Cape Town – National Assembly opposition chief whip John Steenhuisen took on African National Congress Members of Parliament on Thursday, chiding them for dereliction of duty regarding the budget oversight process.
Addressing Parliament during a plenary session on Thursday, Democratic Alliance chief whip Steenhuisen was criticising the ANC for shortening the time for scrutinising the budget so they could begin campaigning for their leadership conference in December.
He said that a high level parliamentary panel had called for Parliament to be more activist in its approach because currently it is subservient to the executive.
Amid his speech, a Parliamentarian was heard jeering, “So what?”
Steenhuisen heard this and stopped reading from his speech.
“So what?” he retorted. “Well, I will tell you so what.
“In good conscience, go back to your communities and tell them that you’ve done good by them, that you’ve examined this budget, that you’ve really stood up for the people that sent you here.
“You are not doing that.
“You are simply rolling over on to your back and letting the executives scratch your tummy and acquiescing to their every command.
“That is an abrogation of your duty. It is a failure and dereliction of Members of Parliament to do the job they were sent to the House to do.
“That’s why it’s ‘so what’.
“And if you don’t take your job seriously, please don’t stand in the way of Members of Parliament who do take their job and responsibility seriously.
“That is so what.”
WATCH LIVE: Steenhuisen chides MPs (Go to about seven minutes after the start to hear his 'so what' response.)
Parliament is allowing government to smash economy on the rocks - Steenhuisen
Steenhuisen said this year’s budget should have been subjected to far more scrutiny.
“It is probably the most important budgeting process that we’ve had since 1994,” he said. “This country is in tremendous trouble.
“This government has steered our economy on to the rocks. It should be this Parliament’s responsibility to fix the sails, change the direction and start steering us away from the rocks.
“Instead, what the ANC wants to do is say to the executive, ‘well, you have smashed the ship onto the rocks, we will just reverse a little bit and let you smash it onto the rocks again'. That is a failure of our responsibilities.”
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh agreed that the timeframes had been too short. “The timeframes have not been adequately addressed. We need to relook at the timeframes, so that we can influence the budget that is presented to us.”
The plenary focuses on Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s mini budget that was presented in Parliament in October.
He revealed that the projected revenue shortfall was higher than expected at R50.8bn (for the 2017/18 budget), resulting in an increasing budget deficit and a substantial debt risk hike.
Gigaba also revealed that the recapitalisation of South African Airways (total of R10bn) and the South African Post Office would breach the expenditure ceiling by R3.9bn.
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