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The National Council of Province (NCOP) on Thursday, 31 January, completed its two-day induction programme, which serves as a refresher course for the Members of the NCOP. The programme focussed on oversight, accountability and questions posed in the House, among other topics.

The majority of Members used the opportunity to call for the development of stringent accountability measures to hold Ministers and their government departments to account. African National Congress (ANC) Member Ms Zukiswa Ncitha said that in many instances when departments are in Parliament to present to Committees, they are sent away due to the absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Member Mr Makosini Chabangu shared these sentiments by saying that issues around accountability becomes especially difficult during oversight visits, where junior departmental officials are deputised to answer questions that should be answered by heads of departments. In many instances, these junior officials are unable to answer the questions posed by Members, rendering the oversite fruitless. 

Members also raised concerns about departments that do not submit replies to the questions they failed to answer during the oversight visits, despite undertaking to do so. EFF Member Ms Delisile Ngwenya said clear mechanisms should be put in place to ensure accountability in these instances.

Parliament staff member Ms Ressida Begg, Division Manager: Core Business Support said that commitments made by departments and the undertaking to respond to the Committees in writing could be followed up by including resolution tracking as a standard item on Committees’ agenda. Members agreed that issues of accountability must be discussed in more detail and undertook to do this during the Review Session scheduled for 6 and 7 February 2018.

Members were also concerned about Ministers and their deputies who deliberately mislead Parliament. The Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Thandi Modise, said that it is difficult for Chairpersons to hold members of the executive accountable for misleading the House without any proof. She encouraged Members to use their opportunities for questions wisely and to point out to Ministers their inconsistencies in the answering of parliamentary questions when these arise. This would establish a basis to validate the quality of the answers given by the executive authority. Members were encouraged to always put their duties to the NCOP and the people in the provinces above all else.

Felicia Lombard
1 February 2018