National Assembly approves MTBPS, Election bills

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The National Assembly on Wednesday approved several legislative matters concerning the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) and one about free and fair elections – the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.

Among the other approved bills were the proposed fiscal framework for the next three years, the Special Appropriations Bill, the Adjustments Appropriations Bill and its Votes and Schedule. 

“These instruments make it possible to adjust the existing budget, especially to mitigate changed, inauspicious, circumstances,” Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said in a statement.

The Special Appropriations Bill, he said, aims to prevent a call on the outstanding government-guaranteed debt of South African Airways (SAA).

“The Bill’s R5 billion, allocated for this purpose, provides for the Minister of Finance to determine the portions and dates of the transfer, to impose conditions SAA must meet before and after any part of the amount is transferred and to stop use of the amount until such conditions are met.

“The Bill also requires National Treasury to disclose any stoppage of an allocation to Parliament’s Select and Standing Committees on Finance,” he said.

The Standing Committees on Appropriations and on Finance, in their reports to the National Assembly, recommended the adoption of all the MTBPS adjustment budget matters without amendment. They also made recommendations about enhancing and monitoring implementation of this adjustments budget – arising from public hearings and committee deliberations.

“Parliament’s responsibility relating to the budget is an ongoing process. The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act of 2009 details how this happens. It also empowers Parliament to make amendments to the budget and adjusted budget,” said Mothapo.

Since that Act took effect, however, it has become apparent that certain technical issues need attention.

“One is the timeframes within which Parliament must consider and make decisions about budget and adjusted budget financial instruments and Money Bills.

“The tight timeframes are difficult to meet and reduce prospects of meaningful public engagement on these very important matters. This is why, in 2016, the National Assembly instructed the Standing Committee on Finance to review the 2009 Act for possible amendment,” Parliament said.

After the committee’s thorough public consultations on possible amendments, the National Assembly adopted the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Amendment Bill on 28 August 2018. The Bill was sent to the National Council of Provinces, which also passed it on 20 November at a plenary sitting, during its flagship Taking Parliament to the People oversight and public participation programme in Gauteng.

The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, also agreed to at Wednesday’s National Assembly sitting, aims to enhance the existing legislative mechanisms that ensure free and fair elections – in keeping with the Constitution. 

It seeks, through a wide range of measures, to prevent possibilities of election results and the constitution of legislative bodies being challenged in court by any party or interested person on the basis of the absence of addresses on the common voters’ roll.

“This is aimed at maintaining political stability, by protecting the legitimacy of elected legislative bodies from which national and provincial governments derive the authority to constitute themselves. The Bill aims to amend the Electoral Commission Act, the Electoral Act and the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act,” he said.

The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, the Adjustments Appropriation Bill and the Special Appropriation.

The Bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. –