ACDP notes tight Parliament budget will offer little relief for Parliamentary support services

Parliament’s budget is expected to provide the support services required by Parliament to fulfil its constitutional functions, assist political parties represented in Parliament to secure administrative support, service constituents, and provide members of Parliament with the necessary facilities.

The ACDP welcomes the speakers’ recognition of the needs with regard to crucial support services that are under tremendous strain. The tight budget is sadly going to offer no real relief. Legal Services is a good example. This office provides an ongoing range of specialised services that includes oral and written advice to committees; advice to the Joint Tagging Mechanism on the classification of Bills, drafting Bills of exceptionally high quality, as well as drafting contracts and policies; amongst other ad hoc services.  Not to mention legal support when committees are conducting constitutionally mandated oversight of the Executive.

I have only realised recently, that this small team in legal services also manages all the litigation against Parliament and I can only imagine what a huge task this is. I was shocked to find out that all these services, which each one of the team always delivers in a professional and competent manner, are provided by only 8 legal advisers and 3 senior legal advisers under the stewardship of the Chief Legal Adviser.

Considering that there are approximately 54 portfolio committees and a single legal adviser can have up to ten Bills at any given time, the broad range of functions that this office provides with absolute proficiency is unthinkable and frankly unfair.  The unwanted thought is just how much longer this small team can survive the pressure let alone be expected to sustain the excellence that we have come to expect of them.

The ACDP urges management to support this office by increasing their capacity or we will all have to face the consequences. These men and women are at high risk of burnout. Our legal human resources are a scarce commodity. Not many want this stressful job and those that do probably won’t cut it as the demands and broad skills that have to be developed in a short space of time are almost too much to ask and we should not take this for granted.

The ACDP has been a source of additional stress in their lives in terms of the assistance I have had with drafting of private members bills over the years and yet I have always received the most professional and excellent service.  As my colleagues and I tend to participate on many committees apart from those we are a member of   when they are dealing with legislation which the ACDP has a special interest in, we are conscious of the never ending pressure on our law advisors.  The ACDP highly commends and respects these ‘super heros’ in our midst serving their country with humility, sacrifice and excellence.

We also want to thank all staff at Parliament and take a moment to commend our parliamentary researchers and content specialists – our experience through committee participation and working on detailed presentations has left us grateful for their talents and dedication.  Then there is our IT department that also appears to be stretched but doing a great job. I don’t envy them having to deal with MP’s anxiety and impatience when technology challenges occur.

Again, the ACDP appeals to management to support these offices and take care of our scarce resources.  We also call on Treasury to recognise the damage done to the country if the work of parliament is undermined by overly constrained budgets that lead to us ‘wearing out’ and losing valuable people.

Lastly the ACDP welcomes the speaker’s reference to constituency work and the less than adequate support due to budget constraints. This is unfortunate as the value of constituency involvement can be measured in people’s greater awareness of the importance of their participation in the processes of Parliament plus a growing respect for the institution of Parliament and the work members are doing.

The ACDP supports this budget which is not adequate to the job before us but we are committed to doing our part in:

– Strengthening oversight and accountability

– Enhancing public involvement

– Strengthening co-operative government and inter-governmental relations

– Deepening engagement in international participation

– and Improving the quality and impact of legislation.


SPEECH BY CHERYLLYN DUDLEY MP
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 2: Parliament
22 May 2018