No more 'business as usual' for MPs and the state
The controversial practice of powerful politicians and their families doing business with the state is soon to come to an end.
Parliament is scheduled to adopt a code of ethical conduct on Tuesday afternoon that will prohibit public representatives, including President Jacob Zuma, from doing business with the state.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani told journalists on Monday that once the National Assembly had adopted the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Financial Interest for Assembly and Permanent Council Members and decided on the date of its implementation, every public representative would be barred from doing business with the state. “Once the code has been adopted, all of us are forbidden from doing business with the state, including the president. All of us,” said Sizani.
The code was revised and adopted by the National Council of Provinces on March 17 this year; the National Assembly couldn’t adopt it in the last parliamentary term due to the tight parliamentary schedule before the May 7 general elections.
While Sizani didn’t mention the prohibition on family members of public representatives by the code, the Mail & Guardian has a copy of the revised code and it not only bars politicians, but also their immediate family, from getting business from the state.
The code reads:
- A Member [MP] may not receive any benefit including but not limited to a tender, or a contract with an organ of state;
- a Member’s immediate family may not receive any benefit including but not limited to a tender, or a contract with an organ of state arising out of the relationship with the member or any influence arising out of that relationship;
- a Member’s business partner may not receive any benefit including but not limited to a tender or any contract with an organ of state arising out of the association with the member or any influence arising from that relationship.
Sizani said the ANC caucus discussed the matter at its annual lekgotla, which was held in Parliament over the weekend. He said the lekgotla deliberated on the code and supported its objectives of promoting ethical conduct amongst public representatives, thereby ensuring public confidence in Parliament. “As the majority party in this institution, the ANC has a responsibility to protect the integrity of this important democratic institution and to ensure its MPs lead by example in their conduct and observance of the code.”
Sizani said Parliament will also prioritise the passing of the Public Administration and Management (PAM) Bill which will, amongst other things, make it illegal for civil servants to do business with the state.
Sizani said the relationship between the PAM Bill and the code was crucial because the code deals with public representatives from the provincial legislatures through to national Parliament, including members of the Cabinet. “You cannot say civil servants cannot do business with the state, but allow public representatives to do business with the state.”
“The code is very clear. It has been revised and is going to come into effect as soon as it has been passed. If tomorrow [Wednesday] the House decides that it must come into effect ... everybody must be governed by that code.”
The PAM Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly earlier this year and sent to Zuma for assent, is scheduled to return to Parliament because due process was not followed in passing the Bill.
Sizani said the Bill was important because it had been difficult for the state to respond timeously to acts of maladministration, corruption, and crime taking place, particularly in local government. “You can identify and see it, but you cannot deal with it immediately. So the PAM Bill is trying to fix that particular problem.”
“We know there is a need for it so that we can effectively prevent all the activities that are bedevilling service delivery and a flow of money to the poor at that particular level,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ANC wants Parliament to change the current parliamentary political party funding model to ensure that parties have the necessary capacity to effectively conduct their constituency business, the party said on Monday.
Sizani said the amount of money ANC office bearers received from the public coffers did not match the duties they performed to make sure the legislature ran smoothly. He argued that 60% of ANC MPs’ work was in Parliament, creating capacity for Parliament itself to run smoothly, by virtue of the fact that all the programmes of Parliament permeate from the ANC, as the ruling party.
“Because of that we don’t only manage our own members, our own conduct, the attendance and their functions in study groups and portfolio committees, we also manage the institution itself and because of that, other political parties find it easy to punch holes in most of what we do, because our money is not spent on creating the concrete capacity,” he said.
Sizani said Parliament was only funding the traditional functions of a majority party and not the additional responsibilities which they performed. “We are saying funds must follow functions,” he said. “This has nothing to do with our salaries, it has to do with the work that we do to make this Parliament an efficient place to work,” he added.
Political parties that are represented in Parliament are funded by the Independent Electoral Commission to run their organisations. Parliament funds MPs’ salaries and provides them with tools of the trade.