The Standing Committee on Finance met for the first time to elect its Chairperson. In a process led by the Committee Secretary, Mr Yunus Carim (ANC) was nominated and seconded, without any objection, as the Chairperson of the Committee.
Mr Carim asked the Members to introduce themselves in order to gage their skills and experiences, and determine their role in the committee. Mr Carim and the Committee Secretary explained the schedule and agenda for the finance committee and it was agreed that the committee would meet on Fridays, but that members would likely meet more than once a week.
Mr Carim concluded the meeting by urging members to be aware of their different skill levels and proposed education programs for Members. He also welcomed members to invite experts to the committee meeting, and suggested that the committee use the resources and experience of the National Treasury. The overall concern was proper understanding of the economy and making educated choices when creating solutions.
Election of the Chairperson
The Committee Secretary, Mr Allen Wicomb, opened the meeting. He read the rules for appointing a chairperson, which stated that a Member needed to be nominated and that nomination had to be seconded. If only one Member was nominated, that Member would become Chairperson. However, if more than one person was nominated, a vote would take place, and the Member with the majority vote would become Chairperson. After reading the rules, Mr Wicomb requested that the Members nominate a Chairperson.
Mr D Van Rooyen (ANC) nominated Mr Y Carim (ANC).
Mr Wicomb recorded the nomination and asked if any Members seconded the nomination.
Dr B Khoza seconded the nomination of Mr Carim.
Mr Wicomb asked if there were any other nominations. There were no other nominations. He asked Mr Carim if he accepted the nomination, and Mr Carim accepted. Mr Carim was declared Committee Chairperson.
Mr Carim began by introducing himself and his background as previous head of the Justice Portfolio Committee. He asked that other members introduce themselves to understand their background and see where they will fit in the committee. The standing committee was crucial because of the way that the economy is. Predictions are that the country will not achieve the projected growth rate for the financial year. Noting that 2% growth or lower is looming, the committee has a lot of work to do. He noted that Mr Wicomb would be an asset in guiding the Members on the Committee programme. After the Members and the staff introduced themselves, Mr Carim asked Mr Wicomb to introduce the agenda for the committee.
Mr Wicomb explained that the committee was scheduled to meet on Fridays. On Tuesday, 1 July 2014, the administration team will talk to the committee on their roles and responsibilities, give a budget overview and a budget analysis. On Wednesday, 2 July 2014, the committee was scheduled to have briefing on annual performance plans. Finally, Friday, 11 July 2014, the committee would consider and adopt its report on the Department budget.
Mr Carim interjected and said that Parliament had to pass the department budget by the end of July, which meant that they did not have a lot of time to work on the report. All committee reports had to be ready by 11 July 2014. The committee was required to meet on Fridays. He suggested that as well as meeting on that Friday, that the committee meet on the Wednesday and review the draft vote. He also suggested an alternative where the members would meet briefly on Thursday and vote on the report.
Dr D George (DA) voiced his concern about meeting only on Fridays. He did not mind meeting on Friday, but he had been on the Finance Portfolio Committee before, and seeing how much work the committee had to do, meeting only once a week is a concern.
Mr Carim asked for any other concerns. He said that the committee is assigned a Friday, but they are going to meet more than just the Friday. The committee was meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday to give members time to prepare the report. Although the committee is allocated one day a week in terms of parliamentary rules, the Committee can always ask for meeting extensions. Justice and Finance are usually given extensions, and he knows because he chaired Justice. He did not recall a time when Justice was turned down. He assured them that when committees have deadlines, Parliament exempts committees. Mr Carim asked Mr Van Rooyen to discuss anything that he learned in the last term, and share any knowledge that would make the current committee more efficient.
Mr Van Rooyen responded that most of what he learned was contained in the Legacy Report that Mr Wicomb would distribute some time after the meeting. He suggested that the schedule for meetings needed to be more strategic.
Mr Carim asked other Members that had also served in the previous terms to share their knowledge as well.
Mr George responded that in his experience the previous committees had been “quite functional”, and that the most important point was to have a space where members could speak their minds.
Mr Carim assured Mr George that the committee would have discussions. He told members that Mr Wicomb would distribute the Legacy Report, the budget overview and analysis the next morning. There are some members that do not have a strong background in finance, and people must keep this in mind. As such, each month, Members should set aside a day for training. During this training, Members would study the status of the economy. Members would also look at other economies, look at how those economies are doing, if they are dealing with similar issues, and how they are handling those issues. Before setting a five-year plan, the Committee members had to find their feet, understand the nature of the economy better and have regular training programs. They should have a five-year program within three months. He welcomed Members introducing experts to the committee. He gave examples of international visitors and scholars who are doing lectures relevant to the work of the committee, and welcomed Members to invite these experts to attend committee meetings and advice Members. He asked Members to keep in mind that there are different levels of experience and urged more knowledgeable members like Dr Khoza and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC) to be patient as the other members educate themselves on finance. He concluded by saying that in short they need an education program. Members should use the executive department as National Treasury had experience and manpower. He encouraged Members to voice their concerns and suggestions to him. He suggested keeping the meetings informal, because that makes for a more fruitful discussion.
The meeting was adjourned.
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