Committee Agenda: Fifth Parliament
It is in Committees that most of the core functions of Parliament are demonstrated – we refer here to the critical functional areas of:
It is in Committees that Departments, their entities, other public bodies and sometimes private bodies (as seen in the case of Steinhoff) are called to account. Public participation in law-making, oversight and other processes of Parliament is an important constitutional provision of our democracy. PMG finds that much of public participation carried out by Committees concerns legislation but also - increasingly - topical matters. What transpires in the Houses of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces is often merely discussion and approval of the hard work by a Committee.
Over the Fifth Parliament, 6483 committee meetings were held – these include 5293 meetings of the Portfolio Committees, 911 meetings of the Select Committees, 125 meetings of the Joint Committees and 154 meetings of Ad Hoc Committees.
PMG looked at these meetings of the Portfolio Committees over the Fifth Parliament in more detail to develop pointers on the divide amongst committee’s primary functional areas of oversight, public participation, and legislation. We also looked at the percentage of Committee meetings on topical matters (matters of national interest / importance), statutory appointments considered, public petitions considered, inquiries and meetings discussing specific government policy.
Our findings show:
58% of Portfolio Committee meetings involve oversight – these meetings include the presence of a Department and its entities accountable to the Committees for presenting quarterly reports, budgets, annual reports, annual performance plans that brief the Committee on the work, activities and programmes their work and spending which is then discussed.
Our calculations show only 6% of Portfolio Committee meetings involve public participation – there is a nearly 50/50 split between public participation on legislation and on other matters. Further findings show some Committees interact with the public more than others – the Standing Committee on Finance interacts significantly with the public although this is primarily in relation to legislation. Other Portfolio Committees which have high rates of public engagement, on matters other than legislation only, include the Portfolio Committees on Police, International Relations and Cooperation, Environmental Affairs, Small Business and Trade and Industry.
There have been some interesting developments in the Fifth Parliament where some Portfolio Committees have worked into their programmes regular public engagements on topical matters within the ambit of the Committee – these often are called workshops, summits or colloquiums. Examples include:
Trade and Investment
Cost to Communicate
Small Business Development
One Environmental System
Environmental Programmes & Socio-Economic Benefits
While petitions are a key way in which the public can appeal to Parliament to intervene in matters, Portfolio Committees of the Fifth Parliament considered less than 20 petitions, according to our records. Of the 27 petitions to come before Portfolio Committees, 8 were finalized by the time the National Assembly rose for the term.
The initiation of inquiries by Portfolio Committees was a key feature of the Fifth Parliament. Inquiries initiated included:
The rise in committees engaging on topical or controversial matters in the Fifth Parliament is to be welcomed. These included:
Seven Angel Ministries massacre
VBS Bank Heist
Moody’s Credit Rating
Sale of strategic fuel
SARS Rogue unit
State Capture allegations
Ford Kuga recall
Transformation in sports
Burning of Metrorail trains
Sanitary tax exemption
Sex work decriminalization
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