The Week Ahead: Most of the parliamentary action is in the committee corridor

There's a humdrum flavour to this week's parliamentary business in the National Assembly chamber - with MPs finishing off legislation, processing assorted statutory instruments and reports, making statements and discussing matters of public importance.

The major highlight will be the question session involving the Deputy President and Ministers in the Economic Cluster on Wednesday. Everything from specific scandals to controversies around current legislation to big-picture policy and foreign matters will be under the microscope.

Meanwhile, no plenary sittings or meetings have been scheduled in the NCOP this week as its committees embark on oversight visits in five provinces. These committees will meet with ordinary people, private companies, government departments and entities as they assess the state of service delivery.

In contrast, there is some significant action in the committee corridor this week. Here is a rundown of the highlights: On Tuesday, MPs will get a briefing from the South African Post Office on the implementation of its turnaround strategy. The beleaguered state-owned company has suffered major financial losses following a protracted strike that resulted in it being unable to carry out its core function of mail delivery.

The line-by-line scrutiny of the Expropriation Bill continues. Given the heavy-weight nature of the bill, it is not surprising that the Deputy Minister of Public Works has been present during the all public hearings and deliberations on the bill so far.

There is a follow-up briefing by the Department of Basic Education and Department of Transport on the Draft Policy on Scholar Transport. A key objective of the policy is to improve access to quality education by providing safe, decent, effective, and sustainable learner transport. Previously, MPs criticised the departments for presenting this as a new policy when it had been rejected previously. They pointed out that not enough attention was paid to the special needs of the learners and safety considerations. They also highlighted that the document did not address the funding for municipalities and provinces and what criteria would be used to identify which learners to subsidise.

Other noteworthy meetings include discussions on the audit of traditional leaders and initiation report, Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Inter-Ministerial Committee report on distressed mining towns and the Land Bank’s 2014/15 Annual Report.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will get a progress report on the performance of the Central Firearms Register. The Police Committee had previously complained about the chaos besetting the entity and asked the SAPS to set up an action plan to correct the deficiencies.

The debut of the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill attracted wide attention and the scheduled public hearing is also expected to generate significant interest, particularly from the business community and foreign countries.

Legislators will also get a progress report on the audit of water and sanitation infrastructure and how the Department of Public Enterprises is addressing corporate governance challenges facing state-owned companies.

On Friday, the Standing Committee on Finance, Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry and Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources will have a joint workshop to discuss the issue of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.

The subcommittee tasked with reviewing the NA rules has arranged an all day meeting and several more before the recess break. Amidst all the pyrotechnics from last week’s NA plenary sitting, one point went mostly unremarked: the deputy speaker urged the subcommittee to fast track its work as most of the disruptions emanate from deficiences (vagueness or a lacuna) and a lack of understanding of the rules.

You can find the full list of meetings here.

The meeting mentioned below was cancelled.

With eyes drifting to next year’s local government elections, the decision to merge municipalities was always going to be controversial, and the results predictable – rejection (see here and here) and legal action. The briefing by the Municipal Demarcation Board on Wednesday on the amalgamation of municipalities will have some spark.


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