Committees have been meeting for two weeks with departments and their entities to pore over their strategic and annual performance plans, budgets and performance targets in preparation for reports to be considered by the House. The focus now shifts to the House budget vote debates that commence tomorrow, 16 May and run until 1 June 2017. There are so many debates that the House is allowed to break up into several groups known as Extended Public Committees to hear these and approve all the department budgets.
It was hectic two-week period and Parliament’s level of oversight has again come under scrutiny. This grueling schedule has brought into sharp focus the question of parliamentary oversight and how effectively MPs can engage with so many government entities and their presentations. On several occasions, the proceedings were hurried, the questions were not probing and MPs were presented with the documents for the first time at the meeting.
Since the Money Bills Amendment Procedures and Related Matters Act came into force in 2009, Parliament can amend or reject budget allocations, but has never exercised this right. The lack of public participation is also glaringly obvious during this process where according to Marianne Merten for the Daily Maverick, the “police committee was one of the few, if not the only one aside from the appropriations committee, that has invited other than departmental and entity officials”.
For more on the budget vote process and programme. See infographic below: