The endgame of the parliamentary year is fast approaching. There are only five weeks left before the legislature rises and loose ends are gradually being knitted together.
Following last week’s presentation of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), Parliament’s role in the processing and approval of the mini-budget kicks into gear this week. The adjustment process provides an opportunity to make revisions to the main and supplementary budgets, in response to changes that have affected the planned government spending for the year.
Economic cluster parliamentary committees (Standing and Select Committees on Finance and Appropriations) will play a crucial role in the MTBPS processing, and are essential instruments for ensuring parliamentary oversight of the mini-budget. These committees are important for coordinating Parliament’s response to proposed government priorities. The Parliamentary Budget Office and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (staffed with economists, social scientists and other experts), together with Parliament’s own research unit, will provide much of the analytical and information resources crucial to the proper scrutiny of the budget proposals. The mini-budget will be processed in a prescribed manner and a set timeline.
Question Time is the main chamber business in the NCOP. It is one of the ways Parliament scrutinises the work of government and holds it accountable.
It is an opportunity for any lawmaker to directly question the Executive about matters for which they are responsible. Many of the questions touch on bread and butter issues and/or high-temperature business and the responses are generally newsworthy. An interesting part of the exercise is how the questions are structured as MPs simultaneously try to get their talking points across and ask a question.
The Deputy President will be probed on Wednesday. Meanwhile, select Ministers in the Social Services Cluster will have their question session the day after.
Beyond this, there is a Women’s Charter Review Session scheduled on Tuesday.
The National Assembly has arranged a debate – for Tuesday - on an urgent matter of national public importance. The debate is sponsored by the Chief Whip of the Majority Party under the theme: The impact on economic lives of the most vulnerable and poor of commuters due to ongoing damage to public rail infrastructure. Answering oral questions in the NCOP last week, the President said: “the continuous damage, sabotage, theft and vandalism of rail infrastructure is one of the worst forms of economic crime in this country. It has a direct impact on the lives of the millions of South Africans who rely on commuter rail services to travel to work or to study. It undermines economic growth and places a further strain on public resources”.
Select Ministers in the Economic cluster will be in the spotlight on Wednesday when they answer oral questions.
On Thursday, the NA will hold two virtual mini-plenaries to discuss matters sponsored by the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters. The rules also allow MPs to propose a subject for discussion – this mechanism provides an opportunity for the House to debate a particular topic without being required to take a decision at the end of the debate. The DA will lead a discussion on: The financial burden of sustaining non-profitable state-owned entities, and how the Government can reappropriate the continual bailouts used to sustain these entities. The EFF’s topic was not available at the time of writing.
In addition, the plenary agenda is filled with the usual items: legislative business, processing of statutory appointments, international instruments and assorted Committee Reports.
There’s lots of action in Committee-land. Legislation, mega-important spending decisions and headline-grabbing hearings dominate the Committee corridor. Here is a run down of the highlights:
Tuesday, 3 November 2020
Portfolio Committee on Transport, (National Assembly), [Written response from the Department of Transport on all the submissions on Economic Regulation of Transport Bill [B1-2020]], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-13:30
Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, (National Assembly), [Briefing by the DPWI on EPWP’s challenges to deal with non-compliance of some provincial departments and municipalities, which prevented the DPWI EPWP from transferring grants, which negatively impact on the attempt to ensure a clean audit], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-11:00
Joint Meeting: Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Consideration and Adoption of Draft Minutes and Draft Reports; Briefing by the Finance and Fiscal Commission on: Expenditure Patterns in respect of Infrastructure (ASIDI); Expenditure Patterns in respect of Conditional Grants (e.g. MST); and Equity in Education (including budget allocations to schools; Briefing by AGSA on Audit Outcomes for the Department of Basic Education], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-12:00
Joint Meeting: Standing Committee on Finance, Select Committee on Finance, Standing Committee on Appropriations and Select Committee on Appropriations, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Consultation with Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) and Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) on the 2020 MTBPS; Consideration of recommendation by Subcommittee on Appointment of the PBO Director], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-12:00
Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, (National Assembly), [Update on Constitutional Court Electoral Act Amendment by Minister of Home Affairs], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-12:00
Standing Committee on Public Accounts, (National Assembly), [Quarterly briefing by SAPS on the SCM corruption cases pertaining to the SAPS officials], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:30
Wednesday, 4 November 2020
Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, (National Assembly), [Briefing by the Auditor General of South Africa on the audit outcomes of the Department of Public Enterprises; Briefing by the Department of Public Enterprises on its 2019/20 annual report], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00
Joint Meeting: Standing Committee on Finance and Select Committee on Finance, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Public hearings on the 2020 MTBPS], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-12:00
Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, (National Assembly), [Progress report by the Inter Ministerial Task Team on S100 intervention in North West Province], Virtual Meeting Platform, 19:00-22:00
Standing Committee on Public Accounts, (National Assembly), [Follow up briefing by the Department of Public Enterprises on SAA Business Rescue Practitioners], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:30-13:00
Thursday, 5 November 2020
Joint Standing Committee on Defence, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Briefing by the Secretary of Defence on National Defence Industry Council (NDIC), the implementation of the Defence Industry Strategy and challenges facing the industry and the South African sovereign defence capabilities], Virtual Meeting Platform, 18:00-21:00
Friday, 6 November 2020
Joint Meeting: Standing Committee on Finance and Select Committee on Finance, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Responses by National Treasury to the public submissions on the 2020 MTBPS], Virtual Meeting Platform, 09:00-12:00
Constitutional Review Committee, (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces), [Briefing by the Committee Content Adviser on the Public Submissions for the year 2020 regarding proposed constitutional amendments and the categorisation the submissions received; Deliberations by the Committee on the Submissions received], Virtual Meeting Platform, 11:00-13:00
Committees provide a platform for the public to present views directly to MPs. Share your on the ground experience and expert information to the relevant committees. Critically, what questions should MPs pose to the Executive as they conduct their oversight work?
We have consolidated our reports on the COVID-19 related meetings here.
View the schedule page 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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