Parliament Budget Vote Speech by NCOP Chairperson Hon. Mr Amos Masondo

Madam Deputy Chairperson,
House Chairpersons,
Chief Whip of the Council,
Honourable Delegates, and 
Guests 

INTRODUCTION

It is with pleasure to stand in front of you and to present the budget of Parliament to this House. Please allow me to take this opportunity once again to thank you for the confidence that you have shown in electing me to the position of the Chairperson of
the NCOP. I also wish to reiterate my congratulations to the Deputy Chairperson, House Chairpersons, Committee Chairpersons, Chief Whip and Whips for their election to these positions. It is a responsibility that we must regard very highly and with all the seriousness that it deserves.  We must perform our functions to the best of our ability, with diligence and exercise the powers bestowed on us impartially and with the necessary high ethical standard.

We meet today after being hard at work, ensuring that the key structures of the Houses of Parliament are set up. We have established the Rules Committee, Programme Committee and all Select Committees. For the purposes of joint business, we established the Joint Rules Committee, the Joint Programme Committee and all the relevant joint committees established in terms of the Joint Rules. We have also established the Joint Committee responsible to oversee Financial Management of Parliament as required by the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.  
 
The Select Committees have already commenced with the consideration of the budgets of the various departments. I have no doubt that we are indeed on course to carry out our constitutional responsibilities to serve all the people of our country.
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson, this budget therefore straddles the 5th and the 6th Parliament. I present the 2019/2020 financial budget under challenging economic climate when we must balance increasing legitimate demands of our people with decreasing financial resources. This period instructs that while seeking to satisfy the needs of our people, we must do so in a manner that is prudent. In a way that seeks to ensure we manage our finances of this institution efficiently and in a sustainable manner. This will determine whether we will be able to achieve more with the increasingly limited resources that are at our disposal.
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson, our economy, like the economies of other countries in the world, still faces slow, if not sluggish, growth. As a result, the country has to contend with stubborn high unemployment rate, poverty and inequality. It is within these difficult economic constraints that we have to consider the budget allocation to Parliament.  
 
We are quite cognisant of the fact that our harsh economic realities affect, amongst others, the youth who are at the receiving end of the high unemployment rate and are affected by other social ills, like drug abuse.
 
This at the time when we have an increase in the number of young parliamentarians. These young parliamentarians are bound to robustly insist, amongst others, that the disparate situation of the youth be addressed. They will be within their right when they do so, of course in the context of challenges of national interest.  Yes this voice must be heard in the context of challenges facing our people.
 
Alive to the important role that the youth play in the development of our country, Honourable Itumeleng Ntsube has been appointed as the Provincial Whip of the Delegation of the province of Free State. Although the youngest in the delegation, he is the most senior in position within the Delegation. We must all support him in the performance of his functions. Despite his age, he must be recognised as a leader in his own right. As the epitome of the youth, I am confident that he will help champion and sharpen our debates on youth and related other relevant matters.
 
Reflections from the recent elections
 
Pursuant to the constitutional values of regular elections and multiparty system of democratic government, we have just emerged from our sixth democratic national and provincial elections to give effect to the promise that the people shall govern.
 
It is the May 8th elections that made it possible for us to be where we are today. Pre-occupied with which party would emerge victorious during the election, the indelibility of this date in the calendar of our democracy may have escaped.
 
 We may have forgotten that May 8th marks the 23rd anniversary of the adoption of the new Constitution by the Constitutional Assembly. We may have forgotten that it was on this day 23 years ago in 1996 that the new Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Assembly. Merely two years after we attained our hard fought democracy for which some of our people paid the ultimate price. The new Constitution was finally signed into law on 10 December 1996 in Sharpeville after it was certified by the Constitutional Court. It came into effect on 4 February 1997.
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson, as the nation was on the cusp of a new beginning, the then President of the Republic of South Africa, our national hero Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, aptly defined the Constitution in the following words:

“This constitution is our own humble contribution to democracy and the culture [of] human rights world-wide; and it is our pledge to humanity that nothing will steer us from this cause.” Indeed, Honourable Members, nothing should steer us from this cause.

Madam Deputy Chairperson, this debate takes place two days before the world-wide celebration of Mandela Day. It is therefore befitting that I pay tribute to the Father of our Nation and the international icon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.  I do so with a sense of admiration and pride for the role he played in liberating our country from the clutches of a system which was declared a crime against humanity and its religion a heresy. He strode this country and the world like a colossal, preaching peace, reconciliation, freedom and democracy. We, as the representatives of the people must ensure that the 27 years of incarceration that Nelson Mandela endured in prison were not in vain.
 
Co-operative Governance and Intergovernmental Relations
 
Like Nelson Mandela had instructed us on the occasion of the adoption of the new Constitution, as elected representatives, our preoccupation at all levels of government “must be how to co-operate in the service of the people, rather than competing for power which otherwise belongs not to us, but to the people.”
 
For it is the votes of our people that catapulted us to these positions not to serve ourselves or our friends and families. We must be committed to servant leadership and the culture of doing. We must as far as possible avoid rhetoric and contestations that will steer us away from the course of advancing the constitutional promise of improving the quality of life of all our people. Together with the provincial legislatures and local government we carry the hopes and aspirations of our people. We must ensure that the Executive at all levels of government achieve the objectives that they have set for themselves. This we must do through ensuring accountability and co-ordinated oversight as well as meaningful public participation programmes.
 
Chapter 3 of the Constitution compels the three spheres of government to co-operate by, among others, informing one another of matters of common interest and co-ordinating their actions and legislation. This cannot be more apt than in the legislative sector. Madam Deputy Chairperson, to this end, as the National Council, we must seek to build stronger, dynamic and sustainable relationships with legislative bodies in the other spheres of government. Our efforts must be directed towards a co-ordinated and outcomes-based oversight that will ensure the delivery of services to our people. And nothing must steer us from this course.
 
 As the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly, as provincial legislatures and as municipal councils we must not compete “for power that does not belong to us, but to the people”. We must join hands to ensure accountable and transparent government that is responsive to the needs of our people and gives true meaning to the notion of government by the people under the Constitution. Let us rally behind the words of the Freedom Charter:  “The people shall govern!”.

True to our constitutional obligations, we must represent the interests of our people in all spheres of government. While the National Council of Provinces must ensure, amongst others, that we represent the interest of provinces in the national sphere of government, the provincial legislatures and municipal councils must represent the interests of the people in the provincial and local spheres of government well.
 
It is the National Council of Provinces, which must harness this relationship amongst the three spheres of government to ensure the eradication of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. It is this character that should distinguish the National Council of Provinces from other legislative bodies. The ability to facilitate, co-ordinated oversight in all spheres of government as well as the ability to ensure harmonious functioning of the Executive in all three spheres of government is a very powerful tool in our hands. Honourable Members, we must use this tool to the benefit of all our people.  Like we experienced during our various election campaigns, our people have the same or similar needs and aspirations irrespective of where they are located or which political party they support. It is this commonality of challenges in all spheres of government that must drive us towards co-ordinated oversight to ensure the realization of a better life for all our people.  
 
To this end, we must strengthen our relationship with the provincial legislatures and organized local government. We shall in the near future arrange a planning session with the provincial legislatures and SALGA to ensure the synchronization of our programmes.

Madam Deputy Chairperson, the 5th National Council of Provinces saw an increase in the assumption of powers in the local sphere of government by different provincial Executives in terms of section 139 of the Constitution, commonly referred to as interventions. [The latest audit results on local government released by the Auditor-General, must remain a concern to us. To an extent,   this may signify failure of governance in the local sphere of government.  Or failure by the national and provincial spheres to support the local sphere of government as required by section 154(1) of the Constitution.]

It is our responsibility as the National Council of Provinces to ensure that no sphere of government unconstitutionally usurps the powers of another. We must therefore ensure that whatever interventions in either the provincial or local sphere of government are remedial and not punitive in nature.
Honourable Members, we must ensure that those spheres that are competent to assume power of the other, do so only in exceptional circumstances. This we can only do if as the National Council of Provinces we assume our rightful place as an institution that lies at the centre of overseeing co-operative government and intergovernmental relations.  The unfortunate emergence of a public “blame game” amongst the three spheres of government on matters of service delivery should therefore be our concern. It is in these instances that we must be able to bring the spheres together to resolve these issues. Our Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation must be at the centre of this conception and co-operation.
 
Oversight and Accountability
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson, it is axiomatic [LG1]  that the time for speeches and empty promises is over. It is also evident that as Parliament we have made good policies and passed good laws in the 25 years of democracy. What we have not done that well, however, as the Legislative Sector, has been to ensure that the systematic implementation of these laws and policies to the benefit of our people. The eradication of the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  Perhaps even more important, as the president has said, ensuring that our economy is grown in a sustainable manner.
It is worth repeating, Madam Deputy Chairperson, that as we traversed the length and breadth of our country during our campaigns in preparation for the May 8th elections, our people complained in the main about access to water, sanitation, electricity, human settlements, availability of roads, safety and security and a myriad of other challenges that they face on a daily basis. We have heard them….and we must act for meaningful change.

Subsequent to the May 8th election, the President delivered his State of the Nation Address on 20 June 2019.  In the consideration of the Strategic Plans and Annual Performance of government departments, Committees must ensure departmental priorities are aligned to those announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address as well as the budget and the National Development Plan. It is the implementation of these priorities that we must oversee.

We therefore, as the representatives of our people need to roll up our sleeves and ensure that government delivers on these priorities. I want to emphasize that as legislators, our responsibility is not to implement but to oversee the implementation of government priorities in line with the Annual Performance Plans and money that Parliament appropriates to the departments.

We must use all the tools of oversight to ensure delivery of services to the people. Oversight activities, Motions, questions to the Executive and debates must be aimed at holding the Executive accountable on the basis of the announcements made during the Policy Debates. More time therefore need to be allocated to oversight. The manner in which we programme our business in Parliament must make this possible.

As we build on the experiences and successes of the 5th National Council of Provinces, we shall continue to implement oversight programmes like Taking Parliament to the People, Provincial Weeks, Oversight Weeks and others fashioned by those who came before us. All these programmes must be serve one purpose, overseeing the implementation of the priorities referred to above. The House Chairperson responsible for oversight must ensure that issues emanating from these programmes are integrated in the programmes of Committees. Madam Deputy Chairperson, Honourable members , we must declare oversight a central feature of the 6th National Council of Provinces.

Public involvement
Deputy Chairperson, it was in the Constitution signed into law by Nelson Mandela that we bound ourselves “to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people where every citizen is equally protected by the law and to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”. Indeed, Honourable Members, “nothing should steer us from this course.” This is the path that we must continue to traverse. As we enter the term of the 6th National Council of Provinces, we must vigorously implement our Public Participation Model together with the recommendations emanating from the High level Panel which was chaired by the former President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe.
We must therefore perform our functions guided by the needs and views of our people. We must heed the constitutional injunction of facilitating public involvement in the processes of the National Council of Provinces and its committees in passing quality laws and conducting outcomes-based oversight.
 
Law-making 
While law-making is one of our primary functions, Honourable Deputy Chairperson, consensus has emerged that we must focus our attention on the implementation of those laws that we have passed since the dawn of our democracy. There might be a need for new laws that are necessary to further our democracy. Those we must consider. We must however not consider them with haste. On laws affecting provinces, we must ensure that provincial legislatures have an opportunity to facilitate public involvement in order to provide the committees and the House with negotiating and final mandates. No law should be declared unconstitutional merely because, as the representatives of the people, we failed to facilitate public involvement. We must do whatever it is within our power to pass quality laws that comply with the rigours of our Constitution. Once again, the manner in which we programme our business must make this possible.
 
International Relations
Section 231(2) requires that for an agreement to bind the Republic, it must be approved by Parliament. We must take keen interest in international agreements that are tabled in Parliament. Like bills that are introduced in Parliament, we must satisfy ourselves before approval that these agreements, where necessary, accommodate the interests of the provinces.  House Chairpersons must ensure that international agreements, where necessary, receive attention equivalent to that of legislation. In addition to that, committees must ensure that their activities include oversight over the implementation of international agreements.
 
We must continue to build our bi-lateral and multilateral relationships with other parliaments world-wide so as to learn from their best practices. It is through these experiences, if we remain sufficiently critical, that we may improve the manner in which we do business. We must ensure that the Parliamentary Group on International Relations functions effectively and that it regularly reports on its activities. The House committee responsible for International Relations must ensure that its activities are well co-ordinated so as to give effect to the objective of effective international participation by Parliament.  
 
ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT AND THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Madam Deputy Chairperson, we cannot achieve all these without effective and efficient administrative, content and legal support. The Parliamentary Service must concentrate its efforts on supporting the core business of Parliament. To this end the Parliamentary Service must be both technically and technologically skilled to support Members to enable them to carry out their constitutional obligations. We must have a dynamic workforce that is capable of transcending the world of traditional job descriptions and obsolete human resources practices. Those who do not possess the necessary skills to take us into the future of work, must be upskilled or reskilled.
 
The current fragmentation of support offered to Select Committees and Portfolio Committees is not in keeping with the clustering of the Select Committees. It inevitably leads to Select Committees not being supported to the optimum. To this end, we are in the process of restructuring support to core business to ensure that members are provided with maximum support. 
 
With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must have a workforce that is able to use technology to advance the core business of Parliament. We must use technology to make it possible for the masses of our people situated in the far-flung corners of our country to participate in the law-making processes and other processes of Parliament without necessarily travelling to Cape Town. Our committee rooms and the Chambers of Parliament must be equipped with modern technology in order to make this possible. This is particularly important for the National Council of Provinces, which is required to co-ordinate its programmes with provincial legislatures and South African Local Government Association.
While we must accept that these would require more financial resources, I am sure that we can do much more with what we have now. This would require innovation and visionary leadership within the parliamentary administration – do more with less!
 
Honourable Members, it is however not only the Parliamentary Service that must possess the necessary skills and use technological advances to carry out business. The tools of trade that Parliament provides us with must make it convenient for us to carry out our constitutional obligations. They must be utilised for co-ordinating meetings, receiving documents for our meetings and exchanging views on matters that concern our work.  
 
Our training for Members must not only be directed to the acquisition of academic qualifications for the future but also prepare them for the now. It must also adequately skill Members to be able to independently conduct own research, chairing meetings, speech writing, public speaking etc. 

Space Utilisation 
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson, the current available space to conduct business is of concern particularly to the National Council of Provinces. The condition of our Chamber continues to deteriorate because of its age despite attempts to renovate it. It appears that no amount of renovation will ever save it. Secondly, the NA chamber was not designed to accommodate joint sittings of the NA and the NCOP. Thirdly, the precincts do not have enough committee venues to accommodate all committee meetings. As a result, Committees are compelled to make use of external facilities for their meetings at a high cost to Parliament. This requires urgent attention. 
In addition, The Parliamentary Budget Office should be properly resourced and supported.
 
BUDGET ALLOCATION
 
Madam Deputy Chairperson allow me to turn to the allocation. Parliament’s actual allocation is Two Billion, Six Hundred and Eight Million Eight Hundred and Seventy - Eight Thousands Rand - (R 2,608,878 Billion).
 
I must indicate that, given its estimate of expenditure, Parliament had requested an amount of Three Billion, Two Million Nine Hundred and Seventy-Nine Thousands Rand - (R 3,002,979 Billion) from National Treasury as budget estimates. As a consequence, we have a shortfall of Three Hundred and Ninety-Four Million Rand (R394 Million) which has a direct bearing on how we run this institution.
 
This budget is divided into five programmes (and direct charges) as follows:
Strategic Leadership and Governance - R 104 267 Million
(One Hundred and Four Million Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven Thousand Rand)
 
Administration – R 175 584 Million
(One Hundred and Seventy-Five Million Five Hundred and Eighty-Four Thousand Rand)
 
Core Business – R 640 894 Million
(Six Hundred and Forty Million Eight Hundred and Ninety–Four Thousand Rand)
 
Support Services – R 440 239 Million
(Four Hundred and Forty Million Two Hundred and Thirty-Nine Thousand Rand)
 
Associated Services – R 720 376 Million
(Seven Hundred and Twenty Million Three Hundred and Seventy-Six Thousand Rand)
 
Direct Charges (Members’ remunerations) – R 527 518 Million
(Five Hundred and Twenty-Seven Million Five Hundred and Eighteen Thousand Rand)
In terms of economic classification, the budget is divided as follows:
 
Compensation of Members and employees - R 1 637 227 Billion
(One Billion, Six Hundred and Thirty - Seven Million Two Hundred and Twenty- Seven Thousand Rand)
 
Transfers to political parties represented in Parliament – R 483 730 Million
(Four Hundred and Eighty-Three Million Seven Hundred and Thirty Thousand Rand)
 
Goods & Services (Members’ Entitlements) – R 175 000 Million
(One Hundred and Seventy–Five Million Rand)
 
Goods & Services (Operations) – R 312 921 Million
(Three Hundred and Twelve Million Nine Hundred and Twenty-Nine Thousand Rand)
 
This budget includes medical aid contributions for former Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures as well as transfers to political parties represented in Parliament. Parliament is of the view that this should be budgeted for separately as they distort Parliament’s budget. Engagement with National Treasury staff and the Minister of Finance are ongoing with a view to address this.
 
CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all the Presiding Officers the Acting Secretary Ms Tyawa and management, the Secretary to the National Council of Provinces and employees of Parliament.
 
I present Budget Vote 2 for your consideration and support
 
Thank you