The role of South African Parliament in ensuring sustainability accounting in the public sector

13 Nov 2017

Members of parliaments are uniquely positioned to shape, advance and implement the Sustainable Development Goals in various countries. They can lead the development of relevant legislation and policies, monitor implementation, ensure oversight, accountability, transparency and good governance. The attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals calls for South African government to strengthen its approach towards sustainability accounting and management. Important to note is that South Africa is a signatory for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Charter which implies that Parliament has to play a pivotal role in the implementation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is a conceptual paper based on the content analyses of literature written about public accountability and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Content analysis is defined as a research method which examines words and phrases within a wide range of texts including books, book chapters, essays, interviews, speeches and informal conversations. By examining the presence of repetition of certain words and phrases in these texts, a researcher is able to make inferences about the philosophical assumptions of a writer, a written piece, the audience to which the piece was written and even the culture and the time in which the text is embedded. Literature review reveals that sustainability accounting is regarded as the business sector concept, however, it is more relevant to public sector given the government pressure to reduce public spending in response to the diminishing resources. In the context of this paper sustainability accounting can be equated to public accountability. From the introduction of the fifth Parliament, South Africa has witnessed various forms and shapes of unprecedented attempts by the members of the executive of avoiding Parliament to hold them accountable of their actions. This paper argues that any form by members of the executives avoiding to hold accountable (tackling accountability from behind), the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals will be an illusion. The paper posits that the cost of addressing the effects of tackling accountability from behind by members of the executives’ costs government a lot of Rands compared to the cost that would have been incurred if public accountability will have been accorded the attention it deserves by members of the executives. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the implications of members of executive avoiding to be held accountable and its impact towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.