BUDGET DEBATE VOTE SPEECH
By Hon. Narend Singh, MP
Delivered at Parliament in the National Assembly
I am a member on the Joint Standing Committee on the Finance of Parliament. There are issues of inconsistences in the way Parliament and Treasury approach the budget with regards to reporting. Yet we have not been able to get both parties around the table. The Executive Authorities must deal with this challenge. We cannot fulfil our accountability mandate unless reporting is consistent with the required legislation.
Parliament must develop regulations in this regard on an urgent basis. The Executive Authority must expeditiously appoint a Treasury adviser within their offices; currently they are obtaining advice from the Accounting Officer and CFO of Parliament, who according to the Act should be accountable to the Executive Authority, so in essence you are being advised by individuals whom you should be holding accountable. I will now highlight a few other operational issues with regards to Vote 2
CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
As a Whip who coordinates the so called 10 “smaller” parties. I still await correspondence in respect of every party having representation on the CRC dealing with important issue of expropriation of land without compensation.
Renovations which have been on-going for some time now, with some of the smaller parties having to be relocated to 90 Plein street, and other buildings within the precinct, has caused disruption and in some instances impeded the work of members of parliament.
Whilst we all agree that the renovations are necessary, we would request that we are all clearly informed of the time period for these renovations and the impact on our individual operational activities.
In this regard I was glad to be informed yesterday by Mr Tsotetsi of Enterprise Project Management Office, that Parliament is working together with the Department of Public Works (DPW) to implement a backlog maintenance project of all the buildings in the Parliamentary Precinct. I see no mention of Marks Building though in this report which is currently undergoing extensive renovation. It was also brought to my attention by my office staff that there is a rodent infestation in the building.
Whilst ICT support is generally good in promptly attending to member queries and calls for assistance, there are still issues with Wi-Fi and internet reception in some offices on the first floor of Marks Building. With regards to creating a paperless environment, more training is necessary.
In general requires more attention by this Parliament. Staff well-being engenders greater work place productivity and I would like to see more budget accordingly allocated to our various wellness and sporting codes. Wellness for Members of Parliament needs to be prioritised. Chairperson, you are aware of the long hours we sit in these very chambers. Dealing with Budget Votes has been a gruelling exercise, to say the least. Long hours take their toll. Yet, wellness facilities are far from satisfactory. The Squash Courts and mens gymnasium are in a poor state of repair. The villages gymnasia remain just structures with no equipment. Something needs to be done urgently.
Whilst we acknowledge our respective proportionality and party representation in this parliament, we continue to raise the plight of the “smaller” parties who are not financially capable of employing the requisite number of research staff they require to adequately address research requirements across all portfolios.
This places us parties at a distinct disadvantage when compared with the “bigger” parties, and I would submit is a hindrance and impediment to such members being able to carry out their constitutionally mandated responsibilities. I raised this matter last year and to date there has been no visible progress in this area.
Whilst acknowledging and lamenting the fact that this government’s wage bill as a percentage of its expenditure is higher than other emerging markets, and with government currently facing possible strike action over protracted wage talks, I want to emphasize the need of having a capable fully operational parliamentary workforce.
Wage negotiations should be concluded within the confines of what is both possible from the side of the employer and reasonable from the side of the employee WITHOUT the need for disruptions, scuffles and the presence of public order policing as we have seen in previous years.
I am reliably informed that many parliamentary staff remain unhappy in the absence of improved conditions such as medical aid and housing allowances and was very concerned to hear that over 500 parliamentary employees still do not have medical aid cover.
I am additionally concerned over reports that Mr Mgidlana has been seen twice inside of the parliamentary precincts despite this being prohibited by the conditions of his suspension from office.
The recommendations of the audit committee in this matter should be implemented in full and all implicated should be investigated and remedial action taken.
There needs to be better coordination between the NA and NCOP with regard to programming Joint Standing Committee meetings.
Notwithstanding the above concerns, The IFP supports this budget vote.
I thank you.
Hon Narend Singh, MP