Parly Committees’ performance on SASSA and SABC marginally improved, but still weak

Parliament Watch, today released a Scorecard reflecting selected portfolio committees in the National Assembly’s poor to average performance. The Scorecard based on committee performance in 2018 also includes selected committees in the Eastern Cape Legislature. It focused on the Portfolio Committees on Social Development, Communications, and Police and how they handled three politically hot issues. These were the social grants crisis in the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), the SABC-crisis and the issues discriminatory police resource allocation.

Committee scores ‘poor to fair’ on handling of SASSA-crisis

The Scorecard reflects some worrying signs. It shows Parliamentary committees only marginally improved in exercising their accountability mandate in 2018 compared to the dismal performance of those same committees during the previous two years of monitoring. It also shows more regression on public access to committee meetings. 

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development scored an average of 2,4 out of 5 hovering between a poor to fair rating. It did at times demonstrate the capacity to function better and were at least discussing more relevant issues. However the committee lacked the necessary urgency, and deliberations didn’t prevent more problems with grant payouts.

Similarly, the Portfolio Committee on Communications scored a relatively high 3,5 but the lack of independence of the majority ANC MPs was flagged as a concern in its handling of the SABC-crisis, with the stronger score being influenced by the active opposition parties in that committee that forced greater transparency.

The Portfolio Committee on Police scored 2,75 out of 5. The committee did well to invite stakeholders to make presentations, but failed to meet its accountability mandate as the discussions didn’t deal meaningfully with the historical structural discrimination leftunaddressed by SAPS since 1994.

The Scorecard also shows that the committees monitored in the Eastern Cape Legislature have shown some improvements in their performance since 2016 and 2017.

Parliament Watch based its monitoring on four thematic areas based on the legislatures’ constitutional mandate:

  • was the committee open and accessible to the public;
  • did the committee and its members act independently from the executive and did they perform oversight and hold the executive accountable;
  • did the committee respond to issues that are of public interest or that were raised through submissions and
  • was the committee effective and professional in conducting its business?

Worrying signs

In terms of openness and access, transparency is particularly concerning. At times on important issues, decision-making was shifted away from the public eye outside of formal committee meeting spaces.

As one Parliament Watch monitor Nomacebo Mbayo, observed: “[It is a] sneaky closure of meetings that carries on during lunch time. In one meeting [the chair said] the meeting is now closed but committee members will have a working lunch. What took place in those meetings?” In addition Parliament Watch observed an increase in the number of meetings that were officially closed or partially closed in 2018. According to project coordinator affiliated to the Women and Democracy Initiative, Vivienne Mentor-Lalu it raises concern. “It is a worrying sign because it suggests that committee meetings are mere showcases for deliberation and the public’s ability to observe and influence decision-making is undermined. Closing meetings without justification, is arguably unconstitutional.”

Mentor-Lalu said based on the Scorecard the 6th Parliament has its work cut out to ensure that committees truly fulfill its constitutional mandate by drastically improving accountability and oversight. 

Read more on our findings here:

2018 Scorecard

For the full comprehensive overview of monitoring committees from 2016 -2018

To arrange interviews contact:

Alicestine October - 083 665 4345

Issued by Parliament Watch as endorsed by:

Equal Education Law Centre

Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)

Right2Know Campaign

Social Change Assistance Trust

Social Justice Coalition

Witzenberg Rural Development Centre

Women and Democracy Initiative: Dullah Omar Institute

Women on Farms Project