The Committee adopted its Report on 2009/10 Fourth Quarter Expenditure. Prior to this, it considered the flagged sections of its second draft of the report. The flagged sections that were examined were: Further analysis of departments spending issues which included the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and National Treasury; Findings which included the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the Department of Arts and Culture and the fact that departments still used the misalignment of financial years between national, provincial and local governments as a reason for low spending; the the contents of the Recommendations and the Conclusion.
The Recommendations included that all rollover requests to include a turnaround plan to address under-spending by government departments, the filling of vacancies as a matter of urgency, establishing systems to ensuring report-back mechanisms for Committee recommendations about quarterly spending gaps, addressing the Department of Transport’s over-spending on the Bus Subsidies programme, the settlement of disputes with land owners via alternative means by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and disclosure of the 2009/10 litigation budget of Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the costs for all listed litigation matters.
The Committee resumed consideration of its Report on 2009/10 Fourth Quarter Expenditure. The Chairperson asked the Members to focus on Parts 4 to 7 of the second draft of the document. Those paragraphs that had been flagged for consideration were underlined.
4. Further analysis of departments’ spending issues
Section on Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Mr M Swart (DA) commented that the strategic plan related to the Micro-Agricultural Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) itself and not to the department.
The Chairperson commented that the first sentence in the above section seemed incomplete and that it needed to be placed into its proper context. He also raised a question with regards to the “146 000 reprioritised programmes”.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) said she could not remember the issue of the “30 farmers who were not willing to pay” but was aw were of the distressed farmers. When the Committee had called on the Land Bank in the past to make its presentation, she was very impressed with what they had to say.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) commented that the “146 000” mentioned in the above section actually referred to R146 million and not to programmes per se. He added that there were 205 farmers that needed assistance and that they were on a meagre budget.
Mr M Swart (DA) commented that after not paying the bank for three months the farmer would go into arrears and if the farmer did not pay for six months, the bank would consider restructuring the portfolio.
Section on National Treasury
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted to know what the writer was trying to communicate by referring to “high staff turnover rates” as mentioned in the second paragraph. Did the number of vacancies result in the under-expenditure?
The Chairperson commented that nobody really understood the Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant (NDPG) programme of the department and that it was quite complicated. He felt that the programme needed to be simplified and that the NDPG leveraged from other resources.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) had an issue with the use of the word “approximately”
The Chairperson commented that the department did not want to commit itself by giving an exact amount and that it was very unclear on this matter.
Sections 5.10 and 5.11
There were no comments from the Members.
Mr M Swart (DA) wanted “noted” to be replaced by “regarded”. He added that this section dealt with the division of revenue. Also, some departments waited until the last minute to plan and used this as an excuse.
The Chairperson commented that the misalignment of financial years continued to pose challenges for all departments and needed to be dealt with. There were transfer periods within National Treasury.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) asked if the individual departments must submit the turnaround plan or National Treasury. He suggested that it should be National Treasury. He also wanted the sentence to read “approved rollovers”. One could not necessarily do away with rollovers.
The Chairperson agreed but added that there would be engagement from National Treasury on this issue. It should not be a blanket approval. The other challenge would be if legislation did not provide for rollover. The Committee needed to check this. According to legislation, departments could not do more than one rollover per programme. However, they did this sometimes.
Mr M Swart (DA) asked if there were rollovers, would they not infringe on the fiscal framework and also should they not be approved by the Committee rather than National Treasury.
The Chairperson commented that there were virements and rollovers. Parliament passed rollovers once per year but virements were done when necessary. The Committee did not want to micro-manage departments.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) suggested that National Treasury should approve rollovers. There should also be a tracking system to track this.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted the section to be re-formulated. The statement linked the two issues of unemployment and filling of vacancies into one. He felt that the issues should be separated. It would be clearer if separated.
The Chairperson commented that in terms of vacancies: critical vacancies had to be filled as soon as possible. He agreed with Mr Ramatlakane that the two issues should be separated.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) was happy with the section as it was but did not want the word “critical” but rather the word “executive”. Also, the word “unemployment” should be left out of the sentence.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) commented that as a Committee there was a concern that vacancies were not being filled by departments. There was a poor filling of vacancies rate.
The Chairperson commented that unemployment was not discussed in the body of the report and the word should be omitted.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) wanted the Committee to re-work the construction of the section.
The Chairperson asked if this section should rather be part of the conclusion.
Mr G Snell (ANC) commented that recommendations of the National Assembly affecting the Executive must be forwarded to the Office of the President via the Secretary of Parliament. In the past the Appropriations Committee had not been pro-active.
The Chairperson suggested that 6.3 be removed for now.
Mr G Snell (ANC) highlighted that the Department of Transport had one month to develop a planning framework and not one month to implement the plan to stop over-spending on its bus subsidies.
The Chairperson suggested that more time should be given to the department because one month was too tight. The recommendations should be implementable.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted to give the department two months.
Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) suggested that the period of one month remain. The department could always ask for more time if needed.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) suggested that a tracking system was necessary but she was happy with giving the department two months.
The Chairperson agreed on the two months.
Mr M Swart (DA) wanted to add, “rather than reverting to court and/or legal action”.
The Chairperson commented that the department should endeavor to settle disputes outside the courts.
Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) asked whether the statistics on litigation matters would not be in the Annual Report.
The Chairperson commented that in the budget of the department it was not clear what the budget was for litigation. Also, the department did not want to disclose how much had been set aside for the outstanding 4 000 claims. It was not quantified.
Mr M Swart (DA) wanted the word “potential” to be deleted in section 6.6.1.
Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) commented that the Committee was there to look at under- and over-spending of budgets. Was the Committee still within its mandate in requesting the budgeted amount for legal costs?
The Chairperson commented that the Committee was within its mandate. The fiscus needed to be protected. It was the implementability of the recommendations.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) did not think that it was within the Committee’s mandate and did not want it to be included as a recommendation.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) said that it was within the mandate of the Committee but that it should not be a recommendation. There should rather be further engagement with the department.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) agreed that it should be part of the recommendations.
The Chairperson commented that there were two issues at stake: 1. engaging with National Treasury and 2. engaging the Leader of Government Business. He asked if National Treasury had the power to change what the Committee wanted to engage them on.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) wanted the first two sentences – dealing with the fact that all figures in the Report had not been audited yet – to be deleted from the section.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted the second last sentence – about engaging with National Treasury – deleted from the section. The last sentence, on engaging the Leader of Government Business, should also be cast in a different light.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) wanted the second last sentence to remain.
Mr M Swart (DA) was not happy with the entire conclusion section and wanted it deleted.
The Chairperson commented that a conclusion was necessary. It did not have to be long. The conclusion should encompass the whole House. The engagement with National Treasury could be removed from the conclusion.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) wanted the first sentence to remain. It was critical to mention this.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted to know what Parliament would actually do with the conclusion. The conclusion should be a simple sentence. It should not contain plans of action by departments. People would look at the Recommendations in terms of moving forward, not at the Conclusion.
The Chairperson wanted the second last sentence of the conclusion removed. He also wanted the word “raised” to replace the word “transpire” in the second sentence of the Conclusion.
The report was adopted with amendments.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their inputs and comments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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