U.S. - South Africa Legislative Program: South African Study TourPicture of delegation at the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town

November 1-20, 2011

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to announce the completion fo the third activity of the U.S. - South Africa Transparency and Oversight Exchange and Training Program. The third phase took the form of a study tour to South Africa for nine members and staff of the state legislatures of the United States. Leaders from Colorado, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming travelled to South Africa to take part in an intensive three-week program focused on anticorruption and oversight in-conjunction with the provincial legislatures of South Africa. The tour took place November 1-20, 2011 and included visits to four South African provincial legislatures, including: Mpumalanga, Free State, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape. The tour was comprised of exchange meetings, formal discussions, technical training, observation, and individual consultation.

During this substantive tour of South Africa, the participants from the U.S. spent considerable time with experts and leadership of each provincial legislature discussing various topics relating to the focus of the program. Along with meetings with provincial legislative leaders, the U.S. delegation observed legislative procedures and committee meetings to better understand how the provincial governments operate during the site visits. Each legislature shared its expertise and lessons learned on these sensitive topics as well as their success stories of overcoming challenges relating to the topics of the study tour. The discussions demonstrated the need for improvement in the aforementioned topics as the challenges are continually changing in both of our countries and provided a platform for the South African participants to debut their processes and procedures.

Rep. Dwight Evans Facilitating a Session at the Two-Day TrainingThe last two days of the program activity were composed of a technical training on oversight and anti-corruption, hosted by the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature. The U.S. participants presented and trained the South African legislators and staff in attendance, utilizing their firsthand experience from their daily work in the U.S. Time was provided for the South African legislators and staff to present the progress they made on their personal action plans that they identified during the study tour to the U.S. Discussion centered on how they want to strengthen their own legislatures’ policies relating to the topics of the program, how they plan to incorporate the newly gained knowledge from the two-day training, and continue to pursue their original self-designed goals to improve their work and the work of their legislature.

The U.S. participants observed how the South Africans began to implement the concepts of independent ethics commissions, legislated ethics policies, codes of conduct for both staff and MPs, as well as the function of ethics committees they were trained extensively on during the U.S. Study Tour this past July. The U.S. participants shared case studies from their respective legislatures in implementing and maintaining transparency and oversight policies effectively as well as offered advice on how to further efforts of implementing strategies promoting the topics of the program as well as building upon initial action plans with additional information shared during this activity focusing on oversight and anti-corruption. During the course of the two-year program, it is hoped that these action plans will come to fruition, utilizing the resources shared during the program and the increased understanding of different approaches to common obstacles.

All South African and U.S. participants provided both verbal and written positive feedback on the program activity, the goals of the program, and the collaborative relationship between South Africa and the U.S. Participants of this program phase provided generous advice on the direction of the remaining program activity. Many participants intend to use what they learned during this phase to propose legislation, consolidate reports on findings, and make recommendations regarding many of the topics discussed during the tour. All parties involved in the discussions look forward to continuing to work with each other during the life of this program on these self-designed action plans.

The accomplishment of the South African study tour will allow subsequent program activities to build upon the strong bond that has been formed between U.S. and South African legislative minded individuals and the clear understanding of the desires and needs of the South African provincial legislatures on the issues addressed by the two-year program. NCSL staff are preparing for the next and final phase of the program to take place this spring.

 

U.S. – South Africa Legislative Program: U.S. Study TourPhoto

 

July 2-21, 2011

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to announce the completion of the second activity of our U.S. – South Africa Transparency and Oversight Exchange and Training Program. This activity took the form of a study tour to the U.S. for Members and staff of the provincial legislatures of South Africa. Legislative leaders of the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, and Western Cape provincial legislatures travelled to the U.S. to take part of an intensive three week exchange and technical assistance program focused on ethics and transparency in legislatures. The tour took place July 2-21, 2011 and included visits to Washington, D.C. and three unique state legislatures: Frankfort (KY), Springfield (IL) and Denver (CO). Various meetings were held between members of the delegation and U.S. legislators, relevant topic issue expert staffers, and NCSL experts during the three weeks. The tour was comprised of exchange meetings, formal discussions, technical training, observation, and individual consultation.

During this substantive tour of the U.S., the South African participants spent considerable time with experts and the leadership of each legislature discussing a broad range of topics, including ethics, transparency, legislative review, and oversight. Each state was selected to be visited by the delegation based on its strengths and experiences on these specific topics. For example, Kentucky is known to be one of the most transparent legislatures, Colorado, the strongest citizen run legislature, and Illinois for confronting major corruption scandals in the executive branch and the legislature’s role in oversight. Every legislature shared its expertise and lessons learned on these sensitive topics as well as their success stories of overcoming challenges relating to the topics of the study tour. The discussions demonstrated the U.S. and South African need for improvement in the aforementioned topics as the challenges are continually changing.

The meetings allowed for the South African participants to hold private individual consultations and receive advice on obstacles they are currently facing in their daily legislative work. Additionally, the last two-days of the study tour were composed of a technical training on the program topics by NCSL experts who routinely train U.S. state legislators and staff. During this training, participants began to create action plans of how they want to strengthen their own legislatures’ policies relating to the topics of the program. During the course of the two-year program, these action plans will come to fruition, utilizing the resources shared during the program and the increased understanding of different approaches to common obstacles. All parties involved in the discussions look forward to continuing to work with each other during the life of this program.

All South African participants provided both verbal and written positive feedback on the program activity, the goals of the program, and utilizing their newly gained information in their daily work at home in their legislature. Participants of this phase provided generous advice on the direction for the remaining program activities. They stated that this activity prompted them to impart their knowledge to others and encourage their colleagues to adopt or keep good ethics in their legislative tasks and responsibilities, as just one of many examples. Many participants intend to use what they learned during this phase to propose legislation, consolidate reports on findings, and make recommendations regarding many of the topics discussed during the tour.Photo


“The extent to which U.S. legislators regard ethics is quite encouraging, especially that it is legislated, which is not the case in South Africa. Yet!” the Honorable Mtsi enthusiastically stated.

The approach toward ethics in the U.S. is very different from that in South Africa. The concept of independent ethics commissions, legislated ethics policies, codes of conduct for both staff and MPs, as well as the function of ethics committees were all large parts of program discussion and approaches the South African participants plan to pursue to adapt to their systems at home.

Likewise, the difference in approaches to transparency between the provincial legislatures of South Africa and the U.S. state legislatures was startling to the participants. While the views toward constituent service and outreach to the public also differ between our two countries, the concepts as they apply to transparency caused a large amount of discussion and lead to some very profound and ambitious goals of the participants for once they returned home. “The exchange discussions have proven how citizens begin to respect and trust the government when things are done openly,” stated the Honorable Mtsi, Chair of Chairs in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature.

“This is what we have been doing wrong! We focus on accommodating our MPs and think of the public as an afterthought. We need to be more open to the public and make space for them in our legislature,” the Honorable Speaker Sesele stated after visiting committee rooms in both Kentucky and Illinois.

Possibly the most important result of the study tour, is the fact that participants provided NCSL with information on the specific topics they would like to receive additional training on. Some of this will be incorporated into this program while some of it is outside the scope of this current exchange. NCSL hopes that additional funding will be found to meet these additional needs of the provincial legislatures of South Africa.

The accomplishment of the U.S. study tour will allow all subsequent program activities, including the study tour to South Africa, to build upon the strong bond that has been formed between U.S. and South African legislative minded individuals and the clear understanding of the desires and needs of the South African provincial legislatures on the issues addressed by the program. NCSL staff are preparing for the next phase of the program currently.

 

U.S. – South Africa Transparency and Oversight Exchange and Training Program: Introductory and Roundtable Discussion Visit

March 2-10, 2011

PhotoThe National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to announce the successful completion of an Introductory and Roundtable Discussion Visit to South Africa, Phase 1 of NCSL’s new Transparency and Oversight Exchange and Training Program. The visit took place March 2 - 10, 2011, when an NCSL delegation consisting of three experts met with the legislative leadership, Members, high level officials, and relevant topic issue expert staffers from the legislatures of Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and Eastern Cape.

The visit to three provincial capitals in South Africa provided a platform for NCSL program staff to introduce a new program with the provincial legislatures of South Africa. The delegation spent substantial time with the leadership of each legislature discussing the sensitive topics of the program, transparency, oversight, anti-corruption, and ethics, as well as our goals for the new program. Each province selected a unique set of individuals to meet with NCSL and discuss the program. In each meeting setting, these individuals included the leadership as well as the main minority party leader, the leaders of the committees who work on issues related to the four topics of the program, and staff leadership as well as committee staffers of the relevant committees.Photo

The NCSL experts used the discussions as a learning opportunity and gained an understanding of each of the province’s current policies and goals for the four topics, and began planning the next steps of the program. The information shared by the provinces was different in each location, all of which added together resulted in NCSL staff having a solid understanding of current policies and goals of the provinces. NCSL staff concluded the visit having gained the knowledge of key topics to offer training on, as well as which topics the South African’s feel they have strengths and weaknesses, ensuring this program to be a two-way exchange as well as technical assistance training for all involved. NCSL concluded the visit with grounded ideas and plans to proceed with this exciting new program. Members from all parties involved in the discussions look forward to continuing to work with together during the life of this program.

More than 30 South African participants attended the issue specific discussions with the three NCSL experts. This outstanding turnout demonstrates the South African legislatures’ dedication to the success of this new program and partnership. This activity laid a solid foundation for the upcoming activities, including the first study tour to the U.S. for the South African delegation in July 2011. NCSL was pleased to receive such positive support and feedback from both the U.S. and South African participants. As this program begins a new step, NCSL is excited to build upon the success of this activity and extend its program to all of the South African provincial legislatures.

 

Updated 12/1/11