Central Energy Fund Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2013: postponed; Complaints about the administration and management of the Committee

NCOP Economic and Business Development

14 May 2013
Chairperson: Mr F Adams (ANC; Western Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Central Energy Fund was scheduled to present its Annual Performance Plan 2013/14 to the Committee. However, this briefing was cancelled due to the requests by the Department of Energy and the Central Energy Fund. The Minister had pointed out that it had received short notice of the meeting and that the Department’s budget vote was also scheduled on the same day.
Members were very frustrated with the administration and management of the Committee. The two areas of concern were the matter of minutes being circulated to Members months after the meeting, and the research documents handed out to Members on the same day of the meetings- this did not give Members adequate time to study the documents and prepare for the meeting sufficiently. However, Members agreed that the matter of the minutes was the responsibility of the Chief Whips Committee, and should be raised there. Also, the Committee agreed that a meeting should be held with the Management Committee so that all concerns could be raised there and proper solutions be devised and implemented. The Committee table staff argued that there was no proper management within the Committee but agreed to resolve the problem.

Meeting report

Central Energy Fund Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2013: postponed
The Chairperson said he had received a call from the Minister of Energy the previous day, stating that the Department had only received the invitation letter from the Committee the previous Friday morning 10 May 2012. The Minister had argued that this was short notice seeing that the Department also had its budget vote in the National Assembly on the same day of the scheduled meeting.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that a decision was taken by the Members to invite the Department 14 days ago. However this was not done in time. The meeting with the Department was thus cancelled. Better coordination among the Committee table staff was needed as the Committee did not have the luxury of time. The Central Energy Fund (CEF) had informed the Department on Friday (10 May 2013) that it would not be able to make it to the meeting scheduled for the 14 May 2013. The CEF asked that the meeting be rescheduled. The Minister in turn contacted the Committee.

Ms E Van Lingen (DA; Eastern Cape) agreed with the Chairperson and said it was a serious issue to arrive at a meeting and find that it had been cancelled due to the Committee’s maladministration. She reminded the Committee that a suggestion was once raised that minutes of all previous meetings be made available to Members in time so that even those Members who missed the announcements could still prepare adequately for the following meeting. Another area of concern was that research
documents for the meetings were also handed to the Members on the day of the meeting. Members could therefore not read through the documents well and prepare adequately for the upcoming meeting. As a direct consequence, the person responsible for the administration of the Committee should be held accountable for these challenges.

Ms Van Lingen recalled that the Department had previously been told to hand in documents to the Committee at least two weeks in advance. In the same manner, the Committee table staff also had to hand out documents to Members well in advance. It was an insult to expect Members to go into meetings blindly. It was also totally unacceptable that Committee draft minutes be approved months after the meeting. A decision needed to be taken on these matters. The closer the Committee got to the end of the term, the harder Members would have to work.

Mr D Gamede (ANC; KwaZulu Natal) said Members needed to be realistic on the matter of minutes. The matter did not lie with Committee Members; the distribution of timely minutes was the responsibility of the Chief Whips Committee. And so Members needed to raise their concerns there. The concern Members had on the efficiency of the Committee table staff was also one which needed to be raised at the Chief Whips Office. Documents needed to be approved by the Whipery before being distributed to the Committees.

Ms Van Lingen said that the Committee had some authority; seeing that there were five Chairpersons’ from different Committees within the Select Committee on Economic Development. When working together, these Chairpersons’ could drive the matters at the relevant levels of authority and decision-making.

Mr J Nyambi (ANC; Mpumalanga) agreed with Ms Van Lingen that minutes’ being distributed late to Members was not acceptable. However, the concern was not unique to the Select Committee.

Ms B Abrahams (DA; Gauteng) agreed with all the speakers. She asked how the Committee could monitor the administration of the Committee, and who was responsible. Members were dedicated to arriving to meetings on time, therefore incidences were the Departments were not briefed in time about the meetings were not acceptable.

The Chairperson said that the fact of the matter was that the issue of minutes was previously raised with the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP); however there had been no response. He added that a meeting was scheduled with all the House Chairpersons’ and other relevant Members to discuss the way forward on all the administrative concerns which Members had. He asked that the Content Advisor and/or the Committee Secretary to explain why the minutes were still a problem. As for the documents handed out on the day of the meeting, the Committee table staff also needed to give an account for this.

Mr Ludumo Sishuba, Content Advisor, said it was quite difficult to identify issues which were frustrating to the table staff. As a result, he would rather simply accept responsibility and continue to serve the Committee. He raised the issue that there was no management within the Committee. Management did not only include the Content Advisor, but also included the Chairperson. The institutional structure within the Committee needed to be addressed. Other challenges which faced the administration of the Committee was that they were allocated to more than one Committee most times, and this resulted in some backlogs. He reminded Members that he had initially suggested that they meet with the Content Advisor to have strategic meetings to brief the Members before meetings; however this had not taken place. He added that upon joining the Select Committee, there was already a backlog of minutes.

The Chairperson said officials of Parliament were there to serve and not run Committees; and that when the Committee operated on its own, things were much better. The political leadership of the Committees met on a regular basis to discuss such issues, in an attempt to come up with viable solutions. He referred to the research document which was handed out to Members on the day and said that the document was suppose to be handed out weeks ago. Why did this not happen? At the same time it was not a solution to sit and blame each other, if the administrative staff of the Committee felt that they could no longer work together, they should raise it as a concern so that a solution could be found.

Mr B Mnguni (ANC; Free State) said that all the concerns raised by the Committee should be taken to the Chairperson’s meeting and discussed there.

Ms Abrahams agreed with Mr Mnguni and asked how many other Committees’ did the Content Advisors serve on. She said that the Committee needed to deploy Members to go sit in on management meetings were such matters could be raised and addressed.

Mr Mnguni agreed with the previous Members.

Ms Van Lingen agreed with the Content Advisor that Members should have strategic meetings a few minutes before the meetings commence, however these meetings should be scheduled. She referred to the Committee programme and said there were six meetings left for the term; she asked whether all invitations had already sent to the departments concerned. She further suggested that the Secretary of the NCOP also be called in to listen to the complaints of the Committee.

Ms M Dikgale (ANC; Limpopo) agreed with some of the Members that all concerns which the Members had should be raised at the Management Committee.

Mr K Sinclair (COPE; Northern Cape) said there was a distinct difference between Members of Parliament and officials of Parliament. One could not be both. The Committee had a lot of introspection to do. Added to that, the Committee had a challenge of not having a Whip; and this needed to be raised at the Management Committee.

Mr Zibele Ngxishe, Committee Researcher, agreed with the Members that all concerns needed to be raised at the Management Committee. He explained that the reason why the research document was handed out on the day to Members was that Members had changed the initial focus of the research. Initially Members wanted to look at shale gas in the United Stated of America (USA) but the direction of the research was later changed to look at nuclear energy in France. He welcomed all the corrections from the Committee and said he would continue to serve the Committee well.
Members were referred to the research document, he said that China was been considered for the study tour on Standing Economic Zones (SEZs) and that Members should go through the proposed dates.

The Chairperson said that the countries which the Committee was considering for the study tours were the USA, France and Spain. China was not part of the initial discussions. Spain was one of the countries which South Africa had signed agreements with, according to the Minister. A management meeting would be held, and a Member from the opposition needed to sit in on the meeting.

Ms Van Lingen suggested that Mr Sinclair represent the opposition in the management meeting.

The Chairperson said that the name of the Member to represent opposition should be forwarded to the Content Advisor.
The meeting was adjourned.


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