The Honourable Mazibuko spoke of the fundamental importance that the Presidency be transparent and held accountable to the people of South Africa.
It is ironic that the Presidency itself lacks any kind of regular performance monitoring by Parliament.
The Presidency, gliding in apparent “splendid isolation”, goes about its business free from scrutiny by a dedicated parliamentary oversight committee. This contravenes the spirit of our national contract.
In sentiments expressed by the Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, we are enjoined by the Constitution to use scant resources: “to fight poverty, unemployment, preventable disease and ill-health, and other forms of social deprivation”.
The country is navigating stormy seas at the present time, knocked about by the winds of global recession. These are lean and hard times for all.
Over two years ago, the Democratic Alliance proposed that a Presidential Portfolio Committee be established to ensure that every rand and cent gets to the frontline: poor people in poor communities who live in absolute poverty.
Clearly, Mr Speaker, this Parliament does not only need to work up a hungry appetite for a robust debate on this matter. It also demands the political will to establish a presidential portfolio committee to oversee the activities of the Presidency.
The Presidency has excelled at increasing the size of its budget. Anyone would think they won the national lottery! This budget has doubled in two years. But we cannot say the same of the quality of its performance.
This increase in spending has not been justified by any measurable improvement in how the Presidency has achieved its mandate. Who is tracking the work of the Presidency to see if there is a correlation between its largesse and any tangible gains?
A case in point is the parliamentary question posed by the DA, and the responses to it, given by the Department of Public Works, in the first quarter of last year.
They exposed the extravagant cost of the - previously announced - upgrades to the President’s official residence and offices. These include Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria, Genadendal in Cape Town, as well as offices within the Bryntirion Estate and Tuynhuys here at Parliament.
Mr Speaker: of course there is a public outcry at such exorbitant figures when inflation is eating away household incomes in poor communities. The splurging of millions on the President’s high living lifestyle and extravagant public relations stunts is an affront to the poorest of the poor who have been neglected from Nkandla to Brandfort to Mvezo to Mahlabathini.
Mr Speaker: the lack of respect for accountability is an attitude that has infected this government from the Presidency downwards.
I therefore, Mr Speaker, ask the President to tell this Parliament and the country in his reply tomorrow whether he agree that the Presidency’s expenditure should be accountable to a parliamentary oversight committee?
If not, why not?
Speaker ek daag die President uit om aan hierdie Parlement en die res van die Land met sy reaksie op hierdie Begroting ons te inlig indien hy saam stem dat die Presidensie begroting verantwoordelik gehou moet word deur n Parlementere Oorsig Kommitee of nie en indien nie waarom nie?
I would like to remind this House again what the Honourable Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said, when he replied to a question, just over a year ago, about a putative oversight parliamentary committee.
I quote: “That is a matter for this august house to take forward. We would not oppose that in any way. I believe the ANC benches would be very happy to establish such a structure.”
Not only do we need clarity on how the Presidency spends its budget, but also about the quality of the work it undertakes.
The gap between aspiration and implementation ever widens in the Republic. Even if a line item seems worthy, such Committee must be able to ask the Presidency if the money could have been better spent.
Furthermore, Whilst South Africa’s tax crust is thin, should not the Presidency, in these austere times, be taking a lead by doing more with less?
We, in this House, enjoy generous salaries and benefits many times greater than the average South African could imagine.
If we are already asking our fellow South Africans to pay down their debts and live within their means, should we not be asking the same of this Parliament and the Presidency?
The Honourable Manual demonstrated the sure touch of leadership with the constructive spirit and lively engagement he showed when explaining the National Development Plan to this Parliament. We commend this brand of leadership as being worthy of emulation by you Mr President.
But Speaker given these harsh economic times, one has to ask whether R15, 5 million and R24, 4 million for the renovation of the President’s office is money well spent?
I also have to ask: could the obscene amounts of money spent on the dubious programmes of National Youth Development Agency have not been better spent on the Youth Wage Subsidy as we have the support of the vast majority of South Africans to advocate its implementation?
Like the Presidency, the NYDA seems to be a one-stop job centre for connected comrades, rather than an agent for radical change.
The South African taxpayer wants more “bang for their buck”.
This Parliament would be abdicating its oversight responsibility by supporting a budget vote where no oversight structures exist.
We need to restore the Presidency to health.
We need a Presidency that is accountable to this Parliament, and,
We need a President who cherishes accountability because that is what the Constitution demands of him.
I thank you.