More pro-active MPs wanted
Cape Town - National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu on Tuesday urged MPs to be more responsive and pro-active in playing a meaningful role in addressing the hopes and aspirations of the people through oversight.
Speaking during debate on the Parliament budget vote, he said MPs' work continued to be holding the executive to its promises and working with it to lessen the hardships faced by the most vulnerable people.
"Parliament is the central institution of any democracy through which the will of the people is expressed, laws are passed and government is held to account.
"Addressing the needs and concerns of our people must become our primary objective," Sisulu said.
One of the priorities was to establish mechanisms and processes for more effective oversight over the executive, creating dedicated capacity for enhanced content support to committees, as well as a skills development programme for MPs.
Budget can be amended
The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, a key new oversight tool, enabled Parliament to hold the government accountable.
Parliament now has the power to amend the budget, giving it the teeth to do effective oversight.
"The challenge now is for committees and individual Members of Parliament to put their shoulders to the wheel and turn theory into practice and potential into concrete results," said Sisulu.
The act was also not just about the budget and Parliament's power to amend the budget, Sisulu said.
"In fact, I would argue that this act prescribes a whole new approach to the budgetary process, as it enables Parliament to interrogate the strategic deployment of resources by the government."
While the act did not confer on Parliament carte blanche to amend the fiscal framework, strategic focus or even actual budget allocations, the hand of Parliament to influence these was considerably strengthened and enhanced.
Another key instrument for oversight was questions posed by MPs to the president and the executive.
"The leader of government business is responsible for co-ordinating the executive's interactions with Parliament, and together, we have addressed the backlog of unanswered questions which has led to significant improvements. This of course, is an ongoing process.
"Secondly, the quality of questions and replies, as well as the time frames within which questions are replied to, is also under discussion, and we are expecting substantive improvements in this regard too," he said.