Election of Chairperson; Committee Report on Extension of deadline for MPs to disclose financial interests; Committee Programme

Ethics and Members' Interest

07 July 2014
Chairperson: Mr A Masondo (NA, ANC) and Mr A Singh (NCOP, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met for the first time to elect its Co-Chairpersons. In a process led by the Registrar of Members Interests, Mr A Masondo (ANC) and Mr A Singh (ANC) were elected unopposed as the Joint Chairpersons of the Committee for the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces respectively. 

Members adopted the extension of the date of declaration of Member’s interests from 22 July 2014 to 15 August 2014.

Members presented also briefly discussed the need for Members to take oaths of confidentiality given the nature of the Joint Committee’s work as well as the need to have the full complement of the Committee’s membership formally sworn–in.
 

Meeting report

Election of the Chairperson 
The meeting was opened by Ms Fazella Mahomed, Registrar of Members Interests. She outlined that the procedure required that the Co-Chairperson of the Committee had to be appointed. She explained that she was going to request for nominations from Members and if only one Member was nominated, it meant that the nominated Member was going to be declared Co-Chairperson. If there were several nominations, there was going to be a vote by a show of hands and the Co-Chairperson was going to be the Member with the majority vote. Members would only be allowed to vote once. Thereafter, Ms Mohammed requested for nominations from Committee Members. 

Mr F Bhengu (ANC) nominated Mr A Masondo (ANC) for the National Assembly (NA) component of the Chairmanship.
Ms Mohammed registered the nomination and asked the Members if there was any seconder.
Mr B Mashile (ANC) seconded the nomination of Mr Masondo.
Ms Mohammed informed Mr Masondo that he had been nominated as Co- Chairperson of the Committee.
Ms Mohammed then called for nominations for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) component of the Joint Ethics Committee Chairmanship.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) nominated Mr A Singh (ANC) for the NCOP component of the Chairmanship.
Ms Mohammed registered the nomination and asked the Members if there was any seconder.
Ms D Rantho (ANC) seconded the nomination of Mr Singh.
Ms Mohammed informed Mr Singh that he had been nominated as Co- Chairperson of the Committee.

Chairperson’s Introductory Comments
Mr Masondo was honoured by the nomination as this was a critical Committee to Parliament’s work. He thanked all Members for the process. Needless to say there lied a long road ahead for all but everyone would work together and cooperate to advance the work which needed to be done. The Committee would deal with issues in a manner that was non-partisan and fair to take it to a higher level.  He looked forward to establishing a working relationship with Members, staff and the NCOP Co-Chairperson. Lots of work lied ahead but the Committee would live up to its expectation and not fail Parliament.

Mr Singh thanked everyone for their vote and confidence. He thanked his party, the ANC, for deploying him to this Committee as this was an important one with an important task to uphold the integrity of Members of Parliament. Members of the Committee should therefore take a non-partisan attitude so that cases coming before the Committee were dealt with fairly and justly. He extended his thanks for the nominations once again.

Committee Programme Items and Other Business
Mr Masondo went through a list of items which the Committee would deal with in its programme for the first term.

Deadline for the Disclosure of Members’ Interests
Ms Mahomed explained that in terms of the Joint Rules, Members would need to disclose their interests after 30 days of the opening of Parliament, and this was usually considered to be the date of State of the Nation Address. This meant the disclosure period would end on 22 July 2014. The Office of the Registrar thought the period should be extended to allow Members to declare their interests by 15 August 2014. This was thought fair as many of the Members were new to Parliament. A Report would be tabled with the recommendation for this extension which was to be adopted by both Houses. Once adopted, it would become a resolution of both Houses.

Mr Bhengu, from the short-comings explained, saw no reason why the extension should not be granted.

Mr Mashile questioned the connection between the new code of ethical conduct and Member’s interests with a new disclosure form. The NA had not yet adopted the new code and would waiting for the NA to adopt the new code affect the extension date? Or, would the disclosure form be based on the old code of ethical conduct? He noticed the new code on the Order Paper.  

Chairperson Masondo said this was an important point and it needed to be raised with the Chief Whip.

Ms Mahomed responded that until the new code of ethical conduct and Member’s interest was adopted in both Houses (as it had only been adopted by the NCOP and not the NA yet), the code could not take effect. Therefore the declaration form would be based on the old code of ethical conduct and Members’ interests. The new code allowed for 60 days within which Members were to disclose their interests while the old code allowed of 30 days. It was thought the new code would be adopted but there were delays but the disclosure of interests could not be delayed. The new code of ethical conduct and Members’ interests would take effect when it did but this would not affect the disclosure done now. If adoption of the code was waited on, Members would first need to be briefed on the new code properly and its disclosure requirements before they went ahead with disclosure and this process would result in extensive delays.

Mr Mashile proposed the adoption of the proposed extended disclosure date.

Members seconded this proposal.

Programme Items
Ms Mahomed said the Joint Committee required Members to take an oath of confidentiality. The Committee required, one, transparency from Members in terms of their financial interests and, two, that Members behaved in a confidential manner. Anybody could make an allegation against any Member of Parliament and these allegations could be spurious. When Committee Members were considering these allegations, they had to be confidential. Staff of the Committee also took the oath of confidentiality. When Members were sworn into the Committee they also took the oath. NA Members would be sworn in by the Speaker of the NA and take the oath of confidentiality while NCOP Members would be sworn in by the Chairperson of the NCOP and take the oath of confidentiality. If the oath was breached the Member would be ineligible to be a Member of this Joint Committee. This would also be the case if confidentiality was breached in the Intelligence Committee. This was a serious requirement. The Chairperson of the NCOP had signalled she was available to do the swearing in of NCOP Members today at 15h00.      

Chairperson Masondo suggested a proper time be found for the swearing in of Members to be fully completed and for the process not to be rushed. This would ensure Members were duly informed.  

Mr Mashile reemphasised that private matters of MPs were dealt with by this Committee and there were many allegations which could be found to be false. For this reason, a high level of discipline was required as this Committee could destroy Members completely. Therefore, Members of this Committee should behave differently from other Committee Members besides maybe the Intelligence Committee due to the nature of their work.  

Chairperson Masondo stated that given the sensitive nature of the Committee’s work, Members should be sensitive, responsible and disciplined in the way issues were managed.

Mr Mashile highlighted the finalisation of the nomination of Members to the Committee so it had the full complement.

Chairperson Masondo noted this important point.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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