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PRIVATE MEMBERS’ LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS AND SPECIAL PETITIONS: STANDING COMMITTEE
15 June 2007
LABUSCHAGNE’S LOTTERIES ACT & BOINAMO’S SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOOLS ACT AMENDMENT PROPOSALS: FURTHER DISCUSSION
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 Department of Trade and Industry briefed the Committee on its view of the proposal by Mr Labuschagne for a Lotteries Act Amendment Bill. It indicated that it was already busy with a broad review, which had been started following representations by the National Lotteries Board. It would be preferable to include the proposals made to the Committee within the scope of the review, so that the Department could come up with one composite amendment that would cover all issues, including the distributions agencies. Originally the Department suggested that this could be done by the next financial year. The Committee indicated that this was not acceptable and urged the Department to prioritise the issue, and report to the Committee mid-term and again at the end of this financial year on progress. It should attempt to produce draft amendments by the end of this financial year. If this was not possible, then the Department could consider amending the Regulations as a short-term measure. The Committee reserved the right, if there was insufficient progress, to take the matter back as a separate Member’s proposal and proceed with it to ensure that its own obligations to Parliament were not delayed. It was resolved that the Department must report back to the Committee on 15 August, and that in the meantime the proposer Mr Labuschagne and the Presiding Officer would be informed of developments.
Mr Boinamo’s proposal to amend the South African Schools Act was discussed, following the presentation at the previous meeting when the Department of Education indicated that it believed the proposals were already covered by the legislation. The Chairperson was not sure that all aspects were covered, and therefore proposed that the Committee should refer the proposal to the Portfolio Committee on Education. A Member suggested that there were practical problems in implementation of education at provincial levels and would like directives to be considered seriously. The Portfolio Committee on Education would be requested to consider the first part of the amendment, and also to consider whether the second amendment, relating to an obligation to investigate non-attendance at schools and the obligation to provide adequate education, was covered in the South African Schools Act 1996.
TheChairperson noted that the trip to India would proceed and the dates were being arranged. The Annual Report would be considered at a special meeting to be arranged.
Ms Mentor announced the unfortunate passing of Prince Zulu, a senior member of the IFP.
The committee observed a moment of silence.
Lotteries Act Amendment Bill
Adv P Swart (DA) apologised that Mr Labuschagne was not able to attend as he had a prior engagement, but he would be available next week.
Ms Mentor replied that was acceptable as he had already presented and, while he was welcome, it was not necessary for him to attend.
Mr Fungai Sibanda, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Trade and Industry, said the Consumer Incorporated Regulations Division of the Department dealt with policy and legislation around consumer issues and regulations pertaining to companies. It also had public interest regulations, which focused on regulating industry, including lotteries, and assessing the impact and effectiveness of the regulations and policies developed.
When the first seven-year term of the Lottery elapsed it was the intention of the Department (dti) to do an assessment as to how the legislation had impacted on society and the economy. The National Lotteries Board had also indicated that there were certain areas that needed to be reconsidered to strengthen the regulatory framework. These included the relationship between the National Lotteries Board and the distributing agencies, the powers of the Minister, and how the Board should be accountable to Parliament for the funds allocated. The Department realised that the intention of this proposal was to deal with issues around the nomination and terms of distribution agencies, and the overlap between the incoming and outgoing agencies. These were very important issues. However, they formed only one part of the very broad issue that dti was already dealing with, and so dti suggested that perhaps it should take these proposals into account in its own re-considerations. Dti was doing its investigations in order to amend the Act to address all issues, including distribution agencies, and would prefer that a more holistic approach to the Act be taken. It had also been in contact with the National Lotteries Board, who agreed on the suggestions to strengthen the regulations as well as the Act. Therefore dti suggested that the proposal not be debated in isolation, but be included by dti in its broader work. Dti would approach Parliament at a later date with its proposals for amendment. .
The Chairperson was pleased to hear this feedback and proposed to the Committee that this would appear to be an acceptable way forward. However, she suggested that this would be subject to four conditions. Firstly, the channel of communication would be opened between dti and Mr Labuschagne via the Committee, to ensure that his proposals were taken over to dti’s current process. Both dti and Mr Labuschagne would need to inform the Committee of progress and confirm that matters were moving to their satisfaction. The Committee had previously expressed its concern that members’ proposals were often not taken very seriously, and therefore the dti review process must specifically state that Mr Labuschagne’s proposal was a necessary part of their review. The clause would still need to be referred to as Mr Labuschagne’s clause, so that his input was given due weight.
Adv Swart commented that the proposal had been submitted in September last year. He agreed with Ms Mentor that proposals by MPs were not always accorded due weight. He hoped that this would not introduce a precedent that valid proposals should always be taken over by the Department concerned, as the process to have the changes effected through a Member’s motion would generally be much quicker than going through a lengthy Departmental review process. Although the Chairperson’s remarks were valid, he stressed the need for urgency. There was much public concern around distribution of lottery funds, particularly since they filled the gaps that Government did not. He noted that in the Chairperson’s proposal there was no reference to the time frame for amendment by the Department, and he would like this to be specified. He said that the proposal by Mr Labuschagne was not politically charged, but was aimed at the welfare of the country and the need for proper regulation. He urged that due speed be attached to Members’ proposals, as a matter of principle.
The Chairperson agreed that the issue of the timing could be sorted out with the Department. She asked how long dti would expect this process to take. She confirmed that she took the point about creating a precedent. There were more than three hundred Members of Parliament and if everyone could see a process unfold in Parliament it would be a nightmare for this Committee and for Parliament. She reminded the Committee that Mr Labuschagne was asked about the timing of his proposal, and he had pointed out that the proposal had been registered with the Office of the Speaker before the current difficulties in the Lotto had come to light.
Mr Sibanda responded that dti recognised the importance of the work before them and would probably be in a position to come up with a proposal and amendments in the next financial year.
The Chairperson exclaimed that that was not acceptable since it was only the beginning of the current financial year.
Mr Sibanda replied that dti planned to do the policy proposals and possibly start on the amendment this year, but could try to short-circuit the process to complete it in one year.
Ms Mentor said that the time frame was too long for this Committee.
Adv Swart noted that dti had agreed there was a need for amendment and could deal with it as quickly as possible. He agreed that the whole process should be well researched and include a number of amendments. However, he thought that the time frame would be a problem.
Ms Mentor referred to the Rules of Parliament, and noted that if there was a legislative process, there should be an attempt to slot into that.
Mr H Bekker (IFP) suggested that this Committee could accept in principle what was in front of it. The Committee could refer the proposal to dti, accepting their good faith, but reserve the Committee’s right to raise the matter again of its own accord. He would even be so specific as to note that the amending legislation, or at least the first draft, which could be based on the discussions today, must be tabled to this Committee before the end of the current financial year. This would assure the Committee that the matter had been taken on board. He agreed that the Committee could not wait for the next financial year. The Committee had the right to proceed with any form of legislation in the prescribed way.
The Chairperson agreed but still wanted the Committee to receive reports, and asked that by the middle of the financial year dti must give a preliminary report to this Committee on progress. Dti must also approach Mr Labuschagne and the Committee would make a decision after receiving the report.
Mr Bekker pointed out that this was similar to the procedure followed with Mr Joubert’s proposals, when his matter was dealt with speedily and satisfactorily.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked the Department to give reasons why their amendments should take so long, and suggested that the Committee could assist with any problems. She agreed that the time frames originally suggested were too long, and there must not be delay in depriving the needy organisations of benefit from the Lottery.
The Chairperson recognised that the Department was taking time to consider its own issues, but urged it not to frustrate the process.
Ms Elaine Kalappen, Deputy Director, Regulated Industries, dti, explained that it was important to have a good basis for the amendment, as dti would not wish to do this piecemeal. It would be a few months before the end of the financial year and review.
Ms Mentor stressed that dti must understand the Committee’s time frames, and could not only work to its own plans. The Committee must take proposals seriously, and Parliament was expecting delivery from this Committee. If dti did not shorten the time frame then it must understand that the Committee would carry on with the amendment in any event.
Mr Sibanda indicated that he could meet the proposal on progress reports and would also try to come up with an amendment towards the end of the financial year.
The Chairperson stressed that if the progress report indicated any problems, the Committee reserved the right to proceed with this proposal on its own.
Ms Kalappen acknowledged the input received from Members and said dti would review its time frames and do its best to deliver.
The Chairperson thanked her for this and reiterated that dti should work towards having the proposal finalised by the end of this year, with a mid-term report to the Committee.
Adv Swart noted that this was not a competition between the member and the dti to bring the Bill forward. The aim was speedy service delivery to the people. If dti became aware that it could not proceed with the amendments, then they should let the Committee know in good enough time for the Committee to proceed. He agreed that it would be ideal to “slot in” to the process, provided that the process could be contained, since there had already been an indication that the research and the policy process would be combined. He would not like dti to be forced to finalise the whole process just to provide for this amendment, and stressed that the major consideration was not where the amendment emanated, but how quickly it could ensure service delivery to the people.
The Chairperson was cognisant of the dti process, and said that the Committee was asking dti to categorise whatever needed to be reviewed, and bring them forward. She wondered if dti could re-assess its priorities, consider this matter as urgent and attempt to complete it within the stipulated time. She reiterated that the Committee was bound to slot into any policies or legislative proposals already in existence that would cover any proposals received. However, the Committee had to be aware of its own time limits and ensure that it reported in good time to Parliament, and well before the end of the parliamentary term.
Adv Swart understood dti’s position that it would preferable to table a comprehensive amendment bill, rather than taking piecemeal parts, and noted that some of the amendments would not concern this Committee. He agreed it would be important for Parliament to receive one amendment bill covering all aspects. He asked if the research processes had already begun.
Ms Rajbally asked whether dti could prioritise the matter.
Mr Sibanda clarified that this would be an amendment Bill, not a new Act, but there were other amendments that were interrelated, and a holistic approach was desirable. He would check with the dti’s legal advisors whether it might not be possible to achieve the amendments through amending the regulations, which would be a shorter process. However, he indicated that he would not have a problem with coming back to the Committee by the end of this financial year.
Mr Bekker referred back to the six-weekly reporting basis mentioned earlier. In the light of what had now been said by dti, he thought that their first report-back mid-term would put their position, and he formally proposed that the six-week reporting suggested by the Chairperson be amended to the reporting now being discussed.
The Committee agreed to this proposal. .
Adv Swart added that the Committee had talked about the amendment to the Act. If dti could see a way forward by amending the regulations then they must report on this specifically, and motivate it, during the report-back. He would think that amending the regulations would rather be an interim measure.
The Chairperson agreed, but noted that Mr Labuschagne, the proposer, would need to be consulted. She the Committee Secretary to draft a letter and check its wording with Mr Bekker and Adv Swart. She noted that the dti must return on Friday 15 August with their written proposal. Hopefully Mr Labuschagne could attend, although he was not obliged to. She would in the meantime be writing to the Presiding Officer on how the Committee was dealing with this matter.
Boinamo South African Schools Act Amendment Proposal
The Chairperson recapped that the Department of Education had argued that much of what Mr Boinamo had proposed was already covered under the South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996, as well as the Adult Basic Education and Training Act 52 of 2000, and the regulations of both Acts.
The Chairperson indicated that both she and Mr Boinamo were also members of the Portfolio Committee on Education. She tended to agree with the Department’s view, except the aspect of access to education contained in Mr Boinamo’s objects. His proposed Bill also made it obligatory for the State to investigate why learners failed to attend school, in an attempt to address the high level of illiteracy caused by learners leaving school before they were fully literate and numerate. That was a very broad proposals. It did not specify whether the investigation into failure to attend school related to the 4% of learners who never started school, or whether it referred to those dropping out. She was also not sure what Mr Boinamo meant by “full literacy”. The high levels of illiteracy resulting from drop-outs should probably be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Education for consideration. Some aspects were covered, and others not, and she believed that the whole request should be referred to the Education Portfolio Committee.
Adv Swart commented that there were a number of matters in the proposal that were not covered in the Schools Act, specifically in terms of obligations.
The Chairperson stressed she was referring to the aspect of obliging the State to investigate. She clarified that the second document was the redraft by Mr Boinamo. The first document was the request to the Presiding Officer to ask the Portfolio Committee on Education to consider the matter.
Mr Bekker proposed to proceed as the Chairperson had suggested and refer the proposal to the Portfolio Committee on Education.
The Chairperson indicated that because this Committee felt that the Department’s view had merit, it could have simply rejected the proposal. However, because there may be other aspects meriting consideration, it would be referred to the other Committee. In addition, the proposer had said there would not be any financial implications to his proposal. In fact, placing such obligations on the State that he had suggested would definitely have financial implications. The issue of affordability must be considered, and the proposal merited further investigation at an appropriate forum.
Adv Swart agreed that there were serious disciplinary problems in education. While the Minister was trying to do her best, under spending in the provinces was a major issue. This proposal covered obligations placed on the State. Adv Swart felt that more pressure should be put on the provincial departments, and he wondered if the second part of the proposal was really already covered by the Department, as it had claimed. He believed more pressure needed to be exerted for departments to do their job properly.
Ms Rajbally mentioned that the Committee had not gone through the Schools Act clause by clause. She understood the obligations to provide information, but queried where confidentiality issues were contained.
The Chairperson explained to Mr Swart that he would at some point have to review the rules that governed the scope of the Committee, because the rules rightfully referred to matters being “covered” but did not address whether they were “adequately covered”. The Committee was finding this to be a constraint.
Adv Swart agreed that he would need to have serious discussion with the Chair at some stage. On the question of interpretation, “covered” would mean that all intentions, obligations and consequences should be fully addressed. If not, then the Rules must be looked at.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had not asked the Department to submit the presentation in writing. The Committee would now report to the Presiding Officer that it would not proceed with the amendment of the Bill as requested by Mr Boinamo. Instead, it would ask that the proposal be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Education, with the request that the first amendment in that proposal be considered. IN regard to the second amendment, specific consideration must be given to whether the proposals were adequately covered in the South African Schools Act 1996.
Ms Mentor thanked Mr Boinamo.
It was noted that the Annual Report would be circulated for discussion and necessary amendments during a lunch meeting.
Proposal by Hon Prince Buthelezi
The Chairperson noted that Hon Prince Buthelezi had forwarded a Member’s proposal directly to this Committee, and she had asked the Committee Secretary to Hon Buthelezi to forward his proposal via the correct route of the Office of the Speaker.
Trip to India
The Chairperson indicated that Parliament had approved the trip and it was a question of sorting out the dates with the Indian Embassy. A letter would be circulated to those who were going.
Two members indicated that they could not attend the meeting on Friday and a suggestion was made that the Wednesday lunch meetings should rather be used as a more convenient slot.
The Chairperson indicated that this was not possible and Members must make every effort to attend.
The meeting adjourned.
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