The Week Ahead: President & Parliament’s budget vote in spotlight

May 21, 2018 (3 months ago)

Parliament has scheduled a broad and busy programme in the main chambers as well as in the Committee corridor.

The main plenary event will be the debate on the Presidency's budget vote scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. In their speeches, the Presidency (this includes the President and Deputy President) are likely to talk about the administration's priority areas, give an update on special projects and talk about government's efforts to stabilise SOEs and attract investment to the country. As with previous occasions, this will be a robust encounter and all the heavy hitters (party leaders and senior MPs) will be fronting the debate. The President will have to defend a wide range of charges, such as the performance of various departments and entities, his appointments, the size of the Cabinet and his Office’s spending (including legal fees).

One of the peculiarities of our parliamentary system is that there is no parliamentary committee that oversees the Presidency. According to the IFP, South Africa is unique among parliamentary democracies throughout the world and the party has repeatedly asked that this anomaly be corrected. Previously, the IFP leader has stated that “while the budgets of every government department are pored over and questioned before we come here to express our agreement or disapproval, the Presidency's budget is presented as a fait accompli, and we rise in this House with scant capacity to debate what is being spent, where it is being spent and how it is being spent”.

The other big highlight will be the debate on Parliament's budget (the NA and NCOP will be having separate debates), on Tuesday. In their speeches, the presiding officers are expected to underscore the role of Parliament in our democracy, talk about challenges facing the institution, highlight a few successes and give some detail about how they plan to implement outstanding issues as the Fifth Parliament begins to wind down.

For their part, MPs are expected to complain about insufficient funding provided to political parties, inadequate facilities and support to MPs, poor replies to questions by the Executive, perceived bias of the presiding officers, lack of decorum in House as well as the shortcomings in the Rules and their application. Another matter that will be raised sharply will be the charge that Parliament is not doing oversight, but merely compliance, and that interventions are needed to strengthen oversight, accountability and public involvement.

Beyond this, we can expect another marathon session in the National Assembly on Friday when legislators vote on all 40 budgets.

Over in the NCOP chamber, delegates will be occupied with policy debates. Other business includes legislative business, consideration of assorted reports and a debate to commemorate Africa Day titled, “The legacy of Nelson Mandela in building a better Africa and a better world".

Read the full plenary programme here

Given the legislative backlog and upcoming extended recess break, it's unsurprising that legislation and important business is being rushed to the finishing line while other less urgent parliamentary business is dropped for lack of time.

Here is a run down of the highlights in the Committee corridor:

MPs will process the following Bills this week: Public Audit Amendment Bill; National Forests Amendment Bill; Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill; Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill; National Credit Amendment Bill; Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Bill; Foreign Service Bill and National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill.

SCOPA will meet with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to interrogate irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, deviations and expansions in respect of the Agency's 2016/17 annual report. The watchdog Committee has acquired a fierce reputation in the past 12 months and the entity will be in for a bruising time.

Last month, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs was briefed on the Terms of Reference (ToR) of its inquiry into the naturalisation of the Gupta family. The Committee heard the inquiry was structured into two phases: Phase One included collating documentation, site visits and conducting interviews while Phase Two would consist of considering outcomes of the fact-finding done in Phase One. The Committee will get an update from the Research and Legal Services at Parliament.

In 2017, the Director of Research at the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union was quoted saying that “About 15 years ago we had approximately 200 000 people in the clothing textile industry and we're down to about 19 000 now”. The Industrial Development Corporation will brief lawmakers on its work in the textile industry.

In March, POCRU told Parliament that police stations, especially in townships and rural areas, did not have basic equipment such as functional CCTV cameras, bullet-proof windows and burglar doors, while police members did not have adequate protective gear. At that same meeting, the SA Police Service (SAPS) admitted its technology was outdated and that this problem would be reviewed. The Portfolio Committee on Police will get an update on the Technology Strategy with special reference to CCTVs for Police Stations/Units, Bodycams for Frontline Officers and Digital Policing.

The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources will get a briefing from the Committee Support Staff on the programme for its inquiry into allegations of State Capture in the Department of Mineral Resources. Thereafter, the Department will brief the Committee on the progress in resolving issues related to Section 54 notices: compliance of mining companies with laws and regulations.

The Integrated Financial Management System project is aimed at modernising and integrating all human resource and financial management systems across government. The system is meant to replace PERSAL but has been subjected to many delays and other challenges. SITA will update MPs on the readiness to implement the new system and the migration of the data from PERSAL system.

The NCOP Ad Hoc Committee on the Funding of Political Parties will meet to adopt its programme.

View the full schedule here.

*This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.

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