The Democratic Alliance welcomes and supports the Financial Management of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Bill, which will be debated in the Bhisho Legislature this afternoon (subs: wed, 2 Dec).

Due to an amendment proposed by the DA, the separation of powers between the Legislature and the Provincial Executive is protected.

The objects of the Act are noble in intent. They are to promote sound financial management and a high level of ethics and accountability – to promote the efficient and economic and effective use of resources allocated to the Legislature and to ensure the transparent, accountable and sound management of the revenue, expenditure assets and liabilities of the Legislature.

The Act came into being as a result of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) not being applicable to the Legislature. The application of the PFMA was problematic as it was more applicable for Departments than for Legislatures. This is not something unusual as Municipalities have their own sector specific legislation. For example the Municipal Finance Management Act. It is therefore appropriate that this Legislature has its own Legislation.

This Legislation has within it two concepts which I wish to comment on.

The first concept related to the budget and oversight committee which is contained in Chapter 2 of the Legislation. The Budget and Oversight committee has been elevated in this Legislature to a separate committee. It is also important to note that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker may not be members of the committee. They can, off course, appear before the committee at the committee’s request.

This move is welcome. It makes no sense to have a budget and oversight committee as a sub-committee of the very committee that they are meant to draw up a report on. The greater scope and independence that is given to the committee will enhance oversight in the Legislature. This committee can require the accounting officer or any official of the Legislature to appear before it. The committee will also have the same powers that committees of the legislature have under Section 115 of the Constitution and standing rules of the Legislature. If necessary, one can then ask officials to take the prescribed oath.

A second issue which I would like to comment on is the process for the determination of the budget of the Legislature. I would like to thank the committee for accommodating my views in this regard.

A contradiction can exist if the Legislature has to go cap-in-hand to the executive to request its annual budget. The reason why it is a contradiction is because the Legislature is meant to have oversight over the Executive. Any Executive wanting to limit the effectiveness of the Legislature could simply do so by reducing its budget. The first draft of the Legislation was not exactly clear as to what would happen if the Speaker of the Legislature and the MEC could not agree on the budget. To avoid this impasse occurring, the Legislation before us makes it very clear that the Legislature will have the final say on its budget.

For us in the Democratic Alliance this is a fundamental point as it gives life to the concept of a separation of powers. For any democracy to function effectively there needs to be a clear separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature. One can never tolerate a situation where the executive could control the Legislature’s budget.

For further information, please contact Bobby Stevenson, MPL on 082 775 3444.

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