The thesis, A Critical Analysis of the Oversight Role and Function of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in Promoting Accountability in South Africa’s Public Sector, looks at the underlying problem of financial mismanagement in the public sector in relation to public accountability in South Africa. This problem has manifested in growing wasteful, irregular and fruitless expenditure in a post-apartheid era confronted by a multitude of social-economic challenges. Post-1994, South Africa embarked on a series of policy and legislative reforms to cater for public service regulation. These include the 1999 Public Finance Management Act and the 2003 Municipal Finance Management Act.
South Africa is struggling with measures to counter corruption and the abuse of power. Given that South Africa has instituted and inaugurated a number of critical institutional mechanisms for legislative oversight, the study seeks to explore the reasons for the rampant problems of non-compliance, unaccountability and lack of answerability within South Africa’s public sector since these have serious implications for the future of the country and its ability to address inequalities relating to the history of exclusion of the majority black people, especially Africans.
In light of this growing problem of irregular and wasteful expenditure, the study seeks to locate the role and function of SCOPA as a key parliamentary tool for advancing accountability. The primary research question of the study is: Why is there a growing problem of financial misconduct and abuse of public funds in the public sector, despite the existence of SCOPA as a parliamentary oversight mechanism?
After considering various theories, the study employs Institutionalism as preferred theory of choice because of its explanatory strength regarding oversight issues. The strands of institutional theory used in this study is the blending of neo-institutionalism and historical institutional. Methodologically, this six-chapter thesis, employs a qualitative research approach based on semi-structured interviews and desk-top methods of data collection. The findings reveal the significance of the role and function of SCOPA in maintaining effective financial management to promote accountability.
However, the conclusion of this study is that, notwithstanding the good intentions underlying the oversight role of SCOPA, democratic South Africa's financial management continues to be afflicted by corruption, fraud and theft. Failure to take action against cases of fraud and corruption brings into question the effectiveness and efficiency of the oversight role of parliament, which includes good governance and democratic accountability in the public sector and affect socio-economic development and prosperity.
The study recommends remedies to bring financial management in the public sector in line with the principles of good governance and promotion of accountability. More importantly, the study recommends that the legislature in South Africa is empowered to exercise its oversight role on the executive on that SCOPA should not be politically interfered with.
In this regard, it is hoped that the study provides insight and make an important contribution in strengthening oversight and reducing wasteful, irregular and fruitless expenditure so that national resources are used prudently to address the challenges facing South Africa.