PAP – PRC Retreat: Reflections on Dr. Naledi Pandor’s keynote speech - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Monday, January 23, 2023

PAP – PRC Retreat: Reflections on Dr. Naledi Pandor’s keynote speech

Opinion by Olu. Ibekwe

In her keynote address at a recent Pan-African Parliament (PAP) – Permanent Representatives (PRC) Retreat on “The Role of the Pan-African Parliament in the Integration and Economic Development of Africa: Giving Full Effect to the Dream of the African Union Founding Fathers” the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Dr. Naledi Pandor recalled that the launch of the African Union in 2002 was borne out of a resolve to form a people-centred African Union.

Dr. Pandor posited that PAP has a key role to play in realizing this objective given its unique ability to connect with constituencies and grassroots across the continent and then added that the African Union (AU) was not established to be a bureaucracy.

One cannot help but agree with Dr. Pando as the history of the AU shows that the organization was not established to be a bureaucracy. This is because the Constitutive Act was negotiated in a way that ensured that the Union functioned in accordance with certain ideals and principles which included the participation of African peoples and civil society organizations in the development and economic integration of the continent as well as respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

Indeed, the formation of the AU marked the beginning of a new order, unlike what obtained during the era of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The OAU was created to mainly promote African unity, support the liberation movement and protect the territorial integrity of its member states. The AU on the other hand, was established to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa which would be led by its citizens supported by civil society organizations including the Diaspora.

To achieve this goal, the Constitutive Act established a codified framework under which the AU is to function. Under the Act, PAP is expected to play the role of a Continental Parliament by ensuring that AU policies and programmes are implemented in a manner that has an impact on the lives of African citizens.

However, recent developments point to an inevitable conclusion that the AU is gradually turning into a bureaucratic organization. It is in that regard that Dr. Neladi Pandor should be commended for reminding us that the African Union was not established to be a bureaucracy.

The leadership of PAP and PRC also deserve commendation for initiating and successfully organizing the two-day retreat coming less than six months after the election of PAP’s Bureau. And to crown it all, the leadership of the two sister organs resolved to work together to restore the vision of the founding fathers of the Union.

Indeed, the PRC and PAP must work together to resist the temptation to allow too much power to reside at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa as this will deny the other organs the ability to take decisions which will allow the Union to  function more effectively. This calls for a shift in mindset.

A case in point is the African Union Commission (AUC) which appears to have failed to stay within its mandate and authority. AUC bureaucrats appear not to appreciate the need for legislative input in the AU budget process. They need to be reminded that Article 11(2) of the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP Protocol) gave PAP the power to discuss its budget and the budget of the AU and make recommendations prior to its approval by the Assembly. Historically, the power over budget and appropriation has always resided in the parliament.

Unfortunately, PAP has not till date been allowed to express its opinion on the AU budget because bureaucrats at the AUC do not deem it necessary, notwithstanding the statutory requirement. Additionally, PAP has over the years, suffered budget cuts to the point that it has become financially incapacitated to carry out any oversight. The result is that bureaucrats at the AU now initiate and implement programs and thereafter embark on the monitoring and evaluation of their performance as we have seen in the case of the AU Agenda 2063!

It is also to be noted that Article 15(2) of the PAP Protocol states that the budget of the Parliament shall be drawn up by the Pan-African Parliament in accordance with the Financial Rules and Regulations of the AU and shall be approved by the Assembly until such time as the Pan-African Parliament shall start to exercise legislative powers. This clearly shows that the founding fathers of the Union intended to accord some level of deference to the decisions of the plenary. And it may not be unconnected with the fact that PAP budget goes through the Committee on Monetary and Financial Matters and the Bureau after being drawn up in conjunction with the Secretariat before presentation to the Parliament in plenary for consideration and approval.

Why should a PAP budget that passed through the scrutiny of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Matters (made up of elected African parliamentarians) and Bureau of the Parliament (made up of an elected President as head of the organ and four Vice Presidents) before review and passage by the Parliament sitting in plenary, be subjected to review by unelected bureaucrats at the AUC to the point that the “bureaucracy” mentality has now been transferred into the budget of the Parliament?.

For example, out of the $11,992,597 PAP budget for 2022, more than eight million dollars is for the payment of salaries of the staff of the Secretariat leaving about three million dollars for the real work of the parliament. Article 12(5) of the PAP Protocol states that the Secretariat shall assist the Bureau in the discharge of their duties (see also Rules 20(1) of the PAP Rules of Procedure). It will amount to a waste of resources to make financial provision for the payment of staff of PAP Secretariat without commensurate budgetary provision for parliamentary activities.

PAP’s 2022 budget was $11,992,597 representing 1.75% of the total AU budget. Interestingly, PAP’s budget as at 2007 was more that 9% of the total AU budget!. Evidently, the bureaucrats believe that the work done by PAP parliamentarians can be done away with. This trend must urgently be reversed before PAP is turned into another bureaucratic organ.

Another area where the powers of PAP have not been respected is in the administration of the affairs of the parliament. The Constitutive Act which established PAP provided in Article 17(2) that “the composition, powers, functions and organization of the parliament shall be defined in a protocol relating thereto”. The Protocol went through ratification before coming into force in 2003 thereby re-enforcing the determination of member states to promote democratic principles and popular participation, consolidate democratic institutions and culture and ensure good governance in the continent.

Thus by ratifying the PAP Protocol, member states of the AU gave their approval to constitute a parliament whose composition, functions, powers and organization were defined in that protocol. The PAP Protocol gave no supervisory or oversight powers over the parliament to any other organ of the Union and it is not by mistake that PAP was listed in Article 5 of the Constitutive Act as the third highest organ of the Union.

The Constitutive Act listed the African Union Commission (AUC) as the sixth organ, established as the Secretariat of the Union. According to the Statute of the Commission of the African Union, the African Union Commission is the Secretariat of the Union and required to act as such in conformity with Articles 5 and 20 of the Constitutive Act. Further, Article 3.2(u) of the Statute requires the Commission to prepare and submit an annual report on the activities of the Union to the Assembly, the Executive Council and the Pan-African Parliament. See also Article 11(5) of the PAP Protocol which states that PAP can request officials of the AU to attend its sessions, produce documents or assist in the discharge of its duties.

Regrettably, bureaucrats at the AUC now run the Commission as a supervisory organ where directives are issued at Addis Ababa and expected to be complied with by the other AU organs even though PAP for instance is listed as the third highest organ of the Union.

AUC bureaucrats now want to take decisions for PAP in such area as staff recruitment in disregard of the provisions of Article 12(5) of the PAP Protocol which stipulates that the bureau of the parliament shall be responsible for the management and administration of the affairs and facilities of PAP.

The AU Staff Rules and Regulations, adopted by Assembly of the Union at its Fifteenth Ordinary Session 25 - 27 July 2010 Kampala, Uganda also makes it clear that the power for the appointment of staff of any organ as well as their promotion shall be vested on the competent authority of the organ and that in exercising such authority the head of the organ shall be advised by an Appointment, Promotion and Recruitment Board (APROB). Is it therefore proper for bureaucrats at the AUC to be interfering in the powers of the elected President and Bureau of PAP to recruit staff for the Parliament?

This position also finds support in Article 12(14) of the PAP Protocol which states that “Until the Pan-African Parliament appoints its staff, the General Secretariat of the AU shall act as its Secretariat”. Unarguably, the PAP Protocol was incorporated into the Constitutive Act which is the supreme law of the AU by reference such that no other rule, regulation or practice by any other organ can supersede it.

Additionally, Rule 20(6) of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament states that the terms and conditions of service of all staff shall be determined by the Bureau on behalf of Parliament. As we know, Article 12(1) of the PAP Protocol gave the Parliament the power to adopt its own Rules of Procedure.

As observed earlier, the Constitutive Act established a codified framework under which the AU is to function by clearly delineating the functions and powers of each of the organs of the Union. It can therefore be stated that the Constitutive Act sought to avoid conflicts by delineating the powers of each organ for example in the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament whose composition, powers, functions and organization are clearly defined in the PAP protocol.

The AU as an institution must begin to resist bureaucratic attitudes that reflect hierarchical discipline, obedience to orders, top down instructions, and rule bound approaches to issues. It must do so because the democratic attitude which the founding fathers of the Union adopted, rests on participatory and flexible approaches and on bottom-up decision-making. Democratic legitimacy recognizes the right of elected representatives of the African people to participate in the formulation of policies and oversight over other organs of the Union.

And since the founding fathers of the African Union did not intend for the Union to be run as a bureaucratic organization, the Pan-African Parliament needs to be allowed and encouraged to play its envisaged role as the organ with democratic legitimacy within the African Union.

Olu. Ibekwe is the Chairperson, Steering Committee of the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), a network of journalists and information officers reporting from regional, sub-regional and national Parliaments in Africa.

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