Parliament needs more money to function

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete says the budget afforded to Parliament is “totally inadequate” and the institution has been meeting with the Treasury in a bid to rectify this.

Speaking at the Joint Standing Committee on the financial management of Parliament‚ Mbete said there was not enough money in the budget to be doing the work Parliament should.

“As an example‚ in other parliaments‚ one MP has ten support staff. And that is just for one MP.”

“Where we are now is totally undesirable‚” she said.

Mbete said representatives from the Speakers Forum had met with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan last year “to explain to them the constitutional role of Parliament and the legislative sector“.

“There is an unfortunate understanding that we are like any other government department‚” she said.

She said she believed the meetings had yielded positive results in creating “a better understanding of Parliament’s role“.

Mbete said with the global economic outlook‚ expenditure cuts and “now with junk status“‚ “the situation obviously gets worse“.

She said the question raised by President Jacob Zuma regarding moving Parliament to cut costs would hopefully be answered in the current parliament.

Talk of moving Parliament has swirled for a number of years‚ but in his state of the nation address last year‚ Zuma raised it as a cost-cutting measure.

“This time the question has been raised on the basis of costs‚” Mbete said.

Mbete said that so far it seemed that “the answer generally pushes us out of Cape Town but it’s highly unlikely to happen during your time as an MP. Let the decision be arrived at‚ and maybe in ten to 15 years‚ it will happen‚” she said.

Secretary of Parliament Mgidlana told the committee that “there is a mismatch between the intentions (of Parliament) and the resources we need“.

He said to do “serious oversight we need a whole lot more“.

He said that Parliament required more support staff‚ better technology and funds to ensure the work of Parliament reached South Africans.

“This is a broken organisation that needs to be fixed‚” he said.

But DA MP John Steenhuisen said Parliament was not even getting “the basics” right.

“We can’t even get a basic thing like a library up and running. When there is cost-cutting‚ MPs can’t even get access to journals they need but there is money for overseas trips‚” he said.

EFF MP Veronic Mente said executive oversight was not being properly done because committees were being cancelled‚ often at the last minute.

“Is there some sort of monitoring tool to check if committees sit frequently?” she asked.

Mbete‚ who arrived late for the meeting and left early‚ raised the ire of DA MPs Steenhuisen and Mike Waters because she did not answer questions because she had a flight to catch.

As they left‚ ANC MP Amos Masondo shouted that it was a “planned walkout“. Steenhuisen responded by criticising the way the City of Johannesburg had been run under his mayorship to which Masondo responded “voetsek“.

ANC MP Vincent Smith said Mbete had only been scheduled to provide input on “the strategic direction of Parliament” which she had done and she could be called to answer questions at a later date.

By Bianca Capazorio

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