Meeting deferred due to lack of senior management in department delegation

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

19 October 2009
Chairperson: Ms A Qikani (ANC, EC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs was supposed give a status report on water treatment facilities and irrigation schemes and a briefing on the implementation plan for the Waste Management Act.
However, the Committee vetoed the briefing as they said that they required senior management in the form of Director General or Deputy Directors General to be present. Members felt that the officials present could not be held responsible for their department, they were considered juniors. In order for meaningful interaction between the Committee and the Department, leadership had to be present in order for there to be accountability. There was a discussion on whether it was better for the sector experts to handle the questions from the Committee, rather than high-ranking officials who were not necessarily experts.

The Chairperson remonstrated that they should listen to the briefings as the delegation was there at great cost. Other committee members insisted that the Committee uphold the consistency of parliamentary committees in not entertaining briefings by a department without their heads of department being present.  They felt that departments needed to understand that Parliament meant business and that the matter was serious. Parliamentary committees needed to be consistent. The Committee agreed to reschedule the briefings to a later date when leadership from the department would be able to attend proceedings.

Meeting report

The delegation from the Water Affairs section consisted of Chief Director: Water Services, Helgard Muller, Ms Babalwa Manyakanyaka, Director: Policy Co-ordination and Stakeholder Management, and Mr Lehasa Moloi, Chief Director: National Water Resource Infrastructure (NWRI) Operations.

The delegation from the Environmental Affairs section was represented by Mr Obed Baloyi, Chief Director: Waste Policy and Information, and Ms Kelello Ntoampe, Director: Authorisation and Waste Disposal.

The Chairperson asked that the department provide written responses to the questions that members were to ask after the briefings.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC, Northern Cape) asked if the written responses would be provided immediately or at a later time.

Mr C De Beer (ANC, Northern Cape) asked whether the members of the delegation from the department were experts in their respective fields.

Ms Qikani replied that the Committee had been requesting the department for a very long time to brief the Committee. The Committee had however received no responses from the department in this regard.

Mr Muller said that the Department had responded to the Committee’s invitation for the present briefing but was not aware of previous invitations that had been sent by the Committee.

Mr Mokgoro commented there were no top management or leaders of the department present in the delegation to answer questions.

Mr B Mashile (ANC, Mpumalanga) agreed with Mr Mokgoro. He said that the departmental officials present all seemed to be Chief Directors. There was no Director General present. Who was going to take responsibility? It was a problem as there was no one to be accountable for the Department. The officials present were only responsible for their respective sectoral matters. He was very reluctant to continue with the briefings without having Deputy Directors General or a Director General present. The aim of the briefings was to inform members of what was happening.

Mr Mokgoro said that the Committee needed to be strict and to take the matter seriously. He was inclined to share Mr Mashile’s sentiments that continuing with the briefings should be done with a certain measure of reluctance. The officials present were considered juniors and the Committee could not hold them responsible for the performance of the department. He felt that the department was very laid back in their approach. There seemed to be no enthusiasm or motivation to perform. He suggested that the meeting be adjourned until such time that the department sent a delegation that was led by the appropriate head.

Mr De Beer stated that the Select Committee on Finance had done the same. It had sent back departmental delegations that had not been accompanied by heads of departments. Heads of departments had to be present during briefings. The Minister should also avail himself or herself if possible.

Mr Muller said it was up to the Committee to decide whether rank or expertise was what mattered. He said that the members of the delegations present were all experts in their respective fields. Deputy Directors General or Directors General were not necessarily experts. He explained that their Acting Director General was in Khayelitsha. Some of the other heads were occupied elsewhere.
Mr Baloyi reiterated Mr Muller’s comments that the officials present were experts in their fields.

Mr Mokgoro said that parliamentary committees had been consistent in demanding that the top leadership of departments should be present when departments appear before Parliament. He understood that expertise was what mattered but nevertheless felt that Directors General should be present at meetings.

Mr Mashile said that the point had been made. The leadership of departments should be headed by the most senior person. There were no head of department in attendance at the present meeting. He asked who would take the suggestions made by the Committee back to the department. Who would report back? If Chief Directors reported back to their department, would the issues receive the necessary attention?  He agreed that the meeting should be adjourned until a proper delegation inclusive of leadership was sent to meetings.

Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) felt that the meeting should be rescheduled as soon as possible as the issues to be discussed were important. 

The Chairperson understood the point members were making. She however felt that the Department should be given the opportunity to brief the Committee as a lot of time and effort had gone into preparations for the meeting, not to mention the costs involved. The travelling costs for the delegations were substantial. Members would nevertheless be able to raise issues and ask questions after the briefings were completed. The Committee could in addition write a letter to the Minister to highlight certain issues.

Mr Mokgoro insisted that the Committee uphold the consistency of parliamentary committees in not entertaining briefings by a department without their heads of department being present.  Departments needed to understand that Parliament meant business and that the matter was serious. Parliamentary committees needed to be consistent.

Mr Mashile asked what would be the point of continuing with the briefings. The Committee would just be going through the motions. Members would listen just for the sake of listening. As things stood at present there was nobody present in either of the delegations to take the deliberations back to the Department.

Mr Moloi said that parliamentary committees were taken seriously by departments. The officials present could take the Committee’s message back to their Department and what needed to be done would be done.
The Chairperson said that the Department did not take the Committee seriously. The lack of responses to the Committee’s letters was proof of this. She suggested that the Department return to the Committee to present their briefings at a later time when their leadership would avail themselves to the Committee.

Mr Mokgoro suggested rescheduling the briefings for the following week.

The Chair accepted the proposal and the Committee agreed to reschedule the briefings to the following week. The Committee Secretary would contact the departments on the details of the rescheduled meeting.

Mr De Beer asked the Committee Secretary to obtain confirmation from the department that their leaders would be in attendance.

The Committee excused the departmental delegations from the meeting.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The minutes of 1, 2 and 15 September 2009 as well as 13 October 2009 were adopted with minor changes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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