Speech notes: Annual report 2014/15, Provincial Legislature

There is an expression in Latin which says “video et taceo”. This means I see, but I don’t say. There are a number of issues that I am going to raise where I both see and say and where other people have seen but don’t say.

The first issue relates to resolutions of this House. In the February ATC the portfolio committee of SCOPA recommended and I quote: “The office of the Speaker must table a report to the House listing all the repetitive findings made by oversight committees over the past three financial years.” This report has not been tabled in the House.

Now the reason why I proposed that recommendation with the support of my committee members was because of the need to do things differently. The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

The honourable Speaker in the committee said if we do not see results we are doing something wrong. She further pointed that the quality of work can be seen through departments and not debates in the House.

In order to improve the work of departments we need to do things differently, that’s why I proposed the recommendation and the understanding was when we did this current year of oversight  we would have the benefit of those repetitive findings in front of us. Sadly we did not, because somebody did not do their job.

All of us have the same desire at heart; we want to see things improve in this province, we want the departments to work effectively, but when our own work is undermined in this House it not only fails the House, but it also fails the province as a whole, because the honourable Speaker is correct, the effectiveness of our oversight will ensure greater effectiveness in the work of the departments.

Another matter that concerns me is the operations around the Mandates sent to the National Council of Provinces.  A recent Mandate was sent by this House to the National Council of Provinces which was signed by the Speaker on the 17th of November; this was the day before the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill was passed in the National Assembly. This can hardly said to be procedural.

I am not aware of this Bill being referred to any portfolio committee for either a Negotiating Mandate or a Final Mandate, nor was the report of the committee giving a Final Mandate submitted to the House in terms of the rules. I note that rule 40(5) allows the Speaker to sign off a Final Mandate if exigencies do not allow a sitting. This rule also directs you to consult with the Leaders of the political parties in the Legislature in this case and that the Mandate must be ratified by the house at the first available opportunity.

In this case there was no exigency because the House was sitting and neither was there consultation with Leaders of opposition parties.

The correct procedure in my view was not followed in relation to the Final Mandate on this Bill as signed off by the Speaker. I did write to this administration on this matter but I am yet to receive a reply.

Another issue that was touched on by the honourable Speaker was the need to improve public galleries; otherwise we are talking to ourselves. This is code for improving public participation in the affairs of the Legislature.

We need to ask ourselves the question why the media does not attend our House Sittings with the regularity that they used to in the past.

Do we actually communicate effectively to the media when this House sits and when the programme is?

When there are any changes do we make sure that they are aware of them? I agree that we need a strategy to fill the galleries, but it also starts with creating media interest in what we do here.

We also welcome the intention to improve the technology in this House. For some time Members of this House have been inconvenienced with their desk tops computers not operating. This is a cause of frustration.

A key issue however that needs to be expedited is the whole issue of WIFI that is not working properly for two reasons, the signal is too weak and it is also too slow. The Legislature is reliant on SETA for its broadband. Because of the huge number of users in this province, particularly in government departments, the bandwidth has become choked, resulting in very slow internet speeds in this House.

In this modern age it is extremely frustrating to work with slow internet speeds. This Legislature needs a service provider as a matter of urgency; we can no longer be reliant on SETA. It is choking our work.

We also welcome moves towards a paperless institution and look forward to the development of the app that we were told about earlier on this year. Having paperless institution will be a big saving and assist all of us in advancing our technological skills.

We also support the view that the lessons learnt from Study Tours need to be factored into the Legislature. All Study Tour reports should include some findings and recommendations of a practical nature that can be factored into our work in the legislature.

There needs to be an investigation into why Vodacom is charging some members ridiculous amounts of money for data. Between September and November Hon Buchenroder was charged an amount totalling to R34000 for data, and he discovered that he had six simcards registered to his number instead of three. I mention it here because it could be an isolated incident, or this can be just the tip of the iceberg.

Another issue that needs to be investigated is why we pay so much for flight tickets from our service provider. Hon Purdon was recently quoted R3900 for an air ticket from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, when he looked online, the ticket cost R2443 and with an option of changing to the bottom of the range air ticket which costs only R1400.

The Democratic Alliance would also like to congratulate the Legislature on obtaining a clean audit. This is an important milestone. The challenge is to repeat it, year in and year out. By obtaining a clean audit we are setting the bar and setting the example for other government departments, so the Democratic Alliance says well done and let us keep the work. But compliance alone is not enough if we want to change the direction of this province.

We need to improve on the quality of our debates in this House and we need to improve on the quality of our oversight. This means we need to be innovative and progressive in our thinking, doing the same thing year in and year out is not good enough.

The Democratic Alliance supports this report.

Bobby Stevenson, DA spokesperson for Provincial Legislature 

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