Parliament closes on sour note

Oversight role threatened…..

editorial…..

We have to admit it was not a happy Parliament that closed on 25 May 2016. Whilst we try to ignore newspaper parliament mandela statuescandals and listen to the more serious debate of those trying to get things right in the interests of the country, it was indeed a troubled Parliament that went into recess.

We have delayed our report to catch the last of the meetings before the election period. Usually, where there is a forthcoming election, whether national or provincial, there are many unreasonable statements from politicians. However, it seems that this time, there are lot more issues and certainly a lot more abrasive statements than usual.

Politics aside

Many such matters have involved the question of relationships with Parliament – the institution that is supposed to stand apart, like the judicial, from political machinations. Separation of these powers is critical to the process of halting a democracy from becoming a dictatorship, so it becomes important not to enter this space. However, quite clearly some members of the Cabinet, even perhaps the Presidency, are trying to by-pass Parliament on the question of oversight.

Although this is strongly denied on every occasion when the subject comes up, it becomes more and more difficult to tell whether government officials are having pressure applied on them when it comes to telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Parliament.

Hence, also it is difficult to discern true government policy in the long term as distinct from Cabinet putting out fires in the short term. We will be glad when this period in South African politics comes to an end, which hopefully it will.

Parliament and its system

Mbete,Baleka sworninIt would seem to us, a fact which is supported by most commentators, that the party list system is one of the culprits in this area – a system a whereby a member of Parliament stays in service, complete with salary and pension, according to his or her adjudged service to the cause.

Secondly, all directors general of government departments are, in most cases, party appointments and currently every chairperson of every committee in Parliament is a member of the ANC Alliance. It is the integrity of that person, therefore, that matters and this, we afraid to say, seems not to be coming through from the Cabinet. Every country gets the government they deserve (Joseph de Maistre).

All is not as at it appears

It came as a shock to many to learn that what had been listened to in Parliament, such as statements and presentations from directors general and CEOs of utilities or SOEs representing massive structures such as Eskom, PetroSA, Central Energy Fund, Police Services, Defence (and even PIC), that all was not quite, shall we say, totally accurate – even in expensive powerpoint presentations and in long convoluted answers to the Auditor General. The trend has been a painful experience to observe.

The cowboys, such as Lucky Montana of PRASA – now disgraced, were relatively easy to spot. Quite clearly his parliamentary reports were dubious and the presentations he made were an attempt to cover up foolish mistakes and bad management but there had remained a feeling of enthusiasm to succeed in his case. Just somebody in charge who shouldn’t have been.

However, in the case of “pressure coming from the top”, there are the odd stories continually emanating from the energy debate and matters related. These are disquieting, as are matters relating to broadband allocation, the aviation industry and land reform coupled with traditional affairs and matters related to expropriation.

Divided

Aside from the unfortunate chaos in the National Assembly debates, meetings which we attend occasionallyparliament 6 only from a business viewpoint – usually budget issues, the evident atmosphere of dissonance between Cabinet and Treasury is clearly affecting and hindering the parliamentary oversight role and translating itself down to the parliamentary working portfolio committees.

A poor relationship with Treasury badly affects the “engine room” of Parliament and makes a mockery of financial control.

We can only attend, make précis on what is said and report without opinion but we can say, quite honestly in our editorial, that currently we are not impressed by the seemingly cowed body language of the public service on certain issues. Witness the decisions on the output of the SABC and although we do not report on this as it bears no business brief, it somehow manifests a Cabinet gone wrong.

We shall continue to be watchful, particularly in the area of new legislation that affects business and declared changes in government policy.

Previous articles on category subject
Parliament under siege – ParlyReportSA
Shedding light on Eskom – ParlyReportSA
PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started – ParlyReport

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