2014 Register of Members Interests: adoption

Ethics and Members' Interest

17 September 2014
Chairperson: Mr A Masondo (ANC) Co-Chairperson Mr A Singh (ANC; KwaZulu Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee dealt with the minutes of the 8 of July 2014 at length. The contention was that there was an election of a Committee whip, which the opposition parties felt that seeing that there was no rule providing for one in any Parliamentary Committee; there could have been no such decision at that meeting. Eventually the Chairperson ruled that the minutes would be accepted with the objections in matters arising from all the opposition parties.

There was only one Member of Parliament who had not disclosed his interests and that was on the base that he was on sick leave. The Committee condoned his non-disclosure with the provision that upon his return to work, from day one he would be given 15 days to submit his disclosure.

The register was adopted without any amendments

Meeting report

Opening remarks
After greeting members and visitors the Chairperson noted the agenda and commented that when the proceedings the letter of complaint submitted by Ms Dreyer, then that part would be closed to the public even though there would be a press briefing at the end of proceedings.

Ms A Dreyer (DA) said that because item six was under her name she was making a request to the Committee that there was no reason for this to be closed to the public as there was no investigation at that stage nor would there be any confidential information disclosed.

The Chairperson replied that because members possibly would want to pursue a few things further concerning Ms Dreyer’s letter, that session would be held in private.

Ms R Moratoa (ANC) concurred with the Chairperson that that session needed to be private even though Ms Dreyer possibly thought the letter would be a simple thing.

The Chairperson asked the Committee if the agenda was satisfactory.

Ms Moratoa moved for the adoption of the agenda.

Mr C Nqakula (ANC) seconded the motion.

The agenda was adopted with amendments.

The Chairperson handed over to the co-Chairperson to say a few words.

The co-Chairperson also welcomed everyone and reiterated that there would be a press briefing afterwards.

The Chairperson then asked the Registrar to read out the apologies of absent members.

Ms Fazella Mohamed, Registrar of Ethics and Members Interest, said that only Mr L Gaehler (UDM; NCOP) had submitted an apology.

Adoption of Committee Minutes dated 8 July 2014
The Chairperson asked if the minutes had been captured correctly as there had been no objections.
Ms M Tlake (ANC; Free State) moved for the adoption of the minutes.

Mr B Mashile (ANC) seconded the motion.

Ms Dreyer interjected that she noted that there was a Committee whip which the DA did not recognise.
Parties also had whips but there was no provision for a committee whip in parliament

The Chairperson asked if Mr Dreyer had been at that meeting as the Committee had elected Chairpersons and endorsed a whip. He did not understand what the issue was at that moment. He then opened the floor for objections in that regard.

Ms Dreyer reiterated that the DA accepted the nomination of Chairpersons but was certainly against a Committee whip as there was no such position in a Committee.

Mr Mashile said that if there were members with reservations then that was fine but if there were internal arrangements for the functioning of the Committee made because time and again the work of the Committee was arranged in such a way that certain people had certain responsibilities. A difference of opinion with one individual over the existence of a Committee whip should not then be allowed to be representative of the entire Committee’s feelings. There were other channels in Parliament that individuals could follow if they were unhappy with the arrangements of having a Committee whip. 

Ms Mahomed recalled that at that meeting the staff had said it would follow up with a separate discussion with Mr Bhengu on the issue of him being the committee’s whip.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) said that the EFF would not want to be drawn into the bureaucracies of political parties and how things had been done previously. He was simply cautioning that if there was no provision for a Committee whip anywhere in the rules and code of ethics then why was that being entertained at all. Whoever would be acting as a Committee whip, that person would have no authority over the members of the EFF.

Mr R Majola (DA) said that the Committee was correcting minutes and because there had been no such decision or adoption of a Committee whip at that meeting that issue needed to be addressed. The internal arrangements of the Committees business were supposed to be decided during the meetings and that was the DA’s main contention.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) said that with all due respect if there was a problem with a quorum then that was what the office of the chief whip of the governing party was there for. Whips were appointed to political parties, whilst the smaller parties had elected Mr Mulder as their representative whip. And therefore there was no rule that provided for a Committee whip. It was the duty of the Chairperson to ensure that nominations were received through the chief whips office so that they could be relayed to the whip of the smaller parties.

The Chairperson asked if members would be satisfied if there was a note in the minutes of the current meeting, that members were concerned about the decision to appoint a Committee whip. The Committee also agreed that there were different systemic procedures of electing whips in Parliament. The question of the workability of the business of the Committee should be a matter to be resolved at the next meeting.

Ms Dreyer said that the minutes actually had to be amended and that the part about the Committee whip had to be deleted to reflect what had actually transpired and a simple note about concerns would not be acceptable. Certainly the Chairpersons and Registrar could do follow ups on the matter, but a Committee whip was simply not acknowledged by the DA.

Ms Moratoa said her understanding was that the Committee was dealing with minutes of the 8 of July and that there were political parties present that day. It was concerning therefore how they had agreed to a Committee whip in the first place. Those people that had attended that meeting had to confirm whether the minutes reflected truly what had transpired. As far as she was concerned the minutes reflected the actual sequence of events on the day. Currently people had to say yes or no as to whether the minutes were correct and thereafter on matters arising concerns could be raised.

Ms D Carter (COPE) said she was very concerned because the matter at hand needed to have been dealt with under matters arising, but the Committee had to be careful about wanting to set a precedent at that time as well. The Chairpersons of the Committee were responsible for the running of the Committee. For example, she had been notified about today’s meeting an hour before it started and then had to cancel other obligations. Previously there had been no notification and therefore the Chairperson and the Registrar had to ensure that documentation and notification were sent in time. It could not begin with this Committee then other Committees would then have Committee whips, since the ethics Committee would have set a Committee whip precedent, because there was a big cost involved in that as well. If such a decision had been taken, the Committee would have to look at rescinding such a decision.

Mr Mashile concurred with Ms Carter that the Committee was just simply correcting the minutes for purposes of adopting them. Moreover, the item on a Committee whip had been decided as such previously because there was never mention of Mr Bhengu by name, as the Committee whip candidate. What transpired was that a Committee whip was decided on and no one had questioned that decision, so that the whip could support the Committee. He reiterated that there were parliamentary processes that could be followed if members had concerns about the issue and he supported the Chairperson’s suggestion that he and finds out whether a committee whip was provided for and reports back to the Committee at the next meeting. As things were the meeting was being bogged down because of an issue of recognising a whip which was unbecoming; whereas paragraph seven captured what had actually happened that day and that could not be changed then as that would be incorrect.

The Chairperson noted that possibly he would have to make a ruling but he would allow members to make further inputs.

Ms Carter said that she did not want to be disrespectful but looking at the constitution of the Committee, the ANC had 14 members whilst the total was 24 members in the Committee. Looking at the attendance register for that day there were eight members of the ANC and four members of the opposition when that decision was taken. If the Committee had 24 members then that meeting had no quorum to take any decision. Secondly it had to be investigated why other members were not there; where they not in a similar situation as COPE was in and had no notification of that meeting and therefore decisions could not be taken by working out a quorum when people had not been invited, as that was challengeable. 

Ms D Rantho (ANC) said that if Ms Carter read correctly and counted the Chairperson as well she would find that there was quorum at that meeting.

The Chairperson asked the Registrar to explain the attendance register and challenges with inviting other party members.

Ms Mahomed said that one of the issues with the smaller parties and the question of invites that was being raised then was that the Registrar’s Office had made numerous attempts to get nominations from smaller parties and the correspondence evidence was available. The meeting had been delayed because the Registrar could not get smaller parties to send nominations while the meeting had been urgent as the registrar had to start compiling a register of disclosure of members’ financial interests. It had then been agreed that the meeting would be convened, which also spoke to the reason for that meeting notification going out very late because the names for members from smaller parties were received at the last minute. The Registrar had called those smaller party whips at least six times in one day whilst trying to get Committee members. Therefore it had been a Committee decision to go ahead, with the proviso that there was a registered concern over smaller parties not having sent their Committee member candidates through by that time. Moreover there was a rules requirement on when those names had to be submitted.

The Chairperson recalled that even at that meeting there had been an EFF member whose name had not gone through the Speaker of Parliaments office, so that the process soon followed thereafter and therefore there was definitely quorum. Moreover people had been invited to the meeting. He affirmed again whether the minutes had been a true record of events for the 8 of July 2014.  There had been a mover and a secondary for the adoption of those minutes already beforehand.

Ms Dreyer interjected on a point of order that the agenda said that the Committee would deal with the minutes and matters arising and therefore the Committee had to deal with that completely.

The Chairperson replied that he concurred but that the Committee needed to finish with the minutes first then on to matters arising.

Ms Dreyer interjected again that there was no mention whatsoever in those minutes of an election of a committee whip just under the description of how Chairpersons were elected. That suddenly appeared without description of how the process had unfolded.

Mr Nqakula rose on a point of order that the Committee needed to try and bring order to the business at hand. As Ms Dreyer had raised her hand to raise a point of order, what she was then doing was not a point of order. The correct order was that minutes had been presented and that the Chairperson had asked if they had been captured correctly. There had then been a mover and a secondary that indeed the reflection was true of the events of the 8 of July 2014. What Ms Dreyer raised later on was an arising matter and the Chairperson was going back to ask whether the recording was true and therefore Ms Dreyer was simply raising an arising matter after the minutes had been adopted.

The Chairperson asked if there was an arising matter.

Mr Matiase said that as much as the Chairperson had invited objections to whether the reflection was true, he had in the same vein barred the Committee from making objections.

The Chairperson said that he was just trying to get the meeting moving forward and what Mr Matiase was saying was fine.

Mr Nqakula rose on a point of order again that all the members there had been members of political parties for so many years and knew very well that after a mover and a secondary, then whoever had objections raised their hands and recorded their objections.

The Chairperson asked formally if there was an objection to the adoption of the minutes.

Mr Matiase objected that the EFF was of the view that the minutes were distorted and were calling for a deletion of an election of a Committee whip in the minutes.

Mr Majola also noted that as he had been present at that meeting, the minutes were not a true reflection of what had transpired and that if that was questionable then the Committee needed to go back to HANSARD. The DA objected to the adoption of the minutes as well.

Ms L Van der Merwe (IFP) also went on record that the IFP also objected to the election of a Committee whip.

The Chairperson reprimanded Ms Kalyan for disrupting a member that had been recognised by him.

Ms Moratoa said that she hoped Mr Nqakula’s plea on how to run the proceedings would be heard because if members would be disrupting each other then the meeting would degrade into anarchy and members would be responding as party officials rather than Committee members. The Committee had adopted the minutes with the objections from the opposition parties therefore there was no need to go back to matters arising again. It was accepted that the objections would be recorded under matters arising and that it was a better idea to consult HANSARD.

Mr Mashile noted that it seemed that the proceedings were being bogged down intentionally. The Committee had tried in the previous five years to always reach consensus on matters where Ms Dreyer had also been part. It seemed that there was an attempt to drive the Committee to partisan politics which would not be useful. If the Committee was forced to vote then that needed to happen so that proceedings could move forward. Minutes could simply not be politicised neither could they have objections from people that had not been present at the meeting.
The Chairperson ruled that the minutes were adopted as a true recorded with objections, unless members wanted to formally vote on the minutes.

Ms T Mokwele (EFF; North West) said that whether minutes were adopted or not, they needed to be adopted with corrections and not objections as such as they were not a true reflection.

Matters Arising
The Chairperson reiterated that minutes were adopted with objections. Following that were matters arising and that involved amongst others whether the swearing of the oath by all NCOP members of the Committee had occurred. He then put that to the Committee.

Mr Mashile said that if there was a member that had not taken the oath, when the Committee went into the closed session that member would not be able to participate. That could be remedied by that member leaving proceedings at that time to go and take the oath with the Speaker because without that oath that member was not prevented by anything from disclosing the business of that closed session to the public.

The Chairperson commented that a lot had already been said on the issue of the whip and that had been noted and asked if the Committee was willing to move on to the next item.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA; Western Cape) asked the chairperson to clarify what he meant by a note on the objection over the committee whip.

The Chairperson replied that that meant noted for the next meeting.

Ms Labuschagne asked then what the Committee decision was on the whip issue as noted meant that she agreed when she in fact disagreed. She asked that that matter be then opened for discussion as the Committee was dealing with arising matters.

Ms Dreyer concurred with Ms Labuschagne that even though the majority of the Committee agreed that the minutes were correct and the DA objection had been noted, she wanted to state on record that the DA would not acknowledge any so called Committee whip. The only communication they would deal with was from the co-Chairpersons and the registrar.

Mr Matiase repeated his earlier remark that the EFF would not be party to any flouting of any rules as there was no provision for a Committee whip.

Mr Mashile said that it was fine for other members to have objections to a majority recognised whip and that for the opposition to not recognise such a whip would be noted and that the two Chairpersons would consult the necessary processes of Parliament and then report back on the standing of the whip in Committee.

Ms Carter said it was wrong that the Committee was then being linked to a particular political party.. Moreover the opposition needed the rule that provided for such a decision so that it could understand how a Committee whip had been chosen as no other Committee in Parliament had a Committee whip. For instance the smaller parties had one whip because Parliament did not have the money to give them another whip whereby those parties were not aware of certain things because they had just one whip for eight political parties. At that time the Committee was attempting to spend resources on a Committee whip. For the sake of progress she recommended that the minutes be adopted with the corrections until such time the transcripts of that meeting were made available, as well as the rules providing for a Committee whip.

Ms Van der Merwe commented that the Committee seemed to have exhausted that matter and just reminded the Chairperson of the IFPs objection to be recorded on matters arising.

The Chairperson commented that all objections had been noted and that the Committee would deal with the tabling and adoption of the Register of Members Interests (2014).

Tabling and adoption of the Register of Members Interests (2014)
Ms Mohamed said that the register for 2014 had been finalised and that all disclosures had been received except for one. Mr Nkoana had not submitted as he was officially on sick leave. The usual practice was that when a member was unable to disclose because of medical reasons the registrar normally asked the Committee to condone that non-disclosure until such time the member returned to Parliament. The Committee would then have to adopt the register as they would not be able to read all of it at that time, even though it was formally being tabled. She then outlined the process of compiling the register.

The Chairperson thanked the Registrar for the report and asked the Committee for comments.

Mr Mashile said that seeing that Mr Nkoana was on sick leave during the time of disclosures he was proposing the Committee acknowledge his leave and non-disclosure and that he be given at least 15 days upon returning to Parliament to disclose, and that he was moving for the adoption of the register as well.

Ms Carter asked if the Committee could not use the same declaration of interests that Mr Nkoana had submitted in 2013 with the date and additional interests being added as amendments to his 2014 declaration, except for gifts for the year.

Ms M Tlake (ANC) supported Mr Mashile’s proposal on condonement as that had transpired before and because of the medical certificate as well.

Ms Kalyan said she agreed with the proposal but needed clarity on what condonement meant. Did it mean indefinite if Mr Nkoana did not return? Had the medical certificate determined a date of return for Mr Nkoana?

Mr Majola said that he had no qualm with Mr Mashile’s proposal but asked what the joint rules said about that situation so that the Committee could move forward without flouting the rules.

Ms Mahomed said when a member had not complied with requirements for submission of a disclosure it could be misconduct, but then that was why she had brought condonement up because the member had a valid reason for non-submission. Non-submission had to be condoned by the Committee, after that there was an end date to the members medical certificate. Even though that was so, Ms Mahomed was reluctant to say that within two weeks of that end date, there could be something done because if a member was quite ill and doctors decided to extend his leave then little could be done. That was why she was supporting condonement with a 15 day period within which the member would have to submit from the time the member returned to Parliament.

The Chairperson then reaffirmed that the Committee agreed on condonement and also on the 15 day period for submission of disclosure.

The Committee agreed and the register was adopted.

Ms Mohamed commented that the registrar would never publish any more information than what members had supplied her office with.

Code of Conduct for MPs
The Chairperson said the next item was the tabling of the new code of conduct for Members of Parliament (MPs).

Ms Carter asked if the register had been adopted as she possibly may have been day dreaming when that took place.

The Chairperson raised the matter with the Committee.

Mr Mashile reminded the Chairperson that in his proposal and input he had moved for the adoption of the register and Ms Tlake had seconded that motion.

The Chairperson asked again if the Committee agreed on the register.

The decision was unanimous on the register.

The Chairperson noted that the code had been adopted by the National Assembly and was being tabled to ensure that all members had a copy.

Mr Mashile said that the Committee needed to acknowledge the work that had gone into producing that document and that hopefully members would internalise the content and comply with the requirements of that document. It was the Committee’s duty to give meaning to that document for the rest of their party colleagues and the public so that it had a unitary interpretation.

The Chairperson said that the proceedings would move on to the last item which was closed to the public.

Ms Tlake reminded the Committee that if there was any member who had not taken an oath Mr Mashile had proposed that that be sorted out.

The Chairperson put the question to members and at that time the media was excused from proceedings and that meeting ended.

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