The Committee met on a virtual platform, with the Speaker of the National Assembly, to be briefed on Parliament’s 2023/24 mid year performance.
The Chairperson said the Committee had worked very hard and had made progress in many areas like filling critical vacancies– the Committee was moving in the right direction. The Speaker echoed these sentiments noting that challenges were being attended to and the Committee would be kept updated.
The report indicated that 63% of targets were achieved while 7% was in progress and 30% was lagging.
Members noted that while there were achievements, there was still room for improvement. Members asked about simplifying the petitions process, suspended officials, expenditure on political parties and targets which would be left for the next Parliament to achieve fully. Members also asked about the restoration of Parliament, budgets of committees, the oversight work of committees and provincial public hearings. Members encouraged the administration to use the SABC to broaden its communication reach.
Regarding the salary of the Secretary to Parliament, the Speaker noted this was now with the Powers and Privileges Committee, but the Committee could discuss it further in a closed meeting. The Committee would also be updated on the incident of the fire involving the matter of the suspended officials.
Chairperson Mabe welcomed all Members present at the meeting. She noted the meeting agenda, and acknowledged all the absentees with apology and those Members who would be late to the meeting.
Thereafter the agenda was adopted.
Chairperson Mabe noted that this meeting was to deal with only one item which was the 2023/24 Mid-year Assessment Report. She said the Committee had worked very hard and had made progress in many areas like filling critical vacancies– the Committee was moving in the right direction. The Committee was guided by the legislation to implement the necessary programmes.
Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Speaker of the National Assembly, confirmed her presence, noting she was attending the meeting from another meeting. She would have to leave during the discussion. She was happy that the Chairperson acknowledged the efforts and achievements. There were administrative challenges, among others, and these were being attended to. A report would soon be issued to the Committee on the issues raised before and their developments.
Mr Xolile George, Secretary to Parliament (STP), then took the Committee through the presentation on the 2022/2023 Mid-year Assessment Report.
Parliament: Institutional Mid-Year Assessment 2023/2024
Members were taken through the purpose of the report and what informed the work of Parliament.
The report indicated that 63% of targets were achieved while 7% was in progress and 30% was lagging – see attached for performance per programme.
See attached for performance on macro framework indicators. These indicators included:
- Develop and implement an Oversight Priority Model to ensure focused oversight
- Develop and implement a Committee planning framework to align committee oversight with oversight focus areas
- Develop and implement a country indicator dashboard supporting the measurement of outcome progress towards attainment of the NDP impacts
- Implement data modelling and scenario tools to improve the quality of oversight
- Develop an impact assessment framework for Bills
- Develop and implement an Oversight monitoring and tracking mechanism
- Implementation of recommendations made by the Commission on State Capture to strengthen oversight
- Develop a new partnership framework for oversight
- Review of support for Constituency Offices
- Review Parliament’s strategy and capability to implement its international priorities aligned with the national agenda.
- Implement a new stakeholder framework ensuring participation and cooperation
- Develop and implement a petitions framework
- Improve public trust and confidence in Parliament
- Development of a broadcasting strategy for the 7th Parliament
- To professionalise the Parliamentary Service
- Implement the plan for the restoration of parliamentary buildings
- Shift towards outcome and impact-driven business analytics using big data
Members were taken through human resources performance and governance and the financial assessment – overall spending for the second quarter was at 102%.
- The expenditure incurred to date in comparison to the Annual Budget shows a 48% spending for the 6-month period when the Disaster Fund is removed from Programme 1 to provide a more realistic assessment of the financial performance.
- Overall spending for Quarter 2 has resulted in a 2% overspending due to higher-than-expected Direct Charges of R16,6 million as well as in Associated Services of R1,5 million during the July to September 2023 period.
- The overspending in Direct Charges will be charged against the National Revenue Fund at year end.
- The overspending in Associated Services will be reviewed during the Budget Adjustment period to ensure corrective action is taken.
- Parliament has spent 102 percent or R878,4 million of its appropriated budget of R863,7 million for the second quarter.
- It is projected that the full appropriated budget will be fully spent at the end of the year, except the budget for the rebuilding of Parliament.
- There is projected underspending of 710,5 million on the restoration and rebuilding of Parliament budget due to delays experienced in implementation of the project; the amount will be used in following year on this project.
- The spending on direct charges is R149,8 million or 111 percent of the second quarter budget of R133,2 million.
- The overspending is attributable to the payment of the loss of office gratuities over and above the payment of Members' salaries.
- There is projected overspending of R67,4 million at the end of the financial year, which is attributable to the increase in Members' salaries for the 2022/23 financial year, the payment of loss of office gratuities & exit gratuities, and the budget reductions.
- This projected overspending will be a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund in line with section 23(4) of the FMPPLA
Economic Classification Budget
- The expenditure incurred to date in comparison to the Annual Budget shows a 48% spending for the 6-month period when the Disaster Fund is classified separately to provide a more realistic assessment of the financial performance.
- Underspending for the year is due to delays in implementation of Projects under Goods & Services which will be accelerated in the 3rd quarter to meet the set financial targets.
Compensation of Members
The spending on compensation of Members is R149,8 million or 112 percent of the second quarter budget of R133,2 million. The overspending is due to the loss of office gratuities payout. The projected overspending for the financial year is R67,400 million and is attributable to budget reductions, an increase of 3 percent for the 2023/24 financial year and the payment of loss of office gratuities & exit gratuities as Members exit Parliament.
Compensation of employees
The spending on compensation of employees is 100 percent or R311,965 million of the second quarter. Indications are that there will be full spending at the end of the financial year.
Parmed (Medical Aid for Members)
The spending on Parmed is 99 percent or R20,027 million for the second quarter budget of R20,3 million and indications are that will be full spend at the end of the financial year.
Goods and services (APP)
The spending on goods and services, which relates to the APP, is 99 percent or R159,0 million for the second quarter budget of R161,3 million. Indications that will be full spent at the end of the financial year on the amount allocated for normal operations of Parliament and underspending on goods related to the restoration and rebuild of Parliament.
Goods and services (Members’ entitlements)
The spending on goods and services, which relates to Members’ entitlements, is 100 percent or R36,1 million for the second quarter budget of R36,1 millionThere is projected overspending of R8,2 million due to increase in utilisation of the entitlement tickets than anticipated.
Spending on transfer payments, relates to transfers to political parties represented in Parliament. For the quarter, spending is 101 percent or R133,5 million of the R132,0 million second quarter budget. Indications are that there will be overspending of R1,5 million at the end of the financial year due to increase of the administration and leadership allowances that is not fully funded by National Treasury.
The spending on capital expenditure is 100 percent or R67,8 million of the second quarter budget of R68,1 million.
See attached for information on high spending line items during the mid-year period: travel and subsistence, operating experience, capital, communication services and compuer services.
- The majority of transformational initiatives in support services met their targets (5 targets) or were making good progress (1 target); only the broadcasting strategy raises concerns regarding completion by the end of the financial year.
- In contrast, seven transformational initiatives within the core business are lagging, and are at risk of remaining incomplete by the end of the financial year;
- The service indicator on public participation is also lagging in performance and requires immediate intervention.
- In the first half of the financial year, critical leadership positions within the organisation have been filled including in Finance, Strategy, and Security.
- Parliament’s low attrition rate could have positive implications, however, given previous climate surveys indicating low employee satisfaction, burnout and lack of advancement, the organisation must have a strategy to mitigate against these negative effects. To ensure adequate talent acquisition the institution is implementing
- Given that transformational targets are foundational to the implementation of the transformative agenda of the 7th Parliament, it is concerning that the delivery of these outputs is lagging. Immediate action must be taken to ensure any delays or challenges are dealt with in the second half of the financial year.
- Reasons for variance included lack of resources, inadequate preparatory work to ensure completion, competing operational demands and inadequate support to oversee project teams. Better planning and resource allocation as it relates to transformational targets must be prioritised to ensure better implementation.
- Public participation is a central mandate of Parliament, therefore, steps must be taken to improve the implementation of activities.
- Responses from the satisfaction survey reveal that Members highlight recent public participation issues and resource wastage during hearings on the Older Persons Amendment Bill. They express concerns about late document distribution, emphasising the need for improved efficiency and effectiveness in public participation processes. Recommendations included capacity-building workshops to better prepare participants.
- The current change agenda seeks to initiate a program to address burnout concerns and provide opportunities for advancement. This should focus on mentorship, training, and career growth to retain and nurture talent. The success of the culture change programme can be achieved through effective communication, leadership training, and a commitment to the organisation's values and mission.
- It remains important to assess employee satisfaction through surveys and feedback mechanisms, and assess the effectiveness of talent acquisition strategies, such as the extensive graduate program and voluntary early retirement options, making necessary adjustments to ensure they align with the organisation's goals.
- As policy changes are made in alignment with the culture change initiative, the institution will ensure that policies reflect the organisation's commitment to employee well-being, advancement, and satisfaction
- There may be a need to consider a review of the meeting frequency for all governance structures to determine if these meetings need to occur more frequently to ensure efficient decision-making and progress monitoring.
- While non-compliance was minimal, controls will be strengthened to prevent any recurrence of late submissions.
- The management team's continued engagement will be enhanced, not just by ensuring frequent engagement but also by effective and efficient engagements. Senior management will continue to streamline processes to make the most of these interactions and ensure they align with the organisation's objectives
See attached for detailed presentation
Chairperson Mabe welcomed the presentation - indeed they had achieved a lot but there was still room for improvement in the areas which were lacking. She opened the floor for questions.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) welcomed the presentation. He acknowledged that the STP heeded his counsel on the issue of petitions and was very thankful for this but he observed that corporate structures sometimes had a habit of complicating matters. He again gave his counsel: the Committee had discussed petitions before but did not receive an update on this until now. When a Member served a petition on the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the problem was that this petition suffered delays and was then submitted to the Select Committee on Petitions who then met for one hour during lunchtime [on a Thursday], which was not nearly enough time. He suggested that upon the submission of the petition, it be scanned and collated with the respective Select Committee who would then schedule a meeting with the petitioners within a week with the respective department. A petition was a cry for help from the country and this was a time-sensitive matter. He was proposing an easier way to handle the matter. This could be resolved within a month using this simple mechanism.
Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) asked for clarity on the suspended officials. How many were suspended and what were the reasons for suspension?
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said he was mostly covered by his colleagues who raised the aforementioned issues. He recalled discussing the matter of petitions in the fourth quarter. They agreed to a feasibility study and that the outcomes thereof should align with the petitions. The Rules Committee would have to decide on this matter. Perhaps they should now monitor the implementation of this decision to assess how far the feasibility study was - they should follow up on this.
He noted that he heard news about the suspensions through the media.
He was concerned about the nine areas the STP said were lagging behind. He was concerned because, according to the report, this meant that they risked not achieving the targets. Many of them were meant for the Seventh Parliament and asked if they should be monitored as quarterly indicators rather than as a cluster of annual targets. It was too late to implement this as they were halfway through the [financial] year. Most targets were not met in the first or second quarter and may re-occur in the third quarter and this was a concern.
Ms M Lesoma (ANC) said she was mostly covered. She appreciated the progress made between the current quarter and that of last year.
She anticipated a report on the milestones achieved regarding the restoration of Parliament. She noted the suggestion of other long term venues whilst the restoration was taking place. She requested a report on this restoration - how far were they in terms of reaching the deadline and were they still within the allocated budget? She appreciated that the restoration process would bring a high intake of interns, as this would increase employment and job training.
She noted the Speaker would brief the Committee at the right time and was weary about discussing salaries. She appreciated that some critical posts were filled and it was a work in progress for others. Hopefully, they would receive satisfactory progress in this regard. The Committee should table this matter for a day when the Speaker is ready to discuss it.
On the issue of petitions, she relayed that on another Committee she served, they received a petition from Matatiele community and they had dealt with said petition. How were other petitions delayed? It would be greatly unfortunate if there were petitions which received no responses as yet. Petitions were written for a reason.
She raised the issue of support which was required prior to the provincial public hearings. It was unfortunate that the chairpersons of committees were being blamed. She requested a report specifically on the public hearings which had failed where there was an absence of communities because Parliament had not mobilised them. Members should return the money if they indicated that they would attend the public hearings and ended up not attending. She requested a breakdown of each of the Portfolio Committees who experienced such and how much had been spent per unit. She was against the notion of only politicians making mistakes; she suggested that there could be issues of short-staffing and there should be proper planning for the future. She noted the Portfolio Committee on Transport had a no-show from the public, and there was no re-scheduling of the hearing either. Other than this, she was happy with the report.
Ms O Maotwe (EFF) asked the STP how the StatsSA Census Report played a role in shaping the strategy to mobilise more people to participate in parliamentary processes. The Census report provided accurate numbers on those with access to television (TV) and radio. Speaking of such media platforms, when would they start using SABC for Parliament TV and radio? The SABC should be promoted as it was a State-Owned Entity (SOE). She recalled discussing this in a previous meeting where issues of contract renewals and the parliamentary channel being off was raised - perhaps this was the time to migrate to SABC.
She noted the over-expenditure to political parties and asked who the lucky party was to receive these extra funds.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) welcomed the presentation which was an improvement from the previous reports. He echoed the request for the Welkom report, and an oversight report on the Portfolio Committee for Sport, Arts and Culture – he wanted to know if this Committee had conducted any oversight visits.
On the issue of suspended officials, he recalled postponing a meeting where the Committee was to discuss the issue of parliamentary fines. The Executive and the STP should provide a comprehensive report in this regard. He also requested a report on the HR issue, noting the tentative date of 30 November 2023 which was very ‘horrible’ on the side of the National Assembly (NA). He suggested that the Speaker provide a date for reporting on the aforementioned issues.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) appreciated the report presented to the Committee, noting the STP worked very hard. Most of the issues had already been covered. He noted Parliament continued to work under the global pandemic and he wondered whether they had put together some new experiences to form a solid approach should such disasters re-occur in the future. The global pandemic has brought with it many new experiences.
On the issue of oversight being done by various committees, he said this was important to re-visit. Going forward, a budget should be allocated to every committee so that they may be held accountable for their oversight and know when they have exhausted their budget.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) appreciated the report and the hard work done by the STP. She was covered by most of the comments already. She hoped that the relevant policies would be renewed, to accommodate issues of climate change and the new experiences brought about by the global pandemic. She was thankful for the hard work done by Parliament and hoped for further opportunities to learn what was happening in other countries.
Mr George acknowledged that Mr Brauteseth’s suggestion was a way to de-complicate the issue of petitions. The first step was to make the process of receiving petitions much easier, as this was a cry for help. They would work on putting systems in place which were credible enough to be audited and checked against parliamentary standards. It was important to ask what it meant to say communities were satisfied with how a petition was dealt with. These issues would not be executed overnight but they could apply their minds to simplify the first dimensions.
The Executive Authority and STOP would reflect on the suspended officials.
Many committees had inquired about the progress of the restoration of Parliament. In this regard, he confirmed the release of a report on 15 October 2023. The said report contained a summary of the key findings. At the appointed time, they would take the Committee through said report.
Mr George said they would monitor the implementation of the feasibility study of the petitions framework. There was work being done on petitions and benchmarking, but they were unsatisfied with the pace. They would start benchmarking on these areas to ensure an easier process. They would gladly update the Committee on how far they were on this issue, even in the third quarter. They hoped to pilot a credible process by the end of the year.
On tracking key performance areas, he noted targets by nature were annual-based, but they were required to break them down quarterly and they were looking into how to do this. They were mindful of transitioning to outcomes and impact that would transcend the financial year, which would lead to the appearance of ‘no progress’. When Parliament tabled a mid-term report after two and a half years, they would assess where they were with executing the issues which they said they would. They looked at to whom Parliament was responsive (to internal and external stakeholders and to society). This would help them assess if they were a responsive and collaborative Parliament. This would assist Parliament with qualitatively delivering on its commitments. This would require data insights, quality-assuring mechanisms and self-criticism. On the first year level, they would appear as lacking in progress, but they strived to assist the future Parliament with credible mechanisms. They would continue with quarterly tracking.
The budget amount for the restoration was the appropriated amount. In the medium term budget of 2022, the Minister of Finance appropriated R2 000 000 000 which was made available in March 2023. For the first year, they were allocated R1 000 000 000. The detailed assessment, which had now been completed for the removal of rubble, allowed the team to begin framing the restoration concept. The final budget of Parliament would arise from a detailed design chosen by Parliament. They were currently at the stage of concept planning, which would be followed by the surveying of quantity to assess the wishes against the costs. This would lead Parliament to know what they were committing to. The Committee would be provided with an update on this as it was the first stage of the restoration process. They aimed to stick to the allocated budget with quality and no compromise. They would account on these areas.
The House Chairpersons would guide on the matter of Members not attending public hearings. The STP would provide a detailed report on the whereabouts of the committee at the time, and they would consider if there were administrative issues which could have played a role in the absence of the Members. They would look at the matters objectively.
Mr George confirmed that the administration used the StatsSA reports as data for public participation. They were also constantly engaged on the issue of other media channels, such as the SABC. They remained unsatisfied as Parliament because of the low reach to community radio stations and social media sites. They wished to energise South Africans on what was happening in Parliament. They would work on improving public participation and working with the SABC.
The payments to political parties was in respect of the adjustments made in a year. They practised annual determination of employees of Parliament. This should be de-coupled going forward. They could make a certain determination that would be appropriated by the National Revenue Fund, which was 3% for Members, and by the time it was determined, it could be for a bargaining process elsewhere, increasing by either 1% or 2%. Determining allowances for Members of political parties was tied to this anomaly, but this would be further examined.
They would explore the area of budgets of committees to perform effective oversight to ensure that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) could benchmark other models, and assess the allocation for each committee. They did not move money at each quarter to service other committees. They strived to create a more predictable budget and tracking model - the CFO was tasked with this.
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, responded to the issue of public participation - they identified two main challenges; planning and capacity. On planning, they put measures in place to ensure this was done successfully, including medium to long term plans. On capacity, they targeted key areas. There was a post for Public Manager of Democracy Offices and they were in the recruitment process for a person for this position. Other positions would also be attended to by 01 December 2023, some of the positions should have been filled.
They had been looking at the Welkom incident which costed about R98 000. They would ascertain whether this was fruitless and wasteful expenditure and it would undergo the relevant processes to find out how the costs could be recovered.
They learned there were challenges when the Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture applied to undertake an oversight visit that was not approved. There were ongoing engagements between the committee and the House Chairperson. The South African Institute for Drug-free Sport Amendment Bill was being introduced currently.
Follow up discussion
Mr Radebe said it was good that the Committee was receiving an update on the cases. It was not right that Members were left unchecked when they failed to attend public hearings. They should check and hold the relevant persons accountable.
There was always a budget for each committee for the year so that transfers were made only towards the end. This was risky as the budget could be exhausted within the first term, due to committees taking multiple overseas trips. He asked how Joint Committees could be treated as ordinary committees in terms of the budget as Joint Committees had more Members. How was budgeting for the committees done when there was no figure allocated for each committee? This should be looked into as it could open for abuse of power.
The Chairperson said she was in full support of what Mr Radebe said. Those who were not doing their jobs must be held accountable and suffer consequences - the same punishment should apply. If Members fail to attend the public hearings, they should be punished.
Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula noted the comments of the Members, especially on allocation of finances. She had escalated this matter to the STP and Mr Xaso and the matter was being attended to. The committees were being unevenly funded, and this greatly affected some committees. She asked that the administration be allowed to look into this further for resolution.
She said the matter on the package of conditions of service of the STP should be discussed in a closed meeting. The matter has currently been handed over to the Powers and Privileges Committee, and she was awaiting a response in this regard. This was a grievance that should not be discussed on this platform. She hoped that the National Assembly (NA) would be able to discuss this with the Committee. According to their knowledge; they (NA) had not violated any laws. They were ready to account to the Committee.
The Speaker was glad the matter of suspension of officials was raised so that they could continue to engage with the Committee. For a long period of time, they could not deliver a report about the fire at Parliament as no investigation was done. She reminded Members that the Committee had asked, right at the start of the fire, that they form an independent inquiry. A directive was given to the officials of Parliament for the inquiry, and this was finally achieved after many years. The inquiry spoke to the weaknesses of Parliament, but the report was ready. Certain actions had to be taken immediately to ensure no interference - this could be the basis for the suspensions. The STP was to put together a Disciplinary Committee to do the work without interference. During this process, the STP identified other information which led to more investigations. This was not the nine people suspended for the fire, but other matters on which the Committee would be briefed once the report was ready. She thanked the Committee for taking notes of the improvement. They were ready to report to the Committee.
She was happy that the matter of petitions was raised and a proposal was made for a feasibility study. She hoped that the STP would be able to confirm the relevant issues at the next meeting.
The Chairperson thanked the Speaker for her comments. She thanked all for their time and participation and appreciated the presentation.
Adoption of Committee meeting minutes was deferred.
The meeting was adjourned.
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