Tag Archive | portfolio committees

Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam

editorial…….

Massive public service vs National Assembly…..

During the last few weeks, the sheer volume of meetings in the National Assembly of Parliament to consider eachnational assembly members government departmental budget vote and each of the departmental five-year strategic plans has been overwhelming. Little of legislative consequence emerges during such a period each year, other than the tabling of technocrat Bills rather than important policy making legislation.

Sadly to say, not too much attention is paid by the media to any of these meetings. Big plans, impressive targets, promises to overhaul this, that and the other. Most working journalists of experience have seen it all before and mostly they try to get statements on issues from either the Minister or Deputy Minister beforehand.

Time is of the essence for all. But why is this period of the parliamentary diary so extraordinarily busy?

Traffic jam in Parliament

There is unfortunately a simple answer. With too many people trying to do too much in limited government hours, the resulting traffic jam results from the fact that South Africa has probably one of the largest government structures per head of population in the world, if not the largest. If it was one of the best, as far as delivery was concerned, probably this might be acceptable but sadly it isn’t and most, both locally and internationally, know it.

unionbldgsIn the fight that has now started to prune costs, moving Parliament from Cape Town to Pretoria has been suggested on the basis that this might save considerable airfare costs, time spent sitting in aircraft and train seats when the country needs one’s administrative time in the office and pointless time spent on hotel accommodation honing up on the next day’s parliamentary presentation.

However, all of this is only a manifestation of the real problem and it does not answer the question of why Parliament is so busy at this time of year.

Odious comparisons

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan is obviously in an extremely embarrassing position. He must realize himself that the Cabinet to which he belongs is arguably one the largest in the world evidenced by the fact that whilst there are thirty-five very highly paid ministers in the South African Cabinet, the USA has a “cabinet” of sixteen. China pushes it a bit with twenty-five and India manages one of the biggest populations in the world with twenty-three.

It all becomes slightly ludicrous when an additional thirty-seven Deputy Ministers are weighed in to Team South Africa.

Wrong ratio

Down the line and aside from the cost of running all these ministries, the thirty-five departments belonging toparliament mandela statue these Ministers, accompanied by some seventeen of the larger SOEs, must all report to a totally disproportionate number of MPs in Parliament, both in the portfolio committees in the National Assembly and the select committees in the NCOP.

Hence the parliamentary traffic jam at this time of year. All this at the cost of quality oversight (the job of Parliament) and the slowing down of urgently needed legislation. Meanwhile, the number of MPs is governed by the Constitution. The number of cabinet ministers and departments (and consequently the ballooning public service) is governed by the President.

The answer to the parliamentary traffic jam problem and the imperilled and much-needed cost saving exercise in terms of the Budget is therefore really a complete no-brainer.
Previous articles on category subject
The big SA cabinet crunch – ParlyReportSA
Special cabinet statement might correct damage to SA – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Facebook and Twitter, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities0 Comments

Parliament votes on 2014 budget

Editorial _

Men and women at work…

Parliament  is currently a place of learning, particularly bearing in mind the 2014 budget is the first oversight task.   With so many new parliamentarians and newly re-structured committees with new chairpersons, insofar as learning is concerned,  it is more than just simply a new school term but a new school term in a new school.

As in the past, it will be a little time before things settle down and MPs gather enough understanding to perform the role with which they are entrusted; the role of oversight.

Most are savvy enough to understand the separation of powers even though party whips can become quite intimidating at times.  In any case, the system soon sorts out those with nothing useful to say and those with critical and questioning minds.

Approving the budget

The learning curve is steep. Many have been thrust straight into a committee programme where the task of each committee is to approve the national budget allocated to each of the many government departments according to their performance for the last five years. All of this departmental knowledge MPs have to read up on, study their plans for the next five years and listen to the same departments giving briefings presented at working committee level.  This is  currently where Parliament is.

To not contribute and not to perform is a quick trip to political oblivion.

MPs must also understand the views expressed of the auditors general on the previous year’s financial performances of the particular department and of state utilities; how the plans interlock, or don’t interlock properly, into a cluster of associated departments; a fair idea of what the presidential ministry of performance, monitoring and evaluation thinks of them and the party line on the issues of the day dealt with by the particular section of state machinery.

At this stage in the new Parliament the whole question of current legislation in process has probably not arisen but shortly, for many MPs, it will just be a case of listening and absorbing viewpoints, particularly of those who drafted the legislation and why they did.

Implementation of NDP

Two important things are therefore happening at the moment. Each government is justifying not only its past performance but committing itself to a plan with targets for the next five years together with strategies for a longer term and medium and long terms budgets. Secondly, they will learn what legislation is in draft and in the pipeline and the policy reasons for such legislation.

Consequently, question time in debate is critical and whilst questions from MPs can range from probing enquiries to the frankly banal, the change is refreshing. Witness minister Hanekom’s turnaround on immigration visas; the cabinet turn around on independent power producers; and on the affirmation of nuclear power in the energy mix and the sending back of the improbable Gender Equality Bill – all as examples of changes in thinking.

More interesting are the questions being asked by new MPs. Such as the new ANC energy committee member when she asked candidly of the DG for clean energy whether he thought all the “greening” regulations and air quality capital costs might be scaring off investors. Or the EFF MP who demanded a list of all Eskom blackouts and the reasons for the interruption in service.

Where it happens

To a certain extent the questions might appear naïve but a more candid and new perspective does no harm.  The parliamentary system still remains the crucible of political policy and legislative debate, despite the undermining effect that can take place with a heavily weighted political opinion coming from a strong political majority.    Nevertheless, South Africa is protected by one of the strongest constitutions in the world and the parliamentary process fortunately basks in its strong light.

Once the budget vote is debated, the Appropriations Bill – a section 77 money Bill protected from amendment by any party but Treasury by the same Constitution – Parliament’s attention will move towards the legislative landscape, hopefully tackling with as much vigour some of more the contentious issues facing the country.

Ends

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments


This website is Archival

If you want your publications as they come from Parliament please contact ParlyReportSA directly. All information on this site is posted two weeks after client alert reports sent out.

Upcoming Articles

  1. MPRDA : Shale gas developers not satisfied
  2. Environmental Bill changes EIAs
  3. Border Mangement Bill grinds through Parliament

Earlier Editorials

Earlier Stories

  • Anti Corruption Unit overwhelmed

    Focus on top down elements of patronage  ….editorial….As Parliament went into short recess, the Anti-Corruption Unit, the combined team made up of SARS, Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and Justice Department, divulged […]

  • PIC comes under pressure to disclose

    Unlisted investments of PIC queried…. When asked for information on how the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) had invested its funds, Dr  Daniel Matjila, Chief Executive Officer, told parliamentarians that the most […]

  • International Arbitration Bill to replace BITs

    Arbitration Bill gets SA in line with UNCTRAL ….. The tabling of the International Arbitration Bill in Parliament will see ‘normalisation’ on a number of issues regarding arbitration between foreign companies […]

  • Parliament rattled by Sizani departure

    Closed ranks on Sizani resignation….. As South Africa struggles with the backlash of having had three finance ministers rotated in four days and news echoes around the parliamentary precinct that […]

  • Protected Disclosures Bill: employer to be involved

    New Protected Disclosures Bill ups protection…. sent to clients 21 January……The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs will shortly be debating the recently tabled Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill which proposes a duty […]