Honourable Deputy Speaker
Honourable Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe
Honourable Members of Parliament
As elected representatives, individually and collectively, parliamentarians are both products of and custodians of, the democratic values enshrined in our Constitution. These values set the tone for the discussion of issues of national concern as they occur in our society, in all its glorious diversity. This House is positioned in the Constitution to lead these discussions.
The 2012 Inter Parliamentary Unions’ (IPU) Global Parliamentary Report, a peer review of member parliaments, reveals that our established practices on public participation, openness and transparency can be regarded as exemplary, a rare tribute indeed.
The Global Parliamentary Report however notes that the challenge facing all Parliaments is the need to continuously evolve to ensure that we respond strategically and effectively to our peoples’ changing and growing needs. The Report notes that there are three dominant pressures facing Parliaments worldwide, which are:
a greater public desire for information and influence in parliamentary work;,
more accountability and responsiveness to parliamentary concerns; and
service delivery to meet our peoples’ needs.
The occasion of Parliament’s annual budget vote is a crucial opportunity for us, as public representatives, to reflect on how we can and must continually improve on delivering our mandate. June is after all Youth Month and therefore, a potent reminder of the legacy that we must leave for our children.
Section 42 of the Constitution stipulates that Parliament is elected to represent the people and provide a national forum for the public consideration of national issues. Therefore, Parliament should hold debates on issues of national importance. It is important that political parties make use of this provision and more importantly, they must work harder to agree amongst themselves what are issues of national importance.
Noting the gaps in our oversight capacity, in 2009 we adopted an Oversight and Accountability Model. Since then I have noted a more coordinated and enhanced approach to oversight by Committees. However the area of questions to the Executive has continuously proven to be a challenge. While it is acknowledged that the number of questions has increased, questions are an integral mechanism to hold the Executive accountable and the Executive must develop the means to reply within the time limits.
I have written to several Ministers to remind them of their constitutional obligations, but the improvement thus far has only been marginal. I have now directed Members to table proposals at the National Assembly Rules Committee that will enhance and facilitate the Questions process. I have also requested a meeting with the Leader of Government Business so that together we can find a way to address this important matter. Until the rules have been changed, I urge that the Rules be complied with.
To further enhance our oversight activities I urge that we prioritise the National Development Plan. The 9 challenges identified, are the most pressing and you will all agree that these provide us with an excellent framework to guide our oversight programme as they exemplify fundamental challenges of public policy that need to be critically examined and debated – in society and in Parliament.
I am concerned that more and more legislation is returned to the National Assembly for correction – either section 75 legislation which the NCOP has recommended that the Assembly amends to make it constitutional, or legislation that was found to be unconstitutional by the courts. This speaks both to the constitutionality of the legislation passed, as well as its quality.
Section 44(4) of the Constitution provides that “when exercising its legislative authority, Parliament is bound only by the Constitution, and must act in accordance with, and within the limits of, the Constitution”. Because we are a constitutional state, all laws must pass the test of constitutionality. In this regard we must ensure that at all times, the laws we make are in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
The recent judgment of the Cape High Court in Director of Public Prosecutions, Western Cape versus Prins, highlights and reiterates that the legislation that we pass has a huge impact on our citizens. We must take the utmost care to ensure that the law shields and protects the most vulnerable in our society. In this judgement, it was held that as 29 sexual offences listed in the Sexual Offence Act did not contain a penalty clause, an accused found guilty of any of these offences, could not be sentenced. These 29 offences include various types of rape as well as many sexual offences against children.
The poor quality of legislation is often the consequence of inadequate scrutiny. As the subject matter of legislation becomes more sophisticated and highly technical, our Parliament and members must become more professional. This requires the necessary capacity both in terms of technical support by the officials and capacity building for Members. The Report of the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament noted in this regard that Parliament did not have sufficient capacity when it came to drafting and amending legislation. The Constitutional and Legal Services Office was instructed to establish a legal drafting unit. A proposal has been approved and the process is now underway to staff the unit and get the ball rolling.
We have an abundance of willing and able stakeholders, including academia, research institutions, special interests groups and civil society who, on an on-going basis, are able to ensure that we have access to independent resources of specialised knowledge and information. We should make maximum use of them.
In so far as public participation is concerned, Members of Parliament should take responsibility for safeguarding the integrity of the participation process, particularly for the poor and the marginalised.
The quality and effectiveness of public participation cannot rest on simply providing a space and an opportunity for submitting comments. Public participation can only be effective if inputs find expression in parliamentary processes.
A task team of the Joint Rules Committee is currently looking at creating a model to facilitate public participation in parliamentary processes. This project has been far too long in the making and concrete proposals need to come out of the endeavors of the task team, as a matter of urgency.
Earlier this year, Deputy President Motlanthe asked us to consider whether we are accessible enough to the people we represent? He also asked us to use our constituency offices as spaces for dialogue and engagement. I agree. Let us use our constituency periods and constituency offices more effectively and creatively.
In my discussions with the chief whips of political parties I will continue to encourage the implementation of more stringent reporting requirements on constituency work.
It will be recalled that the current set of rules of the National Assembly was agreed in 1996 when the Constitution came into effect. Since the adoption of the rules, Parliament has continued to develop and refine its structures, procedures and proceedings to ensure that they allow the legislature to discharge its responsibilities effectively. It has become increasingly evident that a comprehensive review of the rules is required to ensure that they do not hinder but help us in discharging our mandate and are in line with our Constitution.
The Report of the Joint Subcommittee on Delegated Legislation is a matter that has been outstanding for a considerable time.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this committee and the urgency we need to attach to its establishment. The work of the committee involves ensuring that the regulations passed by the Executive are in line with our Constitution and the objectives and intentions of the Acts, which provided for such regulations.
The enactment of the Financial Management of Parliament Act (FMPA) ensures the independence of Parliament. The only outstanding matter is the implementation of the oversight mechanism. The Parliamentary Oversight Authority currently performs some of the functions of the proposed oversight mechanism and as such there is a need for further discussion to avoid such duplications.
In 2009 the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act and the Financial Management of Parliament Act came into effect, giving Parliament the ability to amend the money Bills. Our study tours have revealed that we need to approach the establishment of the Budget Office with circumspection to ensure that the model implemented will respond to our circumstances and will deliver on what the Act has intended. We have established that there have been a number of failed budget offices in other parliaments primarily because they failed to support the work of Parliament.
In this regard Parliament’s Presiding Officers seconded Professor Mahommed Jahed from the Development Bank of South Africa to assist with the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Professor Jahed, sitting in the Speaker’s Bay today, has worked with Parliament in the past two years conducting workshops on developing understanding and implementation of the Budget Office and was also part of the study tour to Japan and South Korea. Thank you Professor Jahed.
Since the promulgation of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, a number of challenges have been documented. These challenges relate mostly to the impractical time frames stipulated in the Act. The matter has been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for it to draft appropriate amendments. We need to deal with the challenges so that the Budget office can be established as soon as possible.
As you all are aware Parliament’s budget enables us to fulfill our constitutional mandate, to assist political parties represented in Parliament to secure administrative support, service constituents and to provide members of Parliament with the necessary facilities.
For these purposes, our programmes are divided into five key areas. These are administration, legislation and oversight, public and international participation, members’ facilities and associated services i.e. financial support to political parties in parliament.
Specifically, our 4th Parliament has prioritised the strengthening of the oversight function, increased public participation, better cooperative government, the expansion of Parliament’s role in international relations, and the building of a truly people’s Parliament.
With respect to Parliament’s role in international relations, global interdependence also calls for more participation and accountability in global decision-making. Empowering people to influence decisions that affect their lives and hold their rulers accountable is no longer just a national issue. In an integrated world these democratic principles have a global dimension because global rules and actors often affect people’s lives as much as national ones.
As a Parliament we remain committed to working towards the consolidation of the African agenda through our participation in the regional and continental multilateral structures, in particular the Pan-African Parliament and the SADC Parliamentary Forum. The South African Parliament continues to participate in and support the programmes of the SADC Parliamentary Forum including its election observer and monitoring missions. As you may know, Parliament sent a small team to Lesotho at the week-end to monitor the elections there.
Parliament co-hosted the Inter-Parliamentary Union- 17th Conference of Parties, the Climate Change meeting on the margins of the United Nations’ COP17 Climate Change Conference in Durban last December 2011. This concluded with a formal declaration by all IPU member Parliaments placing climate change issues at the centre of the work of Parliaments globally. It is important that we monitor the resolutions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the commitments made by our governments in that regard.
At a bilateral level Parliament has hosted delegations from the People’s Republic of China, Kenya, Vietnam, Botswana, Slovak Republic, Argentina, Syria, Indonesia, The Russian Federation and Japan, and most recently, the President of India, President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, paid a courtesy call to our Parliament.
More engagements have been identified, for instance, in June, Parliament is sending a delegation to participate in the forthcoming World Symposium on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
With respect to the “greening” of Parliament we have established a committee to work on concrete proposals of how our carbon footprint can be reduced. Parliament should be an example to all government departments and society at large of why and how environmental concerns must be central to the way we work and do things.
Chapter Three of our Constitution requires us to work cooperatively with different spheres of government. As you know provincial Speakers meet with the Presiding Officers regularly within the Speaker’s Forum.
In March, Parliament hosted a very successful International Consultative Seminar which is an annual event of the South Africa Legislative Sector and the European Union aimed at advancing our strategic partnership by sharing perspectives and best practices.
In this month the Presiding Officers also met with the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to discuss matters of mutual interest and areas of cooperation. We have agreed to meet once a year and as and when urgent matters arise.
I would like to take this opportunity, before turning to the actual allocation for 2012-2013, to report on the matter of the Secretary to Parliament and the Chief Financial Officer. As Members are aware, the Secretary and the Chief Financial Officer were placed on special leave to allow the investigation by the Auditor-General into the salary advance payment to the Secretary to Parliament with regard to the construction of a perimeter wall at his residence.
The report of the Auditor General was received and tabled at a special meeting of the Parliamentary Oversight Authority (POA). The POA considered and accepted the report and the recommendations by the Auditor-General.
In this regard, Parliament will formally engage with Mr Dingani and the Chief Finance Office, Mr Leslie Mondo, regarding the processes to follow. Both Mr Dingani and Mr Mondo have been on special leave since March 26. The Deputy Secretary, Mr Michael Coetzee, has been acting as Secretary to Parliament.
We will report to the House once the processes have been completed.
With respect to annual expenditure, Parliament’s budget allocation for the 2012/13 financial year is R1.763 billion.
As you are aware, this budget is divided into five programme areas.
The allocation for Programme 1 - Administration is R392 million, an increase of 6.5% over the R368 million of 2011-12.
The allocation for Programme 2 - Legislation and Oversight is R311 million, an increase of 4.3% over the R298 million of 2011-12.
R55 million of the R 311 million is allocated to committees, an increase of R5 million or 10% for the financial year.
The allocation for Programme 3 - Public and International Participation is R118 million, an increase of 8.2% over the R109 million for 2011-12.
The allocation for Programme 4 - Members’ Facilities is R200 million.
The allocation for Programme 5 – Associated Services providing financial support to political parties totals R311 million, an increase of 4.3% over the R 298 million of 2011-12.
Members’ remuneration is a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund and amounts to R430 million.
For the past 3 years Parliament has received unqualified reports from the Auditor General. With respect to the specific findings of the report of 2010/2011, the Presiding Officers, deemed it necessary to implement an accelerated programme to improve the financial management environment of Parliament. The most visible and immediate accomplishment of the project was to reduce the number of Auditor General’s findings from 115 in 2010 to fewer than 10 in 2011. We continuously endeavour to improve the performance of our systems of financial control.
Since the 1st Parliament, the Rules Committee has been discussing the issue of the absence of members from the sittings of the House and its committees. On a number of occasions, I have expressed concern about the lack of a policy on members’ attendance and enjoined parties to speed up the process to finalise the matter. Attendance affects the core business of Parliament, as many a time the business of the House cannot proceed without a quorum, and a solution has to be found. There should be an implementable policy governing members’ attendance, otherwise the wrong signal will continue to be sent to the public, which is that there are no consequences for members who do not attend the proceedings of Parliament.
Two years ago a draft attendance policy was referred by the Parliamentary Oversight Authority to the Chief Whips’ Forum for processing. After I strongly raised my concerns at the last two Joint Rules Committee meetings, it has been agreed that the matter will be finalised at the next meeting on 31 July 2012.
I want to conclude with the most urgent and pressing issue in our country today – that is the condition of our children. The United Nations Children Fund released a report last week in which it offers detailed insight into unnecessary deaths and devastating living conditions of SA's children and demands that government take immediate action. With 11.5 million of the country's 19 million children living in poverty - and 7million living in 20% of the poorest households - the report shows poor children are 17 times more likely to experience hunger and three times less likely to complete school than children from wealthier backgrounds. The report, titled "A Programme of Cooperation between government and UNICEF 2013 to 2017", shows just how far South Africa still needs to travel as the homes of 1.4million children rely on streams for drinking water, 1.5million children live in houses with no flushing toilets and 1.7million live in shacks."
This week government has identified as “Child Protection Week”. We have heard and witnessed many harrowing and disturbing stories of abuse of children in our communities. The question that we need to ask is what Parliament, and Members, can and should do, to ensure the quality of life and protection of our children. We should remember that we are here to make a big difference to their lives.
Notwithstanding our many achievements, former President Mandela also reminded us that “Apartheid continues to live with us in the leaking roofs and corrugated walls of shacks; in the bulging stomach of hungry children; in the darkness of homes without electricity; and in the heavy pales of dirty water that rural women carry for long distances and to quench their thirst.”
Amilcar Cabral reminds us that “We must preserve for our children the best that we have learned; they are the flowers of our struggle.”
I thank you.
SPEECH BY THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES, HON MNINWA JOHANNES MAHLANGU, ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEBATE ON PARLIAMENT’S BUDGET VOTE, TUESDAY 29 MAY 2012
Hon Deputy Chairperson
Fellow South Africans
Parliament’s Budget Vote is an opportunity to demonstrate how Parliament, an organ of people’s power, is utilising public resources to pursue its vision of building a people’s institution that seeks a better quality of life for all South Africans.
As you are aware, our Constitution enjoins us to transform our society by establishing a society that is based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Building such a society is a process to which all of us can contribute by making our voices heard here in the national Parliament, in the nine provincial legislatures, in municipal councils and in broader society.
It is evident that given our young democracy, our Parliament has a particular role in promoting dialogue and free expression of views by South Africans in a manner that promotes respect and dignity. This is important if we are to heal the divisions of the past.
Through this Budget Vote, we are able to once again present a progress report on the implementation of the strategic objectives that crystallised the policy imperatives for the fourth Parliament. These imperatives are amplified in the strategic plan for 2009 to 2014.
We are fully aware that the 2012/13 financial year is a penultimate year in the work of this Parliament. Soon we will be conducting a mid-term review to assess our performance against our own goals.
I am therefore delighted to present to the House the budget of Parliament for the current financial year under the annual theme “The knowledge economy and development opportunities”. We chose this theme because we recognise the centrality of knowledge and technology in modern economies, and as the new drivers of productivity, economic growth and development.
One of the important features of the knowledge economy is that it uses knowledge as an economic commodity. Unlike economy based on resources such as minerals, which are finite, knowledge production is infinite and creates boundless opportunities.
At this point allow me to congratulate our government for winning a major part of the bid to host, in our continent, two of the three components of the Square Kilometre Array. The project has immense spin-offs in the areas of research, engineering and science for present and future generations.
The critical question however is how best South Africans can leverage on these opportunities.
2. PARLIAMENT’S BUDGET (2011/12)
Hon Deputy Chairperson, as we reported last year during the 2011/12 budget vote Parliament was allocated a budget of R1.674 billion. This budget was divided into five programmes: Administration, Legislation and Oversight, Public and International Participation, Members’ Facilities, and Associated Services.
Among others, the following are some of the things this budget helped us to achieve:
2.1 Chamber Upgrade
We have managed to revamp this NCOP Chamber with improved sound quality and acoustics.
2.2 Conducting Oversight
We continue to strengthen oversight. For example, the Executive response rate to questions has increased to 94%. This is an improvement from 90% in the 2010/11 financial year. Our target is 100% response rate from the Executive.
We have also created more space for committees to conduct oversight through the introduction of the Committee Oversight Week.
With regard to legislation, the NCOP passed a total of 28 Bills.
2.4 Public participation
In support of public participation, the following were the highlights:
1) Provincial Week was continued with the last programme focusing on the achievement of clean audits by municipalities.
2) Taking Parliament to the People – for example, we held a very successful Taking Parliament to the People programme at Nquthu, Umzinyathi District, in KwaZulu-Natal. Follow-up on the work of these programmes is continuing. This year in November we shall be visiting Northern Cape, in Pixley le ka Seme District Municipality. In March next year we shall be going to Mpumalanga but we still need to finalise details with the leadership of the province.
3) Legislative work – we have ensured meaningful public participation when dealing with legislation (examples include our approach to the Protection of State Information and the Traditional Courts Bills). We integrated public inputs as one of the ways to improve the quality of the laws we pass.
4) Public Participation Model – a parliamentary Task Team has been established and consists of 22 MPs to develop the model. The Team will also work in collaboration with the 9 provincial legislatures.
2.5 Co-operative government and intergovernmental relations
The NCOP will continue to build relations with Provincial Legislatures. We are already conducting joint business review and strategic planning sessions. This is significant given the fact that Provincial Legislatures are the lifeblood of the NCOP, and that we need to promote co-operative government and good intergovernmental relations. This is especially so given the fact that we continue to deal with interventions between the different spheres of government.
2.6 International Participation
Parliament has been actively involved in bilateral and multilateral relation activities over the past financial year and the emphasis has been on inter-parliamentary cooperation to enhance good parliamentary governance.
The hosting of the Globe Chapter in preparation for the COP17 Conference as well as the IPU-COP17 Climate Change Meeting that Parliament on the margins of the United Nations’ COP17 Climate Change Conference in Durban last year are some of the engagements that are worth noting. It is important, therefore, that we monitor the resolutions of this Conference and the commitments made by our government in that regard.
Parliament will continue to engage with other foreign parliaments to share notes and experiences in relation to parliamentary governance and international participation broadly. Most recently, our Parliament hosted the President of India and this was an attempt to encourage robust parliament-to-parliament relations in the spirit of the IBSA and BRICS initiatives. We will engage this House for a broader participation in the envisaged IBSA and BRICS Parliamentary forum.
Also recently the Parliamentary Oversight Authority (POA) undertook a benchmarking visit to the European Parliament to exchange experiences in the field of parliamentary governance and institutional oversight as it relates to parliaments and state institutions.
Some of the observations during this exchange exercise is that parliaments are evolving. In this regard, the European Parliament notes in its 2025 plan that the multi-polarity of the globalised world, the multi-level nature of governance, the multiple players that are interacting in law-making and political activities are creating directly or indirectly a new context for the legislature. Our Parliament must also learn to adapt in an environment of constant change and learn to react quickly to situations in the interest of society.
2.7 Improvement of Financial Management
With respect to the findings of the Auditor General’s report of 2010/2011, we implemented an accelerated programme to improve the financial management environment of Parliament. The most visible and immediate accomplishment of the project was to reduce the number of Auditor General’s findings from 115 in 2010 to fewer than 10 in 2011. We continue to receive unqualified reports with reduced matters of emphasis.
3. THIS YEAR’S BUDGET (2012/13)
For the current financial year Parliament has been allocated a total of R1, 763 billion, which includes R430 million direct charge against the National Revenue Fund for Members’ remuneration.
The budget is divided into the five programme areas of Parliament as follows:
· Programme 1 - Administration is R392 million, an increase of 6.5% over the R368 million of 2011-12.
· Programme 2 - Legislation and Oversight is R311 million, an increase of 4.3% over the R298 million of 2011-12. R55 million of this is allocated to committees, an increase of R5 million or 10% for the financial year.
· Programme 3 - Public and International Participation is R118 million, an increase of 8.2% over the R109 million for 2011-12.
· Programme 4 - Members’ Facilities is R200 million, an increase of 0.1% over the R199 million of 2011-12.
· Programme 5 – Associated Services providing financial support to political parties totals R311 million, an increase of 4.3% over the R298 million of 2011-12.
This budget will be utilised to further implement the work of Parliament for the current financial year which include the following:
3.1 Budget Office
As part of the continuing work to implement the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act on 8 May 2012 we, as Presiding Officers, appointed Professor Mohammed Jahed, who has been seconded to Parliament by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), to assist with the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Professor Jahed will work on establishing the Office until the end of the year and will be accountable to the Presiding Officers for functional and operational issues for the duration of his secondment.
3.2 Other initiatives
The other initiatives that are continuing in this financial year are divided into the strategic objectives, in terms of the Strategic Plan, as follows:
· Build an effective and efficient institution
(i) This includes review of organisational structure and other organisational efficiency initiatives. This is a major project that requires political buy-in. We are in the process of finalising our proposals and we will thereafter engage the political stakeholders on how best to support the work of the institution and Members in general.
· Strengthen oversight
(i) This includes, among others, the development and implementation of systems, processes and rules of engagement for delegated legislation; development of oversight monitoring and evaluation (early warning) systems; and implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Procedures and Related Matters Act (including the Budget Office);
· Increase public involvement and participation
(i) This includes the development of the Public Participation Model; and expanding the reach of broadcasting with broadcasting infrastructure.
· Improve and widen international cooperation and participation
(i) To build capacity a workshop of the Parliamentary Group on International Relations was held at the weekend to crystallise the role of Parliament in international relations. We are also preparing to host the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in 2013.
These do not answer all of the issues that Members raised during the last budget vote, but they do answer most of them.
4. MATTER REGARDING SECRETARY TO PARLIAMENT AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
Before concluding my presentation, I would like to take this opportunity to report on the matter of the Secretary to Parliament and the Chief Financial Officer. As Members are aware, the Secretary and the Chief Financial Officer were placed on leave to allow the investigation by the Auditor-General into the salary advance payment to the Secretary to Parliament with regard to the construction of a perimeter wall at his residence.
The report was tabled at a special meeting of the Parliamentary Oversight Authority (POA). The POA considered and accepted the report and the recommendations by the Auditor-General.
In this regard, Parliament will formally engage with Mr Dingani and the Chief Finance Officer, Mr Leslie Mondo, regarding the processes to follow. Both Mr Dingani and Mr Mondo have been on special leave since March 26. The Deputy Secretary, Mr Michael Coetzee, has been acting as Secretary.
Honourable Deputy Chairperson, with this budget we hope to strengthen the role of our Parliament. We are aware that ours is to oversee a modern knowledge-based economy. This calls for huge investments in structural and human capacity. The knowledge economy is critical in helping us solve our current and future challenges as a nation in a sustainable manner.
I recommend Parliament’s budget totalling R1, 763 billion, in the hope that you will support the work of this Parliament in giving the voice to the voiceless and holding the government to account.
I would like to thank all the Members and the officials for the role they continue to play in making it possible for us to be involved in this important work that Parliament does for our nation.
I thank you.
Province Or State