Stakeholders collaborate to strengthen parliamentary oversight and accountability

OUTA-PMG-OpenUp parliamentary event

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20/03/2024 11:18:38

Image: OUTA's Dr Rachel Fischer at the parliamentary event. Picture: OUTAl

Stakeholders collaborate to strengthen parliamentary oversight and accountability

On 19 March 2024, a diverse assembly of stakeholders convened in Cape Town around the theme “Setting the Scene: Stakeholders Convene on Parliamentary Matters”, including members of civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, current and potential future Members of Parliament, and other parliamentary officials. This one-day event, hosted by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), in collaboration with partners such as Bridges, Green Connection, the Africa Centre, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) and OpenUp, served as a platform for comprehensive discussions aimed at enhancing parliamentary oversight and accountability.

The gathering, scheduled after the annual Budget on 22 February 2024 and before the 2024 national and provincial elections on 29 May 2024, facilitated insightful conversations regarding the pivotal role of parliament in effective governance. More than 40 individuals attended the event. They represented various entities including My Vote Counts, the Council for the Advancement of South Africa’s Constitution (CASAC), the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), Rise Mzansi, the Democratic Alliance, Equal Education, and the Parliamentary Budget Office. The participants engaged in robust dialogues aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of parliamentary processes and mechanisms.

At the event, Rachel Fischer, representing OUTA, introduced a significant initiative – the European Union co-funded Parliamentary Oversight Dashboard: Improving Transparency and Accountability in Parliament project – of which OUTA, PMG and OpenUp are beneficiaries. “This collaborative effort, undertaken in partnership with PMG and OpenUp, aims to establish an online dashboard for parliamentary oversight,” Fischer explained. The dashboard seeks to provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of parliamentary proceedings and accountability measures, facilitating greater transparency and engagement in the governance process. “Together with developing the dashboard, we will also be hosting several gatherings over the next two years,” Fischer said.

Following Fischer's introduction, Liz McDaid from Green Connection delved into insights regarding the budget cycle. Emphasising the critical importance of transparency and accountability in fiscal matters, McDaid shed light on the intricacies of budget formulation, allocation, and oversight. “Citizens must know that before the Budget Review and Recommendation Reports (BRRRs), civil societies and the public can – and should – scrutinise the budget and make input,” she explained.

Dr Dumisani Jantjies, director of the Parliamentary Budget Office, noted that the departmental annual reports and allocations for the year inform the BRRRs. He said there is a window of opportunity when the public does get to have a say. “This has to be done quickly as there is not a lot of time for each report to be finalised, but we have the right to submit any issue that may occur from a committee – the law allows it,” Jantjies said.

Participants were briefed on the necessity of ensuring public engagement and scrutiny throughout the budgetary process, highlighting the role of informed stakeholders in fostering accountability.

Discussions during the event underscored the pressing need for collaboration between Parliament and civil society organisations to enhance accountability and transparency, especially when it comes to scrutinising the budget. Traverse Anatole Le Goff (MP, DA) remarked that scrutinising the budget “is an immense task as we don’t get much assistance.” He underlined the importance of civil society’s work. “Certain people are able to look at specific budget items in isolation and with focus, which can help MPs.”

Participants underscored the vital role of informed stakeholder engagement and active public participation in parliamentary affairs. Recognising the complexity of budgetary and parliamentary processes, attendees committed to working collaboratively towards addressing challenges and bridging gaps in oversight mechanisms.

The event resulted in a unanimous call for actionable recommendations to improve parliamentary oversight and accountability. “Going forward, it is important to work with civil society organisations so we can work together for the next budget,” said McDaid. Acknowledging the multifaceted nature of budgetary and parliamentary processes, participants pledged to continue working together to drive positive change and ensure effective governance for the benefit of all stakeholders.

In closing, the gathering reaffirmed the commitment of stakeholders to strengthening parliamentary oversight and accountability for the benefit of all South Africans. Moving forward, continued collaboration and dialogue will be essential in driving positive change and ensuring effective governance.

More information

A soundclip with comment by OUTA's Rachel Fischer is here.

More on OUTA's work on parliament is here and the Parliamentary Oversight Dashboard is here.

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