Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Modise warns on Parliament's committee chairs on oversight work

By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA Time of article published May 7, 2020

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Cape Town - National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has warned portfolio committee chairpersons against agreeing to documents presented by departments at the same meetings and hoping for quality interaction.

"It does not matter whether we have virtual meetings or not. Proper preparation of meetings is important to enable members to be on par and represent their parties and constituencies," Modise said.

She said it did not help to be in a virtual meeting when it was not known what was to be presented. 

"We must in our haste make sure we prepare thoroughly so that we can then ask (the executive)," Modise said at the programme committee on Thursday.

During the meeting, MPs raised concerns with the virtual meetings of portfolio committees.

This happened a day after the portfolio committee on public enterprise became chaotic on Wednesday night.

There have been complaints about the two-hour long meetings and questions directed to ministers being unanswered. 

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said the chairing of meetings has not been great.

Mazzone noted that there was aversion of accountability because the platforms did not allow for questions to the executive to be answered and provided necessary interaction. 

IFP MP Narend Singh said they were not doing justice to hold the executive to account.

He also said members were given up to 10 minutes each to ask questions instead of being limited to two or three.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi raised concern with presentations no longer sent MPs 24 hours before the meeting, a move prompting officials doing detailed presentations page by page.

Modise said it was the quality of interaction between the committee and the executive that should happen. 

"Unless we ask pointed questions and ask deliberately thought-through questions, we can sit for six hours."

She insisted that the oversight function should not be haphazard but should get to the nub of things.

Modise said the national legislature was supposed to be more worried about ICT than preparation of meetings. 

"We apologise for shoddy work because that is not what is supposed to be done," she said.

EFF MP Ntombovuyo Mente said there should be an IT working with each portfolio committee and support staff aligned accordingly.

Chair of chairs Cedric Frolick said he expected chief whips of parties to notify his office than raise matters at the programme committee meeting. 

"We will reinforce support given when virtual meetings take place," Frolick said.

Political Bureau

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