Since 2012, OUTA was set up as a Non-Profit Organisation to tackle irrational and ineffective tax policy making and by 2016, had expanded its mandate to become an effective civil invention organisation in identifying and addressing corruption and maladministration within State structures and State Owned Entities (SOEs). In the process of fighting state corruption, maladministration and irrational policy making, OUTA’s leadership acknowledged that its strategy should not only be focussed on addressing the problem at the tail end (once the transgressions and wasteful expenditure of tax-payers money had already happened), but that intervention and engagement was also necessary at law-making and oversight level, a responsibility that lies with Parliament.
OUTA’s research and assessment of the mechanisms, workings and structures of Parliament, enabled a realisation that a remote interface is not practical, as the Members of Parliament (MPs) use fluid and informal structures outside the formal system to discuss, negotiate and formulate positions and opinions on Government. The MP’s make extensive use of researchers, specialist and NGO’s to assist and guide them in their thinking. It is also very common that the same MP is required to represent his/her party on multiple committees. This puts immense strain on individuals as there is very little time to receive, study and formulate a position on a specific topic. These MP’s therefore rely on external specialists and credible NGO’s to brief them on a myriad of issues being addressed in various committee meetings.
Since the inception of OUTA’s decision to establish a presence in Parliament in mid 2017, OUTA has streamlined the function of this office for both external and internal reasons, along the following focus areas and guidelines:
- Study the Parliamentary program and identify the areas (Transport, Energy, Social, Water and Education etc) that align with OUTR work and strategic intent.
- Decide on the Parliamentary sessions to attend and provide pertinent feedback from these meetings to OUTA’s respective portfolio managers and senior management.
- To engage with other committees and NGO’s for feedback and information sharing on related or other pertinent matters.
- To provide insights of concern and interest to respective MP’s.
- To respond to MP’s and Parliamentary Committee requests for input and presentations on matters of interest to Parliament.
- To request our need to present on matters of public interest to Parliament.
Since the opening of OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement Office in Cape Town in Mid-2017, we have found both the need and ability to represent civil society’s position on pertinent matters in Parliament has assisted the development of meaningful relationships with decision makers and opinion shapers. This has been achieved by meeting and communicating with MPs, both formally and informally, to share OUTA’s principles, values, strategy and position on various issues. This has proven useful in establishing ourselves as credible, resourceful, trustworthy and effective, in that the information we provide helps the MP’s to make intelligent and calculated decisions that will benefit society.
COLLABORATION AND RESOURCE SHARING
Within the first six months, OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement Office has already borne fruit to not only with its internal structures, but also that of other civil action organisations who have started recognising the value of this office and have suggested a desire for cooperation and support.
OUTA believes this office will grow in stature and its interface with Government and in so doing, should play a meaningful role in shaping the future of South Africa, not only in the fight against corruption and maladministration but also in guiding stakeholders in making critical decisions impacting on ordinary citizens.
OUTA furthermore believes this Cape Town based office, should expand its mandate to not only entertain collaborative efforts with other NGO’s, but that it should also introduce more formal arrangements of cooperation and working structures – including sharing of resources, office space and facilities – with like-minded civil action organisations.