The Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, has told members of parliament during her budget speech that Parliament will have to contend with a funding shortfall of R394 million.
Modise said Parliament had requested an amount of just over R3 billion from National Treasury for this financial year, but was allocated R 2.6 billion. She said the R300 million-plus shortfall would have “a direct bearing on how we run this institution.”
The Speaker also used the occasion to warn ministers not to shirk their responsibility of accounting to parliament by sending departmental officials when called to appear before committees.
“For members of the executive, our advice is attend the parliamentary committee sessions. Don’t delegate unnecessarily. Please be careful of your statements and responses here and out there because we will follow up,” Modise said.
“We have noticed over the years that attendance at committee level is left to officials. Nothing wrong when they are properly delegated, but please remember we hold the executive to account. “Therefore, the temptation for the ministers to be hands and ear off from the financial execution of the business can be detrimental if things are done wrong.”
On conduct of members of parliament, Modise called for a review of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests.’ She said this was necessary in order to, “strengthen the ethical standards to which Members of Parliament must adhere and also address the drafting irregularities in the Code.
“The turn-around time of complaint handling and investigations in respect of allegations of breaches of the Code of Ethics must receive attention. The staff complement in the Office of the Registrar of Members’ Interests has been identified for priority.
“It is anticipated that a dedicated staff will be appointed to conduct investigations and complaints handling. We appeal to the committee to consider the matters that were not finalised in the 5th Parliament with a view to make a determination on their processing.”
Responding to Modise, members across various political parties took the EFF to task for the party’s actions during public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech last week.
The Freedom Front Plus’ Corné Mulder went as far as to call for the salaries of EFF MPs to be docked.
“Salaries must be taken until they can no longer pay their Gucci accounts and they cannot pay for their expensive German vehicles,” Mulder said.
House chairperson Madala Ntombela had to intervene when an ANC MP referred to the EFFs Mbuyiseni Ndlozi – who was heckling Mulder during his address – as an “ice boy.”
“I want to make a humble request that ice boy has been given an opportunity to speak. We can’t be told by an ice boy here, his responsibility is to fetch ice for Julius [Malema],” the MP said before being called on to withdraw the remark.
MPs also called on Modise to fast-track the disciplinary process of parliament’s secretary which has been ongoing for months. Modise said dates had been set aside to deal with the matter of the official who City Press had reported had gone on a rampage with parliament’s money.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the secretary’s contract with parliament would end before he faced the music, allowing him to walk away scot free.