Absentee MPs could face fines

2011-07-13 13:09

Parliament could soon introduce fines of R500 a day for MPs who go absent without leave for more than a fortnight, the office of the ANC chief whip said today.

“The proposals are a way of acting on the constitutional provision prescribing the period for which an MP can be absent,” said spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

The rules of Parliament state that MPs need leave from the legislature if they are going to be absent for more than 15 consecutive days while the National Assembly is in session.

“This takes it further by dealing with absenteeism from (portfolio) committees and proposing minimum and maximum penalties,” Mothapo said.

He said the proposed rules amendment had been approved by the chief whip’s forum and handed to all political parties as a draft discussion document for consideration. It was expected to serve before the Rules Committee “soon”.

The document proposes that if a legislator is absent for 15 consecutive sitting days of the National Assembly without leave “an amount of R500 will be deducted from that member’s salary for each day in excess of the 15 days”.

It proposes that an MP who is absent for 30 or 60 consecutive sitting days without leave, should lose his or her seat.

With regard to committee meetings, it is suggested that if members are absent without leave or good reason, such as attendance of another committee, they will lose their seats on the committee.

A tightening of the rules, with penalties for absenteeism, has been in the pipeline since 2003, but the document suggests that implementation is hindered by a lack of enthusiasm from political parties.

It calls for input from parties on the system they use to grant leave to their members and said new rules could not be finalised and implemented without this information.

“All parties have been requested to provide the guidelines that they are using in granting leave but only two responses have been received.”

Mothapo confirmed that the proposals have been “coming and going for years” and said there was now renewed intent to have them adopted.

This follows the budget speech of Speaker Max Sisulu last month in which he lamented that “empty benches either by backbenchers or members of the executive of all parties erode the image and integrity of this institution and betray the trust that people placed in us”.

In recent months, Parliament has repeatedly been unable to adopt legislation because there were too few MPs present in the National Assembly for the necessary quorum to pass the laws. 

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