Postponement of discussion on Strategic Planning Workshop Report

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

21 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr F Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members briefly expressed their condolences concerning the Marikana tragedy. Thereafter, agreed that consideration of the Strategic Planning Workshop report as well as the outstanding minutes would be deferred as Members had only received them that morning.

A Member expressed disappointment that there was no system in place for when a new committee secretary took over from a predecessor, because there was also a problem with notices for the previous meeting. The Committee Section should look at adequate in service support for new people coming on board. There should be a standard that Committee reports be circulated with adequate notice and provision of the report so that Members could scrutinise the details thoroughly. Members felt that too much time was wasted in correcting English and spelling, instead of adhering to the content of the report. It was agreed that the matter would be addressed with the Chairperson. If agreed the matter would be taken up with the Whippery, the managers of Parliament, because it reflected on the Committee Section.

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson
Mr F Bhengu (ANC) was elected to chair the meeting in the absence of Mr S Thobejane (ANC), who was incapacitated.

Opening Remarks
Mr Bhengu welcomed all and asked Members to reflect on the tragedy that befell the country in the recent Marikana massacre. He also appreciated the initiative taken by Parliament to debate the matter the previous day and expressed the Committee’s condolences to the families affected. The Committee also appreciated the President’s stance in saying there would be a judicial commission of enquiry. He appreciated the input made by Members in Parliament the previous day, proving once again that democracy was alive.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) asked to be excused early as the Chief Whip had been rushed to hospital so she was needed in that department.

Mr Bhengu asked when Members had received the documents.

Members replied that they had just received the documents.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) said she had received the report via email late the previous day and was not able to go through it.

Ms J Killian (COPE) believed the Committee had a challenge as far as the ability to give proper attention to the report. She had discussed some of the issues with the new Committee Secretary and had indicated to him that there was a problem with notices and so on. She was disappointed that there was not a system for when a new committee secretary took over from a predecessor, because there was also a problem with notices for the previous meeting. Last week she had arrived only to find that there was no meeting. The Committee Section should look at adequate in service support for new people coming on board. She suggested that there be a standard that Committee reports be circulated with adequate notice and provision of the report so that Members could scrutinise the details thoroughly.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) mentioned that she served on two committees- the Committee on Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions, as well as the Portfolio Committee on Labour. Both had had a change of Committee Secretary and in both cases his email address, which everyone at Parliament was familiar with, was not passed on to the new committee secretaries. The previous staff was still around, he was sorry Ms Kubayi was not present because she was serving in the fora where perhaps the whole issue of administration of committees, and especially transition from one staff member to another, should be addressed. It was unacceptable that Parliament did not have a database of him and his colleagues that was reliable and accessible to staff members. He appreciated Mr Mkize’s hard work but he was looking bad because he was not given the basic information that he was entitled to. It was a waste of time and other resources and Mr van der Westhuizen requested it be recorded.

Mr Bhengu said Members had the same concern and the matter would be addressed with the Chairperson. If agreed the matter would be taken up with the Whippery, the managers of Parliament, because it reflected on the Committee Section. It was important that the matter be taken up with the Committee Section and the Secretary for Parliament because it had been raised time and again. The issue of Members receiving minutes or documents in a meeting and then being expected to go through; and the other issue that reflected badly on the Committee was when minutes and reports normally reflected what the Committee came up with but Members had to correct language and proof reading instead of dealing with the issues of what that committee had agreed upon. That was crucial. The Committee spent time going page by page correcting grammar. Meetings were meant for committees to come up with decisions, what mattered was the issues agreed upon in the meeting.

The matter must be properly addressed with the Office of the Chairperson and the Whippery must also look into the matter because it reflected on committees collectively. It was critical to have the machinery in the Committee Section beefed up and operating appropriately.

Ms Khumalo seconded the proposal that the matter should be taken up. It was not only this Committee that wasted time correcting minutes and reports, but it was a matter of available time.

The report on the Strategic Planning Workshop was nine pages and Members needed time to go through it. Instead of looking at what had been said Members would be wasting time checking language and spelling, which had to be corrected.

Ms P Kopane (DA) said a decision needed to be taken on a time frame as to when documents should be received. For Members to participate in any committee meeting documents had to be received in time so that they could interrogate and participate effectively in the meeting.

Mr Bhengu suggested five days before a meeting. However, some of the issues had to be ratified before communicating with the Members.

Ms Killian was pleased that the discussion was taking place. The documents became parliamentary papers and the Committee had to leave behind papers that it felt comfortable with, and that supported the dignity of the House and its committees. If committees worked shoddily through documents and did not correct them, in the end that was a reflection of the leadership in the committees.

The reason it was so important to adequately capacitate committees was because in terms of the Constitution the Committee’s role was a significant one and it should be on par with the judiciary, the executive, and Parliament itself, one of the three pillars of the structure of government. It should not be necessary for the Committee to have uncertainty about legal position; it needed to have proper legal advice, secretarial support, including language support. The content would determine whether Members had applied their minds. The record of Parliament must be absolutely correct and therefore the Committee had to insist on adequate support and quality advice. She requested that that be conveyed to the Chairperson and was very sorry that the Whip was not present.

Strategic Planning Workshop Report
In light of Members not having had an opportunity to go through the report, Mr Bhengu proposed that adoption of the report be deferred to the next meeting. He suggested that any comments or corrections that Members may wish to make be communicated to the Committee Secretary so that that could be done before the meeting.

Ms Khumalo seconded the proposal. She referred to the time frame and suggested the Committee Secretary be given the precise day in which Members should receive documents. With meetings held on Wednesdays Members should receive minutes on Thursdays.

Ms Kilian supported that. Not all Members had computers or laptops with them when doing constituency work; minutes should be received by 2pm or 3pm on Thursdays, depending on the extent of Committee deliberations.

Mr Bhengu confirmed that that was agreed upon.

Adoption of minutes
Adoption of Committee minutes for 8 August 2012 was also deferred to the next meeting.

Announcements
The workshop scheduled for 14 to 16 September was not approved. The Chairperson would explain at the next meeting as it was referred to him by the Office of the Speaker; the matter would be dealt with as part of the development of the PPM.

Provinces came up with their own legislation and some provinces were still driving it and it was working, which challenged the Committee to look into ways in which it dealt with issues in Parliament. Talking about petitions and seeing at what was happening in the country ordinary people had no confidence in Parliament.

The Western Cape had indicated it was ready to meet with the Committee on Friday.

Ms M Mdaka (ANC) proposed meeting with them after the Committee’s usual Wednesday 8am time slot.

Mr van der Westhuizen proposed meeting with them in place of the normal Wednesday 8am meeting. Some of the other provinces meetings were protracted but if it was well planned and well structured the Committee would be able to interact with the Western Cape within the one hour limit. He would not be available for the Friday.

Ms Kopane would also not be available on the Friday.

Ms Killian would not be available on the Friday either.

Ms Kopane announced that the Committee Researcher, Ms S Sipamla, needed to be congratulated on being admitted as an advocate last week.

Ms Khumalo congratulated Ms Sipamla on behalf of the Committee; she was a woman making things happen out there and at her young age she was going somewhere. The Committee was proud of her.

Mr van der Westhuizen added congratulations on behalf of the DA.

Ms Killian, on behalf of COPE, also congratulated her and said it was always good to celebrate with people working hard and who were very successful in their career planning. It was also very significant that one of the Committee’s previous secretaries also completed her law degree and was now Legal Advisor to Parliament. The Committee was delivering on growth and it was significant that in both cases it was in Women’s month.

In his congratulations Mr Bhengu said her achievement had made women proud.

The meeting was adjourned.

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