South Africa

South Africa

Right of Reply: Misreading a parliamentary report

Right of Reply: Misreading a parliamentary report

In the article, “R1.8-million later: When Parliament embarks on a bad trip” (Daily Maverick 25 April 2016), Marianne Merten rants and raves about a benchmarking exercise undertaken by the administration of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa and the report which was subsequently produced. The reason for her disquiet is the fact that she does not understand the report. Merten then ineptly concludes that it was useless. By Gengezi Mgidlana, Secretary to Parliament.

The thrust of Marianne Merten’s article is premised on reports from City Press and Rapport newspapers, which preceded hers by a day. Both reports were comprehensively and thoroughly rebutted by Parliament as baseless, sensational and meant to tarnish the image of Parliament and individuals cited.

Merten makes the same mistake that the City Press journalist committed – she opted for expediency and knee-jerk reaction as opposed to writing a well-researched article for the benefit of readers. Perhaps there is something that qualifies these types of journalists to be so presumptuous, dismissive and judgmental about strategies that Parliament has adopted and the leadership provided. Perhaps it’s in the bad record (that cannot be declared by pen but must be proven by action of management), or the fact that they are inherently incapable, which would amount to a fallacious argument.

Nevertheless, none of these accusations is factual or deserves any serious thought. If anything, they point to lack of serious journalistic standards and qualities, i.e. plainly put, prejudiced positions. Anyway, enough about that.

When the Presiding officers assumed office and Parliament, through a resolution of its two Houses, the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, appointed the new Secretary, they immediately recognised that challenges of the 5th Parliament would evolve around:

  • Modernising Parliament systems and rules to suit the new environment in the 5th Parliament;
  • Aligning the administrative policies, systems and practices with the new strategy.

The tasks noted above are most certainly huge and there is no magic hand that could resolve them overnight. Any suggestion or insinuation to the contrary is an over-simplification of matters and shows a lack of understanding of strategic leadership management. A careful reading of the strategic direction document and plan indicates that firm measures have been identified to improve the support provided to Members in the performance of their constitutional responsibilities.

To reiterate a point made in Parliament’s response to the City Press article, for Parliament to achieve its strategic goals, the institution will need to learn from organisations within and outside of South Africa using various means of benchmarking.

This, if one has to state the obvious, is part of a plethora of tools to use in improving the performance of any organisations that strive to achieve better results.

Why do Marianne Merten and her kin find this objectionable, problematic, gross and deserving to be labelled as a “jaunt and a useless trip”?

They have appropriated to themselves the status of issuing a negative value judgement without adequate examination or familiarising themselves with key information and readily available documents which talk to the strategic initiatives. Fortunately some among us are not dictated to by pessimists who always see the negative side of things. These are armchair critics who talk/write from the comfort of their corners and prejudice.

Merten, you cannot judge and determine the veracity of a five-year strategy from misreading of a report. Once again we will give a benefit of doubt that you clearly did not have reasonable time to afford Parliament to respond. We hope in your new parliamentary beat you will make time for a discussion with the management team of Parliament and then you can have an informed opinion, rant less and engage more. DM

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