The Week Ahead: Legislation, Oversight Visits & Question Time dominate final week

The constituency period beckons, with MPs due to depart at the end of the week and return to Parliament on 11 October 2016. But a fair amount of heavy-duty business will be done before they go.

With nothing scheduled in the NA chamber, the committee corridor will be the main source of parliamentary action, where there are several hearings on sensitive issues and detailed legislating.

In addition, 8 portfolio committees have scheduled oversight visits during this week. The purpose of these visits is to test the authenticity of the information provided by the departments they oversee. It’s also an opportunity to obtain first-hand knowledge from people engaged in the direct implementation of specific programmes and/or who are directly responsible for service delivery. Some of the interesting oversight visits arranged include those to military bases and post-school education and training institutions.

Meanwhile, things are normal in the NCOP chamber, where a full programme has been scheduled including legislative business, motions, consideration of committee reports, ministerial question time and debates.

Ministers in the Governance Cluster will be probed on a variety of interesting, controversial and topical issues: this includes the municipal infrastructure backlog, disciplining of councillors, functioning of municipalities, duties & functions of PR & ward councillors, single public service, time frame for pension pay-outs, implementation of National Evaluation System, aims of Operation Phakisa, sexual abuse of girls, study on violence against women and children and female genital mutilation.

The four topics that will be debated are:

  • Debate on the building of additional classrooms in the Western Cape: “Finding a lasting solution to the problem of overcrowding and shortages of classrooms in schools in the Western Cape”
  • Debate on the impact of crime in South Africa: “Moving with utmost speed to address the causes and effects of crime to communities”
  • Debate on the potential of rail infrastructure as a stimulus for rural and agricultural development: “Leveraging the potential of rail transportation to advance rural and agricultural development”
  • Debate on Heritage Day: “Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History: Celebrating our living heritage and the reach diversity of our nation”

View the full plenary programme here.

Here is my run down of the committee meetings that are likely to produce big headlines:

There is pressure mounting on government to compel technology companies to reduce data costs in the country. The Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal services will, on Tuesday and Wednesday, host public hearings on the cost to communicate. During this two-day event, the Committee will receive presentations from industry players including mobile network operators, research institutions, students, NGOs, internet service providers and, SMMEs.

Fireworks are likely when the South African Airways appears before the Standing Committee on Finance. This follows the urgent snap debate that took place in the NA chamber last week where opposition MPs expressed concern about the financial and governance challenges plaguing the airliner. The state-owned company experienced a loss of over R1bn in the first quarter of the 2016/17 financial year, has not published financial statements for the last 2 financial years and is seeking to raise R16bn. According to the EFF, most of the problems are a result of the Chairperson of the SAA Board, who was reappointed by Cabinet to the position last week. The DA also announced that it would challenge the re-appointment in court. The chair, in particular, and the new board can expect a grilling.

As the drought continues to wreak havoc, Parliament will tackle the issue again in a stakeholder engagement on the impact of drought and the implementation of the drought response plan. This is a continuation of several meetings and debates that took place late last year on this subject.

The spotlight will be on the Portfolio Committee on Energy when the Department presents the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP). Integrated energy planning is undertaken to determine the best way to meet the country’s current and future energy needs in the most efficient way. This meeting was originally scheduled for last week but was potponed at the last moment.

On the lawmaking side, MPs have a lot to do as they consider and discuss the Border Management Amendment Bill, Films and Publications Amendment Bill, Plant Improvement and Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills, Children’s Second Amendment Bill, Children’s Amendment Bill, Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill, Justice Administered Funds Bill, Courts of Law Amendment Bill and Financial Sector Regulation “Twin Peaks” Bil.

On Wednesday, the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Police will brief legislators on the implementation of Farlam-Recommendations. SAPS will also provide an update on the functioning of 3 specialised units (Railway, Gangs and Radio-control) and the transformation task team.

On the same day, Eskom will brief the Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises on its tariff increase for 2016/17 and amended pricing structure for municipalities with effect from 1 July 2016.

MPs will continue with their legislative work when they tackle the following bills: Courts of Law Amendment Bill, Films and Publications Amendment Bill, National Land Transport Amendment Bill, Revenue Laws Amendment Bill, draft Taxation Laws Amendment & Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill; and Financial Sector Regulation “Twin Peaks” Bill.

On Friday, the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament will meet to get a briefing on its mandate, functions and powers and programme. Business Day reports that Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has taken Parliament to task over its latest financial report, which contains material errors, as well as misstatements on its performance on public participation and international engagements. The financial report will be scrutinised by this joint committee.

You can find the full list of meetings here.


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