Revised ministerial handbook must now enter public domain - COPE

Following public release of the Presidential Handbook, party insists that National Assembly has the right to revise the Ministerial version


AfriForum fought a relentless three-year legal battle to get the Presidency to make public the Presidential Handbook. It finally succeeded.

This is only half the battle won.  

COPE wants the ministerial handbook to come to the National Assembly for revision. That battle is still to be won.

In 2012, COPE President Mosiuoa Lekota asked Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in a written parliamentary question, whether government would agree to the National Assembly revising the ministerial handbook seeing that the function of approving all expenditure vested in the National Assembly.

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu insisted, incorrectly in our view, that the National Assembly had no role in revising the ministerial handbook. She maintained that this was the responsibility of the executive and of the President. The cabinet has been attempting its own revision for the past five years or so.

Even though the constitution gave the right to the National Assembly to hold the purse strings of the nation, Sisulu arrogantly held that Parliament's main function was to pass legislation. This is inaccurate. Budgetary matters are a pivotal function of the National Assembly. According to her distorted logic, Members of Parliament did not have the power to amend the handbook.

On 15 May, this year, Mr Lekota  once again asked the Minister of Public Service and Administration, whether he intended to comply with the spirit and provisions of the Constitution (details furnished) and (thereby) fully and openly engage Parliament in the task of urgently revising the Ministerial Handbook. (Question 1714)

At the same time, in question 1715, Mr Lekota asked the Minister of Finance whether, with reference to the former Minister of Finance’s reply to question 90 on 18 March 2014, and in light of excessive expenditure by public representatives of taxpayers money (details furnished), what action did the Government intend taking with regard to such excessive expenditure as on (a) cars, (b) travel, (c) catering, (d) entertainment and (e) upgrades to offices and houses in all spheres of government?

Now that the government has submitted to the relentless pressure of AfriForum to release the Presidential Handbook, it is time for us to step up the pressure for the release of ministerial handbook to curb excessive ministerial expenditure on cars, houses, travel and furnishing for themselves.

COPE believes that the National Assembly has the primary and final responsibility for acceding to all expenditure, including that which is incurred through the Ministerial Handbook. Only the National Assembly has the power to approve budgets and grant allocations for expenditure. The Executive has hijacked that right and has been making merry at the expense of taxpayers.

Now that everyone has sight of the Presidential Handbook, it is indeed time, to compel the executive to release the revised Ministerial Handbook to the public also. We need transparency.

Indeed, we need to see what expenditure the cabinet team is permitting for its members.

Statement issued by Dennis BloemCope spokesperson