Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The head of the Parliamentary Budget Office professor Mohammed Jahed has resigned as from end-September for personal reasons after six years at the helm of the office that was set up to assist parliamentary committees with financial matters.

Jahed was responsible for setting up the office and said in an interview on Monday that the main reason for his departure was to return to Johannesburg to be with his family. He also believed it was time for someone else to take the budget office to the next level.

He insisted that his alleged departure had absolutely nothing to do with an inquiry that was apparently prompted by a complaint by a member of the office’s staff. He said he knew nothing about the inquiry and that there had been no formal disciplinary inquiry.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has confirmed that Jahed’s resignation was based on family/personal considerations and “has nothing to do with any alleged investigation. The allegations made by a former staff members were dealt with by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), and were subsequently dismissed following due process.  In terms of the law, the budget office director is directly accountable to the presiding officer and there exists no investigation instituted by them against him.”

Jahed has faced criticism for his affirmative action appointments and for providing partisan political support but said that the budget office had tried to be as nonpartisan as possible. The budget office consists of seven analysts and two administrative staff.

Parliament decided to set up the budget office after the adoption of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure Matters Act in 2009. This act allowed parliamentary committees to amend the budget and other money bills and it was felt that they needed to have the technical support of specialists.

Jahed’s contract expired at the end of June and he wanted to leave at that point but was persuaded to stay on on an extended contract until the 2-19 general elections or earlier if he wished to leave sooner.

DA spokesperson on finance David Maynier said Jahed’s departure was "great news" for the Parliamentary Budget Office.

"We now have an opportunity to appoint an acting director, and eventually a director, who is capable of building a Parliamentary Budget Office that actually delivers independent, objective and professional advice in parliament.

"The Parliamentary Budget Office drives me absolutely crazy because, despite having some very talented young people, their product is weak, and, despite having a statutory obligation to be independent, they have sacrificed their independence, preferring to hide behind the committee system and grovel to the governing party in parliament."

Maynier said if it was true that Jahed had resigned following an internal investigation "then we need to know whether the internal investigation was under way at the time that he was re-appointed, and we need to know why the fact of the internal investigation was never disclosed to Parliament".

The annual report of parliament for 2017-18 tabled on Monday showed that the budget office had produced 45 analytical reports during the year. "In part, this can be attributed to the increased demand for evidence-based budget advice," the report said.

The annual report showed that Parliament registered a deficit of R266m. Total revenue amounted to R2.3bn and total expenditure to R2.5bn. Last year a surplus of R11m was recorded.

Among the highlights of expenditure were R226.6m on local travel for MPs and R47m on overseas travel, R14m on catering and R15m on printing and stationery.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za