Postponement of meeting with Public Protector on her organisation's 2011 Annual Report

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Justice and Correctional Services

13 October 2011
Chairperson: Ms L Landers (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting started after an hour because the Public Protector had not arrived on time. She was late because she was addressing the media on the findings of her investigation involving the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka. The Public Protector had incorrectly been told by her officials that the Portfolio Committee meeting was scheduled to start at 10h00.

Several Members expressed unhappiness with the behaviour of the Public Protector. They pointed out that they had other commitments later that day and therefore proposed that the meeting be postponed as they would not have enough time to engage on the Public Protector’s presentation. Members also discussed issues that they wanted to raise with the Public Protector.

The briefing of the Committee by the Public Protector was postponed until further notice.

Meeting report

The meeting started after an hour because the Public Protector had not arrived on time. She was late because she was addressing the media on the findings of her investigation involving the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka. The Public Protector had incorrectly been told by her officials that the Portfolio Committee meeting was scheduled to start at 10h00.

Ms L Adams (COPE) proposed that the meeting be postponed as Members had other commitments that were scheduled for after the meeting and had to catch their fights which meant that the Committee would not have enough time to discuss the presentation.

Ms D Smuts (DA) informed the Committee that she had a meeting scheduled for 12 o’clock which meant that if the Committee proceeded she was going to leave in the middle of the presentation. She suggested that when they met with the Public Protector they had to engage with her about her position as a Public Protector in a constitutional manner. She stated that she disagreed with the Public Protector’s view that her Office was not subjected to law.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) concurred with Ms Smuts on issues that had to be discussed with the Public Protector. He was not happy with the fact that the Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission did not arrive for the meeting. He informed the Committee that the CEO of the Office of the Public Protector had arrived early and was busy preparing for the presentation when he was on the phone asking the whereabouts of the person who was on the other end. He was flabbergasted by the response he had received and as a result left his belongings and went to the venue where the Public Protector was.

Mr J Jeffery (ANC) explained that if it was a misunderstanding or the Public Protector was being held at the airport he would understand the delay but the Public Protector was in Parliament and she chose to address the media rather than to brief the Committee on her organisation’s Annual report. Also, he suggested that the Public Protector should have rescheduled the media briefing to 2pm or changed her flight if it was necessary. Media briefings were not more important than a scheduled meeting with the Committee. Finally, he proposed that the Committee should get the speech that was delivered by the Public Protector to the stakeholders of the North West Legislature on the 4 August 2011 so that it could engage on it.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary, Mr Vhonani Ramaano, to clarify whether there was a misunderstanding concerning the time set for the meeting.

Mr Ramaano confirmed that the notice that was sent to all delegates indicated that the meeting was scheduled for 14 October 2011 at 09:00am in room M314. He added that the Public Protector had been invited to address a Joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Police, Public Works and Justice and Constitutional Development on Monday, 10 October 2011. That meeting (which was cancelled) had been scheduled to start at 10h00. This could have been the source of the confusion with regards to the starting time of the meeting.

Mr Swart said that he heard the CEO informing the person he was talking with on the phone that the meeting was not in room M305 but was in room M314.

The Chairperson explained that when he left the venue earlier he went to arrange his flight to the Public Protector’s conference that would be on the17 October 2010 at 08:30 in the morning and was obliged to attend as other Members had other commitments. He then went on to the Clerk of Papers because Mr Jeffery told him that the ATC said that the Public Protector’s report was tabled. The Chairperson’s understanding on the tabling of the report was that Members of Parliament had to get their copies of a tabled report in their offices or pigeon holes but the Members had not received copies of the Public Protectors’ report. The Clerk of the Papers explained that there was only one copy that was sent to the Speaker. The Chairperson thought that this could be the reason why the ATC said the report was tabled. According to the procedures a state entity had to provide sufficient number of copies to Parliament for each Member.

He told Members that they had to look at the technical meaning of a tabling of a report because the ATC might be correct when it stipulated that a report was tabled even if it was one copy that was sent to Parliament. Lastly, he said that Members would probably only receive their copies of the report the following week while the media were receiving theirs at that moment.  

The briefing of the Committee by the Public Protector was postponed until further notice.

The meeting was adjourned.

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