The meeting was an opportunity for the Committee to consider the draft rules for establishment of Standing Committee on Finance and Standing Committee on Appropriations in pursuance of the provisions of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (No 9 of 2009). The issue of party proportionality being reflected in the Mediation Committee was discussed. The Chairperson commented that proportionality could be regulated in the broader framework of the Rules, but in terms of a Mediation Committee there was a unique element that had a “specific dynamic”. The Inkatha Freedom Party believed that the powers at play in the Mediation Committee were between the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, hence party proportionality was not crucial. The Democratic Alliance commented that the whole debate needed to be taken against the background of the upcoming review of the Rules. This process was long overdue. They did not have a problem with the Mediation Committee but would prefer to know that in the broader concept of a review of the Rules, the issue would be properly and fully debated. The Committee discussed the grounds for having a closed meeting. The Chairperson said that if they were silent on it and did not try to regulate it, it would give them the flexibility that was needed.
Rules for establishment of Standing Committees on Finance & Appropriations according to Money Bills Amendment Procedure Act
The Chairperson commented that the draft rules were fairly straightforward.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) wanted more clarity on the grounds for a closed session. He commented that the composition of subcommittees did not specifically say how the subcommittee should be composed. He felt that it was a worrying factor that opposition members need not be part of the subcommittee. He would feel more comfortable if opposition members were allowed to be part of the subcommittee.
The Chairperson asked whether there was not an underlying principle in the Constitution that overrides the provision of these rules.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) quoted Rule 141(2) which says that the parent committee of the subcommittee must appoint the members of the subcommittee. This was actually part of the General Rules and should be flagged when the Committee discusses the General Rules.
The Chairperson said that there were still outstanding issues going forward and a review of the Rules would take place in the long term. He also chairs the Portfolio committee on the Auditor General and gave an example when the Committee set up a task team to look at a certain issue. Their approach was to have a multi-party task team and not just a task team comprising of ANC members. That was how he had always done things and it became convention to do things that way.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) commented that Rule 110 did speak about proportionality.
The Chairperson wanted more clarity on this issue.
Mr Jeffery said that it may not be necessary to have special expertise and asked the rest of the Committee how they felt about point (b) on page 4 of Annexure 1 that the subcommittee be advised by three members from each of the portfolio committees that had submitted conflicting amendments and two members designated by the Speaker. This came back to the question of proportionality and he wanted proportionality reflected when dealing with a Mediation Committee.
The Chairperson said that the issue of proportionality therefore could be regulated in the broad framework of the Rules, but in terms of a Mediation Committee there was a unique element that had a specific dynamic. He wanted to understand from the rest of the Committee why the Committee wanted to regulate it.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) said that there could be an inherent proportionality but it was quite difficult to have proportionality.
The Chairperson commented that he was loath to use new concepts to deal with specific areas and deviating from traditional concepts that were there and understood. Currently the committee system used the multi-party system and it was required to be a multi party system by virtue of the Constitution. It would be a sad day in Parliament if this were to decline. The question one should ask oneself was did one really want to create problems by being specific about things and in the process create the impression that things might not necessarily apply because they were not expressly put in that manner.
Mr M Ellis (DA) commented that the whole debate needs to be taken against the background of the review of the Rules. This process was long overdue. He stated that neither Mr Pretorius nor he had a problem with the Mediation Committee but that they would prefer to know that in the broader concept of the review of Rules, the issue would be properly and fully debated. Over the composition of the Mediation Committee they were not going to go to war.
The Chairperson said that if the Rules Sub-Committee was dealing with issues that were a lot broader than narrower, he recommended that the committee “let sleeping dogs lie”.
Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) commented that there was a conflict between two majorities, the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and that a resolution needed to be found. In this instance he would consider that the presence of opposition parties played a lesser role. However, he had a problem with having closed meetings since the meetings dealt with individuals’ money. He wanted the meetings to be made public, but closed only when necessary.
The Chairperson wanted to know what was the concept regarding the closure of meetings.
The Committee Secretary responded by saying that the Rules did allow for the closure of meetings.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the members said something that was exceptional from the arrangement elsewhere in the Rules in relation to closure.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) said that the Committee was simply copying the mediation procedure in the current Joint Rules.
The Chairperson said that having closed meetings should be the exception and not the norm. He stated that even if the Joint Rules provide otherwise, he was not sure whether the Committee should necessarily follow them if there were ‘unconstitutional’ concerns. He would rather use the approach that, if in the current Rules provision was made for the possibility of closure and if that principle extended to that which was created at the meeting, then the Committee need not deal with it.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) agreed with the approach of the Chairperson.
The Chairperson said that if they were silent on it and did not try to regulate it, it would give them the flexibility that was needed.
Mr M Ellis (DA) wanted to know if the complete review of the Rules was going to take place in 2011.
The Chairperson replied that part of the complexity was that there was a lot of institutional review and reform that was taking place at Parliament which would have to find expression in the new set of Rules. There was the new Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act and the Oversight model that needed refinement. His reluctance was that essentially the review of Rules would change the culture but would not touch on the institutional issues. A happy medium needed to be found amidst all the complexities.
The meeting was adjourned.
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