that the NCOP process was different from the NA in terms of questions for oral responses. With the NCOP, a day was dedicated to the questions for oral responses to be responded to. And this was why no such questions were outstanding. It may have been the case that the written responses to questions were not yet due when the report was required. In the case of an outstanding unanswered question, the Member may request that the question be moved to the questions for oral responses, and this would be placed on the question paper to be read out on the day.

Chairperson Mabe thanked the STP for the report and noted the improvements made. The Seventh Parliament would surely take over and continue from the solid foundation built. Their contribution brought strength and stability.

Mr Singh interjected to ask if the suspended officials had been paid. He also asked about the physical space for the Seventh Parliament, especially with construction underway. He again requested that the legal team investigate the long durations of the ‘acting’ positions.

Mr Sibanda promised to do so, requesting that they provide an update in the fourth quarter report.

All employees were placed on precautionary suspension and all the benefits were equally entitled. They were encouraged by progress. It was very common to have intervening factors but they worked hard to resolve this as soon as possible.  

The STP was excused from the meeting, being informed that there would be another opportunity for them to present the update in the fourth quarter.

Closing comments
Chairperson Mabe noted that the next agenda item required a quorum, and they had to attend a House sitting soon. Could they rather suspend this item and consider the report later on in the term?

The Secretariat said the Committee had a scheduled meeting for next week Tuesday at lunchtime to adopt the legacy report, so they could then adopt these two items then.

Chairperson Mabe asked if they could defer the item to next Tuesday.

Mr Rayi said this would depend on the availability of himself and another Member who may be out of the country at that time.

Chairperson Mabe said there could be connectivity in Angola so this could be deferred to next Tuesday. She asked that all Members be contacted to form a quorum on Tuesday to adopt the outstanding items to avoid falling behind.

The Secretariat listed the dates for their upcoming meetings. They would meet next Tuesday to adopt all the outstanding minutes and report.

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) asked if they could meet at 13h00 on that Tuesday as he had to fly to Cape Town in the morning, then he could attend the meeting.

It was confirmed that the meeting would be from 13h00-14h00. Chairperson Mabe urged that they all be there on time.

The meeting was adjourned.


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