The Structure and Functioning of the FFC
The Financial and Fiscal Commission consists of twenty two Commissioners. The chairperson and deputy chairperson are also respectively the chief executive and deputy chief executive officers. These are the only two full-time members and their term of appointment is five years. The other twenty two members are appointed on a part-time basis for a period of two years.
All Commissioners are appointed by the President, either in consultation with Cabinet or as nominated by the Executive Councils of the nine provinces, who may each designate one member. The President may remove a Commissioner from office on account of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
Commissioners have to be South African citizens and are required to have expertise in one or more of the following fields:
- public finance
- public administration
- local government finance
Every Commissioner is required to perform his or her duties fairly, impartially and independently, and may not hold office in any political party or organisation. By inference, the Financial and Fiscal Commission itself should be independent and impartial with regard to any sectional interest whatsoever. This is a principle which the Commission takes very seriously and regards it as a critical factor in the establishment of a credible and legitimate advisory institution.
The Commission may establish committees from among its members and also co-opt other persons to serve on them. Such co-opted persons are likely to be experts in specific fields who could contribute towards the informed advice of the Commission. A staff component which could include secondments may be established. The Commission’s budget is funded from the fiscus via appropriations from Parliament. The employment of such appropriations is subject to a strict and transparent audit. A decision by the Commission requires agreement by two-thirds of those present and a minimum of nine members is a quorum.
What the FFC does not do
The Commission is not an executive arm of government; either national, provincial or local. It is evident that an unelected technical institution cannot have executive authority. This may lead one to enquire whether there is any effective rationale for a publicly funded institution, which is intended to play a pivotal role in intergovernmental fiscal relations, if it has no ‘real authority’?
The Commission’s ‘power’ is vested in:
- being a product of an all-inclusive negotiations process;
- its prominence and specific responsibilities designated in the Constitution;
- its neutrality with regard to any sectional interest, be it any public sector entity, labour, business or any other component of the private sector or civil society;
- Commissioners not being office bearers of any political party or organisation;
- the Commission’s constitutional requirement, and its commitment, to perform its responsibilities in a transparent and accountable manner;
- its ‘expert’ technical nature; and
- its ability to draw on the experience of similar institutions and systems of intergovernmental fiscal relations in other countries.
Being an advisory institution independent of government, the Commission does not supersede any existing government department or function. It is, by design, separate from general government. This implies that there is a degree of functional duplication between government (departments) and the Commission. In this context the Commission plays the role of a ‘mediator’ between and amongst governments. It could also be regarded as a ‘check and balance’ on the public sector’s collection, allocation and use of fiscal resources. The normal or traditional responsibilities of the national and provincial departments concerned with Financial and Fiscal matters do not cease, in part or as a whole , due to the establishment of the Financial and Fiscal Commission.
The future of the Financial and Fiscal Commission is assured, in some format, by the inclusion of Constitutional Principle XXVII which provides for a Financial and Fiscal Commission to be included in the final constitution.