MPs call for oversight of the presidency - to avoid another Nkandla

06 June 2019 - 11:28 By Andisiwe Makinana
IFP MP Narend Singh, in calling for parliamentary oversight of the presidency, cited the constitutional court ruling on Nkandla which found that the National Assembly had failed to conduct oversight on the president.
IFP MP Narend Singh, in calling for parliamentary oversight of the presidency, cited the constitutional court ruling on Nkandla which found that the National Assembly had failed to conduct oversight on the president.
Image: Anton Scholtz

MPs want the National Assembly to establish a new oversight committee which will hold the presidency to account.

There has never been a parliamentary committee to which the presidency accounts for the money allocated to it. 

Opposition parties - the DA and Inkatha Freedom Party specifically - have been calling for such a committee since the third parliament when then DA leader Tony Leon made the call for parliament to hold President Thabo Mbeki's office to account.

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Only in the fifth parliament was a compromise reached which saw the department of monitoring and evaluation in the presidency accounting to the portfolio committee on public service and administration. 

In the first meeting of the assembly's rules committee on Wednesday, where MPs were discussing the establishment of portfolio committees and their composition, Inkatha Freedom Party's Narend Singh reiterated the call.

He cited the constitutional court ruling on the Nkandla matter which found that the National Assembly had failed in its constitutional duty to conduct oversight on the president.

Singh reminded MPs that in provincial legislatures, there are portfolio committees that oversee premiers' offices, something that was missing on the national scene. 

"Here we don't have the oversight in terms of spending of the presidency and I place this matter on the table because it's a constitutional imperative that we oversee all votes within government," he said. 

The call was roundly supported by other MPs in the committee with the ACDP's Steve Swart describing the absence of such a committee as "a deficiency".

The ANC's deputy chief whip, Dorris Dlakude, indicated that an earlier meeting of chief whips had touched on the matter saying that discussions would continue between political parties but outside parliamentary structures. 

The constitution states that the National Assembly should provide for mechanisms ­to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it.

Meanwhile, in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa's reduced ministries, the number of the national assembly's portfolio committees for the sixth parliament has been reduced from 36 in the fifth parliament to 29 this time around.

The composition of portfolio committees will be the same as in the fifth parliament, with 11 members - ANC 6, DA 2, EFF 1 and two for smaller parties. 

MPs raised concerns about the workload of portfolio committees especially those that oversee two portfolios like justice and correctional services and human settlements and water and sanitation, and suggested that some committees be split.

But newly elected speaker Thandi Modise shut that down, saying MPs will have to work harder and instead of holding meetings once or twice week, they may have to do so every day of the week.

"Nothing says you cannot sit every day of the week if you have work before you. Honestly, nothing says you can't sit every day as a portfolio committee and make sure that you do work. This thing of committees sitting once a week, we should really kick against it," said Modise.


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