Appropriations Bill [b3-2012]: briefing by National Treasury

Standing Committee on Appropriations

08 May 2012
Chairperson: Mr E Sogoni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

A delegation from National Treasury was to brief Members on the Appropriations Bill.  Members took exception to the absence without apology of the Director-General.  This was the latest in a series of Ministers and Directors-General failing to respond to invitations of various Committees.  The presence of this official was important bearing in mind the nature of the Bill.  Members resolved that they would not accept the presentation without the Director-General being present, and set another date for the presentation.

The report on the Strategic Plan and Budget for the National Youth Development Agency.  A recommendation was tabled that assistance to young people should be more in the form of grants than loans, but this recommendation was rejected. 

Members adopted the report on an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape.  A detailed plan was needed regarding a number of schools to be built in that province.  Members also discussed a forthcoming study visit to India and oversight visits internally.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted a number of apologies.  The Committee needed to adopt two reports and he hoped that a quorum would be present later in the day.  The purpose of this meeting was the Appropriation Bill.  The process was under way.  The Bill should be passed on 12 June.  He welcomed the delegation from National Treasury (NT), but noted that there had been no apology from the Director-General.  He had been concerned about the attitude of NT on attending meetings in the past.

Dr M van Dyk (DA) said that this was a common trend in government departments.  Members came from far in the country to attend meetings only for DGs and Ministers to fail to attend.  If Members were responsible then others should follow their example.  They could proceed with the presentation if the delegation had been sent by the DG.  There might be circumstances that Members were not aware of, but this should be communicated.

The Chairperson said there had been no communication with the DG.  The invitation had been ignored.  The Deputy DG was present.  It was up to Parliament to encourage the Departments to take the Committees seriously.  There was a pattern of a lack of respect.  The Committee represented Parliament, so if there was a lack of respect for the Committee than there was a similar lack of respect for Parliament.

Ms R Mashigo (ANC) said that the delegation was present, but the DG should advise the Committee.  It was unfair of him not to be present, as matters might be raised which would need his consideration.  This would make it difficult for Members to consider the Bill properly.

Ms L Yengeni (ANC) said some DGs were undermining Parliament.  There always seemed to be emergencies to be dealt with when they were expected to address the Committee.  A telephone call was not ideal but would at least be some form of communication.  She suggested that the meeting be suspended and be continued with the DG present the following day, and if that was not convenient a date should be set.  The Chairperson should take this up with the Minister. 

The Chairperson said this was an ongoing issue.  He was unhappy that despite the important status of the DG, NT was the custodian of public finance management.  When the Accounting Officer was unable to attend there should at least be an apology especially to this Committee.  The DG had attended another meeting in Parliament the previous day.  The officials were capable of doing their jobs, but there was a lack of courtesy.  There was only one Accounting Officer and his presence was needed.  He took offence at the way NT was treating the Committee.  He agreed that Members would not entertain the presentation until the DG was present.

Ms Yengeni suggested that the meeting be postponed until the following day.  The Deputy DG must not take this personally, but there had been an ongoing problem in this regard.

Mr Matthew Simmonds, Deputy DG: Budget Office, NT, accepted what Ms Yengeni had said.  He would relay the concerns of Members to the DG.

The Chairperson said that the meeting would be held the following day at 14h00.

Adoption of Reports
The Chairperson said that the report on the Strategic Plan and Budget of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation had been adopted.  He welcomed three Members who would assist the Committee to reach quorum.

The Chairperson said that the second report was on the the Strategic Plan and Budget for the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).  It had been noted that the allocation for payments for capital assets did not form part of the programme and other econmic classifications in the NYDA budget.  This was concerning.  Another concern was with the difficulty in recouping loans.  R374 million had been allocated.  There was doubt that the Agency could raise the budgeted amount of R34 million.  He was happy with the recommendation in this regard.  However, the Committee needed to speak to NYDA.  They were empowering young people by using government resources.  He questioned the ability to recover loans.  A grant was a different matter as there was no expectation of repayment.  Engagement was needed with NYDA.  It must be decided if they would continue to give loans or grants, or a mixture of the two.  The Agency was engaging with mentors.  There were conditions attached to loans.  Not only young people would be given grants.  If young people failed to repay loans there would be an impact on their creditworthiness.

The Chairperson propsed a recommendation that grants should be considered rather than loans.

Mr G Snell (ANC) felt that this would be a dangerous recommendation.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) said that young people were inexperienced with money.

Ms Mashigo said that some form of workshop was needed.  There would be problems if young people were given large amounts of money without accountablility.

The Chairperson concluded that the recommendation should not be adopted.

Ms Makasi moved that the the report be adopted, seconded by Ms Mashigo.

The Chairperson asked Members to consider the report on the oversight visit to the Eastern Cape.  R700 million had been given to the province to build 49 schools.  By 31 March 2012 fifty schools were to be built within three months, including the December holidays.  Members had felt this was an ambitious target.  In January no work had been done.  The contractors were only authorised to proceed on 23 January 2012.  The date for completion was shifted to August 2012.

The Chairperson said that a report had been compiled with recommendations.  One of these was that the Eastern Cape government should submit a detailed plan to Parliament.

Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) proposed that the report be adopted.  It was seconded.

Mr Darren Arends, Committee Secretary, said that arrangements were proceeding for a study visit to India.  Three Committees would be visiting India over that period.  Members were asked to provide their passport numbers.

The Chairperson reminded Members of the visit from the German delegation the following week.  This was the same date as the debate on the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, and the NYDA budget votes.  The time would need to be managed well that day.

Mr Snell said that a Committee week had been planned for June.  He had put together a programme for an oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.  One of the objectives was to visit NYDA projects and the Gauteng Health Department.

The Chairperson said that a lot was planned for the week.  Some prioritisation might be needed.

Mr Snell said that a list of NYDA projects was expected by the end of the week.  Proximity to cities might be a factor to be considered.

The Chairperson said that a report was also needed on Presidential nodes which should be visited.  It was a good principle to revisit certain projects, but the Committee must not be thought to be favouring certain provinces.

The meeting was adjourned.

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