Legislative oversight in the democratic South Africa : an analysis of the effectiveness of portfolio committees

04 Jun 2019

The legislative sector in the democratic South Africa continues to receive more attention in the public discourse. It has become a subject of interest from various sectors of society not limited to civil society, academics and the media. This interest recognises the importance of the work of the legislature, especially in holding the executive accountable amid an emerging tendency of lack of accountability. In the midst of the attention that the legislative sector receives; questions come to light about its effectiveness. This is mainly regarding whether legislatures have the ability and capacity to hold the executive to account. This paper argues that questions on the effectiveness of legislatures should be directed to the work of committees. Committees are central to the work of legislatures, and they are regarded as the engine rooms. Recently, the work of committees, particularly in the South African parliament, has been on the spotlight, with various inquiries hosted. Yet, questions on the effectiveness of committees persist. Hence, the article provides an empirical analysis on the effectiveness of portfolio committees at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL). The study has employed a qualitative approach, with the data collected utilising semi-structured interviews, participant observation and document analysis. The findings of this article suggest that to a certain extent, oversight is performed better in committees of the legislature. There are improved relations between the Gauteng government departments and committees. The departments are responsive; yet there are still challenges leading to the illusion of accountability, with limited or no consequences. The study recommends inter alia, follow-up on oversight activities; action against the executive’s reluctance; and strengthening the role of research.