The Joint Committee on the Appointment of Candidates to serve the Central Drug Authority (CDA) Board received a detailed presentation from the Department of Social Development. The presentation dealt with the Central Drug Authority as a board; its functions, powers and limitations according to legislation as well as the calibre and requirements expected of the individuals to serve on the board. The highlights of the presentation included issues of conflict of interest from certain sectors particularly the ‘Industry’ that the board is mandated to monitor and advise the Minister about.
In the discussion that followed the presentation, Members asked questions about the current board and ‘lessons learnt’ from them as well as what could be improved on for the incoming members. Suggestions were made by all present with regards to the accountability, monitoring and effectiveness of the CDA board as an entity, whose members will now be subjected to security checks. These security checks aimed to eliminate obvious cases of conflict of interest and prejudice posed to the main aim of the CDA Board, which was to tackle alcohol and legal, illegal drug and substance abuse.
Ms R Rasmeni (ANC: North West) opened up the meeting and adopted the programme for the interviews of candidates to serve in the CDA Board. All present introduced themselves.
Mr W Faber (DA: Northern Cape) noted that he found it inexcusable that the co-chairperson was late as he was also from Kimberly and had made it on time.
Mr Zane Dangor: Special Advisor to the Minister of the Department of Social Development apologised on behalf of the Director-General and Minister- they were in another meeting that they could not be excused from.
Presentation by the Department of Social Development on the Central Drug Authority
Ms Conny Nxumalo: Chief Director of the Department of Social Development (DSD) began the presentation on the recruitment and appointment process of the Central Drug Authority (CDA).
Ms Nxumalo pointed out that the 15 members who represented government on the CDA Board would be nominated by the respective Ministers and would not be interviewed. Therefore, the meeting would be about the appointment and interview process to be undertaken for the 12 experts from the private sector who would also be nominated through public process, then once the nominations were approved, interviews would be carried out. She also mentioned that this entire selection process was supported by the Secretariat which was headed currently by Dr Mokoko.
Ms Nxumalo said that the National Drug Master Plan, as outlined on page four of the presentation, was a 5 Year Plan, which was designed to advise the Minister on any matter affecting the abuse of drugs. The Plan would coordinate and promote measures related to the prevention and combating of drugs and the treatment of persons dependent on drugs. The last one was valid from 2008- 2012 and the new one was currently being drafted by Cabinet and would be completed before the end of the year. The CDA would also be responsible for reporting to Parliament on progress in combating substance abuse in the country annually.
Ms Nxumalo then addressed the composition of the Board- they would be experts in the field coming from universities, treatment centers, and NGOs, and highlighted that the government representative from the ‘Health and Medicines Control Council’ would not be viewed as one seat. This meant that the Department of Health would have a representative and the Medicines Control Council would have its own representative.
She also noted that the Department acknowledged that there were changes to the National Youth Commission, which were not shown currently in the Act. However, she amended this sector on her presentation and listed it as ‘National Youth Commission/ NYDA’.
Ms Nxumalo then discussed the schematic representation of how the CDA operates, which was illustrated by the diagram on page 8 of the presentation. The Board would come up with the National Drug Master Plan, and ask for public as well as Government departmental input. It would then operate through the listed departments as well as the Provincial forums and local drug action committees. She said that in total there ought to be 328 committees however the Department is currently ‘not yet there’.
Turning towards the issue of vacancies she noted the term of office for the current board ended in April this year, however the Minister extended this term of office until 30 Sept with the hope that the appointment process would be completed by then. The members were appointed to act in their capacity as individuals, but also in the public interest as well as according to the Act. It was important to note that before being interviewed, the candidate must be nominated and accept their nomination.
The Act prescribed that meetings be held twice a year but the meetings actually occurred about six times annually, as the need arises. In addition, there were often sub-committees within the Board that meet individually in connection with their tasks whenever it was required.
Ms Nxumalo then addressed the requirements for serving on the CDA and mentioned that from bullet 2 on page 12 of the presentation; there was a list of categories suggested by the Department. These categories were not stipulated in the Act, as it only prescribed the need for 12 representatives from the Private sector. She did mention, however, that the categorisation was presenting some problems and the advertisement went out with said categories erroneously.
She noted that ‘industry’ meant the ‘industry that the Department was trying to fight’ which was a controversial area the Departments deems not to be working. Fortunately, however, the Department had not received applications from any persons in the industry because those persons would be persons running a business. A second area of controversy was from the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centre as those representatives seemed to have a vested interest. The 3rd area of controversy was the representative from the Addiction Counsellor’s Association who must be clean from drugs for five years as this would be hard to test. She did state again though, that as the Act does not stipulate the exact categories of persons to be represented; this could always be changed to avoid the controversy and problems arising in the future.
Ms Nxumalo closed the presentation by discussing Security Checks, explaining it was something new that the Department was proposing for purposes of security clearance as well as disclosure of business interests because of some ‘lessons learnt’. These checks would be made for people who had been recommended by the committee for appointment, and not for all interviewed. So far 61 CVs had been received, which the Committee was required to shortlist, and make recommendations upon, understanding the appointment process as mandated to them in section 3(b) of the Act.
Mr Danger said that he would like to emphasise the importance of looking into conflicts of interest where ‘industry’ was concerned. He also stated that representatives from treatment centres presented with conflicts of interest were coming up with harm reduction strategies; representatives in this sector seemed to worry more about their businesses than the actual harm reduction. Therefore, it was a very important issue that both committees should look at when going through the vetting process to try and minimise the elements of bias that would be given to the Minister. He also said that the work of the CDA was “hamstrung” because discussions took forever however with the support of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and a technical team at a senior level where things moved much faster.
A Member asked for clarity about the ‘Industry’ and whether the Department had considered recruiting a pharmaceutical expert.
Another Member proposed that the representatives from Business and Industry as well as from the Community & Drug Treatment Centres be removed as they definitely posed a conflict of interest. She said that she did not foresee avoidance of such conflict of interest if someone selling alcohol sat on a board that ruled on the governing of the selling of that alcohol, for example. Secondly she asked Ms Nxumalo to elaborate on what she meant when she said “lessons have been learnt” regarding security checks.
Mr S Waters (ANC) also asked for an expansion on what was meant by ‘lessons learnt’. He also asked that since the Act was silent on the 12 members; if it would not be better if the committee was not confined to those categories as this may result in a loss of skill and expertise. He asked how many of the current members had been re-nominated to the Board. In the case of re-nominations, he said the Committee needed to know how effective it was, as part of a requirement mentioned. Also, in what way had members given effect to the Plan, as was expected of them in the last five years? It had been noted in the past that the Board had “no teeth,” and asked what could be done to improve the “bustle” of the board.
Mr Waters further queried when the new master plan was drafted, as he got the impression now that the new plan was being drafted before the new board had been appointed. Did this have an effect on the operation of the board given that it had no input in the drafting of the plan?
Mr Waters pointed out that the chart on page 8 of the presentation was the ideal situation; however, it may not be the case as Department did not have much education on drugs. Thereafter, he asked how Departments could be compelled to provide education and input on the drug Master Plan. He noted that Ms Nxumalo had said that there were not 328 Local Drug Action Committees as required by the Act at the present time. How many were there actually and how many of the nine Provincial Substance Abuse Forums were active and established?
Ms Rasmeni welcomed and briefed Ms Y Botha (ANC), Co-Chairperson, on the meeting thus far and asked her to lead the discussion later on the consideration of the Programme of the Committee.
Mr Faber asked what was meant by ‘extensive knowledge’ on page 11 of the presentation as well as which ‘members’ this extensive knowledge applied to. Did it apply to the 12 members from the private sector or the entire board? Furthermore; he asked how this ‘extensive knowledge’ was measured; was it based on qualification or on experience, involvement and rehabilitation within the field of drugs. If it was based on the latter, he would like to know how this knowledge would be tested if the candidates were not subjected to interviews since their appointment was based solely on nomination. He also asked about ‘Business and Industry’ on page 12; namely that Industry did not submit any application whereas the industry did. He would like to know the distinction between industry and business. He then asked what the compelling reason was to include trade unions as part of the board as they were listed on page 13.
Mr Faber asked for clarity on the 3 problem categories mentioned by Ms Nxumalo.
Ms Nxumalo clarified that the 3 categories referred to were Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centres, Counsellor’s Association and Industry.
Ms Botha apologised for her late arrival and asked about the pharmaceutical industry. She advised that in looking at the composition of the board, efficiency must be looked. Lastly, she asked what the work of the provincial drug committees was and emphasised that she agreed with the security checks and disclosure of business interests.
Mr Makunyane asked what exactly the mandate of the CDA was; did it extend to cosmetic and slimming products; i.e. were those considered in the discussions of substance abuse.
Ms Rasmeni said that the Committee would be inviting the CDA Board to make representations/ presentations on certain issues. This had been the intention of the Committee thus far but due to other commitments this had not happened as yet.
Mr Danger said that with regards to the nomination of members currently serving on the board; he found that as someone who was on the technical team, the members of the CDA board who had been most useful were those that had an extensive knowledge on issues impacting on supply and demand of drugs. For instance the representatives of the Medical Research Council were of great use in this regard as they looked at these issues on a public health approach. He said also that a guiding principle would be that irrespective of the selected categories; the people with the best knowledge on a public health perspective must be selected. He also found as another example that the Deputy Chair of the current CDA Board who has a background in Pharmacology has been very useful. He said in terms of the industry and business, they would look at the retail perspective and it doesn’t matter if its SAB or a bottles store for example, the conflict of interest would be the same. They are currently looking to submit a proposal to Cabinet on such issues and they hope for a positive response and outcome to such proposal submitted. He stated that the Government representatives are a challenge that has to be dealt with. They have found that there is no vetting process with those representatives so for instance junior representatives are chosen and attendance and participation of meetings is low. This in turn affects the rate of decision making.
Ms Nxumalo said that ‘Industry’ referred to all industries working in the area of substance abuse and not only alcohol. She could not however comment on cosmetics and food at the moment. The only expert in this field so far was the Deputy Chair of the CDA Board who lectured in this area of work. Representatives should also be from the research and academic areas of this work. Some of the problems they had faced which had motivated for security checks included members who were on the board and had vested interests. For instance; part of the work of the CDA Board was policy making and they found that certain members would push for certain policy decisions which later proved to be of advantage to them somehow. E.g. Detoxification issues may be manipulated by people who ran treatment centres. Issues of resources also came into play, because 12 members from the private sector received a stipend and often created certain meetings that were not warranted or were unnecessary so that they claimed fees for work rendered. The Act was weak and so the Committee had to find ways to resolve this. She accepted that the categories listed were just a guideline and were not restrictive; the Committee may use its discretion in appointing members. There were 4 current members who had been re-nominated. The evaluation of each of these existing members would be prepared and given to the Committee to make a decision. The National Drug Master Plan was drafted towards the end of the term of office to be presented to the Minister otherwise the new board came in and had no work to do.
Ms Nxumalo stated that instead of the 328 local drug action committees as required before the demarcation; there were 215 (instead of 238 required now in terms of the demarcation) and there were 9 provincial substance abuse forums whose effectiveness was another thing compared to their mere existence. Reports were going to be presented by members to account for work they had done. Provinces were moving towards doing such via their respective Premiers office. The 12 members from the private sector seemed to be the only ones subjected to extensive knowledge requirement as the government representatives seemed to be appointed and some did not perform to the best of their abilities as they may for instance feel that substance abuse was not their ‘calling’.
Ms Nxumalo replied that with regards to Trade Unions; there was an issue around advocacy as workers were also subjected to abuse of drugs and substances as they experienced specific work related issues such as being fired. The committee would consider and address the issue around Code of Conduct. She could not guarantee the effectiveness of any board member appointed as she ‘hoped’ that the best and committed people would be appointed and those would perform as well as deliver work within requisite timeframes. The Department would analyse and submit reports regarding the work of the board members and such evaluation for each member would also be submitted.
Mr Danger added that with accountability; what has helped in the last 2 years was that they had required the CDA Board to report directly to Ministerial committee on progress. The Chair or Deputy Chairperson of the CDA attended and made representations. This should be looked at further in considering accountability of the CDA especially because the CDA was a creature of statute and had ‘no teeth’.
Mr Makunyane asked in what way the CDA exercised its authority to make any regulations. Could it prescribe for instance how much alcohol should be in whiskey? He asked for a clearer explanation on the authority of the CDA Board.
Ms Botha added that this distinction that Mr Makunyane was asking for was like the distinction between the food and beverage industry in the USA.
Mr Danger said that the issue of alcohol content in beverages was ironically part of the mandate of the Department of Agriculture. This was why in the area of alcohol the Department was pushing for one piece of harmonised legislation dealing with all matters relating to it. At the moment it was being dealt with in a ‘collegiate’ manner through the inter-ministerial committees which was working to a certain extent. In the past, only illegal drugs had been focused on and not legal prescription or beauty products and these too must be looked at.
Ms Nxumalo added that they were sitting with a very old Act that focused on powers and functions of the board whereas what the Members were raising were the realities. The Department would later come up with a proposal on how to bridge this gap.
Ms Botha asked about the issue of penicillin and phosphates; the former being a drug and the latter an agricultural product used in food. She asked if someone for example found abnormal levels of phosphates in their Russian sausages, which Department would be responsible to investigate and withdraw such products from the shelf.
Ms Nxumalo answered that it would be the responsibility of the Department of Health which had legislation in place to guide such process.
Ms Botha then concurred and emphasised that it was therefore the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health that were responsible for alcohol content and other substances found in food respectively. She made the example of the ‘papsak’.
Mr Waters commented that it was the Department of Agriculture that determined the alcohol content in beverages and yet they did not even serve on the CDA board which he deemed to be a ‘glaring omission’. He also said that the Act was not that old and asked if the some regulations would be brought into the old Act. However; he said that the role of the board needed to be strengthened. Ms Nxumalo meant well when she said she ‘hoped’ that the board would serve effectively, however the Committee “could not live on hope as we need a board that actually takes the bull by the horn and does something”.
Mr Danger said that the Committee needed to look at the best way to tackle the issue related to drugs and alcohol and therefore his colleague referred to the old Act. They as a Department may need to come back with recommendations on the kind of body. There was a need to focus on the entity itself and not the individuals that make it up. For example people from the SAPS that served on the board were very useful as they also met with the committee separately on issues that could not be discussed in an open forum. These issues included border issues, mass suppliers/ supplies of ephedrine for both public and private sector.
Ms Botha discussed the programme and highlighted that the Committee needed to consider possible interview questions in terms of legal process and come backs and finalisation of the shortlist process. There was also a need to look at the vetting process (Draft Joint Programme).
Mr Waters supported the programme and suggested that it be concluded in the week of 6 August noting that as far as the process was concerned, it was important to meet the current board. This meeting would allow an insight into the board’s frustrations, challenges, achievements, annual reports, experiences in the past 5 years etc. This proposal was supported by Mr Makunyane.
Ms Botha noted that the annual report had already been tabled and it was now the task of the NA and NCOP to sit with it and give feedback on expenditure etc.
Ms Rasmeni said that Members must remember that most people present served on other committees thus at times there might not be a full table. For instance she served on behalf of Home Affairs, Education, Health and Social Development. It was then proposed that draft questions be prepared in advance so as to prevent spending too much time – perhaps the support staff can assist.
Ms Botha then passed the programme for approval and this was unanimously agreed upon.
The meeting was adjourned.
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.