Parliament is still a failed institution, finds OUTA report
Today OUTA releases our fourth annual report on parliamentary oversight. For the fourth year in a row, our report finds that Parliament is a failed institution.
OUTA’s comprehensive report, Kicking the can down the road: OUTA 2022 Report on Parliamentary Oversight in South Africa, was compiled by OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement Office and covers the period July 2021 to June 2022. This is the fourth report in OUTA’s annual series of reports on parliamentary oversight.
Each of our previous reports was strongly critical of the failure by Members of Parliament (MPs) to hold the Executive – the ministers in Cabinet and the President – to account. Despite government’s claimed opposition to the erosion of state institutions due to state capture, this report finds no significant improvement in accountability by Parliament.
Our report focusses on the National Assembly side of Parliament, and the portfolio committees operated by our MPs which are responsible for oversight of the Executive and government. We assessed the work of 10 of these committees. There were spots of good work but too many disappointments. We found a Parliament mired in the aftermath of state capture, unable or unwilling to hold the Executive to account, routinely approving budgets despite flagrant financial mismanagement, continuing to regard public participation as a tick-box exercise, and resisting the responsibility of implementing electoral reform to serve party interests.
We expect more of our parliamentarians, who promise in their oath of office to “obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other law of the Republic”, and whose job is set down in the Constitution as including “scrutinising and overseeing executive action”.
In 2019, our report asked why non-performing MPs continue to appear on political party lists for election.
In 2020, we noted that the current political system appears to reward unethical behaviour, with former ministers heavily implicated in state capture losing ministerial positions but being promoted by fellow MPs to powerful positions as committee chairs.
In 2021, we said it was difficult to escape the perception that Parliament has been hollowed out and filled with unethical people and, until that is addressed, we cannot expect any real accountability.
This year, we want to warn that if our democracy is to survive, we need ethical, hard-working parliamentarians, who stand up against corruption and work in the public interest. We do not have enough of them. We also encourage the public to be more active, to demand engagement with Parliament and to demand that their voices are heard. We need active citizens to defend our democracy.
Our report includes recommendations for strengthening oversight by Parliament of the Executive and government.
OUTA sees this report as part of strengthening our parliamentary democracy, to fulfil the rights enshrined in the Constitution, and we look forward to engaging further with Parliament. Parliament is a necessary cornerstone of our democracy, and it is only through constructive engagement that civil society can urge and demand accountability from our government.
A soundclip with comment by Rachel Fischer, OUTA's Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager, is here.
Kicking the can down the road: OUTA 2022 Report on Parliamentary Oversight is available here.
An overview of the report, Advocacy Brief: Parliamentary Oversight Report, is available here.
WATCH: An OUTA video, How should Parliament work? is here (5 min 56 sec).
Information on OUTA's previous parliamentary oversight reports is here.
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