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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 October 2005
PROJECT MARANG, NEW TRAVEL SYSTEM AND AFRICAN PEER REVIEW MECHANISM: PARLIAMENT CORPORATE SERVICES BRIEFINGS
Documents handed out:
SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions: PowerPoint presentation (handed out but not discussed)
Parliament's Corporate Services Division briefed the Committee on the progress that had been made in Project Marang. Officials then briefed Members on the recent adjustments made to the Parliamentary travel allowance system, explaining the priorities of the new system and its benefits to Parliament and Members. The Committee also heard a brief presentation on how Parliament would become involved in the African Peer Review Mechanism to which South Africa had committed itself.
The Manager of the Parliament’s Corporate Services Division, Mr M Mbangula, explained that although the analysis of the project had taken two months longer than expected, certain elements of the building and testing phase were already taking place alongside the analysis process. The establishment of adequate human resources was about 90% complete, finance about 65%, and procurement about 75%. Current challenges included staff availability, active sponsorship and marketing by management, project ownership, cost and time overruns, and governance. Taking all of this into account, the project had been re-planned with a delivery date of 3 April 2006. The full support of all roleplayers and Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMMEs) was required for the project to be a success.
Mr M Sithole asked what the project management team was doing about testing.
Mr Ravi Poliah, IT Manager, responded that they would try to test the system with as many people as possible. Most of the testing would happen in the human resources (HR), finance and procurement divisions.
The Chairperson said that Project Marang affected how Members of Parliament did their jobs, so they should not hesitate to express their concerns.
Parliamentary Travel System
Mr Mbangula then briefed the Committee on the history of the travel system, the priorities of the new system, the benefits to Members and the benefits to Parliament. The decision to end the previous voucher system and to introduce a new one had been taken in February 2005. The new system utilised a credit card as a travel card and thus far 120 Members of Parliament had been inducted into the system. The priorities of the new travel system were ease of use and convenience, security of transactions, accountability to Parliament, the easing of administrative burden, and full control by individual Members. The projected savings for the new system were estimated between R11 million and R12 million.
Questions were raised about what would happen to existing parliamentary business arrangements with Connex and Rennies Travel and if Parliamentary Members travelling overseas would receive the same benefits as those travelling locally.
Mr Mbangula replied that he and Ms Linda Harper in the Finance Section had discussed this and if those travel agents had been accredited onto the system, then their services could still be used. The new system was based on Members’ entitlements. Parliamentary Members would receive the same benefits. Their details were already on the system.
African Peer Review Mechanism
The Deputy Secretary of Parliament, Mr M Coetzee, explained that the African Union (AU) had recently adopted an African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to ensure fair and accountable governance throughout the continent, and that South Africa had agreed to submit itself to scrutiny. With this in mind, Parliament was embarking on its own, internal peer review system to propose system and structures in line with the APRM. The process was headed up by Dr Gabriel, Head of Parliamentary Research and Ms Fazila Mohammed, Registrar of Members' Interests and was expected to take nine months.
A Member asked for clarification on how the review process was being conducted and who was responsible for co-ordinating it.
Mr Coetzee responded that it was not an executive or a government process, but a Parliamentary process. Individuals and organisations could approach Parliament with their views on governance, corporate governance, institutional governance and socio-economic development, and Parliament would consider these inputs. The United Nations local chapter of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the civil society organ of the African Union, would co-ordinate the input of civil society on how it related to government.
A Member asked for more information about public participation in the process. Mr Gabriel responded that the four new ad hoc committees, the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Economic Governance and Management, the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Corporate Governance, the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Socio-Economic Development and the Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Democracy and Good Political Governance would ensure that there was the necessary public participation. The Parliamentary Library would make information available. He suggested they should look into putting such information on the Internet.
The Chairperson offered clarification on the identity of the ‘peer reviewers’ and why it was important to monitor each other. Members needed to clearly understand these concepts.
Mr Letsidwe said the Parliament management’s "hands were tied" on many levels, such as with the acquisition of technological resources like computers. This made it difficult for Parliament to function effectively.
The Chairperson responded that divisional managers should be encouraged to hold divisional meetings to address the problems affecting their sections. Management might well be discussed in the peer review process.
Mr Coetzee then announced new appointments before discussing upcoming events. On 10 May 2006, there would be the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 1996 South African Constitution. In 2006, the focus of all activities would be the Constitution and the President’s State of the Nation address would stress equal human rights. Mr Coetzee had also received a request to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2006.
The Chairperson then discussed the meeting held on 8 July at Spier Estate in Stellenbosch for parliamentary management to reflect on institutional performance. It had been a very positive planning session. The meeting had recognised that Parliament was doing good work and had committed to continuing this. Parliament had plenty of funds to accommodate the needs of its Members, as the projected Parliamentary budget was R220 million.
The meeting was adjourned.
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