Cape Town - Parliament's budget office will be politically independent, Speaker Max Sisulu said on Tuesday after announcing that, after more than a decade in the pipeline, the unit would soon be established.
"Certainly, indeed the office will be independent.... At the end of the day it is an office that is intended to assist parliament with their oversight role," Sisulu said at a briefing a day before Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is to table the national budget.
"The process of establishing the budget office started actually in the second parliament.... It has taken quite a while," he conceded, adding that for years it was "contested terrain," he said.
"There were lots of things that we needed to agree and finally we have reached broad consensus," Sisulu said.
The process was delayed by confusion about how the office would work, where it would be located and its potential impact on the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
Sisulu portrayed the role of the new body as advising MPs when they interrogate budget allocations and boosting the technical capacity of the legislature's four appropriations committees to do so.
The briefing came a week after National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel gave MPs a tongue-lashing in his speech on the state of the nation address.
He said they needed better technical skills and the legislature was "failing to fulfil its most basic oversight role".
Cedric Frolick, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, said Parliament was now "at an advanced stage" of appointing the director of the legislature's budget office.
"We do not foresee any long delays in finalising this process," said Frolick.
It is expected to have a staff of 12.
The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act provides for the establishment of the office and allows parliament to make amendments to the fiscal framework and the division of revenue between government departments.