The Committee had previously expressed concern about the persistent lack of quorum for committee meetings and how this impacted on its ability to take decisions. A Senior Procedural Official was invited to brief Members on the Joint Rules of Parliament concerning this smatter. The official quoted rule 27 and 38 of the Joint Rules and highlighted that a joint committee may proceed with business irrespective of the number of members present. The official further cautioned Members that if the Committee was not functioning properly then the co-chairpersons could be summoned to appear before the Rules Committee. Members sought clarity on whether the NCOP Members needed to have a quorum and make decisions.
The Committee also briefly discussed its programme for the fourth term. Some Members felt that they were not consulted when the programme wad drafted and it did not reflect the Joint Defence Committee role but was meant for the NCOP. The programme was not approved.
The Chairperson informed the Members that Ms Marina Nel, Senior Procedural Officer, would brief the Committee on pertinent issues such as quorum and decision making in Joint Committees.
Briefing by Senior Parliamentary Procedural Officer
Ms Nel said that rule 27 of the Joint Rules of Parliament dealt with quorum and decisions. Rule 27 (1) stipulated that a joint committee may proceed with business irrespective of the number of members present. This meant that the Committee could proceed even if 10 members were in attendance. The Joint Defence Committee had 37 Members and 19 should be present for the Committee to make a decision, irrespective of the number of NCOP/NA Members. Rule 38 (1) specified that if a joint subcommittee had co-chairpersons, the co-chairpersons must co-chair meetings of the subcommittee except when one of them takes the chair by agreement between them. If a subcommittee had a single chairperson, that person must chair meetings of the subcommittee.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) pointed out that the NCOP Members of the Committee were unavailable for meetings because they were in Provinces most of the time. It often became impossible for the Committee to exercise its oversight duties.
Ms Nel explained that Committees could only go on oversight visits only when a decision had been taken by the majority of Committee Members. If the Committee was unable to function properly, then this should be taken to the Joint Rules Committee.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) asked whether only 9 NCOP Members should serve on the Committee to reflect the number of provinces they represented.
Mr Mosiya (ANC) asked what constituted the Joint Defence Committee- was it 9 NCOP Members and NA Members as majority. He asked whether Members could continue with committee business when only one co-chairperson was available.
A Member asked said that if the NCOP Members had problems then the Committee could simply be termed Portfolio Committee.
Ms Nel cautioned Members that if the Committee was not functioning properly then the co-chairpersons could be summoned to appear before the Rules Committee. The number of NCOP Members did not really matter as long as there was quorum when decisions were made. When Members were in a Committee they were Members of the Committee and not individual Members of the NA or NCOP.
Mr D Bloem (COPE; Free State) asked whether decisions could be taken even if only one co chairperson was present.
Ms Nel replied that both chairpersons were expected to be in all meetings when decisions were made unless they came to an arrangement that one of them need not be there.
Mr D Maynier (DA) asked whether the Committee was allowed to co-opt other Members to constitute a quorum when decisions were to be made.
Ms Nel replied that co-option was allowed.
Mr Masiya said that if the NCOP Members had trouble attending meetings then they could deal with the problem on their own as NCOP Members.
Ms Nel cautioned that the Committee could be faced with problems especially towards the end of the year because they were expected to submit reports.
The Chairperson said that Ms Nel had explained what she had been called to do; he then released her to leave.
Consideration of the October to December 2012 Programme
The fourth term programme was tabled for consideration.
Mr Bloem suggested that the programme was just a guideline and should be adopted as it was.
Mr Maynier asked who was responsible for drafting the Committee Programme.
Ms Daniels pointed out that the whole first page referred to the NCOP even though the programme was for a Joint Committee.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee drafted a broad programme, when the Parliamentary Programme was adjusted then Committee’s also had to review their programmes to fit the schedule of the institution.
Mr Maynier asked the Secretary to forward the annual committee programme to all Members.
Co Chair Montsitsi explained that Committees would be unable to access funds or even book venues without submitting a Committee programme for the whole year.
Ms Daniels said that there were visits that the Committee was supposed to have undertaken, she asked what would happen to these.
Co Chair Montsitsi replied that the Committee was not allocated any visit time for this year, but all the outstanding visits would continue in the future. Once presiding officers made decision regarding a visit, then that decision became final.
Mr Mlambo said that Members represented their constituencies, and the Committee had not fulfilled its oversight mandate and that was pathetic. The problems of the Committee emanated from the Committee leadership. He suggested that the Chairpersons should chart the way forward regarding the visits to air force base, the committee should adjourn
Mr Mlambo seconded the adjournment
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