Address by Speaker of National Assembly Thandi Modise on occasion of Parliament's Budget Vote 2
16 July 2019
I rise to table vote 2 the budget for Parliament.
The first term of the 6th Parliament has started, may be a little slower than usual. We thank all the South African voters wherever they are for putting us all in this chamber to represent their views, needs and aspirations. We represent their hope, their diversity in spaces, race, class, and gender.
We together must represent and sometimes confront the imperfections of our history, not to go back there but to move this country forward to stability and growth. The Constitution gives us a burden and a privilege to recognise, to mediate and to correct and promote principles and values that will truly turn this country into the South Africa we want.
We take pride that we are a multi-party parliamentary system and that we continue to hold on to a strong sense of constitutionalism. It is important in this 6th Parliament that we turn this “sense of strong constitutionalism” into daily practice and pride because only then, can we truly together acknowledge, fight and defeat unemployment, poverty, racism and patriarchy.
These challenges we must confront because it is 25 years we have had in these chambers as guardians of our people’s rights. We must now increase our ability as Parliament to scrutinise, evaluate and monitor the availability, the quality and the frequency of the services from all of cabinet portfolios, SOE’s and DFI’s to ensure that there’s money for value and there is positive impact on the quality of life of South Africans.
As representatives of our different constituencies, we must deliver in all languages to educate and empower communities to appreciate and to exercise their rights and freedoms responsibly. Our language policy must be implemented. To educate the public means we ourselves must first understand our responsibility and be able to transfer the knowledge and to notice if it is adequate or misdirected. We must be able to follow the rands and cents spent by government and hold people accountable. There must be consequences.
Hon Members, the slow growth of the economy is worrying. Our unemployment rate is not decreasing. Shrill screams for government to create jobs without putting concrete solutions just add to more emotional strain on a situation which needs calm and careful consideration.
We are in a penny-pinching situation where retrenchments across sectors are likely to increase and therefore increase the burden on social grants. So I ask the question: how do we create or even retain jobs in this no-growth period? Can we train for future jobs? Can Parliament be part of the search for solutions?
Hon Members, we have set up committees shadowing the reconfigured cabinet portfolios. Constitutional and other committees have been established. Our brief is simple: know why you are a public representative; understand the tools at your disposal – rules, conventions, and powers of different structures and the related laws; update yourselves with our e-parliament facilities. Make laws, ask questions, make statements – represent the constituencies; understand the budget and follow the cents.
There are no holy cows
For members of the executive – our advice is attend the parliamentary committee sessions. Don’t delegate unnecessarily. Please be careful of your statements and responses here and out there because we will follow up.
We have noticed over the years that attendance at committee level is left to officials. Nothing wrong when they are properly delegated, but please remember we hold the executive to account. Therefore, the temptation for the ministers to be hands and ear –off from the financial execution of the business can be detrimental if things are done wrong. So perhaps we must re-understand the reason for the PFMA and the MFMA when the executive authority is and must be held responsible but pleads innocence
The Leader of Government Business will be kept busy liaising between Parliament and the cabinet. The President will get reports on attendance especially on debates and questions sessions
Legacy of the 5th Parliamen
The High Level Panel Report was sent to all committees last year. We need Parliament to process some of the recommendations.
We need to resuscitate the work done by the Joint Constitutional review committee on expropriation of land without compensation to conclude the business; as thousands of South Africans participated in the discussions on land reform and restitution.
Following the recommendations of the Kader Asmal Report on the Institutions Supporting Democracy, a series of consultations took place. This towing and fro-ing has so far not yielded any actionable results. I am in the process of catching up with the work of the office set up in the Speaker’s office which should lead us towards the solutions.
Parliament has a public participation model. Since it was adopted by the last Parliament the model could be assessed. Parliament further conducts public surveys to gauge our effectiveness in public hearings, public education and generally to test sentiments about our work.
What we might want to focus on in the 6th Parliament is the Public Hearings.
Our Parliament, like all Parliaments, is expected to be part of the global community. We influence and are influenced by others we interact with internationally.
We need to take the South African participation at both the SADC-PF and the PAP seriously. We have the responsibility to ensure that the host agreement for PAP is concluded and honoured. We fail the continent if we do not ensure that the PAP delivers as excepted and that its administration is up to scratch.
The SADC-PF is set to finally become the regional Parliament. This is important as we need to tighten regional cooperation in the same way as West Africa and East Africa have managed to do.
We will continue with our participation at the IPU and CPA. We will continue our relationship with the European Union (EU) which has allocated funds for capacity building in Parliament for years. This relationship is however subject to the revision of our terms of agreement. Obviously we need extra resource for capacity building.
We relate with other international fora in partnership with our provincial legislatures. We will continue to coordinate and share good practices as the speakers’ forum. We will also be sponsoring the sector’s bill to facilitate sectoral approaches to programmes, wage negotiation, etc.
Ethics and Member’s interests
Honorable Members, to maintain the trust and confidence of those that elected us, we must always display the highest levels of integrity. In this regard, members must, among things, disclose their financial interests – a process that the Sixth Parliament will commence shortly.
The Sixth Parliament must also undertake a review of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members' Interests in order to strengthen the ethical standards to which Members of Parliament must adhere and also address the drafting irregularities in the Code.
The turn-around time of complaint handling and investigations in respect of allegations of breaches of the Code of Ethics must receive attention. The staff complement in the Office of the Registrar of Members' Interests has been identified for priority. It is anticipated that a dedicated staff will be appointed to conduct investigations and complaints handling.
We appeal to the committee to consider the matters that were not finalized in the 5th Parliament with a view to make a determination on their processing. What should concern the committee is to maintain and preserve the integrity of Parliament. This we hope will be done as quickly as possible so that any member whose matters have not been concluded can find relief.
During the induction session, I said we must never have a Parliament that is incoherent, that is the laughing stock of its own people, of Africa and the world.
We are public representatives. Let's respect the House, let's respect one another, we can have a robust debate as we want – use our freedom of speech but let's do so responsibly.
From the presiding side, we will do whatever we can to ensure the protection of all the members in the House. We will be referring serious offences to the relevant committees including the committee on Powers, Privileges and Immunities.
Hon Members, may be aware that I have already referred to a subcommittee on the physical removal of a member from the chamber in terms of the rules the circumstances that led to the removal of members during the budget vote debate on public enterprises on 11 July.
Research and Support
Honourable Members, this term we must review the quality of the support provided to Members and the structures of Parliament and ensure that they are aligned to our needs.
Deputy Speaker, the Parliamentary Research Model, designed in 1997, has not kept pace with the growth and demands of Parliament. Parliament will, therefore, review the operating model and service offering to ensure equitable research services in order to enhance the depth, breadth, and quality of research support.
The operating model of one researcher and/or one content adviser per Committee is simply untenable - The Parliamentary administration has been requested to submit proposals for the re-organization of content support to maximize the utilization of subject expertise amongst researchers and content advisers. This will enhance support of the legislative, oversight and public participation processes, and the availability of quality information for the Members' participation in the plenary debate.]
Enhanced support is also required to enable us to scrutinize budget processes, from proposing amendments to money bills to the audits of public finances to ensure that our people derive optimal socio-economic benefits. It goes without saying that, in this time of fiscal constraints Parliament must exercise heightened and relentless public finance oversight to ensure that the budget appropriated by Parliament is utilized efficiently and effectively.
We must also ensure that the Government planning and budgeting is responsive to women's needs and that gender budgeting is institutionalized. Committees must incorporate gender analysis in their oversight of budgets. Again, we will monitor closely that processes are in place to realise this.
Delegations to the deputy Speaker and the House Chairpersons have been ATC’ed. There are a number of areas I am still reconsidering before delegating them further.
The move of Parliament
Honourable Members, in 2017 former President Zuma put forward the notion of relocating Parliament to Pretoria. Parliament then undertook to test the opinions of South Africans on this matter. I understand a feasibility study was undertaken – we must still get the report. What we were concerned about was how and where this was done. This matter must still be followed up and we will report to the House.
The current design of the parliamentary precinct is not conducive to the spatial needs of Members. The precinct does not have enough venues to accommodate all committee sittings. We spend too much money renting venues outside Parliament.
The engagement with Public Works is ongoing to acquire more floors in the 90 Plein street building and to refurbish the existing buildings in the precinct. What this brings to question is: what and exactly is where is the precinct of Parliament and who controls it?
The “My Parliament App” was launched towards the end of the 5th Parliament.
It is a Member-centric mobile application that is capable of presenting enriched, user-friendly Parliamentary information on mobile devices. This mobile application will ensure that Members in the Houses and Committees, are given timeous access to all relevant documentation such as agendas, minutes, presentations, research papers, ATC’s and other supporting documents etc. The roll-out will also result in huge cost savings worth millions on the printing budget of Parliament as we accelerate our advance towards a paperless environment. Effective utilization of ICT will enable us “to do more with less”.
The roll-out of resources to expand the application must take place as soon as possible and we must guard against approved allocations being absorbed into other initiatives.
All Members and Committee Secretaries must receive training to ensure the roll-out in the 6th Parliament is done speedily to improve efficiency in committee work.
The roll-out of the App will not mean that the Member is trained; change management is important for successful adoption of new systems. A training video is to be made available to Members and usage will be monitored.
The next step will be towards e-law making to improve efficiency and transparency in the law making process.
The electronic of Members’ attendance in committees must also be prioritized to ensure that accurate records are available to Members and their Whips.
Honourable members, allow me to turn to Parliament's proposed budget allocations for the 2019/20 financial year.
We requested an amount of Three Billion, Two Million Nine Hundred and Seventy- Nine thousand Rand - (R 3,002,979 Billion) from National Treasury for this financial year. Parliament’s actual allocation is Two Billion, Six Hundred and Eight Million Eight Hundred and Seventy - Eight Thousand Rand - (R 2,608,878 Billion) so we have a shortfall of Three Hundred and Ninety-Four Million Rand (R394 Million) which has a direct bearing on how we run this institution.
This budget is divided into five programs (and direct charges) as follows:
Strategic Leadership and governance - R 104 267 Million (One Hundred and Four Million Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven Thousand Rand)
Administration – R 175 584 Million (One Hundred and Seventy - Five Million Five Hundred and Eighty-Four Thousand Rand)
Core Business – R 640 894 Million (Six Hundred and Forty Million Eight Hundred and Ninety – Four Thousand Rand)
Support Services – R 440 239 Million (Four Hundred and Forty Million Two Hundred and Thirty- Nine Thousand Rand)
Associated Services – R 720 376 Million (Seven Hundred and Twenty Million Three Hundred and Seventy-Six Thousand Rand)
Parliament has a direct charge to the National Revenue Fund as a provision for members’ remunerations, which is a total of Five Hundred and Twenty-Seven Million Five Hundred and Eighteen Thousand Rand (R 527 518 Million).
Honourable Members, included in Parliament's budget are medical aid contributions for former Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures, as well as transfers to political parties represented in Parliament. Parliament is of the view that this should be budgeted for elsewhere because they distort Parliament's budget. Engagement with the President as head of state and the Minister of Finance is ongoing with a view to addressing this.
We must also endeavour to maintain clean audits in the sixth Parliament as we have done in the fifth Parliament and look forward to working with the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament.
We managed through Human Resource to fully insource the catering and cleaning staff to permanent employment, I am told we also offered permanent employment to employees on the D bands who were appointed on fixed-term contracts, with the exception of employees attached to Political Office bearers and those in the Projects Office. This has contributed immensely to boosting employee morale and stability. Hopefully this will also contribute to better performance towards the public representatives.
The labour relations climate is stable and is showing an encouraging upward trend as we reported last year. Despite minor challenges, we are in continuous dialogue with the union and management. We want Parliament to continue in being the employer of choice to the South African society at large. But I repeat maintaining labour peace must not be at the expense of proper capacity to the public representative.
Hon Members, the following senior management positions are currently vacant: Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Head of Security.
In light of the above mentioned positions becoming vacant in the 5thParliament, the requirements of the positions obviously did not take into consideration the specific needs of the 6th Parliament. If the request to re-advertise is endorsed/signed, the process to fill these positions will be re-started in order to ensure that the suitable employees who will be appointed into these positions, will be able to deliver on the mandate of the 6thParliament.
The disciplinary hearing of the secretary to Parliament is ongoing. The agreed dates for the hearing are as scheduled for the end of July to finish the evidence; and early August for closing submissions. We are hoping the matter will find rest soon.
Hon Members, we recall that following the tragic passing in 2018 of Mr Garane, a manager in the International Relations division, the executive authority requested the public service commission to investigate aspects of the incident. We have received the report and we will soon communicate the way forward in this regard.
Hon Members, since its establishment in 2013 the Parliamentary Budget Office has earned a reputation as a reliable and professional independent service to the Finance and Appropriation Committees. Last year, the PBO successfully hosted the third conference for African PBO’s that was also attended by delegates from Canada, Australia and Germany.
The funding mechanism and the filling of key vacancies including that of the Director of the PBO must be finalized to ensure that it function optimally.
Deputy Speaker, let me conclude by saying that, as public representatives, we are called upon to heal the divisions of the past and ensure a better life. I am confident that we can meet the expectations of all our people – we can build a future free from hunger, hardship, and landlessness. Let us remind ourselves of the famous words – "it always seems impossible until it is done!”
Lastly, let me thank all who enable us as Members to do our work efficiently and effectively: our dedicated parliamentary staff, and the management.
I present budget Vote 2 for your consideration and support.
Ke a leboga!
Issued by Parliament, 16 July 2019