Arms Deal Investigation update

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

08 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr T Godi (APC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts, holding its first meeting of the new Parliament, discussed its working structure, division into two groups, and staff. Members decided that the proposed extension of the working week by one day would provide space to deal with an overload if necessary. Concerns were raised about timing clashes with other meetings.

The Committee was briefed by the Office of the Auditor-General on the Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC), its role and purpose. It was noted that APAC would offer a training conference of APAC, and that all SCOPA Members must attend.

The Office of the Auditor-General also explained the structure and purpose of the Status Reports to the Committee.

The Chairperson noted that the Arms Deal investigation was not finalised in the third Parliament, as it had been decided that anyone having further information should submit it to this Committee. One submission had been received, but held in abeyance pending the formation of the new Committee. The submission would be forwarded to Members and discussed later.

The programme for the next two weeks was discussed and the reason for the short term approach was explained.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed the Members of the Committee and said that the Committee had in the past decided to operate in two groups, with each group having its own convenor. The Committee met on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and these days should always be kept open. The Committee was investigating the possibility of allocating an extra day also for Committee work. He noted that staff members were readily available to assist any Committee member who needed information. The staff, whom he introduced, included the researcher, two people from the Auditor-General’s office and the Committee Secretaries.

The Chairperson said that the work of the Committee was vital in the machinery of parliament. In the current economic recession, the limited money of the country had to be used very effectively. The Committee must ensure that its work had an impact, and that instances of corruption and fraud were reduced, to assist Parliament to find synergy between the work of Portfolio Committees and this Committee.

Ms L Mashiane (COPE) said, in regard to the proposed extension of a further day, that she supported this, as it might be useful if urgent intervention was needed.

Mr N Singh (IFP) also supported the proposal, noting also that some Members had to serve on more than one Committee.  He requested the contact details of staff in the Committee.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) asked for guidance should there be clashes of times of meetings.

The Chairperson responded that SCOPA should be seen as the priority for Members of this Committee, and Parliament’s programme was outside that of SCOPA.

Mr N Du Toit (DA) said that it was difficult to see the planning programme for the Committee and Parliament, that there was some uncertainty, and that he would like to have clarity on the current confusion. 

Another Member said that she shared the concern about meeting clashes as some Members were not in a position to serve on other Committees as well.

The Chairperson reiterated that SCOPA work was the priority for Members of this Committee.

Mr G Koornhof (ANC) suggested that Members try to settle into the method of the work, so as to develop into it and find a balance.

Mr M Steele (DA) said that some Committee members were also represented on the Standing Committee on the Auditor General, which historically met on Fridays, and this potential clash should be borne in mind. Members would have to be very disciplined.

Mr R Ainslie (ANC) asked for clarity regarding the work of SCOPA, its groups and the days on which the groups met.

The Chairperson said that usually the groups met on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays were reserved for plenary sessions, but suggested that there be flexibility depending on the workload.  The suggested extra day was to accommodate the workload, where necessary, to ensure that the pace and pressure were not too onerous.

Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC): Briefing by the Office of the Auditor-General
A representative from the Office of the Auditor-General (AG) provided an update on the Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC). He noted that it was formed in 1997, with the aim of building expertise and deepening the skills of Members. This was done in the main through training and an annual conference. It also undertook research on behalf of the Committee. The Association had a governance structure consisting of the Chairperson, the Deputy Chairperson, a General Secretary, a Deputy General Secretary and a Treasurer. The Association was a non-profit making organisation that survived mostly on donor support, and the AG provided assistance with secretariat support.

He explained that the conference of the APAC took place annually, and was the most prestigious event of the Association. It was a national conference, and every province would have the opportunity to host the conference.  Every provincial entity had hosted the conference to date, and although arrangements for the hosting of the next conference had not been finalised owing to the recent elections, the current Chairperson would provide an update to consolidate arrangements. The Secretariat had managed to do some of the basic groundwork in connection with sourcing possible venues and deciding on activities and costings. An estimate of the proposed budget had been done, but the final amount depended on Parliamentary approval.

The Chairperson said that Parliament had agreed to host the conference. There were serious problems around funds for Committees, as Parliament now had more committees, but the budget was less than the previous year. He noted that the APAC leadership would meet on the following day, and this Committee had availed its Secretariat together to work with the APAC Secretariat to assist Parliament. The conference was planned for 28 to 30 September 2009.

Ms Mashiane said that before Parliament had risen there had been agreement to have a steering committee in place for the Conference, to ensure accountability around the spending.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would move towards strengthening arrangements for the Conference between now and the following week. 

Committee Programme
The Chairperson said that Committee Programme, as tabled, dealt only with matters for this and the following week. Advice had been received from management in Parliament that planning should be restricted to the short term. The Committee must plan work for each Tuesday and Wednesday meetings.  He noted that by the end of the day, the Committee would have an idea of their allocated groups.

The Committee hoped to have a workshop on 23 and 24 June 2009. On 23 June, the Committee would meet with the Auditor-General to gain better understanding of the role of that office. Two staff from the AG’s office had been allocated to this Committee to support its work.

On 24 June National Treasury would come to speak to the Committee, as one of its key stakeholders, and provide assurance that all institutions receiving public money were adhering to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). After that meeting the Committee hoped to have a budget and be able to plan its work strategy for the next five years.

Ms P Ngwenya (ANC) confirmed that the workshop on 23 and 24 June would not present problems.

Mr N Singh (IFP) said that a document had been circulated dealing with APAC training and asked if this could be discussed.

The Chairperson noted that none of the other Members of the Committee had received this document. He explained that in a new Parliament, it was anticipated that new members would need to be trained, to give Members a sense of their role and tasks in Parliament. APAC provided such training. All members of SCOPA were obliged to attend, and registration forms were available from the Secretary.

Ms Mashiane raised the issue of the dire situation of the health sector in the country, as she felt the Committee needed to address this matter.

The Chairperson responded that work would be allocated within the Groups of the Committee and heath would be dealt with by the relevant group. 

Status Report of SCOPA: Briefing by Office of Auditor-General
A representative from the Office of the Auditor-General said the Status Report document that SCOPA had decided to introduce listed all the departments and their entities. The document, which was set up in the form of columns, helped to keep members up to date on the activities of departments.

Mr Ainslie asked for an explanation of the columns to guide members, so that they would be able to read and understand the Status Report by themselves.

The representative explained the structure and content of the columns to the Committee.

The Chairperson explained further that the Status Report should be seen as a tool assisting in the tracking of departmental activities, including whether Annual Reports had been submitted.

Mr Du Toit asked how Members would know if a report had been tabled.

The representative from the Office of the Auditor-General said that Annual Reports should be submitted to Parliament by the end of September. If a Department was unable to comply with this date, a letter should be written to Parliament. The Status Report indicated the date when the Report had been submitted, and this indicated whether the submission was on time or late.

Mr Koornhof noted that the Status Report should be read in conjunction with other reports, as it could not stand on its own.

The Chairperson explained the structure of the Audited Reports that were submitted, and related this to the work of Groups and the allocation of departmental reports to these Groups. 

Mr Ainslie asked if this Committee dealt only with departmental audited reports, or with those of the entities as well.

The Chairperson responded that this Committee dealt with entities as well.

Arms Deal Investigation Update
The Chairperson said that the Issue of the Arms Deal was not finalised in the third Parliament.  A decision had been taken that anyone who had new information should present this information to SCOPA. There had been one submission from Richard Young that needed to be reviewed, but this process had been frozen pending the establishment of the new SCOPA Committee. The Chairperson said that he would distribute copies of the submission. Provision would be made for Members who wanted to investigate the history of the Arms Deal, and Richard Young would be approached for further documentation.

The meeting was adjourned.


No related documents


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: