Bunk­ing min­is­ters show up

Some min­is­ters are mak­ing an ef­fort to at­tend over­sight com­mit­tee meet­ings, but many oth­ers still play hooky

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

While the at­ten­dance of par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee meet­ings by Cab­i­net min­is­ters im­proved in the first six months of this year com­pared to the same pe­riod last year, In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane and Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu top the list of min­is­ters with bad at­ten­dance records this year.

Bunk­ing min­is­ters are a thorn in the ANC and Par­lia­ment’s side, and, in re­cent months, the gov­ern­ing party and the op­po­si­tion have called for tougher ac­tion on tru­ancy.

A per­for­mance in­di­ca­tor for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s 73 min­is­ters and deputy min­is­ters shows that the ex­ec­u­tive is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing more will­ing to be ac­count­able to its port­fo­lio com­mit­tees in Par­lia­ment.

How­ever, Nkoana-Masha­bane and Sisulu have not ap­peared be­fore a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee this year.

Nkoana-Masha­bane has not ap­peared be­fore her depart­ment’s over­sight com­mit­tee in the past 16 months, frus­trat­ing leg­is­la­tors who over­see the depart­ment. Sisulu last ap­peared be­fore her depart­ment’s over­sight com­mit­tee in Novem­ber.

City Press es­tab­lished that Sisulu at­tended the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces’ se­lect com­mit­tee meet­ing on ap­pro­pri­a­tions on May 30 this year, wherein pol­icy is­sues on the Ur­ban Set­tle­ment De­vel­op­ment Grant and ex­pen­di­ture for the first three quar­ters of 2016/17 were dis­cussed. Her of­fice said the dif­fi­culty was that the hu­man set­tle­ments com­mit­tee meets on Tues­days and its meet­ings clashed with the Cab­i­net com­mit­tee on So­cial Pro­tec­tion, Com­mu­nity and Hu­man De­vel­op­ment, which meets bi-weekly. Some­times she del­e­gates her di­rec­tor gen­eral of­fi­cer to present quar­terly re­ports and the An­nual Per­for­mance Plan, said her spokesper­son Vusi Tshose.

A new track­ing tool de­vised by the Peo­ple’s Assem­bly web­site to mon­i­tor min­is­ters’ at­ten­dance at par­lia­men­tary meet­ings re­veals that, when com­pared with the first six months of last year, more min­is­ters and deputies have at­tended the meet­ings of the over­sight com­mit­tees of Par­lia­ment.

Lead­ing the pack are so­cial de­vel­op­ment’s Batha­bile Dlamini and newly ap­pointed Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Hlengiwe Mkhize – they have al­ready ap­peared be­fore their re­spec­tive com­mit­tees eight times this year. Mkhize was pre­vi­ously the deputy min­is­ter of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and postal ser­vices, and the track­ing tool has in­cluded her at­ten­dance from both port­fo­lios.

The port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion raised con­cerns about Nkoana-Masha­bane’s con­tin­ued ab­sence, with an ANC com­mit­tee mem­ber com­ment­ing in a com­mit­tee meet­ing in Oc­to­ber that “the ab­sence is ac­tu­ally bor­der­ing on il­le­gal­ity … en­gage­ment with her is para­mount be­cause there are is­sues that lie squarely on her shoul­ders and no one else can ac­count for this”.

The com­mit­tee wrote in its year-end rec­om­men­da­tions re­port that “on the min­is­ter’s con­tin­u­ous ab­sence from the com­mit­tee’s meet­ings … the com­mit­tee ex­pressed its ut­most dis­quiet and deep dis­ap­point­ment”.

The depart­ment’s spokesper­son, Clayson Monyela, said Nkoana-Masha­bane’s con­tin­ued ab­sence was not be­cause the min­is­ter didn’t take her par­lia­men­tary obli­ga­tions se­ri­ously, but be­cause of her busy in­ter­na­tional sched­ule.

“It’s an is­sue of sched­ul­ing and many in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions that she can­not af­ford to miss in terms of her man­date. [It should be noted that] Nkoana-Masha­bane’s pre­de­ces­sors were not any bet­ter in terms of at­tend­ing to their par­lia­men­tary obli­ga­tions.”

Gaile Fullard, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Par­lia­men­tary Mon­i­tor­ing Group, which runs the Peo­ple’s Assem­bly web­site, said the com­mit­tee sys­tem was prob­a­bly the most ef­fec­tive fo­rum for Par­lia­ment’s role in hold­ing the ex­ec­u­tive to ac­count.

He said the con­sti­tu­tional role of the com­mit­tees was re­fresh­ingly brought to the fore in June when the Na­tional Assem­bly’s chair­per­son of com­mit­tees, Cedric Frolick, wrote to the chair­per­sons of four port­fo­lio com­mit­tees di­rect­ing them to en­sure “im­me­di­ate en­gage­ment with the con­cerned min­is­ters to en­sure that Par­lia­ment gets to the bot­tom of the al­le­ga­tions”.

This was in re­la­tion to re­cent ac­cu­sa­tions of state cap­ture linked to emails that im­pli­cated a num­ber of Cab­i­net min­is­ters.

Dlamini’s im­pres­sive at­ten­dance record was due to the averted so­cial grants pay­ment de­ba­cle in­volv­ing the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency, which burst into the open in Jan­uary with ques­tions over the va­lid­ity of a con­tract to dis­burse so­cial grants to 17 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Both the so­cial de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee and the stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts hounded her, de­mand­ing an­swers al­most every week.

Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, in his ca­pac­ity as the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness in Par­lia­ment, has for some time been promis­ing to get min­is­ters to spend more time in Par­lia­ment.

Fullard ar­gued that pub­lic pres­sure could en­sure min­is­te­rial ap­pointees ad­here to their con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity.

For more visit https://www.pa.org.za/mp-at­ten­dance At­tended meet­ings At­tended meet­ings At­tended meet­ings What en­force­ment mech­a­nisms should be put in place to en­sure that min­is­ters ac­count to Par­lia­ment?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word PARLY and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

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