Corder Report on Oversight and Accountability: consideration

Oversight & Accountability

23 February 2000
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Meeting report

AD HOC COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY (NCOP)
23 February 2000
CONSIDERATION OF REPORT ON OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Documents handed out:

Report on Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability

NCOP Membership:
L Suka (ANC)
T Setona (ANC)
P Nel (NNP)
L Jacobus (ANC)
P Matthee (NNP)
L Lever (DP)
M Surty (ANC)
G Pandor (ANC)

SUMMARY
It was suggested that a distinction be drawn between oversight performed in the National Assembly and in the NCOP. Chapter 4 of the Report, which deals with the oversight role of the NCOP, was highlighted but no real discussion ensued due to a lack of preparation and poor attendance. The Report on Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability has to be considered together with the "Marais" report (not yet available), which went to the heart of the practical realities that prevail in the different provincial legislatures. In order to empower and enhance the abilities of all chairpersons to better manage their tasks in terms of oversight and accountability, the committee recommended that all chairpersons of select committees be present at the next meeting where a proposed briefing would occur on the Professor Corder report.

MINUTES
The chairperson of the committee, Mr L Suka,(ANC) was not able to attend the meeting and Mr M Surty (ANC) chaired the meeting. Only three members were present but since the permanent membership of the committee is very small, the three constituted a quorum.

Mr P Matthee (NNP) said that Chapter 4 of the Report dealt specifically with the oversight role of the NCOP. It had different subheadings relating to mapping-out the NCOP's oversight role, the general oversight role of the NCOP, oversight to protect spheres of government, intergovernmental relations, oversight in partnership with the National Assembly and recommendations. He said that it was important to study this first and say whether the committee members actually agreed with what had been said. Once this was done there could be some interaction with Professor Corder.

He pointed out that the "State of the Nation Address" was addressed to a joint session of parliament. Yet the debate around this address only took place in the National Assembly. Why was the NCOP negated? This debate included oversight and accountability in the broader sphere and thus should have included the NCOP.

Ms L Jacobus (ANC) supported Mr Matthee's point. She had received the report but admitted that she had not been able to go through it as yet. She proposed that the members be given a chance to go through the report, which outlines the powers that parliamentary committees have and come with comments at another stage.

Mr Surty said that discussions on Chapter 4 have been initiated with the Speaker and the Chief Whip in the National Assembly. He noted that a distinction had to be drawn between oversight performed in the National Assembly and oversight as it occurs in the NCOP. He did not think that the oversight function of the NCOP as set out in very general terms in the Constitution fulfills the same function that the National Assembly performs. Thus, where Portfolio Committees exercise oversight nationally , it was not necessary for the NCOP to replicate this. This distinction had to be made since the NCOP had neither the capacity nor the resources in terms of numbers alone to do this.

Given the fact that the NCOP was at the centre of co-operative governance, oversight had to be looked at as a means of holding a national minister accountable to his/her provincial counterparts. So where there were problems of a particular nature, for example, in terms of the capacity and unfunded mandates that occur in provinces, a particular MEC in the province could raise the issue in a way that the minister could be held accountable in the public domain. This is where the NCOP has a certain leverage to be able to achieve this and perhaps this should be a focus.

Other issues such as the ministers' constitutional responsibility to provide adequate capacity in the provinces was another matter to be considered. In this regard, where there was not proper delivery, it had to be decided what would be done about this, who becomes part of the discussion - and what form does it take. Does it include members from provincial legislatures?

Furthermore focus was also needed in respect of the provinces' responsibilities to local government.

He said that whilst the report of Professor Hugh Corder was a good one, it had to be read together with another report by Professor Marais based on her visits to the different provinces. This latter report went to the heart of the practical realities that prevail in the different provincial legislatures. The report was however not available yet since it was still in its draft stage. He asked the committee clerk to try and obtain this for the members.

In this committee's next discussion, he felt that the committee should include chairpersons of the select committees, since chairpersons would want to know how they should manage their select committees. At times they sit with situations where they have concurrent competencies (both provincial and national competencies) in their select committees. How do they manage these tasks in terms of oversight and accountability? Thus this consideration should point a way forward to empower and enhance the abilities of all chairpersons.

He suggested that the committee together with chairpersons of the committees, receive a briefing on the report perhaps by Professor Corder so that the chairpersons have the benefit of the briefing as well as participating in the discussions around oversight.

Mr Matthee agreed that such a meeting be set up. He added that the report should be made available to the chairpersons who should study it and come to the meeting already informed so that a useful discussion could materialise.

Mr Surty stressed that the proposed meeting was not a decision of the committee but rather a recommendation since he wanted the chairperson to be party to all decisions taken. If such meeting is held, he suggested that no other meetings be held during that time slot.

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