Members debated whether the meeting should proceed in the absence of the Minister. They also objected to the late submission of documents. A consensus was reached: a letter would be sent to the Minister rejecting her apology; and the Department would be allowed an opportunity to speak, but Members would not engage.
The Department reported that there was no suspense account for the Presidency for the three programmes for the financial year of 2009/10; the money that was allocated to the programmes was part of the Budget Vote One - this was audited by the Auditor General and the findings would form part of the Presidency report.
The Department highlighted the expenditure trends of the 2009/10 financial year, including the human resource problems of the Department and travel costs.
The Chairperson welcomed Members and the delegation from the Department of Women, Youth, Children, and People with Disabilities
Mr Ken Terry, Acting Director-General, Department of Women, Youth, Children, and People with Disabilities, apologised that the Hon. Ms Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, could not attend the meeting.
Ms B Thompson (ANC) queried the reason for the Minister’s absence.
Mr Terry responded and said that prior to the meeting the Minister had scheduled an engagement on the same day that the meeting was planned to take place. He added that it had been planned that the minister would have given only a brief introduction to the presentation, as all the officials needed to present the content of the briefing were available.
Ms H Malgas, (ANC) confirmed the Minister’s attendance at two previous Portfolio Committee meetings.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee had been fortunate, as the Minister had never attended any of the Select Committee’s meetings; however the apology was accepted. She then asked if other Members had issues that they would like to be raised.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said that a meeting had been scheduled last week. However, because of the unavailability of the Minister the meeting could not take place. She added that it was unacceptable that the Minister yet again had been found unavailable at a scheduled meeting and said that the Committee should opt not to accept the apology.
Ms Malgas said that the Committee should accept the apology, as the accounting officer was available.
Mr G Mokgoro (
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that she would like to know the nature of the Minister’s appointment or whether or not she was still overseas.
Mr G Selau (ANC) said that Parliament should be a first priority for the Minister above all other engagements. The apology that had been given was unacceptable, as it did not adequately state the reasons for her absence.
Ms N Magadla (KZN, ANC) suggested a letter of caution be written to the Minister regarding her absence from the meeting
The Chairperson asked Members to vote on whether or not the committee should accept or reject the minister’s apology.
Ms Robinson asked whether or not it would be possible to table an alternative motion or whether the voting be done first. She said that another issue was that the documents for the briefing were handed to the Members very late and suggested the postponement of the meeting until a date on which the Minister would be able to attend.
The Chairperson acknowledged the importance of Ms Robinson’s observation; the Committee had received a document from the Department the day prior to the meeting and received a replacement document during the meeting; this meant that the Members were unfamiliar with both documents. The Chairperson added that there were two issues that should be considered: one being whether to accept or reject the Minister’s apology and the second whether or not to have the meeting postponed because of the late submission of the documents. Another option was for Members to consider a postponement for both reasons.
Ms Malgas said that since the officials from the Department were present, having the meeting postponed would mean that the funds that had been expended for the officials to travel to the meeting would count towards reckless and wasteful expenditure by the Members and none of the present Members would like to play a part in that.
Mr Selau suggested that a written rejection of the minister’s apology should be sent directly to her; however, the Committee could not discipline her. He also added that the Committee must understand its duty and the duties of the committee could not be held hostage by the absence of the Minister. Whether the Minister was present or not the Committee must continue its duties. He said that the duty of the Committee during the meeting was to deal with the budget, review and recommendation report and that was exactly what the Committee should strive to do. Mr Selau then suggested that it was best for the officials to present the findings and thereafter the Committee might request more time to read over the documents and perhaps engage with the officials at a later stage.
The Chairperson clarified that the previous week’s meeting was intended for tabling the Department’s annual report but it was postponed; however, she cautioned that the current meeting would not be discussing the annual report because of the absence of the Minister. The Chairperson said that the Committee was meant to receive two presentations from the Department during the current meeting; one was on the performance of Programmes and Financial Statements of the Office on the Rights of the Child, Office of the Disabled Persons, and the Office on the Status of Women 2009/10; the second was a Briefing by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities on expenditure trends pertaining to suspense account of the Presidency from 2009/10 and Progress Report to date.
Ms P Duncan (DA) said that the Department had no respect for the Committee and it was hard for the Committee to do its oversight without receiving the reports on time. She added that action needed to be taken to get the Minister’s attention and the best way to do that was to postpone the meeting. Ms Duncan said that after one year the Department still lacked a permanent Director-General and there were many positions that have not yet been filled; there was already wasteful expenditure in the Department - the officials’ flights and accommodation for this meeting would not make a difference.
Ms M Themba (
The Chairperson said that a consensus has been reached: a letter would be sent to the Minister rejecting her apology; and the Department would be allowed to an opportunity to speak, but Members would not engage. She then called for an explanation on the suspense account, as she believed it was being audited through the Presidency.
Report To Parliament: Reporting Period 2009/10
Mr Terry said that there was no suspense account for the Presidency for the three programmes which were initially part of the Presidency for the specific financial year of 2009/10; the money that was allocated to the programmes was part of the Budget Vote One and this was audited by the Auditor General as part of the Presidency report.
Mr Terry also highlighted the expenditure trends of the 2009/10 financial year, including the human resource problems of the Department and travel costs.
Mr Terry said that the Minister was sincere in her apology and understood the demands on and the commitment of the Department. He also said that in future the Department would ensure that the reports reached the Committee on time and that queries, uncertainties and any issues of dissatisfaction were dealt with immediately.
The Chairperson said that since Members had agreed that they would not engage with the report until the Minister was present she would not allow further discussion at this time.
The meeting was adjourned.
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