PARLIAMENTARY MONITORING GROUP

The Week: It’s Budget time in Parliament

By Parliamentary Monitoring Group 24 February 2020

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech on Wednesday will dominate headlines this week.

First published by Parliamentary Monitoring Group

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has a tough job to do as he seeks to address significant social challenges, satisfy public pressure and reassure investors and ratings agencies, in his Budget speech in Parliament this week.

Low economic growth; wastage and corruption; mismanagement at local, provincial and national government, revenue shortfalls and underperformance of State-Owned Enterprises (SoEs) are some of the major challenges facing the country.

The speech itself is designed to outline plans to spend resources for the benefit of all South Africans and introduce new taxes. Since there is a limit to the resources, there is an increased need for proper budgeting to allocate scarce resources to various governmental activities. The speech will be accompanied by the tabling of the Appropriation Bill and Division of Revenue Bill.

Following on from the State of the Nation Address, the speech is expected to focus heavily on the government’s plans to grow the economy and fix broken SoEs.

In addition, there will be a lot of attention on the spending allocated to government’s social and infrastructure programmes and plans to reduce the Budget deficit and public sector wage bill. In his 2019 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, the minister indicated that after adjusting for inflation, the average government wage rose by 66% in the last 10 years. He may announce measures to cut down on this.

The President admitted that the economy has not grown at any meaningful rate for over a decade, that the recovery has stalled because of persistent energy problems, and public finances are under severe pressure. Both the World Bank and IMF have cut the country’s 2020 GDP growth prospects to a meagre 0.9% and 0.8% respectively.

Public finances are constrained, limiting the ability of the government to expand its investment in economic and social development. Against this backdrop, the government has to do more with less and needs to be efficient in the use of financial resources.

Exercising budgetary and fiscal oversight is one of Parliament’s basic tasks. The Budget presented by the minister is not the final Budget but a proposal that has to be scrutinised and approved by Parliament.

Tuesday’s National Assembly plenary is fairly routine and dotted with the usual items such as Members’ Statements, Motions without Notice and Notices of Motion.

Lawmakers are also set to pass two Bills.

There are two mini-plenaries scheduled for Thursday. According to the rules, any MP can propose a subject for discussion – this mechanism provides an opportunity for the House to debate a particular topic without being required to take a decision at the end of the debate.

Subject for discussion (Dr NP Nkabane): Transforming society and uniting the country by cultivating a shared recommitment to constitutional values that promote nation building, strengthen social cohesion and improve the quality of life for all South Africans (ANC)

Subject for discussion (Mr V Zungula): The ring-fencing of the micro economy for the exclusive use of South Africans (ATM)

Meanwhile, there is nothing scheduled in the NCOP chamber this week.

Elsewhere, the National House of Traditional Leaders will be officially opened for the 2020 business by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday.

There is some significant action in the Committee corridor. Here is a rundown of the highlights:

  • The Portfolio Committee on Transport will meet with the minister of transport to discuss the appointment of the Administrator for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) as well as on plans to address challenges at the entity. In 2019, the committee welcomed the intervention and hoped that it would bring about the required stability at the agency. It also called on the administrator to put controls in place to stop financial mismanagement at the entity once and for all. (Tuesday)
  • The Standing and Select Committee on Finance will receive a pre-Budget briefing from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). Each year, the PBO provides independent and non-partisan analysis of the Budget cycle, fiscal policy and financial implications of proposals ahead of the speech. Separately, the Standing Committee on Appropriations as it holds a pre-2020 Budget workshop with National Treasury on the Budget instruments to be tabled by the Minister of Finance. (Tuesday)
  • The Tourism Committee will meet with the Chinese Consulate General to discuss the coronavirus and its implications for the tourism sector. (Tuesday)
  • In 2019, the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs raised concern regarding the late submission of the annual report by the Department of Co-operative Governance. The committee stated that “the perpetual non-adherence must come to an end and proper consequence management must be implemented henceforth in the case of non-adherence”. The committee will finally be briefed by the department on its 2018/19 performance. (Tuesday)
  • Transformation in the forestry and fisheries sectors and the municipal audit outcomes will be in the spotlight at two Committee meetings. (Tuesday)
  • In the Fifth Parliament, the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings considered a petition requesting the intervention of the NCOP in amending the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (Act 75 of 1997) to include or provide for elder care leave. Following extensive deliberations on the submissions made during the hearings on the petition, the committee found that allowing for elder-care leave was in line with provisions in the Bill of Rights and recommended the matter be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Labour for its exhaustive consideration and ultimate resolution. Further, it advised the Portfolio Committee to take into consideration the international best practice on the provision of elder care leave including the approach taken by developing countries like South Africa. The petitioner will brief the Portfolio Committee. (Wednesday)
  • In 2018, the government initiated a countrywide investigation into the corruption allegations levelled against the Office of the State Attorney. Led by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the investigations have uncovered allegations of apparent collusion between certain officials within the State Attorney’s Office, private legal practitioners and real or fictitious litigants to defraud and conduct other acts of irregular and corrupt activities against the state. The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services will get a progress report. (Wednesday)
  • Prior to the Budget speech, there will be a lock-up session on the 2020 Budget with the joint Finance and Appropriation Committees from both Houses. (Wednesday)
  • The Minister of Finance will brief the joint Finance and Appropriations Committees on the 2019 Budget. (Thursday)
  • The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services will brief MPs on its vision and revised Business Operational Plan/Model. In 2019, the entity reported that it is not sufficiently independent and it should not be a programme within DCS but should be a ‘government component’. (Friday)

In between, there will be detailed legislating as MPs consider the following Bills: NHI Bill; Judicial Matters Amendment Bill; Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill; Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill; Military Discipline Bill; Defence Amendment Bill; Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill; National Land Transport Amendment Bill and Social Assistance Amendment Bill. DM

 View the full schedule here.

This summary is based on the schedule as it is published on Monday morning. The programme is subject to frequent updating so the link above needs to be checked daily to confirm the programme for the day.

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