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A two-day induction workshop of the Standing Committee on Finance with entities of the National Treasury which aimed at giving Members of the sixth Parliament a hold on their roles, mandates and strategic objectives, started yesterday (20 Tuesday 2019) in Cape Town.

Opening the workshop, the Chairperson of the committee, Mr Joe Maswanganyi, stated that the intent of the workshop was to capacitate the new Members of the sixth Parliament about the mandate of these entities, to ensure that the committee is informed in carrying out its law-making mandate in the sixth parliamentary term.

He said: “As Members of Parliament we have to familiarise ourselves with the roles and responsibilities of the entities of the National Treasury because the Constitution provides us with mechanisms for oversight on all executive organs that are accountable to it.”  

According to Maswanganyi, the workshop would enable Members of Parliament to align the entities with their constitutional obligations.  He said that the committee expects that at the end of the workshop its capacity to conduct oversight over these entities would be enhanced. He said: “We hope that after two days, our capacity to conduct oversight over these entities and our knowledge about them would have improved.” 

The Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr David Masondo who attended the workshop outlined the current economic context of South Africa’s economic outlook. He stressed unequivocally that the workshop took place at a time when the economy was not doing well. “This is indicated by the macro-economic indicators which show that there’s slow economic growth, and that the business is not investing enough. This has implication for the generation of revenue and in turn, hampers government’s ability to create jobs”, said Dr Masondo. 

Dr Masondo also pointed out that there are expenditure challenges, mostly emanating from the huge wage bill, high debt servicing cost and the continued recapitalisation of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). As a result of the latter, he said “there is now debate whether government should continue with the recapitalisation of SOEs at the expense of service delivery mandate such as education and health”.

He told the committee that Eskom continues to be a big liability to the fiscus. “Eskom’s liabilities are higher than equities. And there’s no balance between expenditure and cash flow ratio. Dr Masondo urged the committee to exercise its wisdom in helping the treasury to stabilise the current dire financial status of the state. He said: “We will rely on your guidance on how we should deal with the challenges we are currently faced with.”  

Dr Masondo also stated the fact that one of the critical entities in the treasury’s portfolio, the South African Revenue Services (SARS), is slowly emerging from an institutional instability and is now “better positioned to do its work better”.

But SARS, he said, will in due course “explain to the committee how it intends to turn its fortunes around”.  

Dr Masondo could not over emphasise the significance of the committee in turning the country’s economic situation around. He said: “The committee has a critical role to play in supporting the work we are doing, and we are looking forward to working with you to grow the economy together.”

The Director General of National Treasury, Mr Dondo Mogajane, gave a broad overview on the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Finance. He said, the National Treasury is charged with the task of coordination of intergovernmental financial and fiscal relations, and to enforce transparency and effective management in respect of revenue and expenditure, assets and liabilities.

He said, the other critical responsibility of the National Treasury is to ensure that there is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective procurement of government services.

As part of the department’s oversight mechanism, Mr Mogajane said, the National Treasury may investigate any system of financial management and internal control in any department, public entity. Sanctions for any wrong doing, he said, could lead to the withholding of funds as a means to address the material breach of any effective financial management.

By Abel Mputing