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RATE IT | How can parliament work for the people? Here are 10 steps proposed by the DA

29 July 2022 - 10:06
The DA led by John Steenhuisen wants parliament to work for the people. File image.
The DA led by John Steenhuisen wants parliament to work for the people. File image.  
Image: Freddy Mavunda

DA leader John Steenhuisen and his chief whip Natasha Mazzone have proposed a 10-point action plan to get parliament to work for the people.

The points give effect to a raft of recommendations to fix parliament and bolster the institution’s oversight capacity.

This was recommended by the Corder report on oversight and accountability, the fifth parliament legacy report, the high level panel report by former president Kgalema Motlanthe and the Zondo report.

“It is time to change parliament from a rubber-stamping lapdog under the ANC to an effective oversight body so events such as state capture and cadre deployment will never bring SA to its knees again.

“The DA has, for many years, highlighted the failure of parliament to hold the executive to account, and this stance was finally vindicated with the release of the Zondo report, which criticised how the ANC majority in parliament continuously protected presidents, ministers and most worryingly, state capture, at the expense of the people of SA.”

The official opposition said it is essential parliament functions properly as the country’s democracy depends on it. 

“This requires the principle of separation of powers to be strengthened in respect of parliament in particular. Under the doctrine of separation of powers, parliament should operate independently of the other two branches of government — the executive and the judiciary.

“Parliament cannot continue under the current shielding of the executive by ANC MPs. If we are to ever get past the shocking revelations of state capture, we will need an effective parliament willing to take the executive, and even its own members, to task.”

Here are the 10 actions proposed by the DA:

Establishing a committee to oversee the presidency

“There is no effective and regular oversight mechanism over the acts and omissions of the president and the presidency, with even chief justice Raymond Zondo pointing this out in his reports.”

Increasing the accountability of the speaker to MPs

“There is no effective accountability mechanism to hold the speaker to account from the perspective of ordinary MPs.”

Increasing representation of opposition committee chairpersons and regulating committee systems

“The effectiveness of a committee depends in large part on the quality of the chairperson. Presently, almost all chairpersons are derived from the ANC, after being endorsed by their national executive committee and on the recommendation of their cadre deployment committee.”

Fixing parliamentary oversight and ensuring meaningful public participation

“One of the biggest issues facing portfolio committees is their lack of budget. Out of a budget of R2bn per year, the portfolio committees receive only about R50m to R60m of these funds to perform crucial oversight roles.”

Enhancement of parliamentary protection services

“There is a need for a stronger independent parliamentary protection services which should perform most of the security functions within the precinct and require the police to account to them while on the parliamentary precinct.”

Increasing the frequency of presidential oral questions sessions

“The president provides parliament with oral replies to questions at least once per quarter. In the UK parliamentary system, the prime minister must answer questions in parliament every Wednesday.”

Penalties for cabinet members who fail to appear for meetings or answer oral questions adequately

“Far too often, members of the executive fail to appear for parliamentary meetings on time or at all with belatedly tendered excuses. It has also become an increasing occurrence for them to fail to adequately answer oral questions, or even at all.”

Reintroduction of the interpellations debate

“Debates in parliament follow a stringent format which permits only one question, and subsequently a single follow-up question.”

Amending the rules to create sanctions for failing to answer PQs timeously or adequately

“Parliamentary questions (PQs) are vital for critical oversight and play a crucial role in holding the executive accountable. However, it has become an increasing occurrence for some PQs to be answered late, inadequately or not at all by ministers.”

Ensuring parliament processes and takes timely action on the state capture report

“The effective functioning of parliament is central to rebuilding our nation and ensuring abuses of executive power on the scale witnessed in the preceding years can never occur again.”

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