Appropriations Committee Report on Oversight Visit to Eastern Cape

Standing Committee on Appropriations

12 September 2012
Chairperson: Mr E Sogoni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee noted and accepted the changes that had been effected, in accordance with their requests, to the draft Committee Report on the Oversight Visit to Eastern Cape. The Department of Basic Education had been requested to submit two reports on the roll out plans for school infrastructure in the Eastern Cape, and it was agreed that both reports should be submitted within 30 days of adoption of this Report by Parliament. The Chairperson advised Members, in response to a query, that the Speaker of Parliament would ensure that the necessary work was done to inform the Department of the requirement.

Members then debated what remedies were open to the Committee to ensure that departments complied with recommendations of the Committee, as expressed in its reports, and noted their uncertainty that any punitive actions could be taken. They were also not sure whether this Committee had the power to summon Ministers to appear and account. It was decided that the Committee should seek advice from the Parliamentary Legal Advisors, who, ideally, should brief the Committee on the options available, in answer to a detailed request, with reasons and motivation for what the Committee was trying to achieve, was sent to them. This would be requested for the meeting on 18 September.

Members then considered, and adopted minutes of meetings held on 7, 8, 14, 17, 21, 22, 24, 28 and 29 August, with the necessary amendments. Although Members concentrated on the decisions taken, it was noted that all technical, grammatical and spelling corrections must be made.

Meeting report

Committee’s Draft Report on Oversight Visit to Eastern Cape
The Chairperson reminded Members that they had previously discussed the Committee’s Draft Report on the Oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape, held between 30 July and 3 August (the Report). Members were generally happy with it, but had raised some amendments, which had now been made.

The Chairperson drew attention to Section 10.4, which asked the Minister and Department of Basic Education to submit a roll out plan on the school infrastructure development plan for the 2012/2013 year and the 2013/2014 financial year, within 30 days after the adoption of the Report,. 

Dr S van Dyk (DA) then requested clarity on the underlined areas of the report.

The Chairperson said that those sections underlined were the parts to which amendments were effected.

Dr van Dyk, referred to Section 7.8 of the report, noted that two reports were then expected; one within 15 days (by the end of September) and another within 30 days.

Mr M Swart (DA) suggested that both reports, the 2012/2013 as well as 2013/2014 roll out plans should be requested by the same date, 30 days after the adoption of this Report.

Other Members agreed and the necessary changes to the dates were made.

Dr van Dyk then asked the Chairperson how the Department would be made aware of the decisions of the Committee.

The Chairperson informed Dr van Dyk that the normal procedure was that, once the Report had been adopted, it became a Parliamentary Report, and the Speaker would take the matter forward.

Mr Swart commented, in relation to Section 6.1, that the underlined sentence needed the insertion of “a” before “lack”.

Mr Swart then recommended adoption of the Report, and it was duly seconded and agreed to by other Members.

Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) reminded Members that in the previous meeting, Ms L Yengeni (ANC) had requested that the Committee should discuss the remedies available to the Committee when departments did not comply with Committee reports.

Ms Yengeni requested that the Chairperson allow the Members to discuss the issue before he making any proposals on it.

The Chairperson asked Mr Ramatlakane to clarify exactly what he would like the members to discuss.

Mr Ramatlakane mentioned that some departments, such as the Department of Basic Education in the Eastern Cape, did not always comply with or implement the recommendations of the Committee. He asked the Members to consider how much time the Committee had to act on the matter, and what options it had, in these instances.

Mr Swart recognised that it was a very serious problem. It was in fact rare that departments followed up and reported back to the Committee on the implementation of its recommendations. He suggested that the Committee should find out what remedies were available.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should set a reasonable deadline within which it should insist that departments revert to the Committee with reports on what had been done to implement the Committee’s suggestions.

Mr Ramatlakane proposed that, as a matter of practice, the departments should appear to present a report to the Committee, within a specified deadline, unlike the current practice where they would simply e-mail or post a report. This might force them to be better prepared. If this failed, he suggested that the Executive Authority (EA) should be required to appear before the Committee to discuss why that department may have failed to submit and present a report. In addition, he suggested that the next step would be to have a debate in which the departments and the Committee could discuss the issues at hand. Mr Ramatlakane believed that by using these three measures, the Committee would demonstrate that it was serious about its work and expected its reports that it sent to government departments to be taken equally seriously.

Mr Ramatlakane believed that the Committee did not have any other powers, and was not empowered to levy any punitive measures on non-compliant departments.

Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) agreed with Mr Ramatlakane, but added that the Committee should get the necessary legal advice on these issues, in order to make the right decision, on a sound legal basis.

Mr Swart concurred and said that it could only help the Committee to find out what legal recourse it had against non-compliant departments, and to decide how it could make a positive impact.

Dr van Dyk suggested that the Committee make the necessary request, setting out exactly what advice it required, to the Parliamentary Legal Advisors.

Mr Ramatlakane added that the request should also set out what the Committee was trying to achieve in the long run.

The Chairperson proposed that, in the meantime, the Committee should inform the departments of the date on which they should come and present their reports, and if they failed to do so, the legal route could be followed.

Mr Gelderblom disagreed, stating that this was an urgent matter, and that the Committee should begin the process of seeking legal advice as soon as possible.

Mr Swart and Ms Yengeni agreed that no decisions could be made by the Committee until receiving information on the legal options available to it.

Ms Yengeni suggested that a letter of motivation be sent to the legal advisors immediately. She did not think that it would take too long before a response on the options was received.

Mr Gelderblom agreed, and suggested that the meeting could even be postponed until 14:00 to take a final decision on this issue.

Mr Ramatlakane and Mr Swart, whilst agreeing on the importance, did not see the reason for this and suggested the decision could be taken on 18 September, and that it might be useful to have a legal representative present the options to the Committee.

Dr van Dyk added that the legal department was very busy and it may take up to a week to get a response.

Other Members noted this. Ms Yengeni suggested that an expert in this field be called to consider the Committee’s concerns.

After the recommendations from Members had been noted, and the Report had been altered in line with those recommendations, the Chairperson declared the adoption of the Report.

Consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes
A batch of Committee Minutes, from 7 August to 29 August, was tabled.

Mr Swart commented on the number of grammatical and spelling errors in the minutes, and suggested that the adoption of minutes should concentrate on the final decisions made during the meetings. It was not necessary for Members to go through every page of the documents.

Mr Ramatlakane agreed, on the proviso that all spelling and grammatical errors should be corrected.

Ms Yengeni suggested that all outstanding minutes be adopted at this meeting, to clear the backlog, so that the Committee only had to deal with one set of minutes, at each meeting, in future.

The Chairperson noted that the Content Advisor who had been appointed should assist the Committee in keeping track of decisions, and that it would be useful to have a summary of decisions taken each month.

7 August
Mr Swart suggested a few grammatical corrections to the third page of the summary of decisions.

The minutes were adopted, subject to correction.

8 August
Mr Swart proposed grammatical and technical corrections.

Ms Yengeni questioned the fact that the minutes stated that the Committee had discussed a letter written by Mr Swart, inviting the Minister of Public Works to a meeting, and said that Members felt that the letter should not be discussed, because Mr Swart was not present, but stand over to the next meeting.

Mr Ramatlakane disagreed with Ms Yengeni. He reminded her that the Members had debated whether it was competent for the Committee to call a Minister to a Committee meeting, so the letter must have been discussed. He suggested that the Committee Secretary check the notes and confirm that he had  spoken on the issue.

Ms Yengeni responded that the letter was presented to the Chairperson, who was the only one to comment on it. She reiterated that Members had suggested that the letter be debated when Mr Swart was present. It was possible that Mr Ramatlakane may have raised a point, but other Members did not have the chance to offer an opinion.

Mr Swart suggested that the wording in the minutes be changed to state that ‘Due to the fact that Mr Swart apologised and left the meeting before it was adjourned, it was agreed that the letter, written to the Chairperson by him, be considered at future meetings.’

Ms Yengeni emphasised the importance of also mentioning that Mr Swart must be present during the future meeting to discuss the letter. She emphasised that the Minutes should reflect that the Chairperson informed the Committee about the letter, rather than the letter being tabled.

The Chairperson suggested, to cut the decision short, that the minutes should be amended to state that the Committee agreed that the letter would be discussed in the future, in the presence of Mr Swart.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

14 August
Mr Swart proposed some corrections to Section 3.1.

The minutes were adopted, subject to amendment.
17 August
The minutes were adopted, with no amendments.

21 August
After some grammatical changes were made, the Minutes were adopted, with amendments.

22 August
Mr Swart proposed grammatical amendments to Sections 4.1, 4.2 and 4.5.

Members adopted the minutes, with the necessary amendments.

24 August
Mr Swart raised grammatical and technical amendments.

Mr Ramatlakane noted that he was present at this meeting, despite the notice of his absence.

The Chairperson acknowledged this.

The minutes were adopted, with amendments.

28 August
Ms N Mkhulusi (ANC) noted that she had been present at this meeting, contrary to what was stated.

The minutes were adopted, subject to this amendment.

29 August
Mr Ramatlakane noted that he had been present, although this was not noted.

After technical changes were effected, the minutes were adopted, with amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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