Family photo of Members of Parliament outside the National Assembly, Cape Town. 21/05/2014, Elmond jiyane. GCIS

Cape Town - The ANC in Parliament is set to announce its list of committee chairpersons as early as Thursday, as the national legislature finalises its decision on how to restructure its committees now that the cabinet has been expanded to 35 ministries.

On the committee front, it is understood the ANC and DA found common ground in discussions in the parliamentary rules committee over the past week: both the majority and largest opposition party favoured adopting a committee system to mirror ministerial portfolios.

This would see the National Assembly have 40 committees - one for each ministry, plus others, such as the standing committees on finance and appropriations, and public spending watchdog Scopa.

This is expected to be adopted on Thursday morning when the rules committee again meets, ahead of the party political caucuses.

This means a proposed downsizing of committees, as mooted in a discussion document by parliamentary officials, is off the table. The proposals varied from having seven committees to reflect ministerial clusters like security, economy, social protection and governance, to reflecting the combination of portfolios, as is tradition in the National Council of Provinces, which has 11 committees.

Another proposal was rationalising about 30 existing committees to 22 by combining portfolios like energy and mineral resources, and human settlements with water and sanitation.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the party believed a committee system mirroring that of ministerial portfolios was “the best model for… holding the executive accountable”.

And he said the DA had revived the debate on Parliament’s establishing an oversight committee on the Presidency, of which there was none.

ANC parliamentary caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo on Tuesday said that in finding ways to enhance oversight, the present system of mirroring ministries was “the best”.

However, expanding the number of National Assembly committees comes at a price: the number of MPs serving on these committees is reduced to 11, from 13, increasing the workload.

The breakdown per committee would be six ANC MPs, two DA MPs, one each from the Economic Freedom Fighters and the IFP, and one MP representing the other nine smaller opposition parties.

The ANC still has a majority, albeit reduced, of 249 out of the 400 National Assembly MPs, so it is set to hold all committee chairpersons’ positions except for Scopa, which traditionally goes to an opposition party.

Cape Argus