Time for Parliament to crack the whip

OUTA urges Parliamentarians to improve oversight of government spending and performance.

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13/05/2020 13:49:43

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Time for Parliament to crack the whip

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Members of Parliament (MPs) must live up to their oath of office and defend the public by ensuring effective oversight of government.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA has produced a publication titled “Combating Corruption and Maladministration in the South African Public Sector: Tips for Members of Parliament”, which encourages MPs to provide ethical leadership and use their positions in Parliament to combat corruption and ensure good governance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “The South African public sector stands at a crossroads and the right choice is no longer a matter of opinion. Good governance and efficient spending in the public interest must be enforced by the institution that is elected by and for the people: Parliament,” says OUTA’s guide. “This is ultimately where the buck stops when high-ranking political figures are involved in maladministration, corruption, incompetence and gross negligence of duty.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Matt Johnston, OUTA Parliamentary Engagement Officer, says South Africa's economy is being crushed by sovereign credit downgrades and Covid-19. "South Africa found itself vulnerable to the impacts of this pandemic because taxpayers’ money has been wasted and abused for many years. Underperformance must be met with fierce, impartial consequences,” says Johnston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA established its Parliamentary Engagement office in Cape Town in 2017 on behalf of its supporters and civil society at large to work towards a Parliament that is effective, transparent and inclusive. OUTA's experience of the Legislature's inner workings is not encouraging and we need to see big changes immediately.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “We have learned valuable lessons and insights by observing deliberations and behind-the-scenes decision making in Parliament’s meeting chambers and corridors. It became clear that Parliament does not adequately serve the people for several reasons,” says Johnston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “There are many indicators of serious shortcomings in Parliament’s performance, not least its own strategic planning sessions and internal performance evaluations. For example, in a parliamentary report that flowed from such a session in September 2019, reference was made to organisations like OUTA that may effectively replace the democratic institution of Parliament by better representing the interests of ordinary citizens.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Johnston says that MPs have a crucial task in ensuring oversight of government departments and state-owned entities. The time for Parliamentarians to stand up and do their jobs is now. Civil society, academic and commercial sectors are willing and able to collaborate with lawmakers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “While OUTA recognises that systemic problems undermine the independence and capacity of Parliamentarians to do their work as best they can, there are no excuses for MPs who wilfully neglect their duty to hold the Executive to account.  Such delinquent MPs must and will be held accountable by civil society if their political parties refuse to do so,” says Johnston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA’s “Tips for MPs” booklet raises the problems of underqualified public officials, corrupt leadership and the need for consequence management. It encourages deeper public involvement and influence in processes such as passing the national Budget, and offers suggestions on how MPs may improve their oversight roles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Download a copy of the Tips for MPs here

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: OUTA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.