Speech by Speaker of the National Assembly Hon Baleka Mbete MP on the occasion of Budget Vote 2

22 July 2014

Honourable Deputy Speaker
Honourable Deputy President
Honourable Ministers
Honourable Members

The twenty year celebration of democracy is an occasion to reflect on the long walk we have begun as a country, some 20 years indeed. It is an occasion to celebrate the remarkable endurance of political institutions, such as Parliament, our constitution and the remarkable spirit of the people of this country.

Over the course of the last twenty years, the lives of our people have vastly improved and South Africa is indeed a much better place than it was before 1994.

In particular, this Parliament has played an instrumental role in the crafting and adoption of the Constitution; the repeal of destructive apartheid laws, putting in place of hundreds of pieces of legislation and introducing systems to safeguard this democracy. These are by no means small feats but achievements that we should be proud of.

Deputy Speaker

A few days ago, I had the honour of representing our people and Parliament at the United Nations international celebrations of Nelson Mandela day in New York.

To the billions who have been inspired and will remain inspired by our father Nelson Mandela, he is more than a symbol of the victory of justice over injustice. Nelson Mandela represents the potential of every human being to create change in ourselves, in our country, and in the world.

Upon his retirement from public life, Madiba urged that:

"As long as many of our people still live in poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom".

We must heed Madiba's wise words. It is now left to each one of us to carry forward the noble ideals for which he and other freedom fighters stood for, fought for and died for.

Deputy Speaker

For the Fifth Parliament, the next stage of our historic journey, presents not only enormous challenges, but also exciting opportunities. Yet we must recognise that the world is radically changing.

We must recognise too, that our nation and our world are under severe financial, security and environmental strain. Recognise that the demands on and of parliamentary democracy are somewhat different now and in the future to that of the past.

As we reflect on the current Budget Vote for Parliament, let us do so, critically, but also with innovation, and foresight, steadfast in our resolve to use financial and other resources with the utmost care and responsibility.

Deputy Speaker

As the democratically elected representatives of our people, we have the honourable task to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. In doing so, I urge all parties represented in this Chamber to heed the clarion call which has been amplified by the African National Congress for a robust, engaging, relevant and  activist Parliament.

A Parliament that asserts its rightful role and status as one of the key institutions of democracy – one that not only holds government answerable but accountable for more effective and efficient service delivery. I say this, ever mindful however, that Parliament itself, remains accountable to our people for ensuring that their needs find expression and are addressed at all times.

Let us also accept this opportunity to refine our role in a new form of our social compact, toward realizing the development goals of our people, entrenching democracy and contributing towards nation building.

Deputy Speaker

As we begin engaging with our responsibilities as the Fifth Parliament, and carting the way forward, it is useful for us to reflect on the key developments and legacy issues emanating from the Fourth Parliament, as we chart the way forward.

I also wish take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the previous Speakers of this House for their contribution towards shaping and deepening democracy in our country. They have greatly contributed to ensuring that this institution is one of the key pillars of our democracy.

The Fourth Parliament undertook an extensive process of restructuring its institutional support structure to ensure that the institution is suitably positioned to support Members of Parliament.

Whilst we acknowledge the progress made, we must make sure that the process underway is aligned to the forthcoming strategic plan of the Fifth Parliament. We must also address the outstanding challenges in this regard, and finalise the restructuring process during this financial year.

Let us also be mindful of our responsibility to not only pass progressive labour laws but ensure that we ourselves adhere to and implement these laws as far as possible.

Our predecessors undertook an ambitious project to develop and refine Parliaments structures and procedures to ensure that new and implementable rules and procedures respond to our changing circumstances.

The Fifth Parliament is expected to apply its mind to the new proposals via the Rules Committee and once there is broad agreement, adopt these for implementation. The Rules Committee will hasten the implementation of the proposals.

Quality of Legislation

During the Fourth Parliament, the quality and constitutionality of legislation came into sharp focus due to numerous bills which were challenged in the Constitutional Court.

Pursuant to this, a number of corrective measures were introduced, to ensure that our laws are at all times in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. A Legal Drafting Unit was established, with Members across the political sphere expressing their satisfaction with the work that this Unit produced.  

The Unit is now in the process of procuring an electronic drafting system which was alluded to by the former Speaker in his Budget Speech in 2013. The new system will assist Committees and Members of Parliament to draft and effect amendments to Bills and publishing in real time.

This Unit has also compiled a list of legislation that require constitutional amendment as per Constitutional requirements, Constitutional Court judgments, public opinion or gaps identified while assisting Committees. It is envisaged that these proposed amendments will be effected by way of Bills introduced by committees in the Fifth Parliament.

We must continue to support and strengthen the work of this Unit.

The Fourth Parliament focussed much of its energy and resources towards enhancing the functioning of parliamentary committees.

This was done by reviewing the nature and quality of support available to them as well as the mechanisms to implement the Oversight and Accountability Model. Under the leadership of the 4th Parliament, a number of interventions to strengthen committees were proposed.

As the Fifth Parliament, we must continue to build on this important work and apply our minds on how best we implement the Oversight Model more effectively to ensure that we sharpen our oversight function.

The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act of 2009 laid the foundation for the kind of activist parliament we envisage. The Money Bills Act and the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office are arguably the most radical scrutiny tools at our disposal.

The Budget Office, which has been up and running for over a year now, is intended to strengthen the capacity of Parliament to better hold government to account by providing independent analysis to Parliament, not advise or criticism of government.

The role of the Budget Office is to assist Members of Parliament to make sense of the tangle of numbers and notes that represent the Fiscal Planning Framework of the Executive.

Going forward, the Fifth Parliament must determine the final form of the Budget Office and put in place the capacity to support the vision of the Fifth Parliament accordingly.  

It was back during the period of former Speaker Frene Ginwala, that is in the first and second parliaments, that Parliament embarked on an ambitious and unenviable task of addressing the growing need for adequate infrastructure in the buildings of Parliament – called "space utilisation" project. . 

It is a project that goes beyond the provision of office space, parking and other facilities and meeting venues.  Indeed, it is a matter which relates directly to Parliament's ability and capacity to carry out its mandate.

I am sure, Deputy Speaker, that Members of Parliament would appreciate that this matter requires our ongoing attention.

Deputy Speaker

In support of Parliament's oversight role, our Constitution created Institutions Supporting Democracy (ISDs). In 2009, by Resolution of the House, the Office for Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD) was established to be the link between Parliament and ISDs. The OISD has since provided invaluable support to the Presiding Officers, Portfolio Committees and the ISDs.

Various interactions between Parliament and ISDs have taken place through platforms like the Forum of Chairperson and ISDs where Presiding Officers, relevant Portfolio Committee Chairpersons and ISD Chairpersons, meet to discuss pertinent issues relating to operations, finances and governance matters relating to ISDs.

Importantly, sound relations and vibrant interactions between these stakeholders were achieved. This is a platform where all parties concerned, collaborate and craft future working relationships.

We can however do more, to support the work of the ISD and Chapter 9 institutions.

Deputy Speaker

August is upon us once again and the country will be celebrating the contribution of women to our freedom and democracy.
From a gender-rights perspective, the celebration of 20 years of democracy in South Africa entails 20 years of significant progress in seeking to improve the quality of the lives of women in South Africa.

While there are still a number of substantive challenges that face women daily such as widespread poverty and high levels of violence against women, it is important to celebrate the gains made within a context where women's rights were none existent on the state's agenda prior to 1994.

An important part of Parliament's focus in its 20 year celebrations is to review and assess the gains made in both giving effect to promoting women's rights and to unpacking the challenges that need to be addressed.

In this regard, Parliament will review the progress made related to legislation and oversight in a number of key areas of women's lives, which includes but not limited to:

  • The impact of poverty on the development of women;
  • Education and skills development; and
  • Violence against women.

Each of these areas is pivotal in women's lives. Economic empowerment and skills development are critical to building stable finances and improving overall quality of life, which in turn, contributes to women's overall well-being.

Education is one of the most significant factors that influence a woman's level of economic participation. Higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of skill and knowledge, which in turn can lead to women increasing their net worth. Reducing the levels of violence against women is a basic human right and is integral to overall health and well-being.

The review of progress made in this regard will be used to inform the development of a programme of action for the Fifth Parliament. This programme of action will outline the key priorities for monitoring legislation and oversight to enhance women's lives in South Africa, specifically focussing on the most marginalised women in our society.

Deputy Speaker

The current budget of Parliament, represents a transitional budget, and allows us the space to move from the Fourth to the Fifth parliament.

The year-on-year growth of the budget of Parliament represents growth of 6 per cent from the 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 financial year. This growth should be interpreted as a baseline adjustment to inflation costs and is therefore not literally more funds to Parliament.

Allow me now to turn to the actual budget allocations in the current budget.

  • The allocation for Programme 1: Administration, provides for amongst others, the provision of strategic leadership, institutional policy, overall management and corporate services for Parliament's executive management and staff. This amounts to R442million. This is an increase of 8 per cent from last year. In particular, spending covers the establishment of the Fifth Parliament, the development of an integrated, budgeting and performance system, and the completion of the third phase of the ICT infrastructure upgrade.
  • The allocation for Programme 2: Legislation and Oversight, provides for procedural and administrative services for Parliament to carry out its core functions, and totals R361 million, which is a 4 per cent increase compared to last year. The continued implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, and support to Committees are given budgetary prominence under this programme.
  • The allocation for Programme 3: Public and International Participation, amounts to R132.6 million, which is a growth of 11 per cent compared to last year. The programme budget for this financial year is geared towards the upgrade of the broadcast infrastructure and enhancing public participation efforts, amongst others.
  • The budget allocation for Programme 4: Members' Facilities is R224 million, a 6 per cent growth from last year. The budget makes provision for the purchasing of tools of trade for Members and travel facilities to ensure that members experience a working environment that supports their role as public representatives.
  •  The allocation for Programme 5: Associated Services, amounts to R 349 million, a 5 per cent growth. Under this programme, financial support to political parties and constituency offices are covered as per the agreed formula.

In addition to the budget of the five programmes, Parliament has a budget of R 481 million, a direct charge to the National Revenue Fund, as a provision for Members' remuneration. This equates to 6 per cent growth relative to last year's budget.

Honourable Members

Similar to all organs of state, Parliament is subject to the rigorous scrutiny of the Auditor General's statutory audit reports.
The 4th Parliament has done reasonably well in its audit outcomes by receiving unqualified audit findings with a few matters of emphasis.

As the 5th parliament, we must continue to set the example, and work towards eliminating audit opinions with matter of emphasis. Going forward, the Executive Authority must work closely with the Accounting Officer of Parliament to ensure that this target is achieved.

The 5th Parliament has the responsibility to implement the amended Financial Management of Parliament Act of 2009.
The Act is an important milestone that asserts the doctrine of separation of powers and independence of the Legislative Sector. The Act provides, inter alia, for financial and accounting systems for Parliament and for norms and standards for provincial legislatures.

The FMPA also provides in section 4, for the establishment of an Oversight Mechanism of Parliament, to maintain oversight of the financial management of the institution.

In this regard, the 5th Parliament has to ensure that the Oversight Mechanism and the accompanying rules, via the Joint Rules Committee are in place within this financial year.

Honourable Members

I wish to emphasis to the House, that aside from the specific responsibilities we assume from the Fourth Parliament, it is our responsibility to develop our own strategic priorities and expected outcomes for the 5th Parliament.

Indeed, it is only in crafting our own strategic plan, strongly underpinned by our policy imperatives that we would be able to decide our budget requirements over the medium term. The strategic plan is a performance contract with those we represent that we must use to measure our performance in the next five years to ensure that in representing our people we have clear objective and focus.

I do however, want to caution that we have a tight timeline as the Financial Management of Parliament Act requires the Secretary to Parliament to table the strategic plan not later than end November of this year, 2014.

A fully inclusive consultation process is underway and I am appealing to leaders of political parties to ensure that Members participate fully, so that we enrich the process as much as possible.

Upon the conclusion of the strategic plan for the 5th Parliament, budget reprioritisation will be done in line with the FMPA to ensure that funds are allocated according to the objectives of Parliament.

In charting the way forward, I wish to pose a few strategic questions that could stimulate the thinking and debate amongst Members of this House towards developing our strategic plan.

Firstly, what would be the contribution of the Fifth Parliament in furthering the areas of focus expressed in the National Development Plan, and the President's State of the Nation Address, amongst others? As part of this process, Parliament should also embark on a process of measuring its impact and outcomes in relation to legislation, oversight and public participation processes. Where we identify the need for changes to improve service delivery, these would need to be prioritised.

Secondly, beyond our explicit constitutional mandate, what is the role of parliament in enhancing co-operative governance? This is a grey area, which clearly needs a sharper focus by both Houses of Parliament.

Thirdly, what meaningful role should Parliament play in nation building and social cohesion, in this the second phase of our democratic project. How do we use the parliamentary space more effectively to address issues of national concern and interest?

Fourth, what would be the impact of the Fifth Parliament, in reducing the democracy deficit nationally, regionally and internationally? This process would have to reflect whether Parliament is indeed, reflecting the will of our people in governance issues at these levels.

We should also reflect on how best we assume a more active role in the formative stages of international agreements and treaties and in sustainable development agendas to improve the lives of all people of the world.

Lastly, we need to examine the importance of institutional flexibility in our oversight processes. We need to recognise that the oversight of the executive, departments, and events requires a diverse toolkit, an array of different types of debates in the committees as well as in the chamber. This must also include a rethink of the way in which we use our constituency offices. It is no longer enough to assure our people that matters are in hand and are being addressed.

These are but a few of the questions that we need to pose and answer as we build upon the foundations that have been laid by our predecessors.

In conclusion, Honourable Members, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the tremendous role that late Secretary to Parliament, Michael Coetzee played in the evolution of our Parliament. We continue to hold Michael's family in our prayers.

I wish to also pay our respects and send our deepest condolences to the family of the Honourable Nosipho Ntwanambi who was laid to rest this past weekend. She was a leading figure in our women's movement and her contribution to our democracy will live on. For all of us remaining behind let us carry on her torch in the fight for gender equality.

Honourable Members

The extent, to which we position ourselves during this term, is crucial to ensuring that we strengthen the faith of our people in their future, the faith of every South African in South Africa.

There is much more to be done in realising the fundamental principles and ideals of the Freedom Charter. Now is the time for the next stage of our historic journey, to progress towards our accelerated inclusive growth, decent jobs, the scaling up of quality education, the provision of quality health care services and sustainable development, amongst others.

Let us therefore rise to the challenge of being an authentically robust and engaging Parliament, truly in touch and at pace and at peace with our people.

I take this opportunity to invite all Members of this august House to engage with the challenges and the opportunities that are presented to us.

I thank the staff of Parliament for their passion and dedication in supporting Members of Parliament to carry out their responsibilities efficiently and effectively.

On his 80th birthday Nelson Mandela asked to be granted one wish which was:

"... that all South Africans should rededicate themselves to turning this into the land of our dreams, a place that is free of hatred and discrimination, a place free of poverty, a place that is safe for our children to grow into our future leaders".

I also wish to urge that we speak out against all violations of human rights such as the sad and unfortunate killing of innocent people in Gaza, in Palestine. Having achieved our own freedom we should not fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others are facing.

Nelson Mandela reminded us that:

"Our Freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians".

Let all of us heed this call.

I commend Budget Vote 2 to this House for your support.

I thank you.