Speaker in the hot seat

2009-11-19 00:00

THE speaker in the KZN Legislature, Peggy Nkonyeni, was in the hot seat before the finance portfolio committee yesterday, not only over expenditure in her administration, but for failing to answer written questions about it from committee members.

Nkonyeni was questioned about the continued use of upmarket venues for meetings and workshops such as the Edward Hotel, Zimbali Lodge and Tala Game Reserve. Committee member Dr Lionel Mtshali (IFP) asked how such events can be planned given the parlous state of the province’s finances and during a time of severe belt-tightening.

Other written questions that she faced were about the breakdown of costs on catering in the legislature; on overtime; on advertising and promotional material for “taking parliament to the people” ; and whether there are plans to replace regalia and symbols within the legislature and what they are projected to cost.

Nkonyeni did not respond to the questions, but raised issues of protocol. She said the issues raised would best be answered in the rules rather than before the finance portfolio committee.

She pointed out that Mtshali’s correspondence carried an IFP letterhead and said it is not clear whether it originated from a political party or from the finance portfolio committee. She added that her administration will be answering the quesions, but she needed to address these issues as a matter of principle.

Mtshali was not placated. He said that to raise issues of protocol is to dodge the questions.

“As members of the finance commitee, we asked legitimate questions to which we should have been given legitimate answers. These deal with expenditure of funds voted by the house, to that extent we should have been accorded recognition as members.”

He questioned whether a letterhead is more important than the issues raised. “I signed that letter at the bottom in my capacity as a member of the finance committee,” he said.

John Steenhuisen (DA) said that if the members are not getting responses within the finance committee, questions will have to be submitted directly to parliament. “We are going to get answers come hell or high water,” he added.

Finance committee chairperson Belinda Scott ended the meeting with a friendly word of advice to the secretary of the legislature, Nerusha Naidoo. She told her not to be scared to implement cost-cutting measures for catering in the legislature and for overseas trips.

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