Meeting SummaryThe meeting had to be postponed until further notice due to the absence of the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture.
The Committee expressed their extreme disappointment at the absence of the political heads because it made them feel undermined and it gave the impression that the meeting was not important.
Members noted that the wording of the Ministers were always the same when excusing themselves from meetings. They said that they only saw the Ministers at budget speeches, conferences and special occasions. A Member from the Democratic alliance mentioned that he would issue a statement saying that this was unacceptable.
The Committee stressed that the next meeting had to take place very soon because there were serious, recurring problems which needed to be addressed as soon as possible
The Chairperson welcomed everyone present. She was informed by the Department of Arts and Culture that the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Director-General of the Department were not present at the meeting due to other commitments.
The Chairperson expressed disappointment noting that she felt undermined as Chairperson and as a Portfolio Committee Member. This (failure to attend) gave the impression that this process was not important. She wondered why the Department did not prioritise these meetings. The only time that the Minister came to a meeting was if the Committee was dealing with a bill.
Mr N Van der Berg (DA) commented that this was not a good situation. He gave due respect to the officials, and said that they did as best as they could, but they were not the political heads of the Department. Although time wise, they were under pressure to finish their program, there were so many problems in the entities like Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), which they had to solve. He had heard in the past that the officials just covered themselves, thereby disregarding the entities as a whole.
Mr Van der Berg noted that officials that were present were not senior enough to stand up to the Committee and would not be able to address the questions raised by the Members. The Committee had seen this in the past and the buck must stop with the Minister and Deputy Minister. He had nothing personal against the Minister and Deputy Minister. His only gripe with them pertained to their attendance of meetings, as they were the political heads of the Department. It was the Committee’s role to ensure that everything was running smoothly in the Department. Members were representing the people of South Africa in Parliament in this Committee, therefore he asked for the meeting to be postponed.
Mr Van der Berg further noted that if the Committee Secretary went back to previous excuses of the Minister and Deputy Minister, the wording would be the same. There were cabinet meetings that had to be attended, but as the Committee knew, the Department was not on top of the agenda in cabinet meetings. Apart from budget speeches, conferences and special days, he never saw the Minister or Deputy Minister. He was going to issue a statement on behalf of the Democratic Alliance stating that this was unacceptable. This could not continue because the Minister and Deputy Minister were “laughing this off”.
Mr Van der Berg added that “the Department could actually play cat and mouse with us because they just tell us another story and suckers as we are, we allow them.” The meeting needed to be rescheduled because it was too high ranking for the Committee not to talk to the political heads of the Department.
Mr S Ntapane (UDM) fully agreed with Mr Van der Berg’s opinion that the Committee really needed the Minister and Deputy Minister to be there whenever it was required of them. He proposed that the meeting be rescheduled until the following week because it was urgent and it had to be emphasised that the Director-General must be present as well.
Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) said that there were many issues that concerned him and that those issues had been continuing for a while. Things were not right in the Department. Some of the entities within the Department were doing very badly as far as auditors were concerned. Those issues had been taken to the Department but there was no change. The Minister as the political head should be present. Today was especially unsettling because the Minister, Deputy Minister and even the Director General were not there. Even though the people present had used tax payers money to fly from Johannesburg, and Pretoria to Cape Town, he was of the opinion that the meeting be postponed.
Ms F Mushwana (ANC) said that the Committee needed the Ministers to guide them because they were not empowered. She agreed with what was said by her collogues. It was impossible for them to continue because the Ministers were not there to answer their questions. She added that their apologies seem to be one and the same; therefore there was something seriously wrong.
Mr D Mavuda (ANC) commented that the Ministers should be present at the meeting and expressed concern that the problems in the Department were recurring ones. The Committee needed the Department heads to be there so that the issues blocking the way forward could be addressed. The importance of all of this had to be emphasised to the minister.
The Chairperson said that this had been happening for a long time. She thought the Committee had been very lenient with the Department and that this was not just a case of the Committee being undermined, but there were serious issues at hand that needed to be addressed.
The Chairperson apologised to those who had travelled a long way to be there, but due to the current situation, she had no choice but to postpone the meeting until further notice.
The meeting was adjourned.
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