Home Affairs bungles along
Parliament’s hands tied when seeking solutions
THE LONG-AWAITED REPORT ON how to turn the inept Department of Home Affairs around has upset members of Parliament, who have re-iterated their rallying call for Cabinet to take them and their job seriously. But most of all, the delayed tabling of the report has emphasised how powerless Parliament really is in the budgetary process. It’s little more than a rubber stamp.
Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe MapisaNqakula invoked extraordinary powers available to her in August last year when she called in a high-level team from Treasury and from the Public Service Commission to get to grips with what was going on in her department.
The task team handed Mapisa-Nqakula the report in mid-February. Included in the analysis will be proposals on how to fix the troubles in Home Affairs on which so many other Govern- ment functions depend – from the criminal justice system to others that want to import crucial skills from abroad.
The Minister eventually handed the report to Cabinet last week. MPs will only get the report once the executive has dealt with it. This means that MPs on the Home Affairs Committee will probably have to approve the department’s 2007 budget with no understanding of what the task team found and with no knowledge of whether the remedies address the list of issues MPs raised in last year’s home affairs budget hearings.
Adding to the tension is the fact that Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee handed three pages of proposals to the Home Affairs ministry over a year ago. None of these, according to the chairperson of the Committee, Patrick Chauke, have been considered.
“The current problems in the department are calling upon us to act and to act strongly. These are things that need all of us to sit down and focus on. This (the task team’s findings) is going to impact on the budget. This (the fact that they would not have seen it before having to approve the budget) compromises our posi- tion of oversight,” Chauke told home affairs officials recently. According to Government spokesperson, Themba Maseko, Cabinet was not aware of this “clash” but would look into putting it right. But, the truth is that, even with full sight of the report and insight into what actions are going to be taken in an attempt to make home affairs functional, MPs can do little more than let off steam about the budget.
Although the Constitution gives Parliament strong powers to hold open hearings and to call Government officials and other experts to give evidence when interrogating each budget vote, MPs don’t yet have the right to suggest changes to the budget. As Idasa reports on this subject, a portfolio committee can recommend that the entire budget (or specific votes) be rejected in total.
This could lead to a motion of no confidence or force Government back to the drawing board. In practice, this isn’t likely to happen for many reasons, including the large African National Congress (ANC) majority in Parliament.
Called for help. Nosiviwe MapisaNqakula