In their pursuit of international best practices and insights to improve executive oversight, the South African National Assembly Rules Committee delegation engaged in a benchmarking engagement program with representatives from the UK Parliament’s oversight committees. Led by House Chairperson for Committees, Oversight, and ICT, Mr Cedric Frolick, the delegation held fruitful meetings with the heads of the Procedural Committee and the Liaison Committee during their first day in the UK Parliament.
The UK Parliament’s Procedural Committee, chaired by Ms Karen Bradley, provided a valuable opportunity for the South African delegation to delve into the operations, structure, and processes of a committee that mirrors their own Rules Committee. This exchange of experiences aimed to enhance their understanding of effective governance and procedural management within a parliamentary framework.
Subsequently, the delegation met with Sir Bernard Jenkin, Chairperson of the Liaison Committee, responsible for overseeing the actions of the UK Prime Minister. This committee’s functions, composition, and role were closely examined, offering valuable insights into strategic policy and political issues related to the head of government.
One of the key takeaways from the interactions was the focus of the Liaison Committee on delivering on commitments to the public rather than engaging in political grandstanding. Its purpose is to consider general matters relating to the work of select committees, report select committee reports to the House for debate, and hear evidence from the Prime Minister on matters of public policy. However, it is essential to note that the oversight of the Prime Minister’s budget resides with a separate select committee, ensuring financial accountability and transparency.
The South African delegation expressed their gratitude for the valuable insights gained during these sessions, which will inform their ongoing fact-finding exercise on establishing an oversight mechanism for the presidency. This mechanism was recommended by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption, and Fraud in the Public Sector, including Organs of State.
Mr Cedric Frolick, the leader of the delegation, emphasized the importance of examining and strengthening existing oversight systems, aiming for enhanced executive oversight. His sentiment was echoed by Mr Hope Papo, Parliamentary Counsellor to the Leader of Government Business, who stated that the comprehensive information gathered from the UK Parliament would be carefully analyzed to improve Parliament’s oversight mechanisms.
Dr Annelie Lotriet, Deputy Chief Whip for the Democratic Alliance, found the engagements with the Liaison Committee immensely valuable, especially in observing the constructive oversight approach prioritizing the interests of the people over political showboating. Dr Corné Mulder, Freedom Front Chief Whip, concurred, stressing the significance of putting the public’s interests ahead of political grandstanding while establishing the envisioned oversight mechanism for the presidency.
Mr Narend Singh, Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party, acknowledged the need for a committee dedicated to overseeing the presidency but emphasized the importance of developing a home-grown mechanism unique to South Africa, drawing lessons from the UK’s successful system.
The program for the South African delegation continues with scheduled discussions involving representatives from the Climate Change Commission, Institute of Government, and a meeting with Sir Malcolm Jack, former Clerk of the House of Commons.
The engagements with representatives from the UK Parliament are a crucial step for the South African National Assembly Rules Committee delegation in their quest to enhance executive oversight and establish an effective oversight mechanism for the presidency. By learning from international best practices, they aim to strengthen their parliamentary procedures and governance, ultimately ensuring accountability and transparency in the nation’s highest offices.