Geomatics Profession Bill; Department audit compliance; Committee Report on Department Strategic Plan

Rural Development and Land Reform

22 May 2013
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson reminded the Department that it had not provided the information document that the Committee had requested. He said it was important for the officials from the Department to note the decisions of the Committee.

The Committee adopted its report on the Strategic Plan of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Ingonyama Trust Board.

The Committee continued its discussions on the Geomatics Profession Bill which centered on the definition of transformation in the Bill. The Committee agreed that the State Law Adviser and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser should provide a precise definition and opinions which would assist the Committee in taking its final decision.

Asked about its progress in resolving the Auditor General’s findings about its non-compliance, the Department said that it had adopted an Internal Audit Charter to govern its internal audit and was offering internships to build skills in this area.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the delegates from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. He also acknowledged the presence of the Principal State Law Adviser and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser. He said it was important for the officials from the Department to note the decisions of the Committee.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Committee considered its minutes of 15 May 2013.

Ms P Xaba (ANC) said that she had read the minutes and they were a correct reflection of the proceedings of the meeting.

The Chairperson proposed a change to a phrase so it read, "The department promised". He wanted the phrase to have the word “promised” so that the pledge of the Department to carry out a particular act was implicit. He said that the Committee had not yet received the document which had been promised.

The minutes were adopted with minor amendments.

Committee Report on Department of Rural Development & Ingonyama Trust Board Strategic Plan
The Chairperson said that the draft report had been circulated to Members and he asked if they were happy with the report. The report would be used as a tool when dealing with the budget vote.

The Committee adopted the report without amendments.

Geomatics Professions Bill
The Chairperson said that there were outstanding matters on this Bill. The legal team made up of the State Law Adviser and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser would provide the outstanding information.

The Principal State Law Adviser from the Department of Justice, Mr Gideon Hoon, said that the corrections had been made and submitted to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Mr Pule Sekawana, Acting Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, said that the information and the definition had been inserted into the Bill. He read out the inserted phrase “take into account the constitutional transformation imperatives” as it amended Clause 2.

The Chairperson said that it looked like the Department was providing its own version of transformation which was in line with the Constitution. It was now up to the Committee to agree on an acceptable definition of transformation. He said that this brought the deliberations to a point where it seemed like the Committee was satisfied with what had been done so it could now let the Department finalise the Bill and send it back to the Committee for further consideration and adoption.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was going to apply its mind to the definition of transformation as proposed by this insertion into the Bill.

The Chairperson asked the State Law Adviser and the Parliamentary Legal Adviser to come up with a concise definition.

Departmental compliance
The Chairperson said the Committee had to consider the issues raised by the Office of the Auditor General and Standing Committee on Public Accounts on matters related to compliance and the fiduciary duties of the Department. The Committee had wanted to speak with the Department’s internal auditors. He asked the Acting Chief Financial Officer of the Department what the situation was in this regard.

The Acting CFO, Ms Irene Singo, said that the internal auditors had prepared a document called the Internal Audit Charter which was the formal document adopted by the Department in 2012.

The Internal Audit Charter was to be presented to the Committee by the Director: Information Technology Audit, Ms Christa Brand.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was not going to listen to the reading out of the Charter but what was expected were the challenges faced and the steps taken to redress those challenges.

Ms Brand replied that their major challenge was finding the right people to appoint as internal auditors. The Chief Directorate: Internal Audit (CD:IA) had worked closely with management to identify champions within the various directorates who were going to drive the internal audit process in support of the CD:IA. Advertisements had been placed for assistant directors and directors within the Internal Audit sector. An internship programme had also been launched in partnership with the Institute of Internal Auditors. A bursary scheme has also been launched to support students seeking to further their education in internal auditing. The previous approach was to head-hunt experienced auditors, but the new approach included sourcing young professionals, training and retaining them. In terms of compliance, warning letters were being sent to officials who failed to comply with the recommendations made after internal audit findings.

The Chairperson asked if there was anything to be said about the independence of internal audits and cooperation with external auditors.

Ms Singo said that the Department had considered all the weakness identified by both internal and external auditors. The Internal Audit Chief Directorate worked independently and cooperated with particular individuals within the various directorates in the Department.

Ms Brand added that the role of the internal audit was to determine whether the right processes were followed. This meant that specific evidence was required and had to be provided in compliance with the requirements for a particular audit. This was always adhered to and it helped in enhancing the independence of the Internal Audit Chief Directorate.

The Chairperson asked what informed the denial to take punitive actions against non-compliance.

Ms Brand replied that she was not in a place to respond to that as she was not in charge of the process. She said that the Department could revert to the Committee with the answer at a later stage.

The Chairperson said that it was important for the Department to always bring along the right officials to answer questions so that information was not delivered in instalments.

Ms Singo said that the Department apologized for the absence of the Chief Audit Executive who was in charge of the audit. Ms Brand was only the Director in charge of Information Technology Internal Audit.

Mr A Trollip (DA) said that the report and responses from the Department were not helping as they could not even answer simple questions related to disciplinary sanctions.

The Chairperson said that it was true that the Chief Audit Executive was absent but that did not help the situation. The purpose of the report-back was to help the Committee debate for or against the Department’s budget vote in the House. It was just unfortunate that the information received was too scanty and was not helping the Committee.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) asked how many bursaries were advertised.

Ms Brand replied that the details on the bursary programme still had to be specified as the present focus was on the internship.

The meeting was adjourned.


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