Department of Health on the District Management System – meeting postponed

NCOP Health and Social Services

26 August 2014
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

After the Chairperson had noted apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister, she was informed by the Parliamentary Liaison Officer that the Department of Health (DoH) delegates would be delayed owing to their flight running behind schedule due to technical problems.  The Members of the Committee agreed to proceed, and adopted the minutes of previous meetings.

After a recess, and with the delegation still not having arrived, some Members indicated they had other commitments at 13h00, and expressed concern that there would be insufficient time to engage with the presentation.  After a short debate, during which Members said it appeared the DoH was taking the Committee for granted and undermining its oversight role, it was agreed that the Chairperson would send a letter to the Minister to convey their dissatisfaction.   It was also decided to postpone the meeting.

Two of the delegates then arrived -- almost one hour late. Upon arrival, the Chairperson informed them of the Members’ feelings, and that a letter would be written to the Minister to register their complaints.   After a DoH delegate had apologised profusely for the unintended delay, the delegates were told that the presentation would be postponed.  The delegates were excused and the meeting was adjourned.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 11h00, stating that the Department of Health (DoH) would present an overview of the district health system, highlighting its achievements and challenges and illustrating how the Committee could assist. She noted apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister for their inability to attend due to other commitments.  An apology from Mr M Khawula (IFP Kwazulu Natal), who was attending another meeting, was also noted..

Mr Joe Kgatla, Parliamentary Liaison Officer notified the Committee that the Department of Health delegates had been delayed due to technical problem with their flight, and were on their way from the airport.

The Chairperson asked Members to decide on how the meeting should proceed in the face of this unexpected delay.

Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo, and Committee Whip) said that the Committee should proceed with adoption of the minutes. 

Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) and the Chairperson seconded Ms Mampuru.

Ms L Mathys (EFF, Gauteng) said that a note expressing dissatisfaction should be sent to the Minister. The Committee’s work should be taken seriously.

Chairperson agreed with Ms Mathys. 

The minutes of 22  and 25 July 2014 were duly adopted without any changes.

At 11h20, the Chairperson recessed the meeting while Members waited for the DoH delegates to arrive.

Discussion on DoH delegates’ delay
At 11h40, with some Members indicating that they had other commitments to attend to at 13h00, the Chairperson asked the Committee whether they should allow the DoH to make their presentation.

Ms L Zwane (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) expressed her dissatisfaction with the DoH’s conduct. The Committee had been complaining about not having enough time to consider and understand the presentations, so that it could assist and guide the departments.  Considering that some Members would be leaving at 13h00, it was appropriate that the presentation be postponed.

Ms Mampuru seconded this proposal and stressed that, if the DOH were allowed to present, there would be no time to engage with the Committee. The presentation should be postponed and the DoH reminded that it should not take the Committee for granted. The DoH should have prepared itself for the meeting.  It did not make sense for delegates to land at the airport while the meeting was already in progress. Arriving on the day of a meeting showed a lack of commitment and seriousness.

The Chairperson agreed. She said that a letter would be sent to the Minister to register their complaints.  Management of time was essential, and the DoH had undermined the Committee. This should stop.

Mr Groenewald said that the DoH was taking advantage of the Committee because its members were newly elected to the office.

Mrs T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) said that the Committee should stick to its rules, strategies and plans.  The letter should convey a strong message.  It should state that the NCOP felt undermined and that it was not being taken seriously when it came to conducting oversight. To avoid unnecessary inconvenience, the delegates had to arrive in Cape Town a day before a meeting was scheduled to take place.

All Members of the Committee voted in favour of postponing the presentation.

Arrival of DoH delegates and postponement of presentation
At 11h51, two of four DoH delegates arrived.

The Chairperson asked them to introduce themselves to the Committee.

Ms V Rennie, Head: Corporate Services, DoH, said that the other two delegates were still stuck in traffic and would be arriving shortly.

The Chairperson told her that the meeting had actually been scheduled to start at 10h00.  The DoH had requested that the meeting start at 11h00, a request to which the Committee had agreed.  The delegates had arrived an hour late.  Members of the Committee felt that the DoH should have arrived in Cape Town a day prior to the meeting, in order to be punctual. As the delegates might be aware, time management was essential, and they should not need to be reminded.  The DoH could not simply come to Parliament, deliver its report and go.  Members of the Committee had to engage with the presentation and seek clarity, so that they could be able to assist or guide the department. The Committee felt that it was being undermined. The DoH should note that the Committee had other issues to attend to.

If the DoH took the Committee through the presentation, it would not able to cover the whole presentation within one hour, let alone have time for engagement. The presentation seemed too long. If the presentation was rushed and Members did not engage with the presentation, neither the Committee nor the DoH would be doing justice to themselves.

The Chairperson pointed out that the meeting amounted to fruitless expenditure as a result of the DoH’s conduct. Money had been spent on flights and catering.  The Committee would be sending a letter to the Minister, informing him that the Committee should not be taken for granted.  At the previous meeting, the Committee had made it clear that the DoH should stop taking the Committee for granted, but no effort to change its attitude had been shown.

At the next meeting, the Committee would need a report on transport, and the it would make some recommendations on how it could intervene on the matter.  The DoH should know that Members also travelled from their respective provinces to Cape Town, and they were always punctual. Punctuality and time management should be taken seriously. The Committee could not sit back and pretend that everything was running smoothly.

Ms Rennie apologised profusely for the delay and for any inconvenience that had been caused. She said that she would convey the message to the Minister. On behalf of the DoH delegates, she was very sorry and humbly asked the Committee to note that the delay had not been deliberate.

Ms Mampuru said there was no way the DoH could leave the Members of the Committee waiting for them for an hour. Furthermore, the documents had not been sent on time.  Instead of improving its collaboration with the Committee, matters were becoming worse.

The Chairperson repeated that if time management was not good, there would not be a good result. The Committee gave the DoH the benefit of the doubt, but it could not continue to work in this way

The meeting was adjourned at 12h05.


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