Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill [B25-2012]: deliberations and adoption

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

03 September 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee deliberated on and considered the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill [B25-2012] (VPPAB) Clause-by-Clause.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should consider the regulations before they were published. An ANC Member disagreed. The Committee should not overstep its boundaries. A Principal State Law Adviser said that the purpose of the regulations was to aid implementation. Parliament had an inherent oversight responsibility derived from the Constitution and it was the Committee’s discretion how far it wanted to exercise its oversight function. The Chairperson said that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) would be called upon at the appropriate time to address the Committee on the regulations.

The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) Acting Registrar explained the process of consultation. The University of Pretoria was represented in the SAVC as a designated member. The Onderstepoort Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Student Council (OPVSC), the executive committee of the students, had met with DAFF  and had indicated that, in principle, it supported a one year compulsory community service but had expressed concern over a range of issues on the implementation and operation of the VPPAB, salaries, security, accommodation and the availability of infrastructure. These issues had, however, been addressed at a workshop in March 2012.

A Principal State Law Adviser explained the tagging as a Section 75 Bill.

An ANC Member thought that Clause 6 (6) (a) might become an impediment or restrict highly renowned experts in the veterinary field from coming to offer their services in South Africa, and further asked if the Department would be able to verify the qualifications of such people who intended to come and practice in South Africa. A DA Member asked if it was necessary to put all the provisions in the VPPAB in the principal Act; it appeared that the VPPAB was too detailed and perhaps most of the provisions could be drafted into the regulations:  the Department replied that the provisions were substantive provisions dealing with regulatory functions of the SAVC and it was mandatory to include them in the Act. The Chairperson asked if the duration of the suspension of registration was covered in the regulations.

The Bill was adopted.

Meeting report

Regulations: preliminary discussion
The Chairperson suggested that it would be in order for the Committee to consider the regulations in relation to the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill [B25-2012] (VPPAB) before the regulations were published. He asked if Members were amenable to this suggestion.

Mr S Abram (ANC) asked in what way it was obligatory for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to consult the Committee before the regulations could be published. It was important that the Committee should not overstep its boundaries. The primary responsibility of the Committee was to pass the Bill and it would be micromanaging what would happen afterwards if the Committee was to delve into the regulations. Therefore he felt that it was not the responsibility of the Committee to consider the regulations.

Mr Abram asked if the legal advisers present at the Meeting could enlighten the Committee on the right step to take in respect of the regulations.

Mr Theodore Hercules, Principal State Law Adviser, stated that the purpose of the regulations was to aid the implementation of the law to be passed. Parliament was empowered to summon anyone in relation to the VPPAB and the DAFF was also subject to this power of Parliament as well as the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). Therefore Parliament had an inherent oversight which was derived from the Constitution and it was totally the discretion of the Committee concerning how far it wanted to exercise its oversight function.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that it would be proper to deal only with the VPPAB and the DAFF could be summoned at a later date if issues subsequently arose.

Mr Abram suggested that it would be ideal to engage researchers who would look at all the legislation which impacted on the Committee’s work. This would guarantee that the Committee would be complying with its duty to carry out oversight. 

The Chairperson stated that the main aim for raising the possible consideration of the regulations by the Committee was for the Committee to be satisfied that everything in relation to the VPPAB had been done. Therefore the DAFF would be called upon at the appropriate time to address the Committee concerning the regulations.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) on consultation process and outcome
Dr Botlhe Modisane, DAFF Acting Deputy Director-General, stated that it would be pertinent to clarify the issue of format of consultation as well as the outcome of the consultation.

Ms Lynette Havinga, SAVC Acting Registrar, explained the process of consultation. She stated that the University of Pretoria was represented in the SAVC as a designated member and consultation with students took place through the representation. The students registered from the second year with the SAVC and were part of the membership. The students had also been part of the consultation process by DAFF and there was an open forum with the students through the executive committee of the SAVC annually. The students had also indicated their interest to serve the country through community service. However, the students had expressed concern about when and how the community service would take place.

Concerning the issue of community service the Onderstepoort Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Student Council (OPVSC), which was the executive committee of the students, had met with DAFF since 2006 in the initial consultations regarding the VPPAB. The students had indicated certain issues that they were concerned about to DAFF and a workshop had been arranged in May 2008 to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, between 2008 and 2012, the students who had attended the workshop had finished their studies and another workshop had to be organised in March 2012 to enlighten the new students. This set of new students had indicated that, in principle, they supported a one year compulsory community service. They had also expressed concern over a range of issues which related to implementation and operation of the VPPAB. The students had also expressed concern over the issues of salaries, security, accommodation and the availability of infrastructure. These issues had however been addressed at the workshop which took place in March 2012.

Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill [B25-2012]: deliberations
The Chairperson proceeded to the deliberation on the VPPAB. He stated that the actual implementation of the VPPAB would effectively be 2014 so that undue pressure would not be put upon the Committee. He asked Mr Hercules to explain the tagging of the VPPAB as a Section 75 Bill.

Mr Hercules stated that the VPPAB had been tagged as a Section 75 Bill and referred to the explanation given in paragraph 5 (Parliamentary Procedure) of the Memorandum on the Objects of the VPPAB. Paragraph 5.2. stated that Section 74 set out procedure for Bills amending the Constitution and therefore did not apply to the VPPAB . Also the subject matter of Bill did not fall under the functional areas of exclusive provincial competence. [See Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill [B25-2012]].

The Chairperson continued with the consideration of the Bill and directed the DAFF to take the Committee through the VPPAB. He informed Members that they were free to raise issues in relation to any clause in the VPPAB during the reading.

Mr Barry Beukes, DAFF Senior Legal Advisor, started reading the Bill Clause-by-Clause.

Mr Abram interjected during the reading of the Bill and referred to the provisions of clause 6 (6) (a). He sought to know the rationale for the provision in the clause which stipulated that if a person was registered by virtue of a degree, diploma, or certificate and was resident in South Africa but was not a South African citizen then his or her registration would lapse unless he or she became a South African citizen or had attained permanent residence status. He opined that the clause might become an impediment or restrict highly renowned experts in the veterinary field from coming to offer their services in South Africa.

Mr Beukes responded to Mr Abram’s question. He replied that the provision was stipulated in order to enable a person to get permanent residency in South Africa without surrendering the citizenship of his or her own country. This had not been previously provided for but it was now possible for a person to practice in South Africa in terms of the Immigration Act.

Ms Havinga provided further response to Mr Abram’s question. She stated that Section 23 (1) (c) of the principal Act allowed for temporary authorisation of experts and as such this perceived loophole had been blocked.

The Chairperson urged Mr Beukes to continue with the reading of the VPPAB.

Mr Beukes continued reading the VPPAB  Clause-by-Clause.

Mr Abram interjected again and sought clarification in respect of Clause 7: Insertion of Section 28A in Act 19 of 1982, whereby Section 28A (3) stipulated that the Registrar shall issue a written notice of suspension by way of certified mail, fax or electronic transmission. He sought to know what would happen if the suspended person could not get the written notice of suspension by any of the means stipulated in the clause. It was opined that the means of communicating the notice of suspension as stipulated in the provisions were too narrow and ought to embrace other means of communication.

Dr Modisane replied that alternative methods could be used if all the stipulated methods failed.  There was a procedure in the enquiry which would include the possibility of using a Sheriff of Court to serve the notice of suspension if the prescribed means failed.

Mr Abram further raised an issue in respect of those people who wanted to come and practice in South Africa. He asked in what way the DAFF would be able to verify the qualifications of such people who intended to come and practice in South Africa. This was because there were known incidents in which imposters had used fake qualifications to secure jobs. It appeared there was no provision in the Bill which tackled this situation.

The Chairperson referred to the issue of suspension. He asked if the duration of the suspension was covered in the regulations.

Ms Havinga responded to the issue of verification of qualifications. She stated that any person coming to South Africa to practice veterinary medicine had to submit his or her qualifications and curriculum details to experts who would access if the qualifications entitled such a person to sit for the council’s registration examination. The usual practice was for the professional board of the country of the candidate to send a letter of professional good standing and the SAVC had contacts with these boards.

Ms Havingan stated that no one had ever been registered without the required qualifications during the eighteen years in which she had served in the SAVC.

Mr Hercules stated that Section 40 of the principal Act provided penalties for the submission of false documents to the SAVC.

The Chairperson stated that he was convinced that the issues were covered in the principal Act.

The Committee proceeded with the consideration of the Bill.

Mr Beukes continued with the reading of the VPPAB Clause-by-Clause.

Ms Steyn asked if it was necessary to put all the provisions in the VPPAB in the principal Act. She opined that it appeared that the VPPAB was too detailed and asked if most of the provisions in the VPPAB could be drafted into the regulations.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that another meeting was scheduled for the Committee room and that there was a need to conclude the consideration of the VPPAB in the shortest possible time.

Mr Hercules responded to Ms Steyn’s question. He stated that the provisions in the VPPAB were substantive provisions which dealt with regulatory functions of the SAVC and as such it was mandatory that they should be set out in the substantive clauses in the Act.

Mr Beukes continued with the reading of the VPPAB and subsequently concluded the reading of the Bill.

The Chairperson read out the motion for the adoption of the Bill.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) moved for adoption.

Ms Steyn seconded.

The VPPAB was thus adopted.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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