Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

21 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms D G Nhlengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson went through the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report of the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.    She went over the mandate and description of the core functions of the department, enumerated the entities that the Department had oversight on, as well as the purpose of the BRRR report. 
The overview of the Key Relevant Policy Focus Areas, including job creation, basic services (water, sanitation and electricity), infrastructure development, and traditional affairs was reviewed, and Members were encouraged to make additions.  Issues in the summary of Previous Key Financial and Performance Recommendations of the Committee section of the report were highlighted, and it was noted that these issues had been taken from the Department’s annual report. 
The evaluation of the response by the Department and Minister of Finance was briefly looked at and the overview and assessment of Financial Performance was examined.  Several figures were highlighted in this section, such as roll-overs, unforeseeable expenditure, virements/shifts, savings and other adjustments.  The Auditor General’s key findings and recommendations were also included in this section. 
The next section examined was the overview and assessment of Service and Delivery Performance, which among other things, showed how the department had performed in terms of its programmes.  The Key Reported Achievements, Key Reported Challenges section was specifically identified and the following section, Committee’s Observations and Response included a service delivery performance section where Members’ input was again welcomed.  The summary of reporting requests was expressed in a figure, but associated timeframes had not been entered and it was mentioned that these were to be finalised before the report could be officially adopted.  The final section was recommendations, which highlighted financial performance, including forward funding recommendations and performance related recommendations.

A Member commented that it was not always easy to distinguish between the core mandate of COGTA itself as compared to the provincial COGTA or a municipality.  Key national government programmes such as Operation Clean Audit and the Municipal Turnaround Strategy were not mentioned at all.  Although the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Commission was listed as one of the entities, CRL was not mentioned anywhere else in the report.   There were misreported figures on page 10 of the report.  On the topic of a debt recovery task team, more progress needed to occur in this space -- the lack of progress here was quite startling.   The service delivery performance section should have spoken to under-spending on capital grants, and there should have been more reference to the issue of maintenance.    
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson thanked Members for their attendance because of their busy schedules.  She also thanked them for sensitizing the Department and its related entities on the need for readiness in terms of climate change.  SABC 1 had broadcast a report describing an earthquake in Australia and wildfires in India, where communities had been burnt to the ground due to climate change.  In South Africa, part of the country was experiencing flooding.  As much as the Committee has been doing its oversight, Members should be conscious of the need for their constituencies to be ready, because nature did not give any warnings.  Members should sensitise their communities because climate change existed and was a real problem.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) added that the killing and abuse of children around the country, with specific reference to the decapitation of a student in the Western Cape, was a big issue.  As a portfolio committee, they had been terribly concerned, and she expressed condolences to the families involved.  The Committee should use the time allocated to its constituency work and speak to parents about their responsibility to look after their children.  The message needed to be spread to communities, because it was a very sad situation.

Ms C Mosimane (COPE) said that prayer was important.   Society was sick, and every day in the newspapers there were reports of wrongdoings and unfortunate events.   Stress levels were very high and there were deep and serious psychological problems in society at large.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would receive a briefing on climate change by the Department next week.  She hoped everyone had received the BRRR draft report and mentioned that it had been planned to go for adoption of the report, but drafting had taken longer than anticipated so it had not gone to Members for comments in time.  If the Committee went through the report -- it should take 30 minutes -- then there would be time for comments and then they could move to adopt it.  If there were any additions, they could be sent to the committee secretary. 

Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report
The Chairperson then went through the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report of the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs that had been circulated at the meeting.  Starting with the introduction, she went over the mandate, description of the core functions of the department, enumerated the entities that the Department had oversight on, as well as the purpose of the BRRR report. 
With respect to the outline of the contents of the report, it was noted that the contents had changed a bit compared to last year’s report, and the Chairperson commented that perhaps, in a way, this marked the end of the Committee’s term of office.  She highlighted the overview of the Key Relevant Policy Focus Areas, including job creation, basic services (water, sanitation and electricity), infrastructure development, and traditional affairs, and encouraged members to make additions. 
Going through the summary of previous Key Financial and Performance Recommendations of the Committee on the topics of the administration programme, policy, research and knowledge management, governance and intergovernmental relations, disaster response management, provincial and municipal government support, traditional affairs, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), she explained that these sections of the document highlighted issues taken from the Department’s annual report. 
The Evaluation of Response by the Department and Minister of Finance was briefly looked at and the next section examined was the overview and assessment of Financial Performance (see document, pages 7-11).  Several figures were highlighted in this section, such as roll-overs, unforeseeable expenditure, virements/shifts, savings and other adjustments.  The Auditor General’s key findings and recommendations were also included in this section. 
The next section examined was the overview and assessment of Service and Delivery Performance (see document pages 11-14), which among other things, showed how the department had performed in terms of its programmes.  The Key Reported Achievements, Key Reported Challenges section was specifically identified, and the Chairperson encouraged Members’ additions for this part of the document. 
The following section, Committee’s observations and responses (see document pages 14-16), included a service delivery performance section, where members’ input was again welcomed.  The summary of reporting requests (see document pages 16-17) was expressed in a figure, but associated timeframes had not been entered and it was mentioned that these were to be finalized before the report would be officially adopted. 
The final section consisted of recommendations which highlighted financial performance, including forward Funding recommendations and performance related recommendations.  The Chairperson then asked for Members’ input. 

Discussion
Mr P Smith (IFP) said that it was not always easy to distinguish between the core mandate of COGTA,  compared to the provincial COGTA or a municipality itself, so looking at the performance of the Department or provincial COGTA or municipality, lines were often blurred.
A couple of key national government programmes had not been mentioned at all.  An example was ‘Operation Clean Audit’ – the whole point of the programme was to achieve what the Department had now achieved.  Even though it was no longer a government programme, the Municipal Turnaround Strategy should also have been mentioned. 
On page 2, although the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Commission was listed as one of the entities, CRL was not mentioned anywhere else in the report.    On page 10, regarding the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), there were some figures that did not make sense.  Under 4.24, the report talked about under-expenditure of R11 859, when it should have been R11.859m and then four lines further on, it talked about under-expenditure of R36 710, but it should have been R36.710m.  There was nothing that explained why the two sets of figures were being used. 
On page 14, the report mentioned a task team to deal with debt recovery.  That particular issue went back a long way with the Committee, and one needed to express greater reservation on the progress being made in this space.  Two ministers ago, there had been a task team established and recently a task team established by the Department had been welcomed, but frankly this was not good enough.  The lack of progress in this regard was quite startling. 
On page 15, on service delivery performance, the report talked about the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG).  This should perhaps have been discussed under spending on capital grants, because that was the way Treasury had reported it, and issues like the extent of under-spending and the extent to which funds reverted to Treasury through not being spent, would be very useful. 
More reference should be made to the issue of maintenance.  It had been on the Committee’s agenda forever, but when the new equitable share formula had come out, the Committee was informed by Treasury that allowance had been made in the new formula for a maintenance budget.  He was very skeptical of that, unless it was conditional.  It appeared that nothing was going to change at all, even with new financial provisions, unless there was some major thinking about the issue.  It might have been favourable to include more on maintenance.  It may also have been worth speaking about the new equitable share, because this Department had been part of the process by which the review had come out and by which the new formula had been determined.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and asked for further additions.  There were none and the Chairperson stated that additions suggested by Members would be considered for the report, and wished them good luck in the next cycle of governance. 

Mr Smith commented that the Committee should express their thanks to those responsible for drafting the report.  The Chairperson responded by saying that she and her team had drafted the report and she should get all the credit.  She then commended her team for the work that they had done.  She asked Members to go through the report and the minutes from all the discussions the committee had had regarding the report. 

The meeting was adjourned.    

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