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Address by Speaker Baleka Mbete (MP) on the occasion of Budget Vote 2: Parliament, National Assembly

12 May 2016

Deputy Speaker
Honourable Members
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

This year, we celebrate 20 years since the adoption of the Constitution of South Africa. The Constitution is our nation's foundation and compass to guide all of us in all our actions and deliberations.

In writing the Constitution, we learnt in the very process of working together, how valuable it is to have different experiences, points of view, personalities, backgrounds, all feeding in, and how fundamental debate is in our democracy.

Drawing in a vast array of participants into the Constitution making process with often divergent understandings and conflicting ideas to offer an outline of a future system of governance and rights, was indeed a victory for democracy.

A journey through the history of the negotiation of the Constitution correctly shows that the principles contained in the Constitution were foreshadowed by seminal moments such as-

the ANC's 1944 presentation of the African Claims document, the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, and the publication of the ANC's Constitutional Guidelines developed in 1988 by a working group in Lusaka under the leadership of ANC President OR Tambo.

It was the Constitutional Assembly that was mandated to produce a final Constitution. A Constitutional Court had been created and had to certify the final Constitution and each of the Constitutional Principles that had come out of the work in Lusaka.

We dare not in the midst of intense moments, forget the magnitude of the achievement we celebrate and the fundamental bedrock that underlies it.

For it is our ability to hear different perspectives, to persuade one another with reasoned arguments and to show respect for the views of one another that we distinguish ourselves from a society that does not cherish democratic values.

Honourable Members, the importance of the Constitutional Principles, especially the separation of powers is an issue that the Executive Authority raised when the three arms of state met earlier this year. (ADLIB)

Deputy Speaker

As stated by Statistics South Africa recently, we remain a highly unequal society, where still too many of our people live in poverty, and where the quality of education, access to land and apartheid spatial divide patterns, continue to dominate the landscape.

We know too well, that realizing the vision of the Constitution and our developmental objectives as stated in our National Development Plan (NDP), is reliant on the active participation of all South Africans, a capable state, and accountable democratic institutions.

Honourable Members, we know too, that democracy is not an end result but a process that we must continue to improve on- but which is never perfect. In the consolidation of our democracy, we are called upon to be true to history, to be honest and acknowledge that on our democratic journey, there have been triumphs as well as challenges along our way.

It is in this spirit that we accept the recent judgments and orders of the Constitutional Court. There is action on the issues raised by the Constitutional Court on the Powers and Privileges Act and the Nkandla matter. Regarding issues to do with the Powers and Privileges Act, an ad hoc committee will be established in order to present an amended bill to the Houses of Parliament.

Regarding the Rules, the Rules Committee will meet next week and the latest edition of the Rule Book will be brought to the House for adoption shortly.

Honourable Members

Since the 5th Parliament, for a variety of reasons, the atmosphere in the House has been challenging. The House is a deliberative body and therefore we can become argumentative and sometimes robust. In this regard tone and gestures can cause as much of a reaction as the words used in debate.

The task of the Speaker is to ensure that the intensity of feeling expressed around some issues is contained within the bounds of the rules and orders without infringing on the freedom of speech that members enjoy. The Chair must at all times, ensure that our rules are adhered to in a way that encourages mutual respect.

However, all members will recognize that ultimately the Speaker must depend on their collective self-discipline to maintain order, and enforce the rules to foster decorum. It is expected that the Whips should firstly lead by example in this regard, and secondly, ensure that their Members maintain the decorum of the House.

Our people expect all of us, as members, to make greater efforts to curb disorder and unruly behaviour. So I urge all members to reflect on how best to return the House to the convivial, co-operative atmosphere, I know all of us would prefer.

As the Presiding Officers we have also initiated engagements with leaders of political parties last year and another engagement following the Constitutional Court judgment.

We will initiate further engagement with the leaders of political parties to address the concern expressed by the President at the end of his budget vote on the behaviour of some Members. The Presiding Officers share the President's concern.

I am convinced that with the commitment we have observed to these engagements, we are bound to find each other in terms of how we provide leadership to those that elected us.

I hasten to add that away from the television cameras the spirit amongst all members across political parties is generally very collegial, constructive and friendly. Members of the public don't know that many friendships are formed across political parties.

It is only when the eyes of the television cameras are trained on honourable members that the "sugar rush" tends to kick in and members disobey the chair, as they do.

Lest we forget, our democracy was achieved because of our collective willingness to engage each other, even on difficult issues. We can never get tired of engaging in an effort to find each other.

Honourable Members

The Constitutional Court Judgment has also highlighted the need for us to look broadly at how best we process reports of Chapter 9 Institutions.

At the start of the 5th Parliament, the Presiding Officers gave the House the assurance that the Ad hoc Committee Report on Institutions Supporting Democracy (Asmal Report) would be processed in this term.

I met with all the Heads of Chapter 9 Institutions and relevant Ministers at Constitutional Hill, in September last year, where we discussed how best we move forward on the Asmal Report recommendations which include, -
An overarching human rights body, the location of their budget votes, and conditions of service, amongst others.

We will keep on engaging those most affected by these recommendations. Though difficult, progress on these matters is possible. It is fully acknowledged that Institutions Supporting Democracy are divergent and therefore cannot all be treated in the same way. For instance, the complexity of the work carried out by the Auditor-General is a case in point.

We must also acknowledge as pointed out by the late Professor Asmal, that there appears to be an enormous amount of overlap amongst the Chapter 9 Institutions, which is costly. There is agreement amongst the chairpersons of Chapter 9's for a review of the legislation to deal with some of the complexities.

We agreed to meet at regular intervals, and I have mandated the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD), located in my office to ensure the facilitation of such engagements. We will keep the House abreast of developments as we fine tune these outstanding matters.

The importance of the ISDs in our democracy and their complementary oversight role in support of Parliament's oversight function is fully recognised. Parliament is therefore duty bound to ensure that the ISDs are effective in their functioning and strengthened in their ability to discharge their primary roles.

Honourable Members

The occasion of Parliament's Annual Budget Vote is a crucial opportunity for us, as public representatives, to reflect on how best we improve on discharging our mandate.

The 5th Parliament has undertaken bold measures to further build a strong institution that is resilient, is capacitated to support the work of members, and is responsive to the needs of our people.

In this regard, it is our responsibility to ensure that the Strategic Plan and Operational Plan 2014-2019, which the two Houses adopted last year is implemented with vigour. A number of initiatives will be introduced, including the following:

Firstly, we will adapt the program of Parliament, so as to ensure that Members have more time for meaningful oversight in committees and constituencies.

The work pressure of honourable members and the hours available in the week are not easily reconciled. We therefore have to seek ways to go about carrying out our oversight mandate in a much smarter manner.

Secondly, through the South African Legislative Sector, we have commenced the process of drafting a "Legislative Sector" Bill to ensure improved sector coordination and co-operation, in the discharge of our oversight mandate.

Thirdly, and closely linked with improved sector coordination and cooperation, is the ongoing matter of ensuring that the institution is fit for purpose through ongoing capacity building. A Legislative Sector-Knowledge Institute will be established, to improve and consolidate our capacity building efforts and knowledge management.

Fourthly, as members have pointed out, the effectiveness of members is largely dependent on the appropriateness and quality of information received. We will continue to invest considerable resources into the Parliamentary Support Service.

Lastly, as I mentioned last year, our parliamentary facilities were not designed for the work of an open, democratic Parliament in which the involvement of citizens is an integral part of democracy.

The chamber facilities for the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces were upgraded, but proper facilities for joint sittings of the Houses remain inadequate. There is also an acute shortage of committee venues to facilitate the representation of people's interests in various parliamentary processes.

The time has now come for Parliament to become responsible for its precinct, property and buildings. This is entirely feasible, as National Treasury and the Department of Public Works, implemented a change in policy between the year 2000 and 2004, to allow for capital budgets to be devolved to relevant budget votes. At this time, Parliament continues to receive property and building maintenance services via the Public Works Budget Vote.

We are however more than ready and excited to take full control of this responsibility and will engage National Treasury and the Department of Public Works on the matter.

We will also in due course engage through our processes on the President's request to "consider the maintenance of two capitals", as a cost saving measure. We cannot continue as if the challenges we face in this regard are not substantive and real. The space and facilities of members must be conducive to optimal outputs.

Honourable Members

You would be aware that in 2009 Parliament passed the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, (FMPPLA) which was amended in 2014.

Within the separation of powers framework, the enactment of the FMPPLA ensures the independence of Parliament as a separate arm of state. Under the old governance model, we had a Parliamentary Oversight Authority, which met for the last time on 2 March this year.

The FMPPLA created a new governance framework for Parliament. Notably, it provides for the Executive Authority, which is made up of the Speaker and Chairperson acting jointly. It also provides for functions of the accounting officers and such structures as the Audit Committee, and for an Oversight Mechanism, amongst others.

On 26 November last year, the two Houses adopted new Joint Rules that regulate the functioning of the parliamentary oversight mechanism -this mechanism is the Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament, which is co-chaired by honourable Vincent Smith and Seiso Mohai.

The establishment of this body marks the full implementation of the Act. It is thus unnecessary to have a parallel governance model of Parliament. We will now commence with a new way of doing things and as we do so we will continue to assess the processes and functions of the oversight mechanism and related areas.

Honourable Members

Within its limited resource envelope, Parliament has been allocated resources to cover core programmes over the medium term. The budget is divided into five programme areas, which include:

" Strategic Leadership and Governance
" Administration
" Core Business
" Support Services and,
" Associated Services

Parliament's allocated budget for 2016/17 financial year amounts to R 2,189 billion which is less than the requested budget by over nine hundred and fifty six million rand. We thus have insufficient funds to implement in full, the Annual Performance Plan as per Parliament's Strategic Plan. Continued budget cuts undermine the effectiveness of Parliament to deal with increasingly complex oversight tasks. We will continue to engage National Treasury on this matter.

Key programmes such as the OISD and the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), both of which are doing good work, are facing budgetary constraints and this affects their reach considerably. We will have to give attention to this matter.

Since the start of the 5th Parliament, we introduced cost cutting measures in travel, catering, printing, consultancy, and telephone usage, amongst others.

The Speaker's Forum has also met with the Director- General in the Treasury Mr. Lungile Fuzile to exchange perspectives on policy priorities vis a vis costs containment measures. We thank the DG Fuzile for his time and contribution.

Honourable Members

Last year, I announced that the 5th Parliament would undertake a review of the impact of key legislation on the lives of our people. An Independent Advisory Panel, chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, has now been established.

The Panel through the work of working groups on social cohesion; land distribution and wealth creation will conduct hearings throughout the country. We must encourage our people to participate in these processes.

We wish the Panel well in their work. We expect the Panel to produce a Report in the next 20 months containing recommendations that will benefit and improve the quality of life of our people.

Honourable Members

We continue to invest considerable resources via the Parliamentary Budget Office and Committees. We do so to ensure that Parliament is able to fully utilize the powerful oversight tools that the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act gives effect to.

The PBO is central to Parliament's NDP oversight process. The PBO's key findings on misalignment of the Medium Term Strategic Frameworks with the National Development Plan are expected to form part of various Committees' oversight strategies over the medium term.

Let us act on the Multi Party Women's Caucus recommendation that Parliament develops tools to ensure that all committees are able to engage in gender responsive analysis and reporting on the budget. The Secretary to Parliament has the responsibility to ensure that the tools are developed and such analysis becomes a key performance area. This is an issue that is not negotiable.

In respect of our budget oversight, our capacity building efforts are yielding good results and we are now truly becoming a budget amending legislature. It is however necessary for us to review the Money Bills Act, in line with the processes that began in the 4th Parliament. We need to be realistic and where necessary streamline the Budget Review Processes.

Having said that, I wish to commend the Portfolio Committees for their diligent oversight in respect of the National Budget Review. The quality of the Budgetary Review Recommendation Reports is improving, and is apace with the needs of our people.

Honourable Members, recent shocking reports of the high incidence of rape and sexual violence on campuses raise serious questions related to this sector's policies on gender violence. It also comes as a shock to hear a member of the bench attribute rape to a certain race. Rape is not part of any culture. We must continue to condemn all acts of violence. We simply cannot be a democracy for some but not for women victims. Our democracy must continue to be gender sensitive to these offences and mete out harsh punishment for such crimes.

Honourable Members

On the international front, we continue to work with international parliamentary bodies such as the IPU, and regionally the SADC-PF to build national, regional and global democratic accountability. This is consistent with the AU Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls on Parliaments to play an active role in democratic governance at national, regional and continental levels.

We will continue to provide the necessary support in strengthening the SADC-PF and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) from being consultative bodies into becoming regional and continental legislative bodies.

We will also continue to shed light on the pressing global challenges of our time, as we did last year when we joined the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the IPU to successfully host the Conference on Nationality and Statelessness.

Honourable Members

The IPU report on the challenges facing Parliaments in 2015, notes that Parliaments remain a beacon of hope and a vector through which people can have a voice in decision-making. I cannot agree more.

Let us move forward, drawing on our collective achievements and strengths whilst at the same time acknowledging and learning from our shortcomings. For we dare not steer away from our cause as the founding provisions of the Constitution enjoin us:

"To improve the quality of life of all our people and to free the potential of each person".

Honourable Members in closing, allow me to thank President Zuma, the Deputy President, and the executive, for their willingness to cooperate and avail themselves to work with the legislature, as we discharge our functions to serve our people.

I wish to appreciate the Chairperson of the NCOP, the Deputy Speaker and House Chairpersons for the constructive working relations, as we collectively steer through the sometimes difficult 5th term.

Sincere thanks to the Secretary to Parliament and his team, and the Secretary to the National Assembly, for providing leadership to the administration. As well as to the parliamentary staff without whom we could not perform our duties.

Appreciation to my own team, who day after day, ensure that my office functions optimally.

A very big thank you to my family, my partner, and particularly my grandchildren for their love and support.

Honourable Members, I hereby commend this Budget to the House.

I thank you

     
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