Freedom Front Plus
Freedom Front Plus

Much can be done to improve functioning of Parliament

(Budget vote debate in Parliament: Parliament)

Much can be done to improve the functioning of South Africa's Parliament as well as its major oversight role.

The South African Constitution clearly specifies the Parliament of South Africa's duties and responsibilities in Section 42(3). The Members of Parliament represent the people of South Africa and they have certain duties, like the election of the president, discussing matters of importance, legislating and holding government accountable.

Parliamentary portfolio committees play a significant role in all this, but in the FF Plus's view, their functioning is being undermined to a large extent because the executive and legislative authorities are too intricately interwoven.

At present, 74 members of the ruling party's Members of Parliament are also part of the Legislature. A greater separation between the two would facilitate better oversight over the executive authority. An example is the two committees on Nkandla that demonstrated a lack of political will to take the necessary action.

Government later tried to shift the blame by saying that Parliament failed to fulfil its oversight role. It was, in truth, not Parliament per se, but members of the government who had served on the committees in question. This dynamic clearly undermines accountability to a large extent.

In addition, a mechanism that could be used to improve debating is interpellation, a shortened form of debating by means of questions that increases interaction and, therefore, ensures better accountability of the executive authority.

The present form of debating affords members of the executive authority the opportunity to evade questions, which leads to much frustration as it undermines accountability.

Another problem is the number of budget vote debates that are scheduled to take place in a very short period of time, in some cases, up to six debates per day. They are indeed important, but due to the severe time constraints, these debates are steamrollered and as a result, budgets cannot be debated meaningfully and thoroughly.

The FF Plus is of the opinion that the time has come to have more Members of Parliament present in person, on condition that the required protocols are in place.

The current situation denies Members of Parliament the opportunity to have meaningful interaction, which is vital for the effective functioning of the institution.



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