Baleka Mbete. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Baleka Mbete. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Parliament’s presiding officers gave themselves a pat on the back for what they called a vastly improved state of law-drafting and government oversight in the legislature’s mid-term period on Tuesday morning.

The National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) speaker Thandi Modise said Parliament had made significant strides in re-imagining its core mandate since 2014.

Parliament’s leadership has not been without its challenges, with the secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, placed on suspension; Parliament’s management and organised labour often at each other’s throats; and an increasingly obvious working-relationship breakdown between the ANC and opposition MPs.

Mbete said the fifth Parliament had passed 96 bills to date, with almost all the passed bills assented to by President Jacob Zuma, except for the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill in 2014, and the Expropriation Bill in 2016.

"Parliament has also built its own capacity to initiate and develop legislation by establishing a dedicated unit in the legal services section, to support both members and committees of Parliament. A draft legislative model was also developed to ensure better compliance with constitutional prescripts such as public participation in the law-making processes," said Mbete.

She added that the fifth Parliament also initiated the high level panel (HLP) under former President Kgalema Motlanthe, which assessed the impact of legislation passed since 1994.

"The HLP embarked on an elaborate participative programme, which included all citizens, stakeholders and experts. It has concluded its work and is expected to table its final report, with recommendations, to the commissioning authority, the speakers’ forum, before formal tabling in the respective legislatures," said Mbete.

Modise said the NCOP invested time and resources towards building strong 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 forums of provincial legislature speakers and speakers of local municipalities have assisted too," Modise said.

She said the proportion of highly skilled and professional staff has more than doubled, from 31% to 68% of the staff complement, affirming the institution’s commitment to grow this segment of its staff complement to 86% by 2030.

Said Modise: "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 scorecard 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."

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