Home Af­fairs bun­gles along

Par­lia­ment’s hands tied when seek­ing so­lu­tions

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - TROYE LUND

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

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