Public Participation Model, Money Bills Act Implementation, Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament Report, Absenteeism from Parliament

Joint Rules

14 March 2012
Chairperson: Mr J Mahlangu
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Meeting Summary

The Joint Rules Committee firstly considered a report from the Task Team set up to craft a report on the Public Participation model (Annexure 2), noting that this was work in progress. Members noted that the task team had held a workshop in January 2012, had identified additional sub committees to assist in the creation of the public participation model, and was currently communicating with Chief Whips to determine the composition and mandate. Members agreed that, given the ongoing nature of the work, to wait for further feedback before debating the matters further.

The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance briefed Members on the implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (the Act). A brief background was given to the formation of the political task team that was looking into various concerns, including the establishment of the Budget Office, and the changes that would be required to the Parliamentary programme and rules. Although it was agreed that the Budget Office needed to be set up, as a matter of some urgency, there were challenges around its mandate, interpretation of its independence, the role of this office relative to other research services in Parliament, the appointment and accountability of the Director, and prescribed funding arrangements. In order to deal with these issues, the Presiding Officers and task team had arranged for wider research and discussion, and an international study tour. Some of the challenges would require amendments to the Act. The task team recommended that this must be initiated within Parliament, that the National Assembly should mandate a particular committee (or joint committees) to deal with the matter, and  report to the House whilst adjustment to Parliament’s own rules and procedures could be done in a parallel process. Members fully agreed with these proposals.

A briefing was given on the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament, which was mandated, in 2006, to assess whether Parliament was meeting its constitutional obligations, was successfully executing its role of entrenching democracy, and to measure Parliament’s responsiveness, accountability and openness. A previous meeting of the Joint Rules Committee had accepted a number of recommendations, which were outlined, and had said that these should be incorporated into strategic plans. Although the report attempted to give an update, Members were disappointed that this was not detailed enough, and suggested that more mechanical and simplified approaches had already been proposed elsewhere. Although the report dealt with scrutiny mechanisms over delegated legislation, provision was made already for an Interim Joint Committee, but the smaller parties had failed to nominate representatives for this committee, and the Chairperson suggested that the existing members should simply meet, with others to be added when they had been nominated. One Member suggested that the presentation should be referred for debate by the political parties, but another disagreed, saying that this Committee did not meet frequently enough and had to implement matters within meetings. The Chairperson pointed out that the infrequent meetings would be addressed by a specific programme in this year. Members questioned the references to eligibility of Members, asked about constituency mechanisms, suggested that political buy-in was needed prior to assessment of whether the proposals were in line with labour legislation, and also said that MPs themselves needed to be consulted. Another Member suggested that legal drafting issues needed involvement of Chairpersons of Committees, and said more details were required. The task team was asked to proceed with implementation of the recommendations, and, in the meantime, MPs would raise the issues with their parties, for debate on specific recommendations at specific meetings. The task team was asked to review the progress of private members’ bills at the Committee on Private Members Legislative Proposals.  

Mr Frolick was asked to ensure that the Joint Committee on HIV/AIDS did meet and reported back to the next meeting.

The Speaker highlighted the high degree of absenteeism, and suggested that a policy around it had to be created and implemented. A Member suggested that, as part of this process, the existing rules that touched on the issue should be examined.

The Committee adopted the minutes of the meeting on 23 March 2011.

Meeting report

Public Participation Model: Task Team Progress report on crafting of public participation model Ms
Ms N Magadla (ANC) tabled the Task Team report for consideration by Members.

The Chairperson stated that Members had been given the report prior to the meeting and therefore should only need to ask questions seeking clarity.

Mr C Frolick (ANC) noted that, since the last meeting of this Committee, a task team had been established and it had held its first workshop in January 2012. This matter should therefore be seen as work still in progress. At the next meeting, the task team could provide feedback on progress made by the different subgroups working on the model.

Discussion
Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked if these subcommittees consisted of any new members, in addition to those to whom correspondence had previously been sent.

Mr Frolick replied that there had been a reconfiguration of the subcommittees in accordance with the outcomes of the workshop held in January 2012. He added that the task team was also communicating with the Chief Whips of the different political parties, to determine its composition and mandate.

The Chairperson noted, and Members agreed, that since this was work in progress, the content of the report should be more fully debated once more feedback had been given at the next meeting. He asked that anyone wishing to give feedback should contact Ms Magadla and Mr Frolick.

Implementation of Money Bills Amendment Procedures and related matters Act (No 9 of 2009): Standing Committee briefing
Mr T Mufamadi, Chairperson, Standing Committee on Finance, briefed the Committee on the implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and related Matters Act (the Act). He noted, by way of background, that in 2009, the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) established a political task team in order to review the matters, and had noted concerns on the practical implications of certain provisions of the Act, which required adjustments to the Parliamentary programme, as well as other concerns about development of Parliamentary rules and procedures. It was noted that whilst the Act prescribed that a Budget Office be set up, various challenges had been identified, including the mandate of the Budget Office, the interpretation of its independence, the role of the office relative to other research services in Parliament, the appointment and accountability of the Director, and prescribed funding arrangements. In light of these concerns, the Presiding Officers and political task team had arranged for wider discussions and research on the establishment of the Budget Office, including multiparty workshops and an international study tour to selected countries. External consultants were also approached for input. Despite these challenges, some of which would only be able to be addressed through amendments to the Act, efforts were being made to prioritise the setting up of the Budget Office.

Mr Mufamadi said that one of the conclusions of the task team was that, in order for this Act to be fully implemented as intended, the legislative, technical and procedural challenges would have to be addressed. Any amendments to the legislation should be initiated within Parliament. It was also proposed that the National Assembly should mandate one or more committees - for example the Standing Committee on Finance in consultation with the Standing Committee on Appropriations - to compile an appropriate Amendment Bill and report to the House. Any other necessary adjuncts, such as adjustments to Parliament’s rules and procedures, could be taken forward after the legislative amendments.

Discussion
The Chairperson noted the proposed amendments to the Act. He suggested that the discussion should focus on granting the task team a mandate to institute the Amendment Bill.

Ms J Kilian (COPE) proposed the recommendations made in paragraph seven.

Adv M Masutha (ANC) agreed, saying that these recommendations would allow the review to occur in tandem with the drafting of the Rules.

Mr Mufamadi said that this could be incorporated into the process. He stressed that the establishment of the Budget Office was well under way, and the Task Team was busy with the process. A detailed report could be given to outline the practical steps taken.

Report of Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament (Annexures 4,5,6 and 7)
Ms Faezila Mohammad, Registrar: Members Interests, Parliament, gave a background to the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament, noting that this Panel was established in 2006 with the mandate of assessing whether Parliament was meeting its constitutional obligations. In addition, the Panel sought to investigate whether Parliament was successfully executing its role of entrenching democracy, and was intended to  measure Parliament’s responsiveness, accountability and openness.

Ms Nomonde Keswa, Division Manager, Legislative Oversight Division, Parliament, noted that a previous meeting of the Joint Rules Committee had accepted that certain recommendations be implemented by way of projects, and incorporated in Parliament’s approved strategic plan. She listed these as:
- Establishment of a scrutiny mechanism to oversee delegated legislation
- Review of the impact of legislation
- Reinvigorating and finalising development of an attendance policy for Members of Parliament
- Establishing an extensive monitoring schedule to ensure implementation of the Oversight Model
-Improving the process through which Parliament monitored Executive compliance with recommendations of Parliament 
- Assessing and revising the mechanism through which the Speaker of the National Assembly followed up on Executive compliance, in relation to questions
- Reviewing and assessing structures and processes around constituency work
- Reviewing processes related to “Taking Parliament to the People” and sectoral parliaments, to increase Parliament’s impact and reach, to ensure feedback to the public and referral of issues to relevant committees
- Enhancing public participation processes
- Assessing information management processes and challenges in the Committee section
- Assessing the relationship between the Parliamentary Research Unit and Committee Section, to ensure coordinated support to committees
- Prioritising expansion of the Legal Services Office.

She noted that further progress reports on the implementation of the Independent Assessment Panel’s recommendations could be found in the document (see attached document)

Discussion
The Chairperson pointed out that Ms Keswa had raised an important issue regarding the creation of scrutiny mechanisms to oversee delegated legislation. However, this process had been delayed as a result of smaller parties not having delegated a member to the Interim Joint Committee. He suggested that the Interim Joint Committee should meet and the smaller parties should nominate their members when they were ready.

Members unanimously agreed to this suggestion.

The Chairperson noted that although in the last meeting it had been suggested that the recommendations could be dealt with in detail, this presentation had highlighted the progress thus far. He enquired if Members wanted to deliberate the recommendations now, or whether they wanted to refer the matter for further debate within their parties.

Ms Kilian replied that there seemed to be consensus that Members not discuss the recommendations in detail now.

Mr A Watson (DA) did not agree; he felt that the Committee did not meet frequently enough and urged that it must implement matters within the meetings.

The Chairperson conceded that not enough had been done in the previous year. However, he pointed out that a programme was in place for this year and this should ensure that meetings were held more regularly.

Mr Watson asked, in relation to the projects to assess impact of legislation and pass outstanding legislation, asked what was meant by “eligibility” of Members, under section 47(2). He asked to what document that section related.

Ms Mohammad replied that this was a typographical error, and the correct reference was section 471(2) of the Constitution. The question of eligibility related to, for instance, whether Members who had travelled would still be eligible on their return, and there were suggestions as to whether these matters should be deliberated upon by the political parties, or whether a specific mechanism should be put in place to decide the issue.

Mr Watson referred to the proposed consultation on the development of constituency mechanisms, and asked amongst whom this consultation was to take place.

Ms Keswa replied that the consultations concerned issues of Parliamentary services, and were intended to assess whether the present structures allowed Parliament to be responsive to matters as they arose. Any  possible changes in the structure could affect various staff members, so it was necessary to determine if these changes were in line with the labour legislation. Once that had been determined, political buy-in would be sought.

Mr Watson replied that he did not agree with this process. He felt that there should be political buy-in before there was any consideration of how the proposed structures complied with the labour legislation. Otherwise, he could foresee a situation where Members were effectively forced to agree to the terms.

Dr M Motshekga (ANC) stated that while it was fair to consult the staff, as the changes could affect them, it was equally important to take into account that these changes could also affect politicians who would be required to operate within the new structures. Therefore, he suggested that the staff members be consulted as well as the Members.

Mr J Jeffrey (ANC) felt that the report must provide more details. For example, the section on the review of the impact of legislation (including the addressing of outstanding legislation) provided a very mechanical and simplified approach.

Mr Jeffrey added that legal drafting issues required the involvement of the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees, rather than Parliamentary staff.

Mr Watson agreed that more details were required for Members to interrogate the matter further.

Dr Motshekga highlighted that there was provision in the Rules for a special joint meeting to be set up to discuss pressing issues. However, in the present session, Members would have to adhere to the agenda agreed upon.

The Chairperson commented that note had been taken of Members’ input and the task team should proceed with implementation.

Ms Kalyan said, in relation to the impact of legislation on Committees, that Members could put forward legislative proposals to the Committee for Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Petitions Committee. It might be useful to see how many proposals had gone to this Committee, and how many had been approved to go forward as new legislation.

The Chairperson noted that this could be included.

Mr J De Lange (ANC) thought that the recommendations set out should be prioritised to be dealt with at specific meetings, allowing for matters to be fully debated whilst still meeting deadlines.

The Chairperson concurred that it was essential to set a schedule as to when these recommendations could be evaluated by the parties, thus allowing this Committee to deal with the report in sections, and prioritise the most important issues first.

Joint Committee on HIV/AIDS
The Chairperson asked if the Joint Committee Meeting on HIV and Aids had met.

Mr Frolick replied that the Committee had not managed to meet. However, he suggested that a report-back to this Committee should be treated as a priority matter in the second term.

The Chairperson asked Mr Frolick to monitor a meeting by the Joint Committee on HIV and Aids.

Parliamentarian Absenteeism
Dr Max Sisulu, Speaker, National Assembly, stated that more stern measures should be put in place to address the issue of absenteeism by Parliamentarians. He believed that policy needed to be created and implemented, saying that there were a number of wrong signals being sent, both within and outside Parliament, that MPs were being paid for not attending the meetings.

Ms Kilian commented that there were already various rules, and suggested that these be examined.

Mr Watson said that the old Rules provided that absence from Parliament and Committees for fifteen consecutive days could result in dismissal, and added that in addition to that, no MP could have more than  30 days leave from service in a year.
 
The Chairperson stated that this matter be further discussed in the next Joint Rules Committee meeting.

Approval of Minutes
The Chairperson tabled the minutes of the meeting on 23 March 2011 (Annexure 1).

Members adopted these minutes.

The meeting was adjourned.

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