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Speech by the Honourable House Chairperson C.T. Frolick, MP on the occasion of the debate on Budget 2, Parliament

30 May 2017, National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town

Honorable Deputy Speaker
Members of the Executive
Honorable Members
Ladies and Gentlemen

Parliaments' vision is to build an effective peoples Parliament that is responsive to the needs of the people, and that is driven by the ideal of realizing a better quality of life for all the people of South Africa and its mission is to represent and act as a voice of the people in fulfilling Parliament's constitutional functions of passing laws and overseeing executive action.

Based on this and the constitutional requirements Parliament developed mechanisms to guide its work on oversight in the form of the oversight and accountability model that was adopted in 2009 by the third Parliament.

Oversight is thus a constitutionally mandated function of legislative organs of state to scrutinize and oversee executive action and any organ of state.

INCREASING THE CAPACITY OF COMMITTEES AND MEMBERS

Parliamentary Committees fulfill a crucial oversight role and must be adequately supported by the institution to execute their mandates. Parliamentary committees are correctly referred to as the epicenter or engine room of oversight and the lawmaking process.

In a study to determine the best practices in Parliaments around the world, the IPU found that MP's are allocated a dedicated secretary and researcher in addition to that which is offered to the committees to which they belong.

Committees in these Parliaments also have dedicated rooms and they meet as often and as long as possible, which relates into better performance in the execution of their mandates.

Achieving this standard is much depended on the availability of space and the expansion of existing infrastructure or the relocation and construction of a new Parliamentary complex. The lack of adequate facilities has led to soaring costs in securing committee meeting venues outside Parliament.

There are currently 38 committees in the NA, 3 Joint Committees & 4 other internal committees. Total = 45. During 2016/17 four (4) Ad-Hoc Committees were constituted i.e.

Ad hoc committee to nominate a person for appointment as Public Protector.

Ad Hoc Committee on the Appointment of Board Members to the NYDA;

Ad hoc Committee on inquiry into the ability of the SABC Board to discharge its functions; and

Ad Hoc Committee on the filling of vacancies in the Commission for Gender Equality.

The current situation under which committees operate is becoming more and more challenging; the support and resources at the disposal of committees is inadequate and impact negatively on the effective execution of its constitutional mandate.

The austerity measures introduced by the National Treasury resulted in budget cuts that has exacerbated the situation.

The Budget allocation has decreased over the last three years i.e.

One national newspaper per language is used instead of using multiple newspapers for the same language. In addition we've managed to publish adverts in all other official languages in regional and community newspapers.

This is supplemented with advertisements in the electronic media and community radio stations. Whilst costs associated with advertisements were decreased, our ability to reach more of our people has been enhanced.

New measures currently being implemented is that of minimizing travel and accommodation changes for oversight visits and thereby reducing cancelation costs and finance charges.

NOT WITHSTANDING THE ABOVE

Payment of costs for community representatives who cannot afford to travel to Cape Town i.e. PC on Trade & Industry, PC on Small Business Development, PC on COGTA, PC on International Relations.

New political challenges has emerged that impacts directly on the oversight role of MP's. Late last year extra security measures had to be put in place to ensure the safety of MP's and the public who attended public hearings conducted by the PC on Higher Education.

In March this year death threats were made against the Chairperson of the PC on Public Service and Administration whilst on an oversight visit in Mpumalanga. A case was opened with the police and we await the outcome of the investigation.

In April this year a joint committee meeting of the Select Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Trade & Industry were disrupted by certain attendees who refused to obey the rulings of the Chairpersons.

The latter incident occurred on the precincts of Parliament and security concerns were raised by various party Whips in the Chief Whips Forum and the Programming Committee. A call was made for more stringent security measures to be put in place at committee rooms and the public gallery in the National Assembly.

DEEPENED FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT

A very good working relationship exists between the Office of the Auditor-General and committees in both Houses.

The A-G continuously appraise and update us on initiatives from his office to improve financial accountability in government and other public agencies. The annual audit outcomes highlights continuous transgressions and financial malpractices in the management of public funds. The picture over the last three years looks as follows:

Unauthorised expenditure = R +4bn

Fruitless and wasteful expenditure = R +3.6bn

Irregular expenditure = R +1.05tr

The above necessitates a change in approach and closer collaboration between the Finance Committees of both Houses, SCOPA, the PC on Public Service & Administration and the DPME. It remains the responsibility of all committees to scrutinize quarterly reports and spending patterns. The complete disregard of the PFMA and other laws that sabotage clean governance, undermine the efficiency, economy and effectiveness of government operations can no longer be tolerated. The question we must ask is: "Who are these individuals who are disposing of public funds without value and who benefits from this"?

Deputy Speaker every year there is huge excitement and interest when the Minister of Finance table the Budget.

However, when the Auditor-General release the audited outcomes of how these funds were spent there's no fanfare. We here in Parliament must elevate the release of these annual audited outcomes to the same level. As MP's we must all be seized as to how these funds were spent!

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

Last year in this debate I informed the House on the progress and consultation processes that we were to embark upon to finalize the PPM of Parliament.

The development of the Public Participation Model was informed by Parliament's vision of an activist and responsive people's Parliament that improves the quality of life of South Africans and ensures enduring equality in our society. The Model seeks to achieve Parliament's strategic objective to increase access and improve the quality of participation through enhanced programmes to ensure participatory democracy.

The Political Task Team that was overseeing the development of the Model from 2013-2016 completed the work and adopted its report in July 2016. The PPM provide an action plan that responds to the objectives of the OAM of Parliament and the aims contained in the NDP.

The stated objective of the NDP embodies our constitutional values and the clause in the Freedom Charter that states "The people shall govern" and that "all people shall take part in the administration of the country".

The report was presented to the Joint Rules Committee for ratification in November 2016; unfortunately the Model was not adopted as parties required more time to consider the document. This caused an unfortunate delay in addressing the systemic problems associated with public participation processes and prolong the unnecessary duplication of activities between the NA and the NCOP.

ICT

Earlier in the debate the Speaker announced the official launch of the My Parliament App.

The phased roll-out of the "My Parliament" App commenced on a trial basis last year. The My Parliament Application is a Member-centric mobile application that is capable of presenting enriched, user-friendly Parliamentary information on mobile devices. This mobile application will ensure that Members in the Houses and Committees, are given timeous access to all relevant documentation such as agendas, minutes, presentations, research papers, ATC's and other supporting documents etc. The roll-out will also result in huge cost savings worth millions on the printing budget of Parliament as we accelerate our advance towards a paperless environment. Effective utilization of ICT will enable us "to do more with less".

16 of the 56 committees rolled out (30%) The App is installed on the devises of 203 Members on 252 devices (40%)Lessons learned:

Committee-by-Committee approach taken longer than anticipated;

The roll-out resources being absorbed into other initiatives; Committees Secretaries have not all attended training;

The rollout of the App does not mean the Member is trained; change management is important for successful adoption of new systems.

Proposed way forward:

Training video is to be made available to Members

Usage will be monitored per quarter

Satisfaction survey will be used to poll Members

Improved communication to Members

CONCLUSION

Gratitude and thanks to:

1. Speaker
2. Deputy Speaker
3. House Chairpersons in the NA and NCOP
4. NA Table
5. Chief Whips of parties
6. Staff

     
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