Unabriged budget address: Chairman of the NCOP

856

Speech by the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Honourable Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, on the occasion of the debate on Parliament’s budget vote

11 May 2010

Honourable Deputy Chairperson

Honourable delegates

Representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society in the gallery

Fellow South Africans

Introduction
“We have come, not as pretenders to greatness, but as a particle of a people whom we know to be noble and heroic-enduring, multiplying, permanent, rejoicing in the expectation and knowledge that their humanity will be reaffirmed and enlarged by open and unfettered communion with the nations of the world.” These were the words of Nelson Mandela in his address to the Joint Session of the United States Congress, a few months after his release from jail.

Twenty years later, our country is on the eve of hosting the biggest soccer spectacle in the world the FIFA World Cup. Indeed, our humanity is being reaffirmed by the nations of the world.

As you know, the theme of Parliament this year is ‘Celebrate the legacy of Mandela – Contribute to nation building’.

Mandela’s legacy is legendary.
* It is about the embodiment of our struggle for freedom
* It is about constitutionalism
* It is about nation building
* It is about great love for humanity.

Parliament’s budget

Honourable Deputy Chairperson, towards advancing the project of reaffirming our humanity, resources have been made available to support the work of Parliament.

In the previous financial year 2009/10, Parliament was initially allocated a budget of R1.35 billion. R377 million of this was a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund for Members’ Remuneration. R974 million was appropriated through a budget vote to fund the five main programmes of Parliament.

In addition to the R1.35 billion, an additional allocation of R133.9 million was received for unavoidable costs. This resulted in a total allocation of about R1.5 billion. The unavoidable costs were, for example, as a result of expenses for:
* Information communication technology (ICT) equipment for the fourth Parliament (R14.1 million)
* Participation in various international forums (R31.1 million)
* Adjustments to Members benefits (R13.2 million)

In this period the funded programmes, which are provided for in the new budget, were the following:

Programme 1: Administration

This programme is intended to provide strategic leadership, institutional policy, administration and corporate services to support Members of Parliament.

The initial allocation for the previous year was R247 million. The new allocation is R317 million.

Programme 2: Legislation and oversight

This programme is intended to enable Parliament to pass legislation and oversee executive action.

The initial allocation for the previous year was R187 million. The new allocation is R282 million.

Programme 3: Public and international participation

This programme allows Parliament to carry out public participation projects and participate in international relations activities.

The initial allocation for the previous year was R67 million. The new allocation is R87 million.

Programme 4: Members’ facilities

This programme is intended to provide travel, information and communication services and other facilities for the MPs in both Houses of Parliament.

The initial allocation for the previous year was R212 million. The new allocation is R211 million.

Programme 5: Associated Services

This programme is intended to provide financial support to political parties represented in Parliament. It is divided into political party support, constituency support and party leadership support, if party secretaries and the media can take note.

The initial allocation for the previous year was R258 million. The new allocation is R282 million.

Actual expenditure performance

When reflecting on the actual expenditure performance of the 2009/10 financial year, Parliament spent 94% of its total budget allocation. One of the contributing factors to the under-spending emanates from the mismatch between the swearing-in of the Members of the fourth Parliament and the beginning of the 2009/10 financial year. As we all know, the 2009/10 financial year began on 1 April 2009, whereas Members of the fourth Parliament were only sworn-in on 6 May 2009.

Effectively, the fourth Parliament began to fully operate in June 2009 after the induction of new MPs.

What is important is what we want to do with the new budget I have just outlined.

Strategic framework

Both the National Assembly (NA) and the NCOP contributed to the development of the strategic framework for Parliament approved by the Parliamentary Oversight Authority in March this year. The framework which contains our policy imperatives proposes the following strategic objectives for this term:
* Strengthen the oversight function and establish a strong culture of overseeing executive action

In this regard, we would like to improve Parliament’s capacity to exercise its constitutional oversight role by developing protocols for assessing the performance of all organs of state and by providing them with sufficient resources to effectively carry out their role.

In order to ensure outcomes-based oversight, Parliament needs to ensure:
* dedicated support for committees
* development of members’ capacity
* improved institutional management.

Oversight that focuses on outcomes will assist in the process of re-affirming our humanity as the citizens of a democratic country.

The implementation of the oversight and accountability model is a key to improving our approach to and co-ordination of oversight work.

Towards this, an implementation team comprising officials and jointly chaired by House Chairpersons of the two Houses responsible for oversight, was established. The recommendations of the model were reviewed and systematically divided into the following work areas:
* Parliamentary planning
* Institutional mechanisms
* Human resource capacity, facilities, technology and systems
* New mechanisms
* Public participation
* Money bills amendment procedure (in line with the act).

We are in the process of considering these recommendations for implementation.

As this House, we have agreed on the priorities for oversight during the period of the fourth Parliament. They are:
* Agriculture
* Economic Development
* Health and Social Development
* Human Settlements
* Police
* Rural and Development and Land Reform.

We need to pay attention to these areas at committee and institutional level, in our effort to contribute to the work of Parliament.
* Increase public involvement and participation and build a responsive people’s Parliament

Our democracy is both representative and participatory. The Constitution provides for public involvement in the processes of Parliament.

With regard to the NCOP’s contribution in this regard, I am happy to report that the implementation of the new approach to the Taking Parliament to the People programme is delivering the impact we have always wanted it to deliver. For example, in the case of Limpopo, some of the mining houses are already implementing the commitments they made towards social investment.

To further strengthen public participation, we are developing a public participation model for Parliament. The Joint Rules Committee (JRC) has agreed that the third Parliament’s Joint Task Team on the Legislative Process in Parliament be revived to link its work with the issues relating to public participation. The task team is expected to report to the JRC within six months after re-establishment.
* Strengthen cooperative government and foster improved cooperation and relations

Honourable members, many of the aspects of the Constitution relating to Parliament’s role in promoting cooperative government and intergovernmental relations require the development of processes and practice. Many areas have seen advancements, including the greater role of this House in interventions and in the area of intergovernmental fiscal relations.

However, we need to do more. We need to review the functioning of present arrangements as embodied in legislation.

We appreciate the work done by this House in processing interventions. Our role is to ensure that these interventions are not arbitrary. With the increase in the number of notices with regard to interventions in municipalities, we appreciate that a lot of work still needs to be done to improve governance in the local government sphere.

We are in the process of reconfiguring the portfolios of our two House Chairpersons in the NCOP so as to provide for a new portfolio on intergovernmental relations and cooperative government. The intention is to improve our performance in this area.

On the issue of nation building, Parliament aims to embark on a project to increase its contribution to nation building through enhancing unity and democracy in South Africa. The envisaged project democracy is to be used as a platform for robust and active involvement of Members of Parliament as well as extensive public engagement. We will elaborate on this bold initiative after we have properly conceptualised it.
* Improve and widen the role of Parliament in international cooperation and participation

In the period under review, we participated in various regional, continental and international forums to promote the African agenda and the role South Africa plays in this regard. It is important to note that Parliament finds itself in a fast-changing global domain.

Going forward, we need to pay particular attention to the increasing role of Parliament in international relations. But the immediate task is to transform the nature of support to MPs from being mainly logistics to being content-oriented. In order to elevate Parliament’s role in international relations, we must start by improving our support capacity in research and policy areas. This is especially so in the context of the 2011 deadline to transform the Pan-African Parliament into a legislative body.
* Build an effective and efficient institution

In order to achieve all the above, it is important that we pay particular attention to the task of building an effective and efficient Parliament. Towards this we need to continue to improve our human resource capacity including a re-orientation towards entrenching a service delivery culture. As we roll out new systems and more modern technology, it is important for us to realise that a modern Parliament like ours will function better if we all improve our ICT skills.

We are reviewing the support structure in the NCOP to respond to the need to follow up and assess our work. In line with the recommendations of the study we have conducted on Taking Parliament to the People, I have appointed a special adviser on intergovernmental matters in my office.

Building an effective and efficient Parliament will require that we provide adequate space for members to do their work. Work is being done in this regard as part of the space utilisation project and more information will be made available.

The strategic plan for the fourth Parliament, to be brought before this House as soon as possible, will give more detail with regard to these strategic objectives. Unfortunately, the document has been delayed because of political party processes.

Concluding remarks

Honourable Deputy Chairperson, Nelson Mandela, who spoke of us as a “particle of a people”, the servants of the newly enfranchised, in 1995 gave the captain of the Springboks before the Rugby World Cup a poem entitled Invictus with the following words, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

The project of re-affirming our humanity is in our hands. Collectively we are its masters and captains.

At this point, let me congratulate our parliamentary rugby team for their success during a visit to the United Kingdom and Ireland in November last year. They brought the trophy back to Parliament.

On behalf of the millions of South Africans, whom you have the privilege to represent, I commend the budget of Parliament totalling R1.571 (inclusive of the direct charge). I do so in the hope that you will continue to support the project of reaffirming our people. I do so in the hope that you will support the work of this Parliament in giving the voice to the voiceless and holding the government to account.

I thank you and the officials in making it possible to elaborate on an important project for our nation. It is now time for implementation.

Thank you.

Issued by: Parliament of South Africa
11 May 2010

Source: Parliament of South Africa (http://www.parliament.gov.za/)