The Committee discussed proposed alterations to the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Bill [B27-2010]. Members made recommendations to the Independent Electoral Commission on changing aspects pertaining to party agents during elections. The Commission accepted the proposed alterations and proposed to add the alterations in the B version of the Bill. The IEC proposed that the current Clause 4 of the Bill be swapped around with Clause 3, with the result that the new section would be 14A and not 17A. This would be done for reasons of continuity, and related to the central payment of deposits where parties were contesting the PR elections in more than one municipality. The Committee set aside the adoption and approval of Clauses in the Bill to a meeting scheduled for 21 October.
The Committee received a presentation on its Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). The BRRR was a new initiative which was instituted to assist parliamentary committees with the carrying out of their oversight role. The BRRR would allow the Committee to make recommendations to the Department of Home Affairs on aspects of its annual report which it thought could be improved or bettered. The BRRR was due for submission on 22 October 2010 and as such the Committee was rushed to propose suggested alterations to a draft copy of its BRRR. Members stated their displeasure at the rushed nature of the BRRR process and the limited time they had to offer useful input. It was agreed that the Committee would table proposals on what it would include in its BRRR on a meeting scheduled for 21 October 2010.
Local Government: Municipal Electoral Bill [B27-2010]: Deliberations
Ms A Lovemore (DA) raised concerns over the purported consultation by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) with the National Political Party Liaison Committee (NPPLC) in the drafting of the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Bill. There needed to be a clearer form of consultation because the NPPLC had not received a response from the IEC to its written recommendations on aspects of the Bill. She referred to the proposed alteration to Section 39 of the Municipal Electoral Act of 2000 which pertained to the number of party agents per voting station and sought an explanation of the provision.
The Chairperson said that it was important that representatives of the NPPLC report back and interact with members of parliament upon engaging on important issues to keep them informed. He asked for a response from the IEC on the issue raised by Ms Lovemore.
Mr Michael Hendrickse, Senior Manager, IEC, replied that the Commission did not intend to infringe on the role of Parliament or of the Committee in interacting with the NPPLC during the drafting of the Bill. The Commission could not determine the circumstances around every voting station regarding the size and type of location a station was. Adding another provision pertaining to how many party agents could be at a particular station according to a stations size would overcomplicate things and the Commission was not amenable to such an addition.
Ms Lovemore sought further clarity on the provision relating to party agents where voting was stipulated to take place in a single room.
The Chairperson gave the Commission time to consult with the State Law Advisers present in the meeting.
Mr Stefanus van der Merwe, Commissioner, IEC, noted that the Commission had discussed the matter with the State Law Advisors and there had been agreement on the interpretation of the provision. The Commission intended for the provision to stipulate that two party agents were permitted to be at a voting station but that number could be increased according to the size of the area where voting was taking place. In an ordinary voting station, there could not be more than two party agents.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) commented that he and Ms Lovemore wanted clarity on the issue of party agents so that there was no misinterpretation of the law.
Ms Lovemore found it incomprehensible that the State Law Advisers could be happy with the provision in its current form. The way that the provision was drafted did not cater enough for exigent circumstances at a voting station. It only covered circumstances where there was more than one room allocated as a voting station.
Mr van der Merwe responded that the Commission had no objections to the language around the provision being altered to cater for the circumstances where there was one room allocated for voting.
Mr T Maseremule (ANC) said that he was not sure whether the provision would sufficiently cover areas that lacked proper infrastructure. And in such areas several voting agents would be required to ensure the security of ballot papers.
The Chairperson said that the provision needed to cover the general principle of the intention of the law so that the voters were allowed to give proper expression to their views. The Committee should not take on a political agenda when dealing with its work, the views that were canvassed were not merely the views of one political party and it should not be encouraged.
Mr Hendrickse proposed that the provision be reworded to state, “two agents per voting station, and if voting at a voting takes place in more than one room or separately enclosed area with a maximum of two voting agents allowed in each area at any one time.”
The Chairperson asked whether Members could agree that the rewording covered all foreseeable aspects.
Mr Hendrickse proposed that the current Clause 4 be swapped around with Clause 3, with the result that the new section would be 14A and not 17A. This would be done for reasons of continuity, and related to the central payment of deposits where parties were contesting the PR elections in more than one municipality.
Mr Tsietsi Sebelemetja, Director: Legal Services, Department of Home Affairs, said that the clean version of the Bill (B version) would reflect the changes discussed.
The Chairperson proposed that Members go through the Bill on a Clause-by-Clause basis.
Clause 1 and 2 were approved.
Clause 3 was approved with amendments.
Mr Monwabisi Nguqu, Senior State Law Adviser, Office of the Chief State Law Advisor, advised that Clause 4 be rejected. Clause 4 was rejected in light of the alteration proposed.
The Chairperson said that other Clauses in the Bill would be approved at a meeting scheduled for 21 October when the B version of the Bill would be made available to the Committee.
Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) Template Presentation
Mr Mthethwa-Mkhize, Committee Section representative for Parliament presented the Committee with a template of what the Committee’s BRRR should consist of. He highlighted the importance of including information that would best hold the Department to account. The BRRR allowed the Committee to make recommendations to the Department to improve in areas of concern. Essentially the BRRR was another means for parliamentary committees to monitor the performance of government departments and make recommendations where performance was lacking or slow.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Mthethwa-Mkhize for his presentation but stated that most of the Members in the Committee had been in Parliament for a period of time and were already familiar with many of the issues that had been presented. The Committee would take on the template presented and add to it.
Mr Maseremule expressed frustration that 16 years after the attainment of democracy, Parliament was still theorising on how to fix problems rather than getting the job done. Parliament could not keep doing the same things on an annual basis and needed to start implementing as opposed to theorising.
Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) Committee Presentation
Mr Adam Salmon, Committee Researcher, presented the Committee with its working draft proposed BRRR to be tabled to the Department of Home Affairs. The working draft would include all matters of key concern for the Committee and would include reports from other bodies that had a direct impact on the Department of Home Affairs.
Ms Lovemore recommended that the Committee’s BRRR include the Public Protector’s Annual Report as it pertained to issues relating to Home Affairs. She expressed dissatisfaction at the limited time allocated to the Committee to submit the BRRR for consideration.
Mr Mnqasela said that given the time constraints, the Committee could not do the document justice in terms of rigorously interrogating all aspects of the BRRR proposals. He suggested that the Committee be permitted to submit recommendations to Mr Salmon on what to include in the BRRR on a meeting to be held on 21 October.
The Chairperson agreed with this recommendation and said that the Committee would hold a meeting on the 21 October 2010 to add to the BRRR.
The meeting was adjourned.
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