Co-operative Governance Committee dissatisfaction with Department cancellation of meeting

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

04 March 2013
Chairperson: Ms D Nlhengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

According to the Committee programme, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs was supposed to present a briefing on their budget vote. The Committee programme was finalised and presented to the Department on the 20 November 2012. However, the Department now indicated that they were not ready to report to the Committee as they had received the invitation letter for this specific meeting after the seven-day period which had been agreed upon. The Department therefore cancelled the meeting.

Members were not pleased with the Department’s conduct. They felt that Parliament was not being taken seriously, and this was reflected by the Department not submitting briefing documents in time, the Department's outstanding documents from 2012, the poor quality of work that the Department presented on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the last meeting, among other issues.  Many proposals were put forward on how to deal with the Department’s utter disrespect, and consensus was reached that the Minister with his Department should be summoned to appear before the Committee so that the Members could raise their frustrations, and also so that the Department could give an account on all outstanding matters. Prior to this meeting, the Committee members agreed that they needed to go on oversight visits to problematic municipalities such as those in the North West province, and assess what work the Department had or had not been doing in terms of service delivery. With regard to the Department's financial reports, it was suggested that the Committee call in National Treasury to provide feedback on the Department's expenditure.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson stated that according to the Committee programme, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs was supposed to present a briefing on their budget vote today. In the previous Committee meeting, the Department had to provide an informed presentation on the impact of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on their programme. The Chairperson explained that the Department did not finalise the documents in time, and so they proposed that the meeting with the Committee be postponed. The reasons that the Department cited for not being ready to present today were that they were waiting on the SONA as well as the budget votes to be processed and finalised  so that they could continue with the Department's strategic plan. The Chairperson also highlighted that the Department had other outstanding matters to address from the last meeting with the Committee, but the Minister stated that all the Department's outstanding matters should be postponed. The Chairperson then suggested that Committee members discuss a way forward.

Discussion

Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) stated that the Department's attitude towards the Committee was very concerning and that the “nonsense” started in about April 2012. And the Department's respect and appropriate behaviour towards the Committee and its oversight functions had been on an ever-decreasing scale. The Department did not consider the Committee as an important part of their functioning; rather they viewed the Committee as a hindrance, as they did not want to be held accountable.  Committee members were sent by South African citizens to represent their interests and to hold the Executive and the Department accountable. The rudimentary level of the Department's work was therefore unacceptable. Reference was made to the Department's presentation to the Committee last week, and how the “rubbish” the Department presented was of such poor quality in comparison to the high quality work produced by the Committee researcher. The Committee therefore needed to flex its muscle and consider subpoenaing people to appear before it as the Constitution provided for this.  A drastic measure such as not approving the Department's budget was proposed, since among other things, the Department also had outstanding matters from 2012 that it had not bothered to furnish.

Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) stated that the unclear communication from the Committee Secretary to the Members about the status of the meeting was unsatisfactory and caused a lot of inconvenience. She agreed with Mr Steenhuizen that the Department was not taking the Committee seriously. The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) was considered to be the “heartbeat” of the country. There was the issue of Departmental officials in municipalities and provinces doing “lip service” and now the Executive, led by the Minister, were doing the exact same thing. The Committee was an integral part of Parliament. The Minister therefore needed to be summoned together with his entourage so that the Committee could express its unhappiness with the Department.  However, she did not agree with Mr Steenhuizen’s proposal that the Committee not approve the Department's budget for 2013/14, as this drastic step would not impact the Department directly, but the people who would suffer were the communities where that money was needed the most. A suggestion was then made that the Committee assess the performance of the Department so that performance bonuses could be held back when the Department was underperforming.

Ms C Mosimance (COPE) began by applauding the Chairperson for the follow up work done on the Department. Disappointment towards the Department was again highlighted, as the Department did not take the Committee seriously. Taking into consideration what was happening in South Africa pertaining to service delivery, the Department showed no seriousness in this regard, and the results showed in the incompetence of various municipalities. A proposal was made to the Committee that the Department be called to order.

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) highlighted that a suggestion was made that the Department produce quarterly reports of their performance and budgets. He warned that if the Committee was not taking itself seriously by performing drastic measures, no one else would take it seriously.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) stated that COGTA as a Department was dysfunctional at all levels, and so it was necessary to meet with the Minister and ascertain what was going on.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) further reiterated that the proposal made not to pass the Department's budget for 2013/ 2014 could not be entertained.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) stated that the Committee had the responsibility of uniting COGTA and making sure that the Department was performing as it should. She agreed that the proposal of not approving the budget was an option that could not be explored.

Mr D Mavunda (ANC) stated that the Committee had relayed its dissatisfaction at the working relationship between the Committee and the Department. He suggested that mechanisms be found to show the Minister and the Department that the Committee was not pleased with the Department's conduct. By the Department not taking the Committee members seriously, it suggested that the Members were “stupid”. The deteriorating performance of the Department could no longer be tolerated.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) agreed with the Members’ frustrations and stated that after the Committee’s meeting with the Department last week the Department was suppose to have been present at this meeting. She suggested that in the next meeting the Committee speaks about its dissatisfaction with the Department, as the Department was undermining the Committee. The presence of the Minister, the two Directors General and Heads of Programmes was therefore mandatory in the meeting. The strong feeling expressed by the Members in last week’s meeting as well as the current meeting also needed to be expressed in the presence of the Minister.

Mr Matshoba stated that the Department needed to present the financial report of the Department

Ms Nelson suggested that the Committee’s administration compile a list of all the Committee's requests to the Department, seeing that there were still matters from 2012 which the Department had not addressed. In last weeks’ meeting the Department stated that everything that the Committee had asked for had been prepared, but strangely no documents had reached the Committee yet. Reports on financial statements which were requested since the inception of the Department had also not been received.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee was on track with its work, as the Committee’s strategic plan and programme had long been adopted. The 2013 programme was adopted on the 20 November 2012 and presented to the Department. Therefore there was no excuse for the Department to be unprepared and cancel the meeting. The explanation given by the Director-General was that the letter of invitation from the Committee to the Department was not sent within the seven day period which had been agreed on. However, the letter merely served to remind the Department of the content of the programme, which the Department had had since last year. Therefore the fact that the invitation letter was sent late was not an acceptable explanation.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) stated that by the Department cancelling the meeting at the last minute, there were costs incurred. He drew attention to the fact that the Director-General was on a flight with him to Cape Town from Johannesburg, and the Director-General stated that the trip was for the Committee meeting. The Committee therefore needed to investigate what the Director-General was doing in Cape Town seeing that the Department was not represented in the meeting.

The Chairperson agreed that the Committee needed to establish what the Director-General was doing in Cape Town. With regard to the
Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report, monthly financial statements were requested from the Department and the response of the Minister was that the Department was not legally bound to produce financial reports to the Committee seeing that it reported to the National Treasury. The Committee therefore needed to approach National Treasury and retrieve the Department's financial reports. As the Committee programme had been disturbed, the Chairperson suggested that the Committee continue with its programme and meet with the Department at the end. And before the actual meeting with the Department, a meeting needed to be held with the Minister, Deputy Minister, and the Director-General to account to the Committee, and for the Committee to relay its frustrations to them.

Ms Nelson agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal.

The Chairperson enquired from the Committee about whether they were in agreement with the proposal to call the Minister and the Department to a meeting to voice their dissatisfaction at 9am on 12 March. The issue of receiving documentation late was one which had to be addressed. The Members therefore needed to unite in the meeting with the Minister and voice their concerns and frustrations. The Minister and the Department also needed to know that the Committee had the power to not approve the Department's budget. The Chairperson also wanted to know what stance the Committee should take in dealing with the poor presentation on SONA by the Department in the last meeting.

Ms Nelson argued that the Committee needed to set the agenda and the Department needed to present a decent report to the Committee on SONA seeing that their presentation last week was of such poor quality.

Ms Segale-Diswai wanted to know whether the Committee had the power to write to the President about their dissatisfaction with the Department.

The Chairperson responded that writing to the President was the last resort, and only an ordinary member of the public could write to the President and raise the concern.

Mr Mavunda suggested that before the Committee meet with the Department, the Committee should go out to communities to assess the status of municipalities provincially.

Ms Mosimane agreed that the Committee should visit the municipalities to see what the Department had been doing to improve the status of municipalities.

The Chairperson suggested that the Auditor-General also be invited to present status reports on the Department's financial statements, specifically on the Department's performance in municipalities. The Committee would also need to have meetings on Fridays so that all the issues raised could be addressed, seeing that the programme was already full.

Mr Boinamo stated that the status of municipalities was alarming in terms of service delivery, and argued that the Department would not present an honest picture of what was really happening in municipalities, which was why the Committee needed to visit problematic municipalities such as those in the North West province.

Ms Mosimane wondered when the Committee would have time to undertake these visits to municipalities.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee needed to sit down and assess their oversight week and find out which problematic places needed to be visited.

Ms Ditshetelo asked would the municipal visits be before or after the meeting with the Department?

The Chairperson responded that the official meeting with the Department would be on 12 March.

Ms Mosimane suggested that the Committee find out from the Department about its collaboration with other entities such as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) with regard to the work done in municipalities.

The Chairperson stated that critical issues were raised in the meeting and suggested that PMG be sensitive to those issues when reporting.

Ms Nelson suggested that PMG to be sensitive in its reporting on the issues raised so as to not defeat or hinder on the objectives of the Committee.

Mr McGulwa stated that it would not be fair to instruct external stakeholders on how they should be reporting on the proceedings of the meeting, seeing that it was not a closed meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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