Western Cape cash squeeze backfires

2015-08-23 15:00
Hamida Fakira

Hamida Fakira

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Fatigued workers, lack of overtime pay and declining quality of work are just a few of the signs that the Western Cape legislature is paying the price for introducing austerity measures. 

The cash squeeze has led to dire warnings that the legislature’s committee section will soon collapse as the institution battles to keep its operations going. 

In a hard-hitting report from the secretary of the legislature, Hamida Fakira, which was presented to the parliamentary oversight committee on Friday morning, it emerged that the information and communication technology system was outdated and there was no money for overtime staff when committees sat after hours. 

“The legislature’s committee support service is on the brink of collapse if much-needed interventions do not materialise sooner,” Fakira said. 

The committee section is the nerve centre of any functional Parliament as this is where most of its work is done before it is approved in the plenary session. 

This is the unintended consequence of austerity measures put in place by the legislature in the past few years because of calls for state institutions to tighten 
their belts. 

Fakira told members of the provincial legislature that the austerity measures have meant the much-needed growth of the committee support service will not materialise sooner. 

“Not only has Parliament increased the number of committees to be serviced, but it has also developed a programme structure that requires servicing outside of the normal working hours for which most of the staff were contracted for,” she said. 

The legislature had added an additional shift from 4.30pm to 6.30pm to its parliamentary programme and imposed this shift on its staff. But it had allocated only R68 000 to the section for overtime. 

Fakira said there was an increasing incidence of fatigue and burnout expressed by team members, as well as use of sick leave. There was also a decline in the quality of work and the ability to meet standard timelines for outputs. 

ANC chief whip in the Western Cape legislature Pierré Uys said the ANC had been vindicated, as the party had pointed out during the budgeting process earlier this year that the legislature was underfunded. 

Spokesperson for the Western Cape legislature James Retief said the institution would respond in full to the presentation tomorrow.

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