Parliament and the Budget
In his State of the Nation Address last Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa made an assessment of the state of the country's socio-economic situation and announced an intensive government programme to deliver services to the people of South Africa.
The Budget Speech, to be delivered by the Minister of Finance to a plenary sitting of the National Assembly, will give details of spending for specific plans.
The Minister of Finance will also table the Fiscal Framework, the Appropriation Bill and the Division of Revenue Bill tomorrow.
Our Constitution requires Parliament to engage actively with the budget process, in the interests of good governance and financial transparency. In section 77, the Constitution states: "An act of Parliament must provide for a procedure to amend money Bills before Parliament".
The national budget is a money Bill and in 2009 Parliament passed the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act. This act gives Parliament the power to make alterations to the budget as a whole and to budgets of specific national government departments and entities. Before the act Parliament could either approve or reject the budget, not make modifications to it.
The act has enhanced Parliament's examination of government spending and revenue collection and, therefore, also enhanced Parliament's constitutional duty to assess and oversee government action and policy implementation. One of the act's provisions was to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office.
This Office, established in 2013, provides independent, objective and professional research, advice and analysis on the budget and money Bills issues to Parliament's four Standing and Select Committees on Finance and on Appropriations. These committees, which deal specifically with issues related to the national budget, also came about as a result of the act.
Oversight over the budget has become a continuous exercise and public participation in the budget process has been enhanced. Ahead of the Budget Speech, the Standing and Select Committees on Finance this week published a media advert, inviting the public to make written submissions on the Fiscal Framework and revenue proposals to be tabled on 21 February.
The Fiscal Framework, among others, estimates all revenue government expects to raise during a financial year and also estimates expenditure, borrowing and debt servicing charges. Submissions received from the public will form the basis for public hearings on 26 February.
Research has shown that meaningful public participation and parliamentary oversight over budget processes increases social ownership of the budget and effective allocation of funds, while reducing waste.
The Minister of Finance presents the budget to Parliament which, through the recommendations of the Finance and Appropriations Committees of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, makes the final budget decisions.
The Constitution allows Parliament to make these decisions so that the people, through their democratically elected representatives, have a say in budget choices which have a major impact on all of society.
Parliament and the Budget In his State of the Nation Address last Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa made an assessment of the state of the country's socio-economic situation and announced an intensive government programme to deliver services to the people of South Africa.