The Week Ahead: More Oversight and Scrutiny

7 Mar 2016 (6 years, 5 months ago)

It’s the penultimate week of the first term and the programme has a familiar pattern: it includes oral questions to the executive; ministerial and members’ statements, a debate, committee oversight and scrutiny, and the processing of assorted bills, statutory instruments and committee reports.

The rules make provision for an MP to request the Speaker to place a matter of public importance on the Order Paper for discussion. This right has been exercised by Dr P Mulder from the FF+ and the National Assembly Chamber will debate the increasing racial tension and conflict in South Africa especially in universities and its detrimental effect on the country’s development. This debate follows unprecedented violent outbreaks that led to the closure of several university campuses across the country.

Another plenary highlight is the oral question session with Ministers in the Economic Cluster, where they will be probed on a variety of issues such as the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act, Black Industrialist Programme, land claims, the plight of small businesses, road fatalities and domestic tourism.

Over in the NCOP, the Deputy President will have to respond to a series of important domestic related issues such as wage inequalities, phasing out of SOEs and Marikana Commission Report.

Beyond this, MPs in both houses will vote on the fiscal and revenue proposals. The fiscal framework is defined in section 1 of the Money Bills Act as “the framework for a specific financial year that gives effect to the national executive’s macro-economic policy and includes-

  • estimates of all revenue, budgetary and extra-budgetary specified separately, expected to be raised during the financial year;

  • estimates of all expenditure, budgetary and extra-budgetary specified separately, for that financial year;

  • estimates of borrowing for that financial year;

  • estimates of interest and debt servicing charges; and

  • an indication of the contingency reserve necessary for an appropriate response to emergencies or other temporary needs, and other factors based on similar objective criteria”.

There will be some very big issues under scrutiny in Committee-land. Here is a run-down of the highlights:

On Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts will interrogate the South African Post Office on its 2014/2015 annual report and other outstanding issues. The state entity is expected to face a tough grilling from lawmakers as it tries to explain a loss of R1.4 billion (an increase from the R406.6 million loss from the previous year) in the year under review.

Another state owned company – Prasa - will face intense scrutiny when it appears before the Transport Committee to account for how it is responding to the AGs recommendations on its 2014/15 annual performance. Prasa received an unqualified audit with a 118 matters of emphasis, up from 71. Irregular expenditure exceeded a half a billion rand.

The Portfolio Committee on Police will host a roundtable discussion between the SAPS and stakeholders in the firearms sector on the current challenges in the fire-arm licensing process.

Lawmakers will also be briefed on the following topics: Special Education and Inclusive Education, asylum statistics in South Africa, upgrading of distressed mining towns and impact and response to the current drought.

The National Energy Regulator of SA (NERSA) will brief MPs on its decision to approve

Eskom’s application for a tarrif hike. Tariffs will be increased by 9.4% for the 2016/17 year only.

On Wednesday, the noteworthy meetings include a briefing by the Minister of Health on the Zika virus, and a briefing by Eskom on the implementation of its turnaround strategy and infrastructure build programme.

Also, the Subcommittee on the review of the National Assembly Rules will consider guidelines required by the newly drafted rules on Friday.

There will be a fair amount of legislative lifting as many committees finalise, continue or commence their work on various bills. These include the Higher Education Amendment Bill, Revenue Laws Amendment Bill, two Children’s Amendment Bills, Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill, Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill and Broadcasting Amendment Bill. The latter bill has been was met with resistance from opposition parties and lobby groups. The proposed law removes the role of MPs in appointing non-executive board members at the SABC. The Department of Communications will get an opportunity explain the rationale behind the bill.

See schedule of meetings here.



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