CEDRIC FROLICK: Combating climate change requires perfect harmony
SA’s joint committee on flood disaster relief and recovery provides a blueprint for success
The beauty of a symphony lies in each instrument contributing to one melody, and if just one is out of tune it has the potential to ruin the entire piece. As efforts intensify to achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Accord, legislatures across the globe must develop and implement coherent monitoring tools to entrench their unique and critical role in building resilience and adapting to the effects of climate change.
These are complex and cross-cutting, and affect all aspects of our daily lives such as food availability, healthcare, ecosystem and wildlife, and access to education and public finances. It is the pervasive nature of the impact of climate change that necessitates a consolidated approach to oversight to avoid the contention an incoherent system that cannot drive a coherent strategy.
In this regard, the model of the recently lapsed ad hoc joint committee on flood disaster relief and recovery provides a framework that can be adopted by the legislative sector to strengthen oversight. Having navigated uncharted waters, this framework highlights the benefits of consolidated oversight.
Fragmentation of the oversight function to different smaller committees of parliament increases the chances of important issues being missed as one committee might assume another committee will address them. While the important role of individual committees remains, the gap resulting from such instances of lapses could have a detrimental effect on oversight and accountability.
Robust and coherent oversight
Many countries continue to face tough economic conditions, depriving the fiscus of resources to roll out national objectives. A consolidated monitoring system will prevent duplication of efforts and relieve the pressure on government resources that are already stretched.
Cabinet recently approved the implementation plan for the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP), which will guide SA’s transition to a low-carbon economy by scaling up of renewable energy sources. The incremental rollout of this plan will include projected spending in the region of R1-trillion. While most of the funding will be made up of partnership funding, which has different regulatory requirements, public sector investments will require scrutiny to avoid corruption that will undermine the set objectives.
The rollout of the JET-IP is anchored in the concept of justice; its implementation must not negatively affect those communities that now benefit from fossil fuels. The goal to guarantee a shared prosperity for communities will require a robust and coherent oversight framework, especially because parliament is the apex body representing the views of all South Africans.
To prove that the mantra “for and by the people” is not merely lip service, the legislature must ensure that the executive and private sector observe the promises made to the people that the implementation of the plan will be just.
A distinguishing pillar of the Covid-19 emergency intervention was the real-time audits the Office of the Auditor-General conducted on emergency procurement. That resulted in speedy intervention with civil and criminal actions and consequences in cases of malfeasance. The collaborative work must be strengthened and engagements with the auditor-general to avail capacity to this end should be considered.
At the heart of the oversight of the ad hoc committee was the consolidation of information gathering and the financing of oversight, and increased co-ordination of the oversight function. That model is effective and efficient, especially in an environment where overlaps are inevitable, such as addressing the impact of climate change.
As we prepare for the seventh parliament next year, we must consider how this coherent model can benefit the legislature’s oversight of the JET-IP and other climate change programmes.
The magnificence of a symphony orchestra lies in the co-ordination and coherency of its orchestra members. Perhaps with this model the same can ring true for oversight in parliament.
• Frolick, an ANC MP, is house chair responsible for committees, oversight and ICT in the National Assembly.
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