Parliament will take a tough stance on ministerial accountability and may institute special measures to ensure MPs attended portfolio committee meetings, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said on Tuesday.
Modise said in the debate on parliament’s R2.6 billion budget, a close eye would be kept on whether ministers came in person to brief portfolio committees or delegated the task to officials.
She vowed that parliament would not countenance what she called a “hands-off” approach by ministers and said where they did delegate, it needed to be to officials who had the proper authority.
At the end of the day, she said, the executive would be held to account for how public money would be spent and the leader of government business in parliament would be briefed about whether ministers played by the rules. It would be also be noted whether they presented themselves for ministerial question sessions. Failure to do so had been a recurrent feature and source of complaint during the fifth parliament.
Modise also had a stern warning for errant MPs, saying they could not expect to be paid for staying at home and therefore it was not far-fetched to discuss introducing an electronic attendance record system for committee meetings.
“The possibility of us tinkering with the structure of parliament is there,” she said.
She said the aim of the budget process was to ensure that public representatives were capacitated to do their work, but there was also a clear obligation on them to do the work for which they were elected.
Hence, the legislature wanted to “ensure no member is payed for staying at their house”, even if this meant that salaries would be docked for not attending meetings.
She also sounded a warning that members would have to observe the rules of the establishment in order to have their privileges protected.
“Every member irrespective of what party they come from will be given the protection of the chief, but we will make sure that every protection of the member goes along with observation of the rules and the law.”
This warning comes after the Economic Freedom Fighters last week tried to prevent Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan delivering his department’s budget vote speech. The party’s MPs were physically ejected from the chamber as a result, and their conduct was widely condemned.
Modise also suggested that parliament would consider reintroducing creche facilities for MPs with children, and improving medical services available to members. She added that the state of the parliamentary villages housing MPs was of concern and suggested “mayors” be appointed to oversee these.
– African News Agency (ANA)