News24 Wire
3 minute read
6 Feb 2021
1:23 pm

Parliament’s oversight function isn’t properly funded, Zondo Commission told

News24 Wire

Parliament’s house chairperson, Cedric Frolick, said with the limited resources that have been made available to committees, ‘they have gone very far in what is demanded of them’.

A YouTube screengrab of Parliament’s house chairperson, Cedric Frolick, testifying at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry on Friday on 5 February 2021.

The commission over the past week busied itself with examining Parliament’s oversight function.

The picture that emerged isn’t a good reflection on Parliament – which has “scrutinising and overseeing executive action” as a constitutional obligation – and the ANC.

Opposition MPs explained that their pleas to investigate state capture have fallen on deaf ears.

Former ANC MP Zukiswa Rantho testified that the ANC caucus wouldn’t discuss allegations of corruption and undue influence in the public domain and would dismiss this as “just allegations”.

ALSO READ: Ministers attended ANC study groups before oversight meetings, Zondo hears

Another former ANC MP, Makhosi Khoza, testified she was told not to question comrades and that the ANC caucus was tasked to protect corruption-accused former president Jacob Zuma at all costs.

Earlier on Friday, during DA MP James Selfe’s testimony, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: “It is as if there is no oversight in Parliament.”

Frolick, who has been an ANC MP since 1999, is the house chairperson in charge of committees, called the chair of chairs in parliamentary parlance.

The evidence leader, advocate Alec Freund SC, asked if he thought Parliament’s committees fulfilled their oversight role sufficiently.

Frolick said committees have done a lot of work overseeing the executive.

“It is a matter of opinion whether the oversight was sufficient,” he said.

Frolick said with the limited resources that have been made available to committees, “they have gone very far in what is demanded of them”.

“I can make the statement with confidence that the oversight function of Parliament is not properly funded,” Frolick said.

He said he mentioned this yearly in his speeches during the debates on Parliament’s budget vote.

Parliament has a budget of R2 billion, of which between R50 million and R60 million is allocated to committees. This equates to approximately R1 million per committee per annum.

Frolick said this was not sufficient for committees to do their work, and added that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, was looking into the issue.

He said for committees to do their work, they need sufficient support staff and this was not possible due to underfunding.

Freund said the R2 billion is allocated by National Treasury, and then Parliament allocates the amount for committees. Frolick confirmed it.

“How is it possible that a problem like this would go on for so long?” Zondo asked.

ALSO READ: ‘Jackson Mthembu disagreed with how I was treated,’ Makhosi Khoza tells Zondo

He said it suggests that Parliament doesn’t take its constitutional obligation to exercise oversight seriously.

Frolick said oversight is important and must be done.

Frolick also said the power relationship between the legislator and the executive needs to be addressed.

He did not conclude his testimony and will be called at a later date.

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