Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Baleka Mbete
Allow me to say, all protocol is observed
Parliament this year, is also celebrating 20 years of the new Constitution and 20 years since the establishment of the NCOP. These celebrations have permeated every facet of our work and events this year.
We also took time to review the difference the new Constitution and the NCOP made in our Parliamentary democracy and the value added to the lives of the citizens of South Africa.
This brief seeks to give an overview of a number of our strategic priorities that include: strengthening of cooperative governance, deepening of international relations and strengthening of our legislative capacity to help realize better outcomes of our parliamentary system.
Strengthened Cooperative Governance
Efforts to strengthen the cohesion and collaboration of the whole legislative sector took a new and faster pace during the fifth Parliament. A Legislative Sector strategy was adopted and is being implemented with commendable success. A bill for formalising the cross sectoral collaboration is at an advanced stage of development.
The Speaker’s Forum is steadfastly convening to advance a range of sector development objectives. A number of programmes that cut across all the ten legislative institutions are being coordinated by the Speakers’ Forum and its administration arm, the Secretaries’ Association of the Legislatures of South Africa. To operationalize various levels of collaboration across the sector, a number of frameworks has been adopted which include the Public Participation Framework and the Strategy Framework for Communication.
The constitution enjoins parliament to respect the distinctive, interdependent and interrelatedness of the different spheres of government. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has invested critical time and resources to build stronger relations with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), as part of mainstreaming the local sphere in the broader programmes of the legislative sector.
Collaboration with SALGA has sharpened the NCOP’s role in overseeing interventions of Provincial Governments in municipalities, while the Speakers’s Fora of Provincial Legislature Speakers and Speakers of Local Municipalities has assisted too. These efforts were undertaken to enhance both the concurrent and exclusive mandates of the three spheres of the legislative sector that are outlined in the Constitution, and the bill initiated to formalize these relations begins by recognizing these constitutional imperatives.
Deepen International Engagements
Historically, parliaments had scant involvement in international relations. It has become imperative to strengthen the role of parliaments as representatives of the peoples, in the area of international relations, particularly in an age where the line between domestic and international relations is increasingly becoming blurred and where there is globalisation of problems. It is further of great importance that democracy ought to be promoted at all levels of governance.
With this background in mind, Parliament resolved to step up efforts to help build a humane, just, equitable and a democratic world order, as one of its strategic priorities. A strong advisory and research capacity has been developed to support the Presiding Officers as well as the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR). A number of developmental protocols, agreements and resolutions taken at the regional, continental, commonwealth and international levels have been ratified and executed.
Parliament has been instrumental in the establishment of the Regional Executive Committee of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), campaigning to strengthen the legislative powers of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), facilitated and participated in the establishment of Parliamentary Forums of BRICS and India Brazil and South Africa (IBSA).
Parliament is actively involved and participate as an equal partner in the Inter-Parliamentary Union as well as in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The Presiding Officers have represented the South African Parliament to advance national goals and build solidarity towards a better world order.
Parliament has resolved, as early as 2000 that the parliamentary dimension to international relations and co-operation must be provided by parliamentarians themselves, firstly at national level, in an interconnected manner and move towards regional and international levels of participation.
Strengthen the legislative capacity
To effectively deliver on its strategic priorities, the fifth Parliament has given significant consideration to building its institutional capacity covering its human capital, its budget, and broader efficiencies required. A Members Capacity Building and Development Strategy was adopted and execute with growing completion rates.
Nearly 1000 members have benefited and or graduated from 13 programmes executed since 2015 in collaboration with various reputable universities, strengthening Members capacity for among others public leadership and financial analysis.
This was part of executing a learning and development policy framework adopted after extensive consultation with all Parties in Parliament in order to address governance matters in support of all members, build capacity of Parliamentary Committees while also integrating personal development needs. Support to members with disabilities has been heightened, while we also acknowledge, a lot more still has to be done.
Progress was made in building a capable and professional parliamentary support service to harness the strengths and opportunities of the sector, build MPs capacity, improve the quality and value of information provided to members to carry out their constitutional obligations, while also enhancing efficiencies in general.
The quality of support services to Parliamentarians has been improved three fold, from a low base of 30% to 92% in five years in respect of legal, policy and procedure advice; information requests; committee minutes and reports, Hansard and translation services. To develop appropriate capacity for Parliament to initiate and pass legislation, a Private Members Bill was passed. In addition a dedicated legislation drafting unit under the Constitution and Legal Services Office was established to assist individual members and committee with the drafting of Bills. This capacity will be progressively built.
We recognise that our people are the real differentiator and that they are central to the organisational effectiveness and efficiency. The strategic plan for the 5th Parliament gave recognition to the role and value of employees in successfully implementing the strategy.
The emphasis was placed on ensuring that the institution is able to attract the best people, develop current employees and free their potential, retain employees whose competencies are critical to the organisation and create a conducive environment to enable excellent performance. The need to ensure that Parliament has the strategic competencies it requires to implement its plans was duly recognised and provided for in the strategic plan. We continue to measure our performance in this area to ensure consistent growth and performance.
Some of the outstanding achievements of the fifth term are:
That Parliament has achieved clean audit findings from the Auditor-General for three consecutive years, while even the Legislative Sector continues to improve in leaps and bounds. This assists Parliament and the Legislative Sector to better hold the executive accountable for non-compliance and poor audit outcomes, as the Sector needs to lead by example.
The proportion of highly skilled and professional staff has more than doubled, from 31% to 68% of the staff complement. These achievements are affirming the institutions commitment to grow this segment of its staff complement to 86% by 2030, for Parliament to be ready and in sync with society’s fast shift to a knowledge economy and the onset of the fourth industrial revolution.
To better re-align the institution to produce better outcomes, strategic positions such as Divisional Managers, were filled.
Parliament’s administrative arm also experienced a 13% decline in its annual performance targets between 2014-15 and 2015-16, from 58.5% to 45.45%, as it was shifting from an activity based to an outcome based model, while also introducing a new method of the balance-score-card in evaluating individual and unit performance. Parliament has begun to turn the tide in this regard too, with an increase in 2016-17 to 49% of the targets achieved. This performance level remains unacceptable, however, we have confidence that this new positive trajectory, will be sustained as the change and re-alignment drive gains momentum.
Engaging a higher gear for the last mile
Responsiveness agility and reactiveness of Parliament are key success indicators going forward. There are efforts to foster institutional innovativeness and creativeness, that should assist to position Parliament as a leading institution that is able to deploy resources at its disposable for the betterment of the quality of Life of South African’s through enhanced oversight, enactment of people-centred legislation and enhanced citizen involvement.
The HLP findings and recommendations are expected to make this crystally clear. Parliament has to step-up self-assessment, forward thinking and better scenario-planning in order to effectively grab opportunities provided by the 21st century while helping to gear the state to anticipate major challenges and prepare for their effective management.
Part of the developments that pose threats and offer opportunities include Brexit, cessation of Catalonia from Spain, the North Korean nuclear crisis, continued internal strife and displacement of people within the African continent, allegations of complicity in xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, growth of BRICS, climate changes and resultant dangerous weather patterns.
As outlined in the comprehensive communication strategy of Parliament, every effort will be made to raise the bar in Parliament’s outreach programmes and its platforms for citizen interface.
More efforts will be placed on securing a dedicated free-to-air television and radio channels, integration of constitutional democracy into the school curriculum, strengthening the social media posture of Parliament while also broadening the scope and effectiveness of the website to make it a preferred service delivery point for all citizens. These will be done in addition to the strengthening of youth mobilization and Taking Parliament to the People, all meant to make Parliament the citizens’ go to institution of the people to drive the realization of their aspirations and to address their concerns.
Parliament has made great strides in so many areas, however so much more needs to be done to re-affirm the role of Parliament, specifically among various the arms of the state and South Africans in general. Indeed, the fifth Parliament is playing a strategic and a more complex role, significantly more complex that the first Parliament.
It has to evaluate the net impact of the first generation of parliamentary democracy (1994 to 2014), while also reigniting, re-modelling, and re-purposing the country’s Parliamentary system for the second generation, 2014 to 2034. In this regard, a number of strategic shifts are necessary including the reduction of the legislative workload, better managing relations between the three arms of the state to limit accusations of overreach while also taking the oversight function to a much higher bar.
We have sharpened our monitoring and evaluation methods and included periodic assessments of how citizens experience Parliament through all means of interface with its work. There still remains significant gaps in various areas we are working on, which include the provision of requisite seamless services to MPs, through our realignment of our structure and services.
I thank you