ATC110413: Report Meeting with Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the nine provincial legislatures, 25 August 2010
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on its meeting with the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the nine provincial legislatures, 25 August 2010, as adopted on the 13 April 2011
The mandate of Parliament is achieved through passing legislation, overseeing government action, and facilitating public and international participation. Parliament also upholds South African citizens’ political rights and the basic values and principles governing public administration, and oversees the implementation of constitutional imperatives.
The Portfolio Committee jointly hosted a meeting with the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the nine provincial legislatures of South Africa on the 25 August 2010. The purpose of the meeting was to:
· promote the Public Service Commission to the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the provincial legislatures, as a tool for provincial and national oversight of the implementation of Section 195(1) of the Constitution (No.108 of 1996);
· start a discussion with the Provincial Legislatures on collaboration amongst the legislatures on research for oversight; and
· promote dialogue amongst the legislatures of South Africa around matters of public administration.
The meeting was attended by Speakers of the provincial legislatures, relevant provincial and national parliamentary committee chairpersons, members of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, secretaries of the provincial legislatures, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The House Chairperson for Committees, Legislation and Oversight and ICT for the National Assembly and the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces made submissions to the meeting.
This report is divided into three sections. The first section provides a brief overview of the inputs of the House Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, respectively. The second section gives an overview of the constitutional responsibility of the Public Service Commission, its reports and investigations that support and complement Parliamentary oversight; the research capacity of the legislatures and possible areas of collaboration for improved oversight. The third section lists the findings made, the conclusion and recommendations.
2. Overview of the Oversight and Accountability Model by the House Chairperson of Committees, Legislation and Oversight and ICT.
In the South African context, oversight is a constitutionally mandated function of legislative organs of state to scrutinise and oversee executive action and any organ of state.
The Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability Model aims to assert Parliament’s oversight role to enhance democracy. Provisions in the Constitution, 1996 mandate the National Assembly to provide mechanisms to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; and to maintain oversight of the exercise of national executive authority and any organ of state. The National Council of Provinces’ role is to exercise oversight over the national aspects of provincial and local government. Section 114(2) of the Constitution states that a provincial legislature must provide for mechanisms-
(a) to ensure that all provincial executive organs of state in the province are accountable to it; and
(b) To maintain oversight of-
i. the exercise of provincial executive authority in the province, including the implementation of legislation; and
ii. any provincial organ of state.
The functions of oversight are:
· to detect and prevent abuse, arbitrary behaviour or illegal and unconstitutional conduct on the part of the government and public agencies. At the core of this function is the protection of the rights and liberties of citizens.
· to hold the government to account in respect of how taxpayers’ money is used. It detects waste within the machinery of government and public agencies. Thus it can improve efficiency, economy and effectiveness of government operations.
· to ensure that policies announced by government and authorised by Parliament are actually delivered. This function includes monitoring the achievement of goals set by legislation and government’s own programmes.
· to improve transparency of government operations and enhance public trust in the government, which is itself a condition of effective policy delivery.
Committees of Parliament were seen to be hamstrung in terms of capacity to hold government accountable.
One of the mechanisms Parliament had put in place was the establishment of an office in the Office of the Deputy Speaker that is concerned with institutions established in terms of Chapter nine and ten of the Constitution, 1996. The unit established would focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Parliament in executing its responsibilities towards the Chapter nine and ten institutions.
3 Presentation on collaboration of institutions of governance for oversight by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces
Two programmes of the National Council of Provinces were highlighted, namely ‘Taking Parliament to the People’ and ‘Provincial week’, as both required co-ordinated approaches to oversight. Both programmes were successful due to the collaborative approach amongst the National and the Provincial Legislatures, and the inclusion of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).
The Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) highlighted that collaboration of institutions was derived from the Chapter three of the Constitution, 1996. Section 195 of the Constitution, 1996, states that the basic values and principles that must govern public administration are applicable to all spheres of government, organs of state and state enterprises.
The lack of co-ordination among institutions led to a duplication of oversight work, in some instances. She said that any oversight planning across the national and provincial legislatures for oversight of governance would be difficult to achieve if the two Houses of national Parliament and the provincial legislatures struggled to co-ordinate their programmes of oversight.
Mutual respect for the independence of all legislatures was stressed for any undertaking of collaboration amongst the legislatures.
4. Supporting legislative oversight by the Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission (PSC) derives its mandate from Sections 195 and 196 of the Constitution. Section 195 sets out the basic values and principles governing public administration, which must be promoted throughout the Public Service by the PSC. These principles and values are:
· A high standard of professional ethics
· Efficient, economic and effective use of resources
· A development-orientated public administration
· Provision of services in an impartial, fair and equitable way, without bias
· Responding to people’s needs and encouraging the public to participate in policy-making
· Accountable public administration
· Fostering transparency
· Cultivating good human resource management and career-development practices
· Representative public administration.
In terms of section 196(4) of the Constitution, the powers and functions of the PSC are to-
· promote the Constitutional Values and Principles in the Public Service (Section 195);
· investigate, monitor and evaluate the organisation and administration, and the personnel practices of the Public Service;
· propose measures to ensure effective and efficient performance within the Public Service;
· give directives aimed at ensuring that personnel procedures (recruitment, transfer, promotions and dismissals) comply with the basic values and principles set out in section 195;
· report on activities to the National Assembly and to Provincial Legislatures in respect of activities in Provinces;
· either of own accord or on receipt of a complaint:
o investigate the application of personnel and public administration practices and report to the relevant EA & Legislature;
o investigate grievances of employees in the Public Service and recommend remedies;
o monitor and investigate adherence to applicable procedures in the Public Service;
o advise National and Provincial Organs of State regarding personnel practices in the Public Service.
The PSC is accountable to the National Assembly, and must report on its activities at least once a year. The PSC interacts mostly with the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration. The PSC must report to the provincial legislatures in respect of its activities in provinces. This function is performed by providing Parliament and the provincial legislatures with reports on the monitoring and evaluation of, and investigations made on, public administration practices. The information in the reports could be used by Parliament and the legislatures to call Executive Authorities (EAs) and Heads of Departments (HoDs) to account. The PSC reports provide valuable information that could assist Parliament and the legislatures in the execution of their oversight function. The PSC’s reports are also given to the Executive to act on recommendations made in the reports.
The PSC’s recommendations in these reports cannot be enforced by the PSC as it does not have the mandate to do so. The role of Parliament and the legislatures is therefore of paramount importance in ensuring that the Executive and departments are held accountable and that the PSC’s recommendations are followed through. Parliamentary Committees can identify priority areas which the PSC could investigate, monitor or evaluate to strengthen their oversight role. Considerations in this regard would include:-
q The request should preferably be channelled through the chairperson of the committee
q The availability of resources within the PSC
The PSC generates evidence to enable Parliament and the legislatures to exercise their oversight roles, and to advise the Executive on good administrative practice.
5. Tightening and capacitating the Legislatures Research Units to meet the expectation of the institutions that complement Parliament’s oversight function
The mandate of the Research Unit in National Parliament is to provide research support to Members of Parliament, Committee’s and Senior Management in a professional and objective manner. Some of the Parliamentary clients of the research unit, besides Committees, include:
• The Presiding Officers
• Ad Hoc Committees
• Task Teams
• Delegations to multilateral bodies (PAP, SADC-PF, CPA)
The services the research unit provides are:
• Research background papers
• Analytical papers
• Comparative studies
• Budget Analysis
• Analysis of Annual Reports
• Analysis of the State of the Nation Address and implications for sectors
• Analysis of legislation
• Developing Terms of Reference for Commissioned research
• Individual Consultations
Reference was made to the Public Service Commission’s reports. It was highlighted that Parliament’s research unit could use the PSC’s reports to identify areas for oversight and proactive research on the public administration.
Some of the matters that were highlighted from the members of the national and provincial legislatures included:
· Internal challenges of Parliament, such as reports not being timeously distributed to Members of Parliament.
· Tracking and monitoring the implementation of Parliamentary resolutions by the Executive remained a challenge.
· Parliament did not process the reports that are received from Chapter nine and ten institutions efficiently and effectively.
· Oversight in provinces is done on an ad hoc basis.
· Municipalities are the closest level of government to the people, but are not included in discussions about oversight by the National and Provincial legislatures.
· It was unclear what the impact of Parliamentary oversight was on executive action.
· Resources allocated to committees for oversight should be reviewed. It would not serve Parliament’s purpose of strengthening oversight, if resource allocation does not match the aims of Parliament.
· Members of Parliament should interrogate the reports submitted to Parliament by the Executive. It was not expected that the Executive would report their shortcomings openly and freely.
· Duplication of Oversight was an important matter to consider, in light of the separation of powers amongst the spheres of government. The concern strengthened the need for collaboration across the three spheres of government, on common areas of interest, such as public administration.
· Recommendations made by the PSC are based on legal obligations that the executive have under current legislation.
· The PSC reports to national and provincial legislatures, yet section 195 is applicable to all three spheres of government. The PSC reporting should also begin to focus on the implementation of Section 195 of the Constitution by the local sphere of government. A mechanism that the PSC is to report to for local government sphere should be considered.
· Provincial Public Service Commissioners could be called by the Provincial Legislatures.
· The skills shortage challenge in South Africa also manifests itself in the legislatures.
· It was highlighted that Parliament should also seek to establish its own monitoring and evaluation capacity.
It was the first time that a meeting of this nature was called by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration. All legislatures in South Africa focussed on collaboration of institutions supporting parliamentary oversight and research capacity for oversight of public administration.
· The Speakers’ Forum and the Secretaries Forum should look at how some of the challenges facing all legislatures can be addressed. Specific focus should be given to strengthening collaboration and information-sharing for oversight of the Executive, on public administration practices.
· Committees in the national and provincial legislatures need not wait for the finalisation of the Oversight and Accountability model to undertake collaboration for oversight visits.
· More needs to be done amongst the research units of the national and provincial legislatures, in order to share available research.
· Oversight at local government level is not what it should be. Local Government should be included in undertaking a collaborative approach to oversight. The oversight model presented should be reviewed to see how provinces can be incorporated.
Report for consideration
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