The National Council of Provinces (NCOP), one of the two Houses of Parliament, came into effect in 1997. The NCOP is constitutionally mandated to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government. This is done through participation in the national legislative process and by providing a national forum for consideration of issues affecting provinces.
The NCOP also plays a unique role in the promotion of the principles of Cooperative Government and Intergovernmental Relations. It ensures that the three spheres of government work together in performing their unique functions in terms of the Constitution and that in doing so, they do not encroach in each other’s area of competence.
This ensures that synergy exists between the spheres on matters of concurrent competence.
COMPOSITION OF THE NCOP
The NCOP consists of 90 provincial delegates, ie 10 delegates for each of the nine provinces. This means that each province is equally represented in the NCOP.
A provincial delegation consists of six permanent delegates and four special delegates.
The permanent delegates are appointed by the nine provincial legislatures. The four special delegates consist of the Premier of the province and three other special delegates assigned from members of the provincial legislature. They are selected by each province from Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) and are rotated depending on the subject matter being considered by the NCOP. The Premier of a province is the head of the province’s delegation but he or she can select any other delegate to lead the delegation in his or her absence.
Each provincial delegation has a provincial whip who is responsible for co-ordination of the work of the provincial delegations in the NCOP. The Chief Whip of the NCOP co-ordinates the business of the House and oversees the duties of the provincial whips.
Organised local government is also represented in the NCOP through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). SALGA is entitled to 10 representatives who may participate in the debates and other activities of the NCOP, but may not vote.
For a detailed overview of seat allocation view the State of the Parties in the NCOP.
SELECT COMMITTEE FUNCTIONS
Committees can be described as the foundation or engine rooms of parliamentary work. It is in committees that members of the public often get the opportunity to express their views and make representations on legislation and other matters before the NCOP. In this way committees facilitate public involvement in the law-making and other processes of the NCOP. Secondly, committees spend their time on conducting oversight over government to ensure that policies and laws are implemented. Committees are established in accordance with the portfolios of government ie each government department has a committee that oversees it. In addition to these, there are committees which have been established to deal with other matters not related to government departments eg the Rules Committee that deals with the Rules of the NCOP, Programme Committee that deals with the programme of the NCOP and Petitions and Members’ Legislative Proposals Committee that deals with petitions and legislative proposals by permanent delegates.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND OVERSIGHT PROGRAMMES
In compliance with its constitutional obligations to facilitate public participation in the law-making and other processes, the NCOP has initiated programmes such as its Taking Parliament to the People programme and Provincial Week. These programmes also assist the NCOP in conducting effective oversight over the executive.
Taking Parliament to the People
Every year for a period of a week, the full complement of the NCOP sits away from Cape Town and in partnership with the provincial legislatures invites members of the public to raise challenges relating to service delivery. The programme is mainly taken to people in remote rural areas who lack resources to visit Parliament.
The Provincial Week is another vehicle through which the NCOP seeks to realize its mandate of conducting effective oversight on matters affecting provinces. This week provides an opportunity for provincial delegations to return to their provinces and work with the provincial legislatures on service delivery issues.
During this week permanent delegates meet with provincial and local government leaders as well as community based forums regarding service delivery in their areas.
ROLE OF THE NCOP IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
One of the main functions of the NCOP is to make laws. In performing this legislative function, the NCOP may consider, pass, amend, propose amendments or reject any legislation before it.
The Constitution distinguishes between four categories of Bills namely bills amending the Constitution (section 74), bills not affecting provinces (section 75), bills affecting provinces (section 76) and money bills (section 77) which the NCOP processes according to the procedures prescribed by the Constitution.
Bills amending the Constitution (Section 74 Bills)
Bills that amend the Constitution are processed in terms of the processes in terms of the procedure set out in section 74 of the Constitution. When deciding on these Bills the provincial delegations vote in accordance with the mandate conferred on them by their respective provincial legislature. Each province has one vote and at least six provinces have to vote in favour of the Bill for it to be passed.
Bills not affecting provinces (section 75 Bills)
These are bills that are processed in terms of the procedure set out in section 75 of the Constitution. When considering these Bills, delegates vote as individuals (not as a delegation) and each has one vote. The Bill is agreed to if the majority of delegates vote in favour of the Bill.
Bills affecting provinces (section 76 Bills)
Bills that affect the provinces are generally those that relate to areas of shared national and provincial legislative competence, such as Health, Education, etc. The NCOP endeavours to finalise these Bills at least within the six-weeks to enable active public involvement and to allow sufficient time for provinces to confer mandates on their delegations. These Bills are dealt with in terms of the procedure prescribed in section 76 of the Constitution. When deciding on Bills affecting provinces the provincial delegations vote in accordance with the mandate conferred on them by their respective provincial legislatures. Each province has one vote. A section 76 Bill is agreed to if at least five provinces vote in favour of the Bill.
Money Bills (section 77)
These are Bills which deal with appropriation of money, imposition of national taxes, levies, duties or surcharges. They are processed in terms of the procedure outlined in section 77 of the Constitution. Here, delegates vote individually and the Bill is agreed to if the majority of delegates vote in its favour.
Click here to access information about the National Council of Provinces in all the official languages of South Africa.