Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected to represent the people. Part of their work as public representatives is done inside Parliament and part of it is done directly with citizens during constituency periods.
The programme of Parliament has two main components - parliamentary sessions (when work is done in plenary groups and committees and constituency periods.
During constituency periods MPs have a duty to:
- Be available to the public
- Help solve problems and
- Report back to their constituents on what is happening in Parliament
The purpose of these periods is to encourage MPs to remain in contact with the people they represent.
Parties are entitled to a monthly allowance for each MP to run a constituency office, and each political party makes its own constituency arrangements.
Most constituency offices employ an administrator to be available to the public even when Parliament is in session. Contact the political party you support to find out about constituency offices in your area.
Because MPs are elected representatives, they must be accountable to the people of South Africa and they must act in the public interest.
Parties are elected on the strength of what they stand for, and party MPs should be able to explain what they have been doing to carry out their duties.
Because party mandates are temporary (elections are held every five years), MPs are accountable in the sense that they may not be re-elected if they are not good public representatives or if they do not deliver on party promises. MPs are also accountable to their own parties - the whips of the various political parties maintain internal party discipline in Parliament.
ETHICS AND MEMBER'S INTERESTS
MPs are in a powerful position to influence high-level decision-making. There may be times when their personal or business interests conflict with their role as elected officials representing the public interest.
A committee of both Houses of Parliament develops standards of ethical behaviour for MPs and administers a code of conduct.
MPs are expected to register in Parliament their financial interests and those of their spouses, dependants and permanent companions every year. Most of this information is open to the public. The confidential part of the register includes details about the monetary value of MPs' interests and all details about spouses, dependent children and permanent companions of MPs.