Speech Notes: Vote 2 – Legislature Annual & Half Year Financial Oversight Reports

Issued by Edmund van Vuuren, MPL
Member of the Legislature Portfolio Committee

Honourable Deputy Speaker, Honorable Premier, all protocol observed. Good day to you.

Hon Deputy Speaker, this institution operated with a total adjusted budget allocation of R557,291 million for the year under review.

The Legislature registered an over-expenditure of R7,5 million, which is 1,3% more than the allocated budget, even though the institution has 115 vacant, posts which include critical funded vacant posts in the Finance, Human Resource Management and committees’ sections.

Have these posts really been funded? That is the question?

Hon Deputy Speaker, the Speaker has indicated that there will be a needs-based approach to oversight which will be the preoccupation for the 6th Term of the Legislature. Public participation programs will be intensified, vigorous oversight will be undertaken that will lead to improved service delivery – The intentions of the Speaker are noble, but to achieve all the above, adequate manpower and sufficient budget are needed.

Unfortunately, there was an insufficient allocation of budget for Parliamentary Services. The strategic planning sessions for committees at the beginning of the financial year was mostly not organized in line with the programs. There was no coordination between the relevant role players and stakeholders, and the centralized committee budget was finished long before the end of the financial year.

This is clearly in contradiction to the promised activity-based budget.

The non-appointment of researchers and legal advisors to committees also hampered the work of the committees.

Notwithstanding insufficient budget for parliamentary services, specifically oversight, the advent of Covid-19 in the fourth quarter meant that some of the external programs earmarked for this period had to be rescheduled.

The Legislature commenced convening committee meetings, house sittings and public hearings on the virtual platform via Microsoft Teams, as what we are doing right now.

Hon Deputy Speaker, the Speaker, has also indicated that an electronic system will be utilized for the tracking of house resolutions, considering the continuous non-implementation of house resolutions by government departments resulting in innumerable repetitive findings across all government departments.

The Democratic Alliance wants to urge the Speaker to have this electronic system in place, sooner rather than later, and utilize the same electronic system to track petitions and the progress thereof – Timeframes should be attached for the finalization of petitions and the 30-day period imposed for house resolutions to be implemented.

Hon Deputy Speaker, we are aware that not enough money is allocated to the Legislature to effectively implement all the programs, but what must be kept in mind, when funds are redirected within the Legislature, parliamentary services must be prioritized. Even at the expense of other programs, as it represents this institution’s core business and with adequate funds available, it will allow members to conduct vigorous oversight that will possibly lead to improved service delivery.

Hon Deputy Speaker, the members of the Legislature who are utilizing Public Works houses, are still being charged business rates by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality.

As members, we are being charged exorbitant fees for water and electricity. We demand that the management of this institution interact with the municipality without delay.

A new rate modelling for payments should be revised and implemented for those residing in government houses.

This billing system should be reviewed and adapted to a lower rate, other than business rates.

Believe it or not, members of these government houses are even billed for water used, even if they were not at their government residences for long periods. The water meters are not personally checked monthly by municipal employees; however, our billing is based on estimation, which sadly is a norm in this municipality.

Hon Speaker, the DA is aware that engagement between the Legislature and BCM has been ongoing as far back as the 5th Term in order to resolve the high water costs and the inflated billing, yet, regrettably, no solutions have been found thus far.

We demand, as the Democratic Alliance, a reimbursement from BCM on our inflated estimated water payments, retrospective from the beginning of this 6th Term based on the difference of the estimated water reading on our accounts and the proper reading on our water meters. The difference should be paid in monetary terms. We are being robbed; this is daylight robbery. This is a clear example of an incapable state.

This is unacceptable – it is not congruent with good service delivery to the people.

Hon Deputy Speaker, although there are vacancies in the research unit, most of our researchers, not all, are sitting in their own bubble, and should rather embrace the innovative ideas that other Legislatures across South Africa, and the continent, are using to improve their research abilities, which in the end will assist committees to be armed for vigorous oversight that will lead to improved service delivery.

The Democratic Alliance believe that desktop research can still be done, but as researchers, they will have to acclimatize and think out of the box as to what information is more relevant for members to be informed and to be able to oversight with the necessary zest.

As researchers, some of them are too anachronistic, and must adapt to the changed circumstances – There are excellent researchers in this institution, but others need to cross the bridge to get where the others are.

Hon Deputy Speaker, repairs and maintenance of Honorable members’ houses remains a challenge. This has been a challenge for the last almost twelve years. Most of our complaints are not attended to. The prestige unit responsible for the management of our grievances is guilty of dereliction. The Department of Public Works is failing this institution in that services rendered to members of the Legislature has declined exponentially, at a very steep rate of descent.

Both this institution and Public Works are depriving us, as members, of having safe, secure, and well-maintained houses.

Hon Deputy Speaker, there is still old IT infrastructure which is not well maintained by the institution – It has been reported that the upgrade of the IT infrastructure is currently underway.

There is, however, no clear evidence that the upgrading is taking place at the speed of light – Hopefully, this new IT system will be fully operational by the end of this financial year.

Hon Deputy Speaker, the IT services are experiencing capacity challenges in both human resources and technical support. The internet and Wi-Fi are almost always down and hopefully, the upgrade of ICT infrastructure will be of assistance to our members and will not hamstring our commitment to a paperless institution.

The DA supports the report