On Friday, 05 June, Parliament’s Standing Committee will hold public hearings on the 2020 Appropriations Bill. The Budget Justice Coalition (BJC) will make an oral submission reiterating its calls for all Parliamentary Committees to consider the inputs made by civil society in the past two months on a range of fiscal governance and human rights concerns.
In its written submission tabled in May 2020, the BJC appealed to Parliament to, among other things, exercise increased oversight of emergency procurement. The BJC also called for Parliament to institute reforms to the national procurement system that entrench transparency, citizen participation and monitoring throughout the contracting cycle.
Public resource management decisions to accommodate the costs of relevant disaster responses need to be made quickly. This challenges the principles and constitutional requirements for public engagement on issues of public finances, as short timeframes limit the scope for such engagement on these far-reaching decisions. Clear monitoring and reporting mechanisms must therefore be established to ensure that budget and planning decisions taken to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 are not only effective but time-bound.
The BJC proposes that, in the interests of transparency and accountability in public spending, the Finance Ministry and National Treasury must take urgent steps to make procurement and contracting data publicly available. During this global health pandemic where resources are scarce, the need for transparency is even more critical. Emergency procurement must be monitored rigorously, and transparent processes will enable more effective monitoring.
The Auditor-General has offered to send a team of experts to support government departments and municipalities in safeguarding the fiscal response budget from theft. The BJC welcomes this and urges Parliament to empower and mandate the Auditor General’s office to audit all funds provided in emergency situations, including funds being spent through the Solidarity Fund.
Municipal oversight in general requires significant bolstering. The BJC urges the Committees on Appropriations, Finance and Cooperative Governance to consider recommendations that would create long-term systemic strengthening of municipal financial management systems.
The BJC continues to call for more stringent measures that curb the misuse of public funds across the board. For too long, a range of institutions with oversight roles have allowed state capture and corruption to go largely unchecked. South Africans have been repeatedly disappointed by accounts of corruption where money has been diverted from service delivery needs and human rights are eroded. Oversight institutions including Parliament and National Treasury must take a more decisive stand against those who continuously squander tax payer money. A culture of sound financial management must be instituted across all departments and entities, and efforts made to adhere to best practices in the stewardship and administration of public funds.
For media queries, contact Phemelo Khaas Phemelok@corruptionwatch.org.za 0837633472 Julia Chaskalson Chaskalson@section27.org.za 0834402674
ABOUT THE BUDGET JUSTICE COALITION: Civil society organisations who are part of the Budget Justice Coalition include: the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), the Children’s Institute at UCT (CI), Corruption Watch (CW), the Dullah Omar Institute at UWC (DOI), Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), OxfamSA, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMEJD), the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), SECTION27, and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
The purpose of the Budget Justice Coalition is to collaboratively build people’s understanding of and participation in South Africa’s planning and budgeting processes – placing power in the hands of the people to ensure that the state advances social, economic and environmental justice, to meet people’s needs and wellbeing in a developmental, equitable and redistributive way in accordance with the Constitution, including the obligations of the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights contained in the South African Constitution.