Unit for Chapter 9 bodies to be operational in April

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Johannesburg - The establishment of a Unit on Chapter 9 institutions and bodies, which will ensure more interaction between the various institutions and Parliament, is expected to be operational from April, according to the Minister of Provincial and Local Government, Sicelo Shiceka.

Chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Auditor-General, the Electoral Commission and Public Service Commission are accountable to the National Assembly and are required to report on their activities and the performance of their functions at least once a year.

However, in 2006 an ad hoc committee was set up to review the Chapter 9 institutions and the Public Service Commission. It found that most institutions had been dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities for interaction with Parliament.

The committee expressed concern that the current oversight regime was inadequate. It was of the view that Parliament was not making full use of the institutions to complement its oversight of the executive and to brief members of Parliament on various matters of public interest on which the institutions may have reported.

The committee recommended that a Unit on Chapter 9 institutions and other statutory bodies be established to develop further measures to enhance meaningful engagement and communication in addition to the annual short visits to Parliament by the institutions.

Speaking at the launch of the Commissioners of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic in Johannesburg on Monday, Minister Shiceka said the establishment of the unit was at an advanced stage and would be operational from April.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, had already started writing to the chairpersons of the institutions briefing them about the unit which is located in the Office of the Speaker, he said.

The speaker has delegated the National Assembly's constitutional obligation with regard to the institutions to the Deputy Speaker. As a result, the Deputy Speaker is driving the process.

He added, however, that the executive authority over the affairs of the institutions rests with his department.

Other Chapter 9 institutions include the Pan South African Language Board, the Financial and Fiscal Commission, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and the National Youth Commission.