SPEECH NOTES BY BOBBY STEVENSON MPL, DA CHIEF WHIP SPEAKING ON THE BUDGET DEBATE OF THE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE – 18 JUNE 2013

The House-sitting today and tomorrow is perhaps the most important House-sitting of the year when we deal with the Budget of the various Departments. It is the view of the Democratic Alliance that this House cannot exercise quality oversight when the programme is concentrated like this into two days. It is our view that Sittings such as these and those dealing with the annual reports need to extend over a period of at least four days. This will allow members of this house to exercise quality oversight and interact productively with the reports and the MEC’s.

If we follow the timeframes of the Order Paper we will be here until 4am. No member can function productively over this period of time. It makes a mockery of our Oversight role.

I say so because this House is the focal point of accountability in our Province.

This House has the power to pass resolutions which need to be implemented by departments and even pass Motions of No Confidence in MEC’s when they fail to perform their duties. For us to do our job diligently and effectively, House – sittings need to take place over more appropriate time frames.

In the policy speech of the Honourable Speaker, he spoke of improving our oversight role as Legislatures and also about the implementation of the new Oversight model. This call is repeated in most policy speeches of speakers over the years that I’ve been in this house.

A question we need to ask ourselves is to what extent the oversight work that Honourable members engage in, in this House, is effective. In a report tabled before the Budget and Oversight Committee we were informed that there are a number of recurring house resolutions.

In the case of Education it is 55, in the case of Sports, Arts and Culture it is 40, in the case of Agriculture it is 22 and in the case of Finance and Provincial Expenditure 16.

These are not resolutions of the House going back to 1994 they are resolutions that go back to 2009. What this points to is the fact that resolutions of this house are not being effectively implemented on the one hand and also that committees are not recommending appropriate sanctions for failure to deal with these resolutions.

More effective monitoring of resolutions of this House needs to take place. The primary purpose of this institution, the reason for its existence is to hold government to account. The senior management of this institution needs to take much greater interest in the oversight work and implementation of resolutions. It is easy for one’s attention to be deflected by issues of procurement, labour relations and general management.

But it is the view of the Democratic Alliance that there needs to be a much more hands on approach from senior management so that we can improve the quality of our oversight. There are numerous statutory reports that should appear before committees and ultimately this House. It is the job of senior management to ensure that it occurs.

Last year in November this House took a resolution that we would get quarterly updated reports on the implementation of SCOPA Resolutions. Those reports would then be debated in the House. What we need to prevent is an appearance before SCOPA simply becoming an annual event where departments can then disappear until the next year knowing nothing will happen in between.

There was a recent report from the audit general chastising the Legislature for having only implemented three of 103 resolutions of old SCOPA reports. We also agreed that quarterly reports on the state of the Province’s finances would be presented to the Finance Committee and which would be debated in this House.

This House will not ensure the necessary improvements take place in this Province until we improve the quality of our oversight. When MEC’s only have to account on certain issues to portfolio committees on an annual basis, a huge vacuum of lack of accountability emerges. If MEC’s were to face quarterly debates on this House on the implementation of key resolutions things would start to change in this Province. This however requires political will and it also requires the senior management of this institution to focus more clearly on our oversight work to ensure that House resolutions are implemented.

There’s a new kind of struggle emerging and that is led by people with a desire for service delivery, good governance, clean administration, attracting investment, growing the economy and improving the well being of all our citizens. This struggle will not bear fruit unless this House exercises quality oversight.

There are a few other issues. The issue of the shortage of service officers in this House needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The DA and COPE have to share one service officer who also performs others duties for the Legislature.

The issue of our mobile phone contract also needs to be reviewed. There are contracts available with unlimited calling that are less than what we currently pay. The DA also welcomes the weekly reply paper as well as the fact that the webpage is regularly updated. The appointment of a Prestige Manager to oversee the MPL Housing is also welcome.