COGTA Minister on Committee complaints; Traditional Affairs 2012 Priorities progress report & Impact of 2013 State of Nation Address

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

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

The Committee and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had a discussion on the problems in the working relationship between the Department and the Portfolio Committee. Members aired their concerns that the Department did not deliver enough information to the Portfolio Committee, and that often the information they did receive was not in-depth and/or was not delivered in a timely manner. Both parties agreed to communicate more effectively in the future to improve the working relationship and ensure effective service delivery to the South African people.

In its Progress Report on 2012 Priorities, the Department emphasised that social cohesion, high co-infection rates of HIV and TB, increase in diseases of lifestyle, land, education, tourism, rural development, infrastructure, gender equality and women empowerment, were issues incorporated in the Department of Traditional Affairs 2013/14 Annual Performance Plan and 2013/14 – 2015/16 Strategic Plan. The implications of the focus on Infrastructure, Job Creation, Land, and SMMEs in the 2013 of the State of the Nation Address were relevant to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson opened the meeting as soon as the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Richard Baloyi, arrived. She said that at the last meeting, Committee Members unanimously decided to discuss the working relationship they have with the Minister and other senior officials. Not enough information was being sent by the Department to the Committee. The Committee had requested all briefing documents be sent seven days before the relevant meeting, so that Members would have time to carefully review the materials. The Committee felt that it was appropriate to air grievances about its working relationship with the Department, in order to improve the relationship moving forward. After addressing the problems of the working relationship, the Committee would be able to fulfil its oversight duties freely.

Discussion
Ms W Nelson, ANC Whip, noted that the Department was in full force, referring to the high attendance of Department officials at the meeting. She said that the relationship between the Committee and the Department was not how it should be. It was important to realise that effective service delivery to citizens depended on a proper working relationship. The Department was responsible for implementation of policies. There had not been enough information coming through from the Department and when the Department did send information to the Committee, it was usually sent after the deadline. She reminded the Department that the Committee requested information seven days before the meeting as the Committee would be expected to comment on the information. This time frame would allow the Members to carefully consider information and be well-prepared for meetings. In order to achieve proper oversight, the Committee must be informed. She emphasised how crucial it was to receive documents ahead of time and noted that the Committee had brought up this concern with the Department on many occasions. It was irresponsible and unacceptable for the Department to continue not to be timely.

She proposed that if the Committee did not have necessary documents in time for a meeting, then the corresponding agenda item simply would not be addressed in the meeting because Members would not be properly prepared. She noted that the Committee had been disappointed with the Department’s earlier shallow discussion on the 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA). The presentation lacked specific, new information. She was looking for an organised presentation, outlining the goals of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, measuring progress, and stating what was left to be done. She reiterated that the information the Committee was receiving from the Department was almost selective because the information was usually superficial or lacking in depth. It would be helpful for the Committee to receive the Department’s monthly expenditure reports, noting that some municipalities did not have the capacity to spend the money they received. She asked what the Department spent on a monthly or quarterly basis. The Committee’s current relationship with the Department was not enabling it to complete its oversight role. Members would consider not processing legislation if the Department wanted to add excessive regulations later on because it would defeat the purpose. It would be better for the Committee and the Department to work together.

Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) said that the grace period for restructuring the Department was over and said that the Minister could not be considered a new minister any longer. The government was the spinal cord of service delivery to the people. If the spinal cord was injured, paralysis occurs. If government did not work effectively, all service delivery could be paralysed. She was a politician and a member of the ANC. If things did not go according to plan, the ANC gets blamed, even if the problems are due to operational and functional concerns, such as certain individuals failing to fulfil their job responsibilities. The Committee and the Department ought to be inseparable. The Minister had lots of work and could not attend all of the Committee’s meetings, but the Director General (DG) and the Deputy Directors General (DDGs) could be given the authority to attend in the Minister’s stead, noting that the Minister could still be held accountable to what DGs or DDGs say.

The Committee used to be seen as the leading committee for getting things done in Parliament, but the Committee had been falling behind. Although the criticism may be harsh, it was necessary in order to prevent working relationship problems in the future. She asked what the Department planned to do in light of the 2013 SONA. She asked how the Committee could help the Department rally support. She asked how the Department’s goals fit into the National Development Plan. Their last presentation lacked any mention of the NDP, despite the fact that the Minister signed off on the presentation.

Mr J Steenhuizen (ANC) said Ms Wendy Nelson captured the essence of the complaint well. It was frustrating to receive half-baked reports and noted that the same presentation given last time was distributed again for this meeting. He noted that the NDP was not mentioned once in the presentation. The Committee Researcher had prepared documents that were easy to read, comprehensible and informative, and the researcher also handled one or two other committees. He asked how the Department could be so lacking. There was not a proper partnership between the Committee and the Department. It was very frustrating as a Member to read press statements and other media items through the news and not earlier. It had made talking to constituents harder. He was concerned that not getting an email response from the Minister to his message about the Department’s role in fighting corruption. The Committee had an oversight role. He expressed his hope to move forward in a proper partnership to overcome the challenges to service delivery together.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) said that Members were dedicated, sincere and honourable, but were not being productive enough, in part due to the strained working relationship with the Department. The “Happy New Year!” exchanges at the beginning of this March meeting between Members and Department officials summed up the problem. He did not make unnecessary comments in meetings but he thought it was important to call for an improved working relationship.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) thanked the Chairperson. In his first few months as a new Committee Member, he recalled the Minister deciding to avail himself to the Committee meetings. He recalled confiding in the Minister about problems in his constituency in the hope he could help with certain complicated problems. The Minister promised help, but the problems remained. Information from the Department must reach the Committee in a timely manner so the working relationship could be a healthy one. The Department had not taken the Committee meetings very seriously, noting that the Committee had repeatedly asked for documents to be sent in advance of meetings for careful review by Members beforehand. Without allowing Members time to review the documents, it was unlikely for much to be achieved at the meetings.

He recalled posing questions to the Department that went unanswered. He suggested that the Committee Secretary forward Members’ questions to the Department in future. The Department did not show up for the 5 March 2013 meeting and did not provide a reason for the absence. A sick body could cease to function. Oftentimes, local municipalities receive the blame when things went wrong. He realised that problems may have been coming from the top and getting filtered down. He referred to Ms Segale-Diswai’s story of paralysis, calling it an accurate portrayal of the situation at hand.

He noted that although the Department and the Committee had finally sat down to a meeting together, Members still had not received an annual financial statement and that other Committees had already received the statements from their departments. He expressed his concern about proper service delivery countrywide, especially for water.

The Chairperson summarised Members’ points by saying that developing a proper working relationship was the main concern of the Committee.

The Minister said that some of the things Mr Boinamo said were incorrect.

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) said that the Committee had lost its good reputation in Parliament and asked what the Minister’s task team did.

The Chairperson said that the Minister ought to be able to respond shortly. The Committee came up with a programme on 20 November and noted that since Department officials did not show up for the previous week’s meeting, the Committee had wasted time and was forced to adjust its programme to reschedule the meeting. The Committee was told at the eleventh hour on Monday evening that the meeting would have to be cancelled - an unprofessional and disrespectful move. She expressed her hope that the working relationship would improve. She referred to the Constitution, and said it was normal for DGs to come before the Committee and speak on behalf of the corresponding Minister. She noted that she had not received a phone call from the Minister approving a meeting between herself and a DG.

She told Members that she was unaware of legislation regarding the Khoi-San and anticipated that legislation would be written in two to three years. If had been difficult for the Members to come up with statements because the Department had not been communicating well to the Committee. Members wanted to be able to praise the Department for its achievements in the chambers of Parliament, but were not able to because they had been left in the dark about many of the Department’s activities. Parliamentary debates were not as vibrant as to be expected. She reiterated that information was not getting through to the Committee, that documents reached the Committee in an untimely manner, and that oftentimes the information that did get through to the Committee, was shallow. She reminded the Department that the Committee was airing its complaints, but was not holding a grudge. All in all, the Committee and the Department may have differences, but both strive for better service delivery to improve the lives of South Africans.

Minister’s Response
The Minister thanked the Chairperson and the Members for their input. He fully agreed that the Department had not been strong on proper information delivery. He noted that the Members’ concerns about information delivery were genuine and that the issues needed to be addressed in order to defend Parliament’s image as an institution. He would never be married to an idea that stifles the input of the Committee.

Steps needed to be made to improve the working relationship. He had already begun working to improve the relationship before that day’s meeting, as if he knew what the Members’ would say at the meeting. He spoke to the two Directors-General about the importance of on-time information delivery and suggested that when the Department knew a presentation was coming up, it should be completed a month beforehand. He had created an addendum to the performance agreement to address the issue of documents reaching the Committee late. He agreed with a Member’s suggestion not to hold a meeting if Members received documents late, understanding that the tardiness caused Members to be unprepared for discussion on the document. He would hold people accountable whenever they produced a document with shallow information. He expressed his gratitude that the Department and the Committee were meeting to discuss their working relationship. It was clear improvements needed to be made.

He acknowledged there were quite a number of comments made about his signature on documents, and that small problems such as poor document handling could lead to big failures. It was proper for the Committee to receive the Department’s monthly expenditures and promised that it would be done so the Committee could evaluate whether or not money was being used as intended.

He acknowledged that the Department was long overdue to sign certain Regulations. Regulations exist to facilitate the interpretation of legislation, not to fundamentally change the legislation. As a member of the ANC, he understood that everyone ought to be able to raise their concerns freely before legislation was signed into law and said that sometimes led to delays.

He promised to have full presentations ready by Tuesday of the previous week. He had always believed that senior officials could attend Committee meetings in his stead, as long as he could see their reports beforehand to ensure quality. His busy schedule had not allowed him to attend all Committee meetings. He recalled his first meeting with the Committee the previous year and said that a Member praised him for his thorough presentation - he had made a fourth version of a presentation at four o’clock in the morning to ensure that no political biases existed in it.

Feedback on service delivery ought to be handled differently in the future; feedback should not only be given during meetings. He decided that every Friday, a letter should be sent to the Committee from the Department containing feedback and a discussion of what was accomplished that week and what would be done the following week. Monthly reports could be helpful as well. It was critical for the Committee to be on board with Department and for the two to have a proper dialogue on service delivery. It was essential to precisely determine the problems of the working relationship in order to address them.

Local government was everybody's business and the Department was serious about facilitating service delivery. He mentioned a protest about service delivery that took place the previous day in Mayflower. We have facilitators on the ground and we should know about poor service delivery before a serious protest takes place. The protest came as a surprise to the Ministry and others who were meeting not more than 70kms away in Carolina in Mpumalanga as part of the National of Council Provinces’ Taking Parliament to the People programme.

The Minister noted that the Chairperson had said that South Africa was a real democracy with separation of powers. However, the Committee should not expect to give its okay for all the comments and press statements the Minister makes to the media. He would request copies of a Member’s letters on anti-corruption and promised to address the topic in Tuesday’s report. In a democracy, branches of government were supposed to work together. What came between the Committee and the Department was lack of information and timely engagement. The Department had to take these matters very seriously. He expected the Committee to put him to the test, and suggested that the Department and the Committee think of the meeting as a vow renewal.

He addressed a Member’s concern about a human settlement dispute in a township. He thought the matter had been attended to. If it was true the problem had not been attended to, it was possible that he was misled. He regretted the possibility that he may have been misled and consequently misled Members of Parliament.

He addressed Members’ general concern that a full report on the 2013 SONA was not given by the Department. The presentation reached him at the last minute to check the quality. He agreed that it was unacceptable for the presentation to not have discussed how the National Development Plan as it relates to the Department. He promised that in future the Committee would receive the slides in advance and would get narrative summaries of reports, annual financial statements, and other necessary documents. He thought the Friday communication schedule would help improve the relationship a lot.

It was important for the Department to work alongside Members to address problems in their constituencies. The Traditional Courts Bill provided Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs with an opportunity to engage with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Rural Development, and others.

Then, the Municipal Demarcation Board had to act to ensure its independence. The issue of the Municipal Demarcation Board’s independence ought to be discussed and debated. He questioned what others’ definition of “public participation” was. During Parliament’s Local Government Week, the Department announced it would be appointing a task team to answer questions related to the Municipal Demarcation Board, such as why South Africans must review boundaries every time they vote? How could municipalities plan for 2020 if their borders in 2020 are not certain? Were socio-economic factors considered when municipalities were created? The task team should be viewed as an extension of the Office of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He asked for legislation to address these issues.

If the DG created the impression that he could not answer a question before phoning the Minister for permission that was incorrect. Rather than make a public announcement, he opted to write a letter to the Chairperson requesting the postponement of the Department’s presentation. The Chairperson had the power to reject the request. He reminded the Chairperson that she was welcome to contact senior officials when he was unavailable. Parliament had been a very serious and important structure in South Africa and the role of chairpersons had been very important. He apologised for serious misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations. He trusted the Chairperson and the DG.

A presentation that did not take into account the budget would have been set up to fail. Funds must have been set aside for Department programmes to be included in such a presentation.

He concluded that the Department and the Committee ought to handle things differently in future. When it came time for assessments of the Department, the Committee must be understanding if it asks for things at short notice, that the Department may not be able to fulfil the deadlines all the time. He asked the Committee to think about timely information delivery on a case-by-case basis, noting that the Committee could assign due dates for certain documents. He reiterated the need to normalise the working relationship of the Department and the Committee. He thought he recalled sharing his mobile phone number with Members at one point, but announced it again in case some Members did not have it.

The Minister explained that if he does not answer a phone call, the phone call was put through to three other people in his office, so it was likely that he would have received a message from one of them that he missed a call from someone. In addition, he noted that his phone displays the numbers of missed calls. Perhaps if someone calls without using his or her official number, he might not call back because he did not recognise who called. He reminded the Committee that he wanted to be as available as possible and that he would correct these mistakes.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs comment
Mr Yunus Carrim, the Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said that he was serving in his current position at the pleasure of the President, but that he primarily identified himself as a Member of Parliament. He noted that the previous Minister delegated work and that he appeared at Committee discussions about the Annual Report, the budget, or when otherwise requested. He noted that as Deputy Minister, he had attended 70% of Committee meetings, had excuses for 20% and that the other 10% slipped through the cracks. The problems of the working relationship were being addressed. Due to the presence of guests in the room, including a Parliamentary Monitoring Group monitor, he could not respond to the Members’ complaints fully as he would like to due to decorum standards and suggested talking more outside of a formal meeting. His integrity had been questioned twice in the past week for things beyond his control. He reminded everyone in the room that the government and the majority party have been clear that the NDP was no more than a framework, a set of broad targets, and that each department was meant to adjust its strategic plans to fit into the NDP. It was up to Parliament to exercise its oversight powers.

Progress Report on 2012 Priorities of Department of Traditional Affairs
Mr Muzamani Charles Nwaila, Director-General at the Department of Traditional Affairs, noted that he had a touch of the flu and apologised if it showed in his presentation. He proceeded to read through the Progress Report. He concluded that highlights from the 2013 SONA, such as social cohesion, high co-infection rates of HIV and TB, the increase in diseases of lifestyle, land, education, tourism, rural development, infrastructure, gender equality and women empowerment, were all incorporated into the Department of Traditional Affairs Draft 2013/14 Annual Performance Plan and 2013/14 – 2015/16 Strategic Plan. The report included updates on the tabling of the National Traditional Affairs Bill and on the recognition of Khoi-San communities, including their leadership and structures. The highlights the Department picked out from the 2013 SONA were incorporated into the Annual Performance Plan so that they would be budgeted for.

The Minister added that late applications for land would specifically be allowed for Khoi-San people. He was committed to organising one roundtable to discuss Khoi-San matters because the National Khoi-San Council was not necessarily representative. The Department required the help of historians, anthropologists, and others who know more information about traditional living to get a more accurate picture of the Khoi-San people, especially to count them accurately in the census and to be culturally sensitive on issues such as health.

Impact of 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on COGTA
Adv Tommy Ntsewa, Deputy Director-General (DDG) at the Department of Traditional Affairs explained that the second PowerPoint presentation included an analysis of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 SONAs. The Annual Plan would be presented next week and would include National Development Plan considerations. They presented the PowerPoint and detailed the implications of the focus on Infrastructure, Job Creation, Land, and SMMEs in the 2013 SONA.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Department for their presentation and suggested that questions on traditional affairs could wait until next week's meeting. She noted that she did not feel the proper personnel structure at the local level.

Ms Nelson said that the details were in the Annual Performance Plans and that indicators and targets are necessary parts of an APP. It was important to measure performance and track progress along a certain time frame.

Ms C Mosimane (COPE) asked that initiation schools, women in rural areas, and rural areas be considered.

Mr Bonhomme (ANC) said that given the country’s history, it was important to discuss matters with the Khoi-San, rather than talk about the Khoi-San. Rather than deciding what was good for them, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs ought to ask the Khoi-San what they needed.

The Chairperson noted that the Khoi and the San were separate. The Committee’s focus was on the Traditional Affairs Bill. She asked the Department to be more specific when discussing programmes to address aging infrastructure. Everyone agreed that water shortages were a problem and that only the President could declare disaster areas, but that local politicians were calling areas disaster areas anyway due to water problems. She noted an example of a bridge collapse in a municipality and suggested that more be done to assist municipalities with technology and engineering. She urged the Minister to lead the process for assisting that municipality.

The Minister said that the Department and the Committee could come up with a report together regarding the municipality. He agreed that water problems were important to address and that aging infrastructure was a major cause of trouble. Yesterday he spoke to the NCOP about toolkits that could be used to help traditional leaders lead effectively. He noted situations where the members of the traditional royal family end up as local government administrators, but stressed that no matter whom the administrators were, they would benefit from the toolkits because they included important documents needed to lead properly, such as South Africa's Constitution.

The Chairperson said that before she let the Department comment, she would allow the Members time to review the presentation. Noting the time, she asked if Members would like to go through the presentations themselves.

Members agreed.

The Chairperson allowed a few last questions.

Members asked about public participation.

Mr Nwaila said that ordinarily, the public was given an opportunity to give written comments. Public hearings across the country would not be necessary because the Minister would take into account the public’s written comments when developing policy.

Ms Nelson asked what the time period was for the public to write comments.

Mr Kevin Naidoo, the Executive Manager: Local Government Support, replied it was just over a month.

Ms Nelson asked if 10 April was the cap.

Mr Nwaila said that many traditional councils and traditional houses still needed to come into line with the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act. Khoi-San leaders were involved in all decision-making processes. He elaborated on the empowerment toolkits the Minister mentioned, saying that they included legislation affecting local leaders, SONA injunctions, Provincial addresses, the 2011 Census, and the National Development Plan. About a month ago, the Constitutional Court heard the case about traditional leaders and a final decision had not been made yet.

Mr Boinamo asked if traditional leaders’ expenditures for community development got reported to their tribes annually.

Ms Wendy Nelson said she wanted to check that the Committee would learn about the Department’s financial transactions and would have an opportunity to identify trends of expenditures on a monthly basis. She asked for an indication of when they would receive this financial breakdown.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would receive the information soon and that the information did not need to be in a presentation format.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee programme had changed.

The meeting was adjourned.

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