South African parliament. Picture: GCIS
South African parliament. Picture: GCIS

The standing committee tasked with monitoring the finances of parliament has conceded that it knows very little about the  management of money in the legislature.

The committee also conceded that it had little effect on how the administration performed, and blamed its lack of success on the poor management of parliament.

"The committee had set ensuring parliament’s funding and efficient management of resources as one of its priorities, but has failed to do so," according to the report. Parliament has, to date, and despite the Treasury’s offers of assistance, not succeeded in developing a budget process.  

"Labour relations improved dramatically in the last two years of the fifth parliament; [however,] the high number of resignations and the tragic passing of a senior manager in September 2018 point to a working environment that remains hostile." 

The committee said the manner in which oversight had been conducted had made it difficult to identify inefficiencies within executive. 

"In the main, this was because parliament has, in most cases, opted to inform the executive of oversight visits in advance. Unannounced oversight visits — which would allow those who are being overseen very little opportunity to 'prepare', and would therefore make a more accurate assessment of the situation on the ground more likely — are seldom, if ever, undertaken." 

In recent years, parliament has, like many other state institutions, introduced austerity measures as government moves to reduce expenditure. However, allegations of corruption, misuse of funds and maladministration have been directed at management in the national legislature in recent times amid pay disputes with unions.

“The [committee] regrets to report that in the short period of time since its establishment, it has had little impact on how the administration performed,” the committee said in its legacy report, which was published in parliament on Thursday.

It said this may be due to the “newness” of its role and the requirement that the executive authority and accounting officer report to it on matters related to the institution’s financial management.

“Whatever the reason, the [committee’s] recommendations have had little impact, and have been responded to poorly. At the time of reporting, it remained impossible to measure [parliament’s] true performance, as most sub-programmes were not measured.

"The absence of KPIs [key performance indicators] led the [committee] to, in some instances, question the existence of whole divisions within the institution because it was unclear what output they were expected to produce,” the committee said in its report.

It added that in many instances where KPIs had been included, the targets that were meant to correspond to them were poorly developed and unmeasurable.

“In light of the above, the [committee] regrets to report that despite our recommendations that weaknesses should be attended to, the institution’s performance information remains unreliable.”

The committee also noted with concern that despite its recommendations for the speedy establishment of the treasury advice office, that office, which will serve as an advisory to the executive authority on all matters related to parliament’s budget and financial management, is yet to be established.

Furthermore, the committee said it had noted the placing on suspension (with full benefits) of the secretary to parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, following various allegations of maladministration.

Mgidlana was suspended with full pay in 2017 following allegations levelled against him by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). The complaints against Mgidlana included that he allegedly hired a consultant without following proper supply-chain management processes, his use of blue lights and claims that he took his wife on several official trips at parliament’s expense.

“The [committee] has also noted with grave concern the long delay in the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings, and has serious concerns about the prolonged process, especially given the financial impact the long delays have had for the institution,” the committee said.