Adoption of Committee's Oversight Report: Visit to KZN & Eastern Cape 18-22 June 2012, & minutes

Standing Committee on Appropriations

07 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr E Sogoni
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Meeting Summary

The Committee debated the draft Report on its oversight visit to KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape during June 2012, and adopted that Report, with some technical amendments. Members debated the point that non-performing contractors were, in practice, being hired again on new contracts, and it was agreed that the issues around contractors should be raised again with National Treasury. A new recommendation was to be inserted that there should be increased monitoring of contractor performance by the National Treasury. A recommendation regarding delays at Rietvlei was deleted, in view of the fact that the issues had been dealt with elsewhere. Another recommendation was also inserted in respect of the National Youth Development Agency, who should be required, in the next budgeting cycle, to prepare separate budgets for each office mentioned. There was some debate regarding the absence of the MEC from the visits, and it was decided to clarify the Report by saying that no apology had been handed in, although it later transpired that one had been written.

The minutes of Committee meetings from 17 April to 13 June 2012 were all adopted, some with technical amendments regarding the spelling of people’s names and their titles.

The Committee then debated issues around oversight visits and a Study Tour to India, which had been postponed. There had been a proposal that the Department of Performance Evaluation and Monitoring sponsor visits, but all Members were agreed that the sponsorship should extend to all Members of the Committee, rather than the Committee being split and more than one tour being held. The Chairperson was asked to clarify the position with the Deputy Speaker in relation to the India Tour, pointing out that the Committee had not yet been on an overseas tour, and was also asked to take up the issues with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, noting that ideally all Members should be able to attend visits (as was the case in other Committees), to clarify the dates and what the sponsorship would include.

Meeting report

Committee’s Draft Report on the Oversight Visit to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Provinces from 18‑22 June 2012
The Chairperson tabled the draft Oversight Visit Report (the Report). He raised concerns with the wording of the second bullet under “1.1: Purpose of the visit”. He pointed out that, rather than investigating whether  “hospital facilities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape had undergone complete hospital revitalisation under the programme…” the Committee rather was assessing the progress of the projects.

Mr M Swart (DA) suggested changing the wording to “…to assess its readiness for the pilot phase…”.

Other Members agreed with this wording.

Mr Swart enquired whether, in addition to mentioning the budget of R367 million, it should be noted that a further R43 million would be added from own income.

The Chairperson had understood that during the appropriation the Committee had agreed that this would not be taken into account, and for this reason thought that it was not necessary to mention it.

Mr Phelelani Dlomo, Parliamentary Researcher to the Committee, mentioned that the allocation had actually been R385 million, not R367 million.

Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) wanted clarity on the following sentence: “The Dr Pixley ka Seme Hospital was under-funded and construction needed to be stopped since the costs for the hospital amounted to R2 billion”, under point 3.2.1: King Edward VIII Hospital”.

Mr Swart suggested rephrasing the wording, reflecting that construction would be “suspended” instead of “stopped”, to indicate the intention of continuing construction as soon as money is available.

This was adopted after some discussion.

Members debated the diplomacy of the wording under point 3.2.3.1: Deliberations. The Member of the Executive Council (MEC) Sicelo Gqobana and the Head of Department of Health were not present at the meeting of 22 June 2012. There had been some disagreement as to whether or not they had been invited and, if so, whether the invitation had been addressed to the MEC correctly.

Ms L Yengeni (ANC) argued that the paragraph should not be open to interpretation and that the truth of what happened should be reflected in the report.

Mr Swart, Mr Ramatlakane and Mr J P Gelderblom (ANC) argued that the report should reflect what was known at the time of the meeting, and that any new information that came to light subsequently should be included in the next report.

After a debate, it was established that the MEC was, in fact, invited. It was also discovered that the MEC had sent an apology by 12 June, explaining why he was still expected at the meeting, but that this was not passed on. Members discussed why this was not mentioned in the Draft Report.

The Chairperson said he had not been aware of the apology before today’s meeting.

Eventually Mr Swart suggested leaving the wording as is, but adding “It was ascertained at a later date that the MEC’s office had submitted an apology, which was not presented at the meeting by the relevant officials”.

Other Members took issue with the phrase “the relevant officials” saying that it was in fact Parliament’s officials who did not present the apology.

Ms Yengeni suggested inserting the phrase “prior to the meeting” after “had submitted an apology”.

Those amendments were adopted.

Under the Findings section of the Report, Members adopted all findings without amendment. (However, an additional finding was added later regarding the re-hiring of non-performing contractors and the poor management of contractors in KwaZulu-Natal and/or the Eastern Cape, as reflected below).

With regard to the Recommendations, the Chairperson thought the first recommendation (which concerned the delays at Rietvlei) was unnecessary, because the issue mentioned had already been dealt with. The problem of the road was also mentioned elsewhere in the report.

Members agreed to remove this recommendation.

The other three recommendations were adopted with technical amendments.

Mr Swart asked that two additional recommendations be adopted. The first read: “That the National Youth Development Agency be required in the next budgeting cycle to prepare a separate budget for each of the construction offices”. The amendment was adopted.

Mr Swart’s second proposal was a new recommendation that blacklisted contractors, who had failed to complete projects should not be used for future projects.

The Chairperson wanted to clarify that the contractors who failed to complete projects because of non-compliance were not in fact blacklisted.

Mr Swart suggested that they should be.

The Chairperson agreed that non-performing contractors should not be given subsequent contracts.

Mr Swart said that this was actually happening.

Ms Yengeni suggested that this point should be debated again in another meeting. The Committee had spoken with the National Treasury on the previous day and asked this department to look at the infrastructure programme and cost escalations, including those arising because people were not performing. She suggested that the Committee wait for that meeting, so that all the issues regarding contractors and cost escalation could be discussed together.

Mr Ramatlakane suggested that it would be apposite to add something around this problem to the Findings section. He thought that perhaps the recommendation should be instead that National Treasury should monitor the behaviour of contractors, because management should deal with the bigger issue.

Members agreed to that recommendation.

Mr Swart excused himself, but indicated, before he left, that he was happy to adopt the Report with amendments.

Ms Yengeni stressed that the non-performing contractors issue had been raised with National Treasury already.

The Chairperson acknowledged this, but saw no harm in including it in this report, and mentioned that the stakeholders in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape might like to see their concerns reflected in the report.

Mr Ramatlakane suggested inserting an additional finding under “Findings” regarding the poor management of contractors by the Department of Public Works in the Eastern Cape.

The Chairperson said that the complaints about the contractors in fact emanated from KwaZulu-Natal, specifically in regard to the Department of Health, and that in the Eastern Cape only one contractor was singled out as being problematic.

Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) raised the possibility that contractors might be wrongfully blacklisted, and would prefer to see increased monitoring.

Mr Dlomo addressed the issue raised by Mr Ramatlakane, and said that there two issues. The first concerned the weakness of the Department of Public Works and the Department of Health in managing contractors. The second concerned the re-hiring of non-performing contractors, and here he suggested a specific recommendation to avoid this recurring in future.

The Draft Report was adopted, with the amendments mentioned.

Minutes of Committee meetings from 13 March to 13 June 2012
The minutes of Committee meetings from the following dates were adopted without amendments: 13 March, 4 May, 19 April, 25 April, 26 April, 15 May, 16 May, 22 May, 23 May, 24 May, 29 May, 30 May, 6 June and 13 June 2012.

The minutes of Committee meetings from the following dates were adopted with technical amendments: 8 May, 17 April, 24 April and 10 May 2012.

The Chairperson noted that no meeting took place on 9 May, as it was postponed.

Other matters
The Chairperson tabled a draft letter, written by Mr Swart, for consideration by the Committee, inviting the Minister of Public Works to appear before the Committee. The Chairperson reminded the Committee that while Committees were not prohibited from inviting Ministers, the Public Finance Management Act noted that Accounting Officers were normally invited.

Dr S  Van Dyk (DA) proposed that further discussion on the letter be postponed to the next meeting, when Mr Swart was present and could explain in more detail what he had meant.

The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee had raised the issue of ill-treatment during the oversight visit, saying this was particularly noticeable in the case of KwaZulu Natal.

Ms Yengeni agreed. The issue needed to be addressed.

Mr Gelderblom mentioned discussing the Management Committee.

The Chairperson thought issues should be raised with National Treasury.

Ms Yengeni suggested doing this the following week.

Mr Ramatlakane agreed that a meeting should take place sooner rather than later. He also enquired about the Indian Study Tour, and the oversight visit sponsored by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (PME).

The Chairperson explained that the Committee needed to propose new dates for the Indian study tour.

The Chairperson said that whilst he did not have any official documentation to hand on the oversight visit, it was necessary to decide who would be included in the Committee’s delegation. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME)had some October dates, which the Chairperson thought were suitable, and a programme, and this needed only the endorsement of Parliament. The Deputy Minister had indicated that it was up to this Committee to take the matter further.

Dr Van Dyk proposed that all Committee Members participate in the tour.

The Chairperson explained that whilst it was originally intended that the Committee would be divided in two, and each delegation would attend a different visit, this had now been revised, and two visits would instead be held, with the second scheduled for early next year. It was important now to agree on dates for the two visits.

The Chairperson thought that Parliament still “owed” the Committee a study tour of India.

Mr Ramatlakane agreed and proposed that the Committee should propose a new date, as had been suggested when the last plans did not work out.

Mr Ramatlakane proposed accepting the proposed dates for the oversight visits in principle. He agreed that the whole Committee should attend. He also intended to raise the question of sponsorship from DPME in a letter to the Speaker.

Mr Gelderblom wanted DPME to agree that the full Committee, and not only five members, attend the oversight visit.

The Chairperson explained that possibly only up to eight members could be sponsored for something like the Indian tour and he raised the possibility of asking Parliament to pay for the balance.

Ms Yengeni said it was important for DPME to brief the Committee on the oversight visits. If it was sponsoring these visits, then she agreed that the entire Committee should be sponsored. It was possible that some Members who did not regularly attend meetings could be excluded, but certainly those who participated in most meetings should attend. It was important to know what would be included in the package.

Mr Gelderblom seconded this proposal.

Mr Ramatlakane summarised that, in principle, the Committee was agreed on the question of the DPME-sponsored oversight visits. Members wanted the whole Committee to be included, and not to be split across two visits, and wanted clarity on what the package would include. He suggested the Chairperson should convey this to DPME.

Mr Ramatlakane returned to the question of the India Study Tour. The Committee had been told that eight Members could attend. However, there were 11 Members in all. The entire Committee on Police had been included in a trip to Canada and the USA. Similar principles should apply here. He did not think it would be fair to exclude certain members, because the level of discussion on certain topics would not be the same between those who went and those who did not.

Ms Yengeni suggested that the Chairperson ask the Deputy Speaker to speak to the Committee about the Indian Study Tour, and to mention that the Committee had not yet had a study tour abroad. She suggested that he write to the Deputy Speaker on the Committee’s behalf, with a copy to the Speaker.

The Chairperson thought it important to look at the dates in relation to the other visits.

Mr Gelderblom mentioned that the Committee has the support of both the Minister and the Deputy Minister.

The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting would be held on Tuesday 14 August.

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