South African Government

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Chairperson Amos Masondo: Launch of South African Parliamentary Institute

9 Dec 2021

Welcome address by the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Honourable N. A. Masondo, on the occasion of the launch of the South African Parliamentary Institute: a structure of the Legislative Sector

Greetings and good evening!
Programme Director, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly;
Honourable Co-Chairperson and all the Members of the Speakers’ Forum of South Africa;
Her Excellency the Ambassador of the European Union to South Africa;
Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and other Panellists;
Honourable Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen

Programme Director, it is an honour to welcome all the participants in this evening’s occasion for the launch of the South African Parliamentary Institute. This is the realisation of an idea for the building of capacity within the legislative sector that has taken a number of years.

The process started during the Fourth Parliament when the South African Legislative Sector identified the need for a sector parliamentary institute. The need was identified as one of the recommendations for the development of a sector common oversight framework known as the Sector Oversight Model.

The observation was that the legislative sector lacked a dedicated institute to identify needs, design and deliver programmes, conduct research and provide access to relevant information. Subsequently, in the Fifth Parliament, the Speaker’s Forum of South Africa approved the establishment of the institute. The establishment process was approved in the Sixth Parliament.

The roles and functions of the institute are:

  1. To design, develop and implement Capacity Building Programmes for Staff and Members;
  2. To conduct quality research and provide up-to-date information to Members of Legislatures, and their Committees;
  3. To provide advice and technical assistance to Committees and office bearers in legislative and policy related matters;
  4. To establish and host an Alumni Association of the Legislative Sector (that is former MPs, MPLs and officials).

This is the first institute of its kind for our Legislative Sector. It is an important intervention given that it seeks to enhance the functioning of our legislatures in carrying out their mandate of representing the interests of the people through, among other things, passing legislation and conducting oversight over the Executive.

Programme Director, holding the government to account is one of the key responsibilities of parliaments globally. In their 2017 Global Parliamentary Report, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United States Development Programme, state that oversight is a key marker of parliament’s relevance in the 21st century. They point out that parliamentary oversight helps to deliver many outcomes that are valued highly by citizens. These include:

  • Probity in public life,
  • The fair distribution of national resources,
  • Value for money in public spending,
  • Gender equality, and
  • Equitable opportunities for human development.

By holding government to account, identifying problems and seeking corrective measures in legislation, budget allocations, policy and administration, parliament provides a vital service to society.

However, to do all this, the report correctly states that parliaments need funding. They also need the support of a professional, impartial and capable secretariat, as well as unfettered and timely access to quality information and analysis.

Notably, the report also states that nearly all the parliaments that have exercised oversight more assertively in recent times have done so primarily by developing greater capacities for oversight rather than increasing their formal powers.

Programme Director, we need to look at the critical role of our parliaments in society against the context of the groundbreaking technological changes that are changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.

In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, makes some important observations about our current context. He asserts that major technonogical innovations are on the brink of fueling momentous change throughout the world. And that the fourth industrial revolution will generate great benefits and big challenges in equal measure, with exacerbated inequality being an issue of particular concern.

He cites as an example that over the past few years, an overwhelming majority of the most developed countries and also some fast-growing economies such as China have experienced a decline in the share of labour as a percentage of GDP. Half of this drop is due to the fall in the relative price of investment goods, which is driven by the progress of innovation (which compels companies to substitute labour for capital).

The effect of this, according to Schwab, is the rising gap in wealth between those who depend on their labour and those who own capital. He contends that this also accounts for the disillusionment among so many workers, who are convinced that their real income may not increase over their lifetime and that their children may not have a better life than theirs.

Programme Director, this graphically illustrates the need for parliaments to increase their capacity to analyse local and global developments and the impact that these have on the people they represent. We also note that moving into the future disruptions will continue to form part of our lives.

Interestingly, last year we witnessed our legislatures responding innovatively when we were forced to transition to a virtual paradigm in response to the national lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. I am sure you will agree with me that the institute should serve as a lever to build our capacity to demonstrate similar agility in responding to the day-to-day needs of the people.

With these few remarks, I would like to welcome all the participants to the launch of the South African Parliamentary Institute.

I thank you!