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PRIVATE MEMBERS’ LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS AND SPECIAL PETITIONS STANDING COMMITTEE
19 June 2007
LABUSCHAGNE’S LOTTERIES AMENDMENT BILL ; BOINAMO’S SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOOLS ACT AMENDMENT BILL ; COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT 2006
Chairperson: Ms P Mentor (ANC)
Lotteries Amendment Act 10 of 2000
Labuschagne’s Lotteries Amendment Bil
Adult Basic Education and Training Act 52 of 2000
Audio Recording of the Meeting
The Chairperson tabled and summarised the Annual Report, which was adopted subject to minor amendments. In discussion Members noted that that the mandate and vision needed to be clarified, that the over spending on the budget would be discussed. This led into a discussion on the trip to India. Stipends had already been paid to the delegates but the exchange rate had fallen. As a matter of principle the Chairperson would table this issue to the Chairperson’s Forum, suggesting that exchange rates must be taken into consideration. She also would raise the principle that the stipends should compensate the delegates from being away from home and possibly having to put up with difficult travelling conditions.
The discussions at the previous meeting on the Labuschagne Lotteries Act Amendment Bill and the Boinamo South African Schools Act Amendment Bill were summarised. Members present had not formed a quorum. The recommendations made by those Members were accepted and it was agreed to table the previous minutes as proceedings of this meeting and to ratify the decisions.
Annual Report of the Committee: Adoption
The Chairperson gave an overview of the Report, indicating that one of the serious challenges faced was poor attendance of meetings. Recently this had improved and Members had made outstanding contributions to the recommendations contained in the Report. She indicated that a further challenge was the inability of
the Committee to hold public hearings on the issue of floor crossing, due to National Assembly Rules restrictions. It was hoped this would be resolved through negotiations between the Committee and the NA Rules committee.
The Chairperson then tabled the Report. She indicated that National Parliament did not have an Act in place to deal specifically with petitions or legislative proposals. The Rules of Parliament governed the functioning of the Committee. The overriding factor when dealing with Petitions and Legislative Proposals was the principle of public participation, as enshrined in the Constitution. Members of the public should feel that they were being heard and that their concerns were being met by an interactive process between themselves and their elected representatives. A Private Legislative Proposal was a legislative proposal initiated by a member of either House who was not a Minister. A petition was a request for a demand or favour or redress of an injustice and was thus a way of bringing grievances to the attention of the legislative authority.
The Chairperson tabled the vision of the Committee and its mandate. She indicated that the Committee had met fifteen times from 14 March 2006 to 14 November 2006, during which it received nine Legislative Proposals and three Special Petitions. There were seven matters outstanding. She summarised the content of each of these matters.
The Petition for Pension by Mrs C J Kellerman related to her husband’s pension. Adv Kellerman had worked as a State Law Advisor. He took a short break in service in order to complete his studies and then returned to his post. He passed away six months before he would have completed his second ten year term of service. The Department of Justice was sympathetic to the predicament, but maintained that the Public Service Regulations made it impossible to recognise the joint periods of service, because of the break, and this had severely affected the pension that was now supporting the family. The Committee recommended that the two periods of service should be joined together; and that the full pension be paid including backdated payments. This was acceded to by the Speaker and Treasury.
Mr L K Joubert’s proposal to amend the Magistrate’s Court Act so that Sheriffs should no longer have the right to attach people’s houses, especially if this was the only asset owned by the debtor, for relatively small amounts of debt, was approved by the Committee and the Magistrates’ Court Amendment Bill was finalised in August 2006.
Brig J D Krige had petitioned the Committee to allow for special pension dispensation so that his adult disabled son could be a beneficiary, in a way that was not accommodated in the current legislation. The petition was declined, mainly since he had already received a sizeable pension that could have been used to support the son. However, the Committee had held valuable discussions with Umkonto We Sizwe on the plight of non-statutory force war veterans, and had called upon National Treasury for urgent consideration of the problems to address discontent by veterans.
The issue of Floor Crossing, covered in the Van der Merwe’s Fifteenth Constitution Amendment Bill, had been referred by this Committee to the Policy Conference of the ANC. The Committee reported before the Ruling Party that a mini study had shown that in general electorates did not favour floor crossing. The Committee would deal with the matter again after the Policy Conference.
Mr Swart’s Sixteenth Constitution Amendment Bill, had sought, at the instance of the ACDP, to define marriage in the Constitution as being a union between a man and a woman. The Committee found this to be in conflict with the spirit of the constitution and declined the proposal.
Mr Morgan’s Electoral Act Amendment Bill related to a review of the Electoral Act in relation to government advertising during the period of elections. IT was agreed that this could be handled by regulations to the Electoral Act, and this would be debated in the House.
Mr Boinamo’s proposal to amend the South African Schools Act was referred it to the Portfolio Committee on Education.
Mr Labuschagne’s proposal for the Lotteries Act Amendment Bill was still being dealt with. The Chairperson then noted that the Committee would on Friday 22 June, be dealing with legislative proposals on a Fund for Victims of Violent Crime and an amendment to the Public Finance Management Act.
Adv P Swart (DA) asked whether petitions were dealt with in the order they were received.
Ms Mentor responded that the Committee tended to do so. Brig Krige’s proposal was brought forward on humanitarian grounds.
Members confirmed that they were happy with the format of the Report that set out the issues and the current status.
Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) questioned the reflection of cancelled meetings as being due to procedural irregularities. He commented that this put the Committee in a bad light.
The Chairperson noted that she was currently engaging with Mr Doige on cancellation of meetings. She agreed that it would be necessary to rephrase this, and asked Mr Magwanishe to come up with suitable wording
Mr Magwanishe noted that what was written as the vision of the Committee was in fact its mandate. He suggested a rewording.
The Chairperson agreed with the proposed changes, and noted that the mandate should also emphasise that this Committee was one of the two constitutional committees of Parliament. This affected the way it behaved, and the strength of its role.
Mr Magwanishe commented that the Committee was under spending, as it had only spent R12 636.
Ms Mentor clarified that the Committee had been concerned to spend cautiously it was going abroad, and the costs of the India trip were being carried over into the current financial year. These were not yet reflected although the tickets had been purchased, and she would be raising the over spending with the authorities. The current budget would be used for provincial visits, which were quite costly, and an international trip with different Members to those going to India. She would prefer to set a trend whereby the Chairperson did not always have to go on international trips, as she already undertook much travelling and this put pressure on her work as Chairperson. She proposed that planning for the international trip must be done early in this financial year; and although she would assist in the planning she would prefer not to go.
Mr Magwanishe noted that other Committees, such as the Portfolio Committee on Justice, had expended R1.5 million on an overseas trip the previous year, and he felt that an over spend of R40 000 which was encroaching on the next budget was not a problem. If the Committee spent less than R300 000 it would be treating itself unfairly. He supported the suggestion of the international trip.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had already decided that it would be acceptable to encroach into the next budget to cover the R40 000 over expenditure. She would bring the matter to the attention of Mr Doige.
Mr H Bekker (IFP) noted that the financial statement reflected dates of dated 01 April to 30 November 2006, and this should be amended. He clarified that normally the report would be dated when it was presented. Since it was now well past November, he suggested that the cut off date be 31 March 2007, and that the amounts be adjusted accordingly.
Ms Mentor added so that it would slot accurately within the financial year.
Mr Bekker noted that permission could be obtained to roll over funds for a planned trip if the trip had been postponed. He pointed out that the Committee was discussing money already committed.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) said that the postponement was causing some problems and dates had been suggested to the secretary. She noted that the money paid to the delegates for their allowance would not suffice and this would need to be reconsidered.
Mr Magwanishe added that monies were deposited when the rand was stronger and members would lose out as the rates fell.
The Chairperson noted that these administrative matters would be handled by Mr Doige’s office, and she would take up this issue in the Chairpersons’ Forum, as other Committees would also be affected, and check whether there could be an adjustment for escalated costs.
Ms I Mars (IFP) submitted that the amount of stipend was set, but the exchange rate fluctuated. As a matter of policy she believed the stipend should be adjusted with exchange rates.
The Chairperson added that the costs also were linked to the country visited, and international trips would be more costly than regional. She agreed that there was need for a comprehensive review of the whole policy, taking the exchange rate into consideration. Members should be compensated for being away from home, and in fact African visits probably justified a higher stipend as the travelling conditions were more onerous. She would draft a proposal and bring it to this Committee for approval before taking it to the Chairpersons’ Forum.
Adv Swart remarked on the planned amendment to the format of the report and suggested that only those matters mentioned for the first time needed to be explained.
The report was adopted with amendments.
Format of meeting on Friday 22 June
The Minutes would be adopted at this meeting.
The Chairperson had already mentioned the two proposals. Mr Trent would be presenting on his proposal for a Fund for victims of violent crime.
Mr P Gerber (ANC) suggested that it might save time if the Auditor General was asked to comment on the proposal to amend the Public Finance Management Act. .
The Chairperson asked the secretary to send the documents to National Treasury and ask that representatives attend the meeting. Any preliminary documents would be studied.
South African Schools Act and Lotteries Act Proposals
The Chairperson noted that there had been no quorum when these proposals were discussed at the previous meeting. Members present had not acceded to Mr Boinamo’s proposal to amend the South African Schools Act. Instead they recommended that the Speaker should ask the Portfolio Committee on Education, to check whether the Department of Education’s assertion that the proposals were sufficiently covered by existing legislation were correct. She reminded the Committee that Mr Boinamo had proposed that the State should be obliged to check why children were not attending school. That could also mean that the State should investigate why children were also dropping out. She mentioned that there had been an issue about the quality of education.
Adv Swart confirmed that Mr Boinamo had also wanted Government’s duty to provide educators and resources to be spelt out more forcibly. There was argument on the conflict of available resources, spending by provincial departments and whether the National Department must ensure that education was properly covered. The State could not be obliged to provide the necessary resources. There was ongoing under spending by provincial departments.
The Chairperson summarised that in respect of Mr Labuschagne’s proposal, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) contingent had advised that it was already busy with an investigation of the whole system under the Lotteries Act. Dti suggested that this proposal be slotted in to this procedure. The Members decided to accept this on condition that dti provided regular progress reports, and noted that the Committee reserved the right to take back the proposal and run with it as a separate issue if dti delayed unduly.
The Chairperson asked for formal ratification of these decisions. The Committee, which now had a quorum, resolved that the Minutes of the previous meeting would be incorporated into this meeting, and that both decisions would be reflected as decisions of this meeting.
The proposal by Prince Buthelezi on the Head of State issue would be dealt with after the recess, and would, like the floor crossing issue, be taken to a Policy Conference of the ANC.
Ms Maine noted the dates of the workshop for Chairpersons.
The Chairperson that on 22 June there should not be a lengthy meeting, and it would be possible for her to attend both meetings. She urged that Members must attend to form a quorum..
Ms Rajbally noted the improvement in attendance at the lunch meeting. She asked that the dates and the delegation list for the India trip must be read out. She asked if there would be any replacements.
The Chairperson responded that there could not be replacements, as tickets and payments had already been arranged. After the Committee Secretary had read out the list and the departure date of 22 July, she reiterated that the next international trip planning would commence in the new term, and would include different delegates would be different.
The meeting was adjourned.
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