Effective Executive oversight by Parliament demands better oversight of Parliament

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, Mike Waters MP, during the Budget Vote on Parliament.
Madam Speaker,
The establishment of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament was a welcome development as it allowed, for the first time, not only scrutiny over the budget of Parliament but also the Secretary to Parliament and the Executive Authority, namely the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
It is, therefore, unfortunate that the first time you were summoned to appear before this committee, on 12 May 2017, you arrived an hour and a half late, delaying the start of the meeting. Then adding insult to injury, you informed the committee that you had to catch a flight to Gauteng because you were doubled booked. You simply, and rudely I might add, got up and left the meeting without dealing with the issues you were instructed to address.
Your actions, Speaker, clearly indicate the total disdain you have for the Committee and your unwillingness to accept accountability. Much like members of Cabinet.
A copy of the letter sent to you on 4 April, notifying you of the meeting, clearly indicated what was expected of you and what issues you were to address. One of these was the late signing of a performance contract for the Secretary to Parliament for the year 2016/17. In addition, you had a 16:00 deadline on 28 April to submit documents in this regard, which you again failed to provide.
For the benefit of Members, let me recap the issue. The Secretary was appointed on 1 December 2014 and, if you all recall, received a R71 000 ex-gratia payment despite barely warming his seat. We stated in last year’s budget vote that we believed this to be in contravention of Section 7(e) of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, and we still do. Yet, Speaker, you did absolutely nothing to rectify this abuse.
Section 8 (1) and (2) of the Act stipulates that:
(1) The Executive Authority and the Accounting Officer must conclude a written performance agreement for the Accounting Officer annually.
(2) The performance agreement referred to in subsection (1) must—
(a) be concluded within a reasonable time after the Accounting Officer is employed and thereafter within one week after the start of each financial year;
(b) specify performance standards linked to the objectives and targets of Parliament’s performance plan for the financial year;
(c) provide for an annual assessment of the Accounting Officer’s performance by the Executive Authority; and
(d) specify the consequences of sub-standard performance.
It remains unclear if, for the duration of the period 1 December 2014 to 31 March 2015, or the financial year of 2015/16, a performance contract was indeed concluded with the Secretary to Parliament.
What we do know is that the performance contract for the 2016/17 financial year was never signed. Not in the first week of the financial year, or the second week, nor the third week nor the tenth week, or the twentieth, thirtieth or even the fortieth week. What we do know is that in the 49th week the Secretary confirmed to us that his contract had still not been signed. This Speaker is a disgrace.
Chair, I cannot inform this House as to whether the performance contract was signed before the end of the financial year as the Speaker refuses to be held accountable and answer questions about it.
Speculation regarding the status of the Secretary’s 2017/18 performance contract is still rife. Maybe the Speaker will shed light on the matter in her reply.
Needless to say, we have never received a report from the Executive Authority assessing the Secretary’s performance or what action has been taken with regards to his sub-standard performance.
Given the unhappiness of the staff at Parliament, the past industrial action, and the failure of this Institution to meet key objectives, we are not surprised that the Speaker has not provided an assessment report.
It is ironic that the very institution that is supposed to hold the Executive to account fails to adhere to the law and evades being held accountable themselves.
Madam Speaker, in your press conference yesterday you raised serious concerns about “judicial overreach” and that you were concerned about the plethora of cases against Parliament brought by the DA and other opposition parties. Well Madam Speaker, if Parliament did its job in upholding the Constitution there would be no need for parties to seek justice from our courts.
Your continued insistence on remaining the Chairperson of the ANC and the Speaker of Parliament is the actual problem. It has resulted in Parliament becoming a surrogate for Luthuli House. We witness MP’s freedom of speech being restricted to such an extent that we have more freedom of speech outside the House than inside.
The blurring of the lines continued when you allowed armed military personnel onto the Parliamentary precinct during the opening of Parliament. This despite having given assurances that this would not happen to all parties at a meeting in your office and reiterating those same assurances at a press conference. The Constitution and the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act both protect Parliament as an institution.
Four Constitutional principles have been violated:

  • Firstly, that Parliament is independent and determines what happens on its precinct;
  • Secondly, that the executive interference in Parliament is a serious risk to democracy;
  • Thirdly, that the threat of force undermines the privileges of freedom of speech and arrest; and
  • Fourthly, that the Presiding Officers have a Constitutional duty to protect the independence and integrity of Parliament.

If you did not give permission, Madam Speaker, then the military had been here illegally. And if you did give permission, then Parliament has been lied too.
You need to explain yourself, Madam Speaker.
Another committee that has been captured is the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. When an opposition MP is fingered, the committee handles the case with exceptional efficiency; however, when an ANC MP is implicated the committee drags its heels to such an extent it stops meeting altogether.
The co-chairpersons of the Committee need to be reminded that this committee is supposed to be neutral and is there to ensure that all MPs, irrespective of party affiliation, are dealt with in the same manner. Failure to do so undermines its legitimacy. We look forward to the committee meeting and starting to deal with the long list of matters before it.
It is quite clear that the next phase of the ANC “state capture” strategy is to take control of Parliament, not only by shutting down debate but by deploying ANC cadres to key positions. So while top officials are employed at huge expense and drain the Parliamentary budget, the rest of the staff here in Parliament have been informed that they will not be getting an increase at all this year.
I put it to you, Speaker, that Parliament is being reduced to an employment agency for Luthuli House.
And while on the subject of staff, your office has 42 staff members, while Member Support Services has only 19.
But what is more astonishing is the amount of money people are being paid. The head of your office earns over R1.6 million and your three special advisors earn nearly R1.6 million each! You have five Communications Managers, each earning a whopping R1.02 million.
The question that begs asking is what do they do all day?
The total cost of your office is a staggering R37 983 153.
It is no wonder that you can’t afford to pay the rank and file staff increases this year.
Another division that needs scrutiny is that of the Parliamentary Communication Services division which has, according to the organisational structure, 84 staff members. The Parliamentary Millennium Programme division is said to have five posts despite being closed in 2013. Another division is called Projects Manager with seven staff members. Yet despite asking what projects they are working on, the Secretary to Parliament could not answer the question.
Speaker, the DA will not let Parliament become a statistic in the ANC state capture campaign. We all swore to uphold our Constitution and never again for this institution to be used as a political football in order to achieve a perverse political agenda.
The voters of South Africa have seen that the ANC no longer wear clothes and their despicable agenda has been exposed for what it is.
In two years time the voter has a choice: re-elect the ANC and get more state capture and corruption, or vote DA and have freedom and opportunities for all.
I thank you.