Disestablishment of South African Housing Trust Limited Bill: briefing by Department

NCOP Public Services

10 June 2002
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Meeting report

PUBLIC SERVICE SELECT COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICE SELECT COMMITTEE
11 June 2002
DISESTABLISHMENT OF SOUTH AFRICAN HOUSING TRUST LIMITED BILL: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT

Chairperson:
Ms P Majodina (ANC)

Relevant documents
Disestablishment of South African Housing Trust Limited Bill [B3B-2002]

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Housing on the three minor amendments to the Disestablishment of South African Housing Trust Limited Bill, which were agreed to by Members and referred to the Portfolio Committee for consideration and approval.

It was agreed that those Members who attended the conference on Sustainable Transport would submit the report in two weeks time, at which stage it would be evaluated by the Committee.

The report on the tour to Thailand will be discussed during the next meeting of this Committee.

MINUTES
The Chair commenced proceedings by welcoming all present, and informed Members that the Director-General (DG) of the Department of Housing (the Department) had informed her that the Department would not be able to brief this Committee on the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as presently reflected in the agenda. The DG contended that the Department would not be able to properly brief this Committee on such short notice, and stated further that the Departmental officials who work closely with the WSSD are all presently in Bali where they are compiling a report on the WSSD. These officials will return on 22 June and will be in a better position to brief this Committee on the WSSD, and would also be able to present their report to Members.

The delegation from the Department is invited to commence its briefing on the Disestablishment of South African Housing Trust Limited Bill [B3B-2002] (the Bill).

Briefing by Department
Mr Richard Thatcher, Director for Framework Legislation: Department of Housing, reminded Members that the Department has fully briefed this Committee on the Bill on 22 February this year, and very little has changed since then. Delays have, however, been experienced in processing this Bill, such as the problem with the incorrect tagging of the Bill as a Section 76 rather than a Section 75 Bill, which resulted in the Bill having to returned to the Portfolio Committee with minor amendments. These amendments were approved in the second reading of the Bill on 22 May, and the Bill is currently in its "B" version.

The only amendments proposed are to the definition of the "effective date" in Clause 1 of the Bill, which has been changed from 1 April 2001 to 1 July 2002, and "1 April 2001" in Clause 4(1) has been amended to now provide "1 April 2002". It was believed that "1 July 2002" would be preferable, but concern has since been raised as to whether "1 August 2002" or perhaps even "1 September 2002" might not be more appropriate in view of the delays mentioned earlier.

It was brought to the Department's attention that the reference to the "Appropriation Act, 2001" was not compatible with the previous amendment, and in this regard the Office of the State Law Advisor (SLA) stated that it would compose a draft amendment to this clause to replace that phrase with "under the relevant Appropriation Act".

Minor amendments have been effected in Clause 4(2) to bring it in line with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and the substance of this clause remains unaltered.

The Department is willing to provide Members with a full briefing on the Bill if they so desire.

Discussion
Mr V Windvoel (ANC) [Mpumalanga] requested the Department to provide Members with a written copy of the draft amendments proposed by the SLA.

Mr Thatcher replied that he was informed that this meeting would only be a briefing session and that no formal amendments would be made to the Bill, and that this Committee would meet on another occasion to approve this Bill. Furthermore, the SLA had informed Mr Thatcher that they would make a copy of the proposed amendments available to this Committee before the commencement of this meeting, which it has not done. Members are assured that they will be provided with a written copy of the proposed amendments.

Mr Windvoel stated that this Committee has received a full briefing on the Bill, but because it is now dealing with amendments presented by the Department it cannot simply approve amendments which Members have not yet had an opportunity to consider fully.

Mr Thatcher responded that the Department does not expect this Committee to approve these proposed amendments at this stage of proceedings, and Members are again assured that they will be provided with the written document containing these proposed amendments before that final deliberations stage is reached.

The Chair requested Mr Thatcher to explain whether he is in fact saying that the proposed amendments to the Bill merely alter the time frame, and do not affect the content of the Bill at all.

Mr Thatcher answered in the affirmative.

Mr Monwabisi Nguku, Committee Secretary, informed Members that the Department has presented Members with these proposed amendments merely to prepare them or inform them of the recent developments in the Bill, and the Committee is not expected to adopt these amendments during this session.

Mr Thatcher contended that, in terms of proper Parliamentary procedure, this amendment would still have to be referred to the Portfolio Committee for consideration and approval. For this reason the Department is of the opinion that 1 July 2002 might not be the most appropriate date. The Department is thus briefing the Committee on the proposed amendments during this session, the Committee then has to consider them and decide whether they should be approved or not and the amendments would then be referred to the Portfolio Committee for final approval.

Rev P Moatshe (ANC) [North-West] contended that if the Department had done its homework properly this Committee would be able to finalise this Bill during this session and, in fact, it could do so now because this Bill is so short.

The Chair agreed with Rev Moatshe and encouraged Members to adopt this suggestion and move forward, as this Bill will in any event be debated in the plenary session on Thursday 14 June.

Mr T Ralane (ANC) [Free State] stated that he agrees with the entire Bill as it currently stands, because this Committee has already agreed to the Bill as long as five months ago. Thus the proposal by Rev Moatshe is supported.

Mr Thatcher contended that the "effective date" would in any event have to altered to "1 September 2002" because the Registrar of Companies has to be allowed sufficient time to deregister the South Africa Housing Trust and perform an auditor's report.

Mr Ralane reiterated his initial statement and stated that he supports the Bill, together with the amendments presented by the Department during this session.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC) [Northern Cape] stated that he has no problem with the "1 September 2002" amendment, but suggested that this implies that this Bill would then have to be referred back to the Portfolio Committee for approval. Is the Portfolio Committee prepared to consider this amendment?

Rev Moatshe contended that this is not the pertinent issue, because if the SLA has proposed these amendments they have to be considered.

Mr Windvoel agreed and questioned whether "1 September 2002" is a indeed a realistic date.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) [KwaZulu-Natal] recalled Mr Thatcher's statement that this is the preferred date because the auditor's report still has to be compiled.

The Chair read the Motion of Desirability, and noted that all Members agreed to it. The Committee Report was also read and adopted by the Committee, in terms of which the Bill is now referred to the Portfolio Committee for approval, as amended.

Mr Sulliman inquired whether it is necessary for the Minister of Housing (the Minister) to be present during the plenary on Thursday.

The Chair answered in the negative, unless the Minister wishes to be present.

Ms N Taitai, the Department's Parliamentary Officer, informed Members that the Minister has stated that she will be present on Thursday. Is this Committee contending that there is no need for the Minister to be present?

The Chair answered in the affirmative and stated that should the Minister be present she would only make a short statement on this Bill, this Committee would then also make a statement on the Bill, and the Minister could then leave after the short statements. Clearly this does not need the Minister's personal presence, as this Committee understands her business.

Report on Sustainable Transport
The Chair called in Rev Moatshe to brief the Committee on the report on the recent conference on the role of the Department of Transport in the WSSD.

Rev Moatshe informed Members that the delegates have not yet compiled the report on this conference. Four Members were chosen to attend this conference in Pretoria under the impression that the conference would specifically address the role of the Department of Transport in WSSD. Instead a very general approach was adopted at the conference, and thus the assistance of this Committee is requested in attempting to define the precise role of the Department of Transport in this regard. The conference made the task of linking the role of the Department of Transport to the WSSD very difficult.

The Chair reminded Rev Moatshe that the four Members from this Committee were elected to attend that conference with the express intention that they would return to this Committee with a report on their experience and findings at that conference. They should thus be able to account to this Committee, perhaps in the form of an overview of their experiences there.

Mr Ralane contended that, because of the approach adopted at the conference as mentioned by Rev Moatshe, this Committee cannot insist that those Members provide a general overview of their experiences at the conference, especially without the written report. It would be useful indeed for Members to read the report and identify specific areas of relation between the Department of Transport and the WSSD within the general approach. The Chair is however correct in asserting that those Members have to compile a written report.

Mr Windvoel agreed with Mr Ralane, and suggested that those Members be given a time frame within which to compile the report and make it available to the Committee. On that designated day those Members would then have to take this Committee through the report.

Ms Thompson stated that they would be able to compile the report, but it has to be reiterated that the conference did not deal specifically with the WSSD but only with transport issues and rural infrastructure concerns.

The Chair disagreed with Ms Thompson, because this Committee elected four of its members to attend that conference and compile a report on its findings and experiences at that conference.

Mr Ralane agreed with the suggestion by Mr Windvoel that those Members be allocated a deadline for the compilation of the report, and suggested that perhaps two weeks would be sufficient. Thus in the following week the report would be made available and presented to this Committee, and in the second week the report will be related to the work done by this Committee.

The Chair agreed with Mr Ralane.

Rev Moatshe questioned whether this Committee has in fact assigned someone to compile the report, because the current position is that the four Members would either now have to convene to compile this report or each Member would have to compile his/her own report in which his/her own experiences and findings at the conference would be related. Rev Moatshe contended that if this is the case, he "do[es] not understand the procedure". The four Members were not aware that they had to compile a report.

The Chair, on a point of order, respectfully disagreed with Rev Moatshe on this issue, and contended that at this point the Members are only required to provide this Committee with an overview of their experiences at that conference. The report would only have to be made available in two weeks time, and the four Members would have to decide amongst themselves which Member would be responsible for compiling the report. This Committee did not designate a particular Member to compile the report, and thus the "ball is in your court" to move the process forward.

Rev Moatshe disagreed and contended that the process does not work like this because in other Parliamentary Committees it is agreed beforehand that a specific person would be responsible for compiling the report and this decision is not taken afterwards, as is currently the case. This makes it difficult for the Members who attended that conference. Indeed, the delegation usually includes a person, such as the Committee Clerk, who is responsible for compiling the report.

Mr Windvoel suggested that the Members of that delegation convene after this meeting.

The Chair agreed with Mr Windvoel and informed Rev Moatshe that, in terms of parliamentary procedure, the clerk is not usually appointed to accompany the delegation, nor is s/he made responsible for the report, especially for a one-day conference such as the one in question.

Rev Moatshe replied that Members are very busy and would have to fit this meeting in somehow, and suggested that someone be tasked to secure the records of the plenary sessions at that conference, as that would contain the events that occurred.

The Chair closed the matter by stating that it was a shortcoming of the delegation of Members from this Committee that they did not assign a particular Member the task of compiling the report. The result is that a measure of damage control now has to be exercised which, in this case, requires those four Members to convene and identify the person who is to compile the report.

Study tour to Thailand
The Chair requested Members to make recommendations on this tour.

Mr Ralane stated that it would seem fair that this matter not be discussed at this time as he has himself raised thousands of questions on this report, which would be done an injustice should it be dealt with at this stage. The Committee has to evaluate whether the funds it has spent on that tour were well spent, and this matter cannot be heard now.

Ms Thompson agreed with Mr Ralane.

The Chair accepted these proposals and stated that in the following meeting this Committee would then discuss the lessons to be learnt from the report on this tour.

The Chair noted that this Committee will be briefed on the overview of Housing Institutions, together with the discussion on the WSSD mentioned earlier in the following meeting of this Committee on 12 June. On 19 June the South African Rail Commuters Corporation (SARCC) will be briefing this Committee on an overview of its operating environment, and on 25 June this Committee will hear the introduction of the SANTACO members and its operating environment for 2002/2003.

Mr Windvoel suggested that the Chair and the clerk be mandated to look into these matters further.

The Chair agreed.

There were no further questions or comments and the meeting was adjourned.

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