Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement on 2016 Parliamentary overview

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has today, Tuesday, 13 December 2016 in his 2016 Parliamentary overview hailed 2016 as a year of successful engagement between the Executive and the Legislature which underscores the growing strength and integrity of South Africa's system of democratic governance.

Deputy President Ramaphosa cites constructive exchanges between the Executive and the Legislature, the sharp growth in Parliamentary Questions directed at members of the Executive and Parliament's selection of a new Public Protector as evidence of the transparency and accountability which government responds to the hopes and aspirations of the electorate.

Reflecting on the year, Deputy President Ramaphosa said it was through Parliament that members of the Executive accounted individually and collectively to the people of South Africa on the pace of transformation to ensure a better quality of life for all.

Good relations between the Executive and Parliament were key to protecting South Africa's democratic system while sound intergovernmental relations substantially enhanced responsiveness by the state to the needs of citizens.

Deputy President Ramaphosa noted a significant improvement in responses by members of the Executive to both oral and written questions as part of Cabinet's collective commitment to ensure that members of the executive fulfil their responsibility to account to Parliament.

Members of the Executive are acutely aware of the importance of Parliament's oversight of the exercise of national executive authority and of any organ of State, and the role that tools such as Parliamentary Questions play in such oversight. This is a matter that is consistently raised and discussed in Cabinet meetings, said Deputy President Ramaphosa.

He added Ministers were encouraged to ensure that efficient systems and processes existed within their Departments to respond timeously and fully to matters raised in Parliament.

Parliamentary records show that in oral question sessions in 2016, for example, in 77% of cases the Minister was present to answer questions, in 22% of cases either the Deputy Minister or Acting Minister was present.

While the number of questions put to Ministers has increased significantly, the overall rate of reply has remained high. In 2009, over 2,000 written questions were put to Ministers, while by the end of 2015, the total number exceeded 4,000.

The proportion of written questions answered each year has exceeded 95%.

Responses to Parliamentary questions have gone beyond being an accountability mechanism and are increasingly used by the Executive to communicate government programmes to the people. Members of the Executive, including the President and the Deputy President avail themselves routinely to answer oral Questions in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said Government welcomed provisions in the new rules of the National Assembly to monitor replies to questions and take steps to attend to problems.

Should Parliament determine that Members of the Executive are not responding sufficiently promptly to matters raised in Parliament, Parliament may wish to consider taking appropriate action against Ministers.

Deputy President Ramaphosa expressed his appreciation to Members of the Executive who participated in the debate on National Women's Day: Women united in moving South Africa forward, and in plenary, debating urgent matters of national public importance, such as on the local government elections of August 2016 and the student fees crisis.

Deputy President Ramaphosa also welcomed the new development in the National Assembly of mini-plenaries, which are essentially debating forums and platforms for dialogue and collaboration in keeping with our democratic traditions.

The period under review saw the implementation of the new Rules of the National Assembly. In this regard, officials and members of the Executive received training on the way in which the new Rules impact on the work of the Executive.

In 2016, the Executive introduced a number of Bills to Parliament dealing with matters such as indigenous knowledge systems, border management, immigration, refugees, national forests, national land transport and courts of law.

There are currently a total of 20 Executive Bills before Portfolio Committees in the National Assembly, including among others, the Liquor Products Amendment Bill, the Foreign Service Bill, the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, the Financial Sector Regulation Bill and the Border Management Authority Bill.

These Bills are in various stages of the legislative process and it is anticipated that a number of these Bills will be finalised in the first term of 2017. Ministers and officials regularly interact with Committees as they seek to advance not only the processing of legislation, but also scrutinising Executive actions.

Deputy President Ramaphosa commended Parliament on the innovative and transparent manner in which it nominated the new Public Protector, Ms Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Deputy President Ramaphosa wished Ms Mkhwebane well in her new role. He also assured the Public Protector of the Executive's support in her work.

Deputy President Ramaphosa thanked all political parties for contributing to the constructive interaction between the Executive and Parliament.

He added that while robust engagement was welcome, parties and Members of Parliament had to remain mindful of their collective responsibility to serve the millions of South Africans who see Parliament as a vehicle for moving South Africa forward.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa.