……editorial for end october 2020……
Parliament remains virtual for fourth quarter….
The re-opening of Parliament for the fourth quarter was a surreal event with hardly time for greetings between members. It amounted to dozens and dozens of virtual encounters which, oddly enough, work well when it comes to simple presentation, question and answer sessions. Brevity is forced upon the speakers and replies have to be short.
October and November in the parliamentary calendar are crunch months, known to all government departments and SOEs as the time of year when each public entity comes before their relevant portfolio committee for MPs to evaluate and report to Treasury on their performance against service delivery targets. Public impatience levels are high it seems, and answers needed.
Parliament, representing the people, wants to how last year’ allocation is being spent, what promises have so far been met and estimates for the road ahead. In the first week alone, there will be forty-three committee meetings, each chairperson being responsible for a Budget Review and Recommendations (BRR) to the Minister of Finance by 30 October and therefore in time for his Medium-Term Budget speech.
The money involved is R1.97 trillion, the national budget number for 2020, not forgetting an extra R500bn for the COVID 19 exercise. Having learnt what happened with the PPE allocations, ducks will have to be neatly in a row for question time, all in the knowledge that at the end of the financial year the words “irregular” and “fruitless and wasteful” by the auditor general will have management consequences.
Hopefully the screw is finally turning on corruption. The background music, whilst Parliament earnestly meets in accounting mode, will be the Zondo Commission plodding on with more and more disclosures, hopefully with an emphasis on the Zuma years and more arrests arranged by the NPA with the Hawks seen in action. Not before time we seem to be turning a corner, not just trying to alter course.
But whatever other sideshows are happening in October, the is only one show in town and that is the half year Budget. Minister Mboweni has the unenviable task of plotting the financial direction of a difficult journey through bad country. Already Denel, SAPO and SAA have joined the passenger list, promising to make that journey even more onerous.
There have been compensations, however, to this pre-budget race. Emerging from our Covid caves during the parliamentary break, some of us were able to enjoy an extraordinary year of spring on the West coast. From Clan William through to Paternoster, from Langebaan to Darling, nature this year gifted South Africa with the most intense floral display seen in a decade. Those who visited became aware of the precious cargo that nature has bestowed upon this country.
Somehow, Tito Mboweni has to gather some of the hardy seeds, now blowing in the wind, as a part of his planting for recovery and growth. Looking at the dry sandy soils of the West coast one soon realises that where such flowers grow, there is hope.