Committee Draft Report on the 2012 Appropriation Bill

Standing Committee on Appropriations

05 June 2012
Chairperson: Mr E Sogoni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee Report on the Appropriation Bill was considered page by page with Members deliberating to and fro on substantive changes. The Committee’s Findings and Recommendations elicited much discussion.

Due to time constraints, the Committee reconvened at 3pm. The Committee deliberated on the Report Recommendations to be added and then adopted the Report.

Meeting report

Committee Report on the Appropriation Bill [B3-2012]
Page 1
Mr N Singh (IFP) asked to include in the Introduction that the Committee was, in terms of section 10(5) of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act No 9 of 2009, required to consider submissions received from parliamentary committees. However, in terms of the 2012 Appropriations Bill no submissions had been received from parliamentary committees. The only submissions received had been from stakeholders who had been invited by the Committee to make submissions.

Mr Singh asked that it be reflected that the Committee had consulted with the Financial Fiscal Commission and the date be provided.

Page 2
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) referred to the table and asked if 2011 and 2012 were being compared.

The Chairperson asked if the information contained in the table was the latest information available.

Mr Musa Zamisa, Committee Researcher, responded that the information was contained in the 2011 and 2012 Appropriation Bills.

Pages 3 & 4
Members effected grammatical changes only.

Page 5
Mr Ramatlakane queried the use of “was” in the first sentence of the page and asked should “is” not have been used.

Mr Zamisa stated that the Report was written in the past tense as it was reported speech.

Mr Singh did not have a problem with the use of “was”.

The Chairperson understood Mr Ramatlakane’s point as the allocation made was current. The response by the Committee Researcher was also heard.

Mr Ramatlakane suggested that the “was” be changed to “is” as the funds had not yet been passed. The Committee would still recommend that the funds be passed.

The Committee agreed to the use of the present tense and “is” was chosen over “was”.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee was in agreement that in principle the Committee’s reports should be written in the present tense.

Page 6
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) said that National Treasury took the decision that the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities would not be receiving additional funds until such time that they were spending their allocated funds properly.

Mr Ramatlakane agreed with what Ms Mashigo said.

Page 7
Ms L Yengeni (ANC) asked whether transfers sent to the Department of Communications (DoC) had been spent by the Department. It should be captured in the Report.

Ms Yengeni remarked that the Committee had noted that 66% of the total DoC budget had not been spent on core functions but rather on subsidies and transfers. She noted that the Committee was still awaiting a clear answer on this.

The Chairperson referred to the fourth paragraph which stated that the ICT Enterprise Development Programme was the largest DoC programme and constituted 65.5% of the total budget allocation for 2012/13. However the fifth paragraph stated that 66% of the DoC’s budget had been spent on transfers and subsidies. Could both be 66%?

Ms Yengeni said that the correctness of the figures needed to be checked as both were 66%.

The Chairperson suggested that the issue be flagged.

The Committee agreed.

Page 8
The submission made by Mr F Reynecke to the Committee covered almost the entire page. The Chairperson noted that he had not met Mr Reynecke and asked if any of the members had. It came to light that none of the members had met Mr Reynecke nor had the Chairperson seen the submission.

Mr Swart suggested that Mr Reynecke’s submission be deleted from the Report.          

Mr Ramatlakane was surprised that Mr Reynecke’s submission had been afforded so much coverage in the Committee’s Report. Members had not even met the man.

Ms Yengeni wished the Chairperson to speak to the Committee Research Unit as to what should and should not be included in Committee reports.

Mr G Snell (ANC) pointed out that Mr Reynecke’s submission spoke more to the budgetary process than to the Appropriations Bill 2012. He however felt that Mr Reynecke did make some valid points.

The Committee agreed to acknowledge Mr Reynecke’s submission in the Report but would delete the paragraph covering it on page 8.

The Chairperson suggested that the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) submissions be expanded upon in the Report. He agreed with Ms Yengeni that he needed to know who made submissions to the Committee and what was contained in Committee reports.

Mr Zamisa agreed to make the change. On the issue of Mr Reynecke, he noted that the Act required public participation on the Appropriations Bill.

Ms Yengeni agreed with Mr Zamisa but said that the problem was that neither the Chairperson nor members had seen Mr Reynecke’s submission.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would not always agree with submissions that were made.

Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) felt the PSC submission was excellent. The PSC had monitored departments’ expenditures. He said that the Committee Report should be forwarded to parliamentary committees.

Pages 9 & 10
Mr Ramatlakane referred to “Committee Findings” and said that he trusted the Chairperson to make new additions which would result from the new paragraphs on the PSC and HSRC to be included in the Report. He added that there were no Committee findings on the Department of Communications.

Ms Yengeni asked if the Committee was only to cover in the Report, departments which the Committee had dealt with recently. What about the Departments of Basic Education and Rural Development?

Mr Snell agreed with Ms Yengeni and noted that the issues she raised and those contained in “Committee Findings” in the Report should be in the Committee’s Third and Fourth Quarter Reports. He felt that the findings as contained in the Report were irrelevant in terms of the present process.

Mr Swart agreed with what Mr Snell was saying but said that the Committee did not hear from portfolio committees. The Committee was therefore not doing the work it was supposed to be doing. He agreed that the “Committee Findings” should be taken out and included in the Fourth Quarter Report.

Ms Yengeni agreed that if the “Committee Findings” were not relevant to the work that the Committee was doing now, then it should be taken out.

Mr Singh agreed that the Committee should have interacted with departments on the Bill but it was not entirely the fault of the Committee that it could have done its work better. Perhaps the establishment of the Budget Office would assist the Committee in doing its work.

Mr Ramatlakane asked what the Committee was doing.

The Chairperson responded that it was correct that the “Committee Findings” should be dealt with in the Third Quarter. He noted that Mr Snell had been spot on. Portfolio Committees were supposed to come to the Committee with recommendations on the Budget but this unfortunately did not happen and hence the Committee could not blame itself.  The establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office would perhaps assist the Committee in doing its work.

Mr Ramatlakane noted that section 8 of the Act provided for public hearings. Based on public hearings the Committee could make recommendations on the Budget. He suggested that the Committee include under its findings in the Report that, in terms of the Act, the Committee did have public hearings with the PSC and the HSRC and the Committee had learnt that there was underfunding. The Committee should perhaps in 2013 have a different modus operandi in terms of what the Act said. The Committee could look into what independent powers it had instead of waiting on portfolio committees to come to the Committee with recommendations. He believed that section 8 of the Act allowed the Committee to make independent findings on the Budget.

Mr Swart agreed that in terms of the Act the Committee could cut the budget of departments who were underspending. It was an issue which needed further discussion. He asked if “Committee Findings” was to be deleted.

The Chairperson agreed that all except the last “Committee Finding” be deleted. This was in terms of what Ms Mashigo had suggested earlier.

Ms Yengeni felt that the Committee focused too much on other departments and not on National Treasury. National Treasury had also been underspending. National Treasury had an oversight function. The Committee should deal with its findings holistically, department by department.

Mr Ramatlakane pointed out that if findings and recommendations of the Committee were deleted from the Report, the Report could not be adopted. Committee findings were part of the body of the Report and deleting it had far reaching consequences. The Committee was acting in haste. Perhaps the “Committee Findings” could be reclassified as “Observations”?

Ms Mashigo suggested that the Committee recommend the Bill for consideration in the House.

Mr Singh noted that recommendations were of utmost importance. The recommendations by the Committee could include that National Treasury should interact with departments on the Appropriation Bill. A further recommendation was that departments should take the findings of the PSC seriously. The establishment of the Budget Office was considered important. Another recommendation could be to adopt the Bill with or without amendments. He also suggested keeping the “Committee Findings”. 

Mr Swart supported the recommendations made by Mr Singh. He agreed with Ms Mashigo that the Committee recommend the Bill for consideration. The Committee could not give a blanket approval as there were things that all the members did not agree upon.

Mr Snell agreed with renaming “Committee Findings” to “Committee Observations”. The Committee could put a remedial process in place. The Act required that the Committee had to state that the Bill could be accepted with or without amendments. The Committee did not have the capacity to make changes. It was acceptable to submit the Bill to Parliament for consideration.

Mr Swart said that he did not have a problem with the Committee recommending that the Bill be accepted by Parliament as it would in any case to be accepted.

The Chairperson noted that members were now recommending that the findings be reclassified as observations. He understood findings to be things that were noted in discussions. The “Committee Findings “ were also found elsewhere in the body of the Report. The Committee was in agreement that National Treasury had its own shortcomings and that it had an oversight role. It would seem that what was on the table now was that the findings on page 9 remain and that further findings be included. There were also suggested recommendations.

Mr Swart said that the Committee could only deal with what the Committee had before it. The Committee could only make findings on matters it had before it. He had no problem with leaving Findings as is and not reclassifying it as Observations. The Committee could propose that the Bill be approved by the House but that the objections of various political parties on certain departments be noted.

Mr Ramatlakane agreed on Findings rather than Observations. He agreed with Ms Mashigo that the Committee propose the adoption of the Bill without amendments.

The Committee agreed to adjourn the meeting for changes to be made to the Report by Committee Section and to reconvene at 3pm for the continuation of the consideration of the Report.

Afternoon session
Mr N Singh (IFP) suggested a further recommendation that National Treasury should engage more with  departments. There should be ongoing interactions between National Treasury and departments.

The Chairperson said he supported that recommendation.

Mr Singh also proposed that the lack capacity and skills in the Department of Public Service and Administration should feature.

The Committee agreed.

The Committee Secretary read that the DPSA and National Treasury should note and act on the finding in 6.7 of the Committee Report Findings. This dealt with the high level of expenditure by the department which did not necessarily result in the predetermined outputs being met.

Mr Ramatlakane proposed that the last recommendation should read that the Committee asked the House to adopt the 2012 Appropriation Bill.

The Committee then adopted the Report on the 2012 Appropriation Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.

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