The beginning of year 2022 marked a period during which Parliament, in its role and duty to the people of South Africa, following the unprecedented devastation as well as its own recovery and rise in the aftermath of the furious fire that destroyed its own infrastructure in the first few days of this year. It should also be remembered that our country and the world beyond our borders was also caught in the throes of COVID-19, which killed more than a million of our own citizens.
However, our people continue to be resilient in terms of their resistance to the calamities we have referred to above, and continue to engage in the rebuilding and reimagination of our country’s future.
Our people, I believe, will look for the proverbial Phoenix, as our nation rises from these ashes of the devastation of the fire at parliament, to come out stronger and more united, in our continued quest to build a better future for our nation.
For, as Joseph Ning so aptly pointed the symbolism of the phoenix:
“Never bested by hardship or defeated by death, the phoenix is the ultimate icon of hope and rebirth.”
So shall it be for this institution, rising from its own ashes to stand as a torch-bearer for our nation.
It is this daunting task before us, Chairperson, that forms the backdrop to this, my maiden introductory speech of Parliament's Budget Vote Debate, as Speaker of our National Assembly.
In the context of this backdrop therefore, we present a budget which I trust will present a picture that does not define business as usual.
The unfortunate events that led us to our current circumstances, have also created opportunity for us to re-evaluate and reimagine our work, with a view to use the lessons of our business unusual, to improve the functioning of Parliament and strengthen the capacity Legislative Sector as a whole.
Honourable Members, as per the requirement of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, we present the 2022/23 based on the overall strategic plan of the 6th Parliament and the annual performance plan as tabled.
We also outline, as part of the accountability process, the key achievements and challenges of the previous financial year, which represented effectively the second year of functioning within the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Given the need for Parliament to continue functioning and active, more so during the challenging period of the pandemic than at any other time in our history, the institution had to do everything within its capacity to remain effective within the Business Unusual Model.
During the period in review, Parliament adapted itself to new ways of working, ensuring that effective oversight and accountability is exercised, including the increased use of advanced technology to hold virtual and hybrid meetings.
Given the odds against which the institution had to operate over the year in review, the levels of achievements made can only be described as extraordinary. Much commendation must go to the management team, the staff and you honourable members for such achievement in performance targets.
Despite the constrained environment, Parliament continue to function and fulfil most of its obligations. This is only possible through the introduction of the ‘innovative business unusual model’ that saw increased reliance in new technologies, ensuring that committees and plenaries are held virtually and later as a hybrid.
B. 2021 ACHIEVEMENTS
Public interface and public participation had taken a notable dive during 2020/21 at the height of the hard lockdown, but we have now recorded marked improvement in this regard as a result of the new Public participation strategy, aimed at enhancing public information, access and participation.
Parliament’s constitutional mandate of law-making was successfully executed, managing to pass a total of 20 Bills during the period in review.
In addition, Parliament also passed the national budget, which is also tabled annually in Parliament in the form of legislation.
It is also worth-noting that Parliament was able to finalise a number of legislations, key amongst which was legislation aimed at combating ‘gender based violence’, which was officially recognised as a second and a worsening pandemic during covid lockdown period.
These bills included the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.
Parliament continues to regard its role in law making, as critical in giving practical expression to the values and provisions of our constitution and in supporting our democracy.
Electoral Laws Amendment Bill
In this regard, allow me to address a matter related to concerns that have been raised recently about the work we are doing in finalizing the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.
As Members are aware, as per agreement in the National Assembly Programming Committee of 17 February 2022, Parliament has approached the Constitutional Court for a six-month extension within which to process the Electoral Amendment Bill. I would want to assure the public that both Houses of Parliament are committed to processing this Bill timeously whilst at the same time taking into account the necessity for thorough public consultation on a matter of such importance to our democratic dispensation. We hope that the President assent to the Bill before the end of 2022.
We must state categorically that there is no justification at all for recent attempts by some to cause public panic by suggesting that the general elections of 2024 are at risk.
Having said that, it remains the duty we have to this democracy as Parliament, for every member in this House to work together to ensure that this bill succeeds.
Oversight work remains a key pillar of the work of Parliament. In this regard, many of our people would have been justified in their concerns on Parliament’s inability to exercise oversight and to hold the Executive accountable. Of course it should be understood that there were inhibiting circumstances, including both the covid lockdown and the fire at Parliament, which impacted negatively the normal oversight by Members of Parliament.
The adjusted working model aimed at ensuring Parliament’s continued functioning during both the pandemic and fire disaster, ensured that Parliament’s oversight work was never compromised.
During this period, Parliamentary committees embarked on 46 oversight visits and conducted 155 public hearings on various Bills.
Both Houses held sittings that dealt with debates on issues of national importance, reports, policy, and Bills.
During this review period, Parliament ensured that special attention was paid to its role in the monitoring of the Covid-19 pandemic interventions by Government, including the spending of public funds and the protection of basic human rights where there were reported instances of abuse.
Parliament is committed to ensure that proper oversight continues, especially the important work of committees, despite the destruction of most of our facilities during the fire in January.
Committee rooms, while limited, are available for committees to meet physically. What is, however lacking at the moment are hybrid enabled committee rooms. This and other matters relating to the resumption of physical meetings by committees, will be discussed with the House Chairpersons for committees.
As for physical sittings of the National Assembly, currently the Good Hope Chamber is the only venue we are able to use without incurring huge costs. While the capacity of the venue is limited, it has to be stated that currently the number of Members who attend sittings physically has not even reached the prescribed number of 120.
Discussions with the National Treasury are taking place at officials level regarding the various expenditure requirements for the business continuity of Parliament following the fire disaster.
Questions Members of the Executive
One of the key instrument of our oversight functions is the Questions to Members of the Executive.
During the year in review, members of the National Assembly submitted a total of 3580 questions to the Executive (525 oral questions, 3055 written questions).
There still remains a big challenge in this regard, with many questions that are left unanswered for long periods beyond the provided deadlines.
In 2021, the National Assembly adopted a Mechanism for monitoring delayed replies to questions. In terms of this Mechanism, the Speaker receives a report at the end of each quarter regarding outstanding replies. The Speaker addresses the matter in writing with both the Leader of Government Business the affected Ministers.
Among other things, the Speaker requires of Ministers to give reasons for their failure to reply. As the Mechanism was applied for the first time in the third term of 2021 and I only recently addressed a third round of letters to the Executive in this regard, its effectiveness is being assessed. But we are certainly moving in the right direction.
Zondo Judicial Commission on State Capture
To date the President has submitted four out of the five Reports of the Commission on State Capture. The final report will only be presented to the President on 15 June 2022 and thereafter the implementation plan will follow 4 months afterwards. Based on legal advice received, Parliament has already commenced work on the 3rd and 4th Reports. Members implicated whilst serving as Members of Parliament and who are still MPs, have been referred to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests to consider the allegations in order to determine if there was a breach of the Ethics Code.
The research unit of Parliament has been tasked to analyse the Reports with a view of advising the relevant oversight committees and / or the Rules Committee once the final report and implementation plan has been submitted. This work will inform decisions of the Rules Committee in relation to possible action to be taken under the Powers and Privileges Act against implicated individuals who are no longer Members of Parliament.
The Secretary to Parliament has also been tasked with ensuring that Members receive adequate training on key financial legislation to avoid oversight failures highlighted by the Commission in relation to Parliament’s role. Only once the entire report and implementation plan is before Parliament will the Rules Committee decide on how best to proceed with the processing thereof.
In line with our obligations for international solidarity and cooperation, Parliament continued to implement its international relations program objectives.
International solidarity was in particular the most basic requirement in the world’s efforts to effectively fight and reverse the devastating effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Despite the continued travel and gathering restrictions globally, the South African Parliament managed to participate in various multilateral structures. including the following:
- The 49th SADC Parliamentary Forum Plenary Assembly,
- Fourth Ordinary Session of the Pan-African Parliament,
- 7th Parliamentary Speaker’s Summit,
- rd and 144th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly,
- 51st Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference.
We are pleased about the impact of our participation in these engagements and what they have come to mean for our Parliament and the positioning of our country globally.
IPU Task Force on the Russia and Ukraine Conflict
As members are aware, following the resolutions of the 144th Assembly of the IPU, I was among other Speakers who were appointed by the IPU to the Task Force on Ukraine and Russia. This Task Force forms part of the global legislative effort to bring about a peaceful resolution to the current conflict between the two countries.
Some of us in this House have over many years schooled in the philosophy that a free South Africa would always embrace peace and friendship among nations. What that meant, was that force and wars are highly destructive to humanity, especially towards women and children. In those circumstances we learnt, it was always and even now is, our position that peace and impartiality are paramount in the resolution of conflict. Mediation therefore is part of the measures we use for conflict resolution and post conflict reconstruction.
Our delegation was also instrumental in the finalisation of the IPU Assembly resolution calling for vaccine equity in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore important for South Africa to see how best it can implement this resolution through the Portfolio Committee on Health.
It is alarming to learn of the disparities of Vaccination Statistics as reported by the World Health Organisation.
Chairperson, we are pleased once again, to report that Parliament continued to achieve a clean audit for the seventh consecutive year. Also, critical to note is that, despite the declining fiscal allocations caused by deteriorating economic conditions, the control environment remained strong, as the Audit Committee, Internal Audit and the Risk Management capacity progressively improved.
Establishing the Legislative Sector as an Arm of State
The Speaker’s Forum as the current coordinating body for the governance of the sector has continued to function and meet regularly to oversee the process of consolidating the sector.
The initial ideas of legislatures organising themselves into a sector, the South African Legislative Sector has come a long way from operating as a simple association to being formally organised on the strength of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Since then the need for a strong, self-standing Legislative Sector as an distinguishable arm of the state has gained further momentum. The Speakers’ Forum has focused on a mission to further formalise the South African Legislative Sector, beyond the MOU to a draft Legislative Sector Bill that will culminate into an Act of Parliament.
The Speakers’ Forum also identified the area of support to Presiding Officers of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures as a strategic area of intervention. To this end the Speakers’ Forum has developed a Presiding Officers Handbook that was adopted in its last meeting held in April 2022.
The importance and benefits of a capacity building programme for elected public representatives, remains an important part of our commitments.
The current capacity building programme for Members facilitates formal education opportunities from the level of undergraduate diplomas, for qualifying members all the way to the level of Masters. The Speakers’ Forum continues to take pride in the results that have been produced by this programme since inception.
However, it remains important to provide training to members on short courses at reputable Institutions of Learning to empower them in their oversight work. For instance, specialisation is necessary in the different areas of oversight which, would even be of use to their lives beyond Parliament.
The South African Parliamentary Institute (SAPI) was launched on 9 December 2021 by the South African Legislative Sector, providing a beacon of hope for the accelerated development of the requisite human capital. The Institute boasts a Board of Directors with eminent persons from the sector and a number of industries.
C. STRATEGIC OUTLOOK AND PRIORITIES
The strategy of the 6th Parliament is orientated towards ensuring more responsive and accountable government.
The Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan of Parliament as tabled last year, set out the required change initiatives for the next few years.
These institutional strategic initiatives include the following:
• An Oversight Plan to coordinate oversight priorities and activities of Committees, Houses, and Legislatures;
• A public participation strategy to enhance public information, access and participation;
• A knowledge management strategy to manage information and knowledge for the benefit of Members, the institution and stakeholders;
• The digital strategy allowing the implementation of modern technology;
• A human resources strategy to unleash capacity and skills;
• A facilities management strategy for the future accommodation for Members of Parliament following the fire disaster
We present a budget within the context of a changing economic landscape both here at home and globally as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The 2022/23 budget for Parliament therefore, is set against the backdrop of declining budgets in the state as a whole.
There are also other emerging issues and risks that will need action. These include adjusting to the reality of a reduced budget, and addressing the aging technology infrastructure.
The Fire Disaster in Parliament
The impact of the fire disaster meant that Parliament continues to utilise alternative facilities to host the joint sittings, sittings of the National Assembly, and office accommodation for Members and support staff.
While we have all hope for a return to more normal parliamentary operations in 2022, the fire damage is necessitating the continued use of hybrid proceedings in order to fulfil the functions of Parliament.
The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure have appointed an independent company (COEGA) to assess the damages caused by the fire. Parliament will study the reports submitted after the assessment and a decision will be made on the best way forward.
Currently, the Good-Hope Chamber is being used to house the sittings of the National Assembly, but there still remains a need to create additional space to accommodate full sittings for all Members of the National Assembly and the joint sittings of Parliament. Parliament is considering various options for the alternative accommodation for sittings.
We will also receive a presentation of the feasibility study which was conducted in 2018, on the relocation of Parliament from its current premises in Cape Town. The report will be shared with Members of Parliament before a decision is taken on the future seat of Parliament.
The Continued Reduction in the Budget Baseline
In 2020 the National Treasury issued budget guidelines for the 2021/22 to 2023/24 MTEF, indicating an almost 10% reduction of Vote 2. This reduction in the budget baseline requires mitigation steps to ensure financial viability and sustainability.
It is very clear that if steps are not taken in correcting the allocation and in reducing expenditure, a significant budget shortfall could occur in the 2024/25 financial year.
While the overall budget appears to be significant for 2022/23, the amount available for discretionary allocation is small.
This is because the Accounting Officer has limited control over the following allocations in the budget:
• Direct charge for Members’ remuneration;
• Transfers to political parties;
• Parmed payments;
• Facilities for Members;
• Benefits for former Members;
• Salary adjustments decided by the sector bargaining process;
• Contingent liabilities
The Executive Authority will consider specific proposals soon with regard to the restructuring of our budget especially in relation to these expenditure items. It is our view that as currently structured, the PARMED is not financially viable and is costing, not just Parliament, but individual serving members a lot, as they are practically having to subsidise for retired members. The allocation of Political Parties Allowances into the baseline of Parliament has continued to cause a lot of problems as Parliament is having to carry adjustment costs as a result of the shortfalls in budget allocation by National Treasury, despite the existence of clear rules and formula to calculate these allowances annually.
Chaiperson, PARMED has to be reconstructed by opening it up to compete with other viable Medical Aid Schemes. This will broaden its scope and draw into its firmament new members beyond the Members of Parliament.
The composition of the budget should be reviewed to reflect the commitment to build a capable and viable Legislative Sector in the interest of our democracy and real accountability for Executive actions.
The 2022/23 Budget Allocation
The total budget obligations for Parliament as submitted to the National Treasury was R 2,757 billion. The allocation received from the National Treasury amounts to R 2,683 billion. This means that we have a shortfall for the amount of R 74 million that will have to be funded by retained earnings and revenue of Parliament. This shortfall is largely driven by the compensation employment baseline reductions introduced by National Treasury.
The NT allocation for compensation of employees amounts to R 896 million, whilst the actual expenditure is R 1,154 billion. The baseline reductions have caused significant strain on the budget of Parliament and will need to be addressed by cost-saving measures that Parliament has already initiated including a revision of travel policies, Voluntary Early Retirement Dispensation (VERD) and organizational realignment.
Inflation is also expected to increase by more than 6 percent, this in addition to the lifting of COVID restrictions that will further drive up the cost of Parliament’s goods and services.
The budget of Parliament has been allocated as follows:
• Programme1: Administration, R 776 million;
• Programme 2: Legislation and Oversight, R 754 million
• Programme 3: Associated Services and Transfer Payments to Political Parties, R755 million.
The Parliamentary Budget Office - a separate entity in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act - receives a transfer payment under Programme 3, and will need more funding over time to function effectively.
I want to thank the Management and officials for the sterling work they continue to do under circumstances that could only be defined as daunting and at times, almost impossible.
As you are aware we have now passed the resolution approving the appointment of a new Secretary To Parliament, Mr Xolile George who we hope should start his duties soon after a protracted period of time without an incumbent for the position. Mr George joins us in the gallery today as a guest to observe today’s proceeding of the Budget Vote.
Allow me to specifically extend mine and the institution’s gratitude to the current Acting Secretary to Parliament, Ms Tyawa for standing in and leading the administration over the past the past few years, and for her work in keeping this ship steady.
We are confident that once Mr George resumes duty he will, as the first order of his job, move to fill in all the vacancies that exist at Management level in order to stabilise the leadership and governance of the institution.
I also want to thank my fellow Presiding Officers, leaders of parties, Chief Whips and each one of you honourable members for the reception and support that you have given me following my election to the role of Speaker last year.
Your inputs, support and spirit of cooperation in these past months have meant a lot to me, during one of the most volatile periods for Parliament and our country.
I call on this Assembly to support this Budget Vote 2.
07 JUNE 2022