SC on Auditor-General: First Term Committee Programme; Report on study tour to Austria; Discussion of upcoming oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces

Standing Committee on Auditor General

22 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr M T Masutha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee’s draft first term Programme was placed before the Committee for consideration and Members were encouraged to forward inputs on it to the Chairperson’s Office.

The Committee also considered its Draft Committee Study Tour Report on its visit to Austria. Two issues which elicited discussion was the fact that the Auditor-General in Austria was allowed to address Parliament whereas in South Africa the Auditor General could only address parliamentary committees. The second issue was that Austria had a federal system and consequently there were regional Auditor-Generals in place, each one’s task determined by the constitution of its region. In South Africa the Auditor-General checked accountability from local government level to national level. Members agreed that both issues needed to be discussed further in order to weigh the pros and cons of South Africa and Austria’s Auditor-General systems.

The possibility of oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces was also briefly discussed. The Committee needed to decide on whether it would visit both provinces in one go or undertake separate visits at different times.

Meeting report

Mr K Moloto (ANC) took up the position of Acting Chairperson. He opened the meeting and informed the Committee that the Chairperson Adv M Masutha was held up in other meetings and would not be able to attend the present meeting.
He suggested that Members proceed with the items on the Committee’s agenda. Inputs by members would be welcomed but no decisions could be taken as a quorum of members was lacking.

Committee Programme: First Term January 2013 – March 2013
Mr Moloto placed the draft Committee Programme: First Term before the Committee and said that Members were welcome to make inputs and suggestions to it. Inputs and suggestions could be forwarded to the Chairperson’s Office.

Committee Study Tour Report on its visit to Austria
Mr Moloto suggested that the Committee proceed with the Report page by page and only discuss those pages where Members wished to make inputs.

The Committee agreed to the suggestion.

Mr Johnny Ramrock, Committee Secretary, referred to paragraph 3 on page 1 where reference was made of Austria’s establishment of a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). He noted that he had tried to conduct research on RIA but was unsuccessful in finding much information. As a consequence he felt it best to perhaps delete the reference to RIA unless Members wished it to remain and had something more to add.

Ms F Bikani (ANC) suggested that the Committee’s research section look into the RIA issue and provide the Committee with whatever information it came up with. The Committee could at its next meeting discuss the issue. She felt that the RIA issue was important.

Members proposed grammatical changes on page 2 of the document.

Mr Ramrock reminded Members that the Report was only a draft and that changes would still be made to it.

Mr Xolisile Mgxaji, Committee Content Adviser, suggested that Members should focus on content changes rather than grammatical changes which in due course would be corrected.

Ms S Sihole (ANC) felt that the Committee should effect grammatical changes which it encountered in the Report.

Ms Bikani referred to the third paragraph in which it was said that Austria was working towards a closer Europe. She asked whether an official structure had been created to ensure a “closer Europe”.

Mr Mgxaji referred to Page 4 paragraph 2 in which mention was made that the Ministers of Finance from various European countries got together in order to try to solve the European debt crisis. He was not too sure whether there was collaboration between various European countries.

Mr Moloto suggested that the Committee Section come up with ways of cleaning the “closer Europe” issue up in the Report.

Mr Moloto referred to page 4 and asked what lessons were learnt from the Austrian experience. He however decided that the question could perhaps be answered in the recommendations made by the Committee.

Mr L Ndabandaba (ANC) referred to page 5 and suggested a spelling change.

Mr Moloto referred to page 16 read out the only recommendation made in the Report:
“The South African government considers affiliating to the Austrian based International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA).

He however noted that the challenge for South Africa was that the Austrian system was very different to this country. In Austria the Auditor-General was allowed to address Parliament. In South Africa the Auditor-General could only address Parliament via parliamentary committees. This applied to all Chapter 9 Institutions in South Africa. In South Africa only heads of state could address Parliament.

Ms Sithole pointed out that South Africa was a young democracy. The issue of the Austrian Model versus the South African Model needed to be discussed. In South Africa the Auditor-General was responsible for all parliamentary committees. She was impressed by the fact that the Austrian Auditor-General was able to address the Austrian Parliament. Was it perhaps not something to consider? It would perhaps convey the message that South Africa was serious about accountability. The issue needed to discussed and the possibility needed to be considered.

Mr Moloto agreed that a debate over the issue could be entertained. The Committee needed to consider the value of the exercise. It had to be remembered that when a person or organisation addressed a parliamentary committee there was an opportunity for engagement. However when Parliament was addressed there was not an opportunity to engage.

Ms Bikane suggested that a formulation over the issue could be included under the recommendations contained in the Report.

Mr Moloto suggested that the Committee first debate the issue and if the Committee agreed that it needed to be included in the Report’s recommendations, a formulation could be drafted.

Ms Bikane stated that if the issue was included in the Report’s recommendations it would appear before the House which meant that the issue could be taken further.

Mr Moloto also pointed out that the appointment process of the Auditor General in Austria seemed to be a political one.

Mr Mgxaji also explained that the Austrian Auditor-General structure was different. Austria had regional Auditor-General’s in place. The tasks of respective regional Auditor-Generals depended on regional constitutions that were put in place. He suggested that the Committee discuss the structure of Austria’s Auditor-General as well.

Mr Moloto cautioned that there were some things which the Committee needed to be cautious about. Austria had a federal system with regional Auditor-Generals. In South Africa the Auditor-General audited everyone from local government level to national level. In Austria the national Auditor-General could not audit provinces or regions. It was the task of regional Auditor-Generals.

Ms Bikane suggested that before a placing a formulation regarding the issue in the Report’s recommendations would it not be best to capture what the Committee had seen in Austria comparing to what South Africa had, in a paragraph titled Observations of the Committee within the Report. Once it was captured under observations it could lead to recommendations being formulated.

Ms Sithole recalled that during the study tour it came to the fore that the Austrians admired South Africa’s Auditor-General system.

Mr Moloto remarked that it was clear that the issue needed to be discussed.
He referred back to page 16 and once again read out the only recommendation made in the Report:

“The South African government considers affiliating to the Austrian based International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA). “

He noted that the Academy referred to in the recommendation only took on a limited number of people. Further Education and Training technikons and colleges needed to have specific courses designed for law enforcement.
The issue of South Africa affiliating to IACA and the training of law enforcement needed to be further debated.

Ms Sithole agreed with the sentiments expressed by Mr Moloto. IACA was an international organisation and South Africa should not be left out. South Africa should be affiliated to IACA.

Mr Ramrock stated that there were further recommendations to be added to the Report.

Ms Sithole asked if Mr Moloto could draft a recommendation to be included in the Report in regards to the training of law enforcement officers.

Mr Moloto agreed to do so. He reiterated that if Members wished to make any other inputs on the Report, inputs should be forwarded to the Chairperson’s Office.

Discussion of upcoming oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces
Mr Ramrock informed the Committee that the end of March 2013 was the only time available for the Committee to go on oversight. It looked as though a visit to the Eastern Cape for now the only one on the books as there was only three to four days available. The application for approval of the trip had already been submitted. He pointed out that a letter had been sent from the House Chairperson to all committees discouraging them from going on oversight visits at the end of March 2013 since it was the time when budget votes had to be dealt with. The Committee intended to visit provincial departments in the Eastern Cape. The Auditor-General’s Office was also having road shows in the Eastern Cape coinciding with the Committee’s visit. He intended to request the Committee Chairperson to beef up the Committee’s application in order for the oversight visit to the Eastern Cape to be approved.

Ms Sithole made a suggestion that the Committee spend two days in the Eastern Cape and two days in Limpopo.

Mr Moloto said that the suggestion would be taken under consideration. The Committee however had to prioritise which province to visit or whether both could be covered. 

Mr J Steenheissen (DA) responded that because of the Intervention that was currently taking place in the Limpopo Province many departments and committees were visiting the province. Would it not be more advisable for the Committee to visit the Eastern Cape? Once things had stabilised in Limpopo the Committee could undertake a visit to the province. 

Mr Moloto instructed Mr Ramrock to look at the Committee’s budget whether it was possible for the Committee to visit the two provinces at separate times.

Ms Sithole disagreed with Mr Steenheissen and said that the Committee needed to visit the Limpopo Province whilst the problems were being addressed and not after the fact.

Mr Moloto addressed Mr Ramrock and said that recommendations made by Members should be circulated to the Committee before meetings took place in order to prevent lengthy debates in meetings. 

Mr Ramrock agreed to Mr Moloto’s instruction and informed the Committee that the Speaker and the Acting House Chairperson had written a letter to the Committee informing members that they had written letters to persons to whom the Committee had made recommendations to.

The Committee’s next meeting was scheduled for the 1 March 2013.

The meeting was adjourned.


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