Joint Committee's Annual Report; Consideration of a complaint by Hon HB Holomisa (complaint handled in closed session)

Ethics and Members' Interest

12 November 2014
Chairperson: Mr A Masondo (ANC), Mr A Singh (ANC, KZN)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee meeting started late, as insufficient Members were present to achieve a quorum. A DA Member noted her dissatisfaction with the time wasted, and suggested that in future, should insufficient numbers be present within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, the meeting should be adjourned. However, an ANC Member pleaded for some flexibility on that, saying that it would be unwise to put off work, as that could create backlogs later. Members of all parties would be reminded of their obligations.

The Members adopted minutes from the meeting on 17 September, with amendments to the names of those present, and a description of a letter. Under the Matters Arising section, the Chairperson noted that MP Mr H Nkoana had disclosed his interests. The new Code of Ethical Conduct had been made available to all MPs and the Chief Whips were being urged to hold workshops on it. The progress of planned meeting with stakeholders was outlined.

The Committee tabled, but did not yet adopt, its Annual Report, noting that the time period for disclosure had, in this year, been extended to 15 August 2014. Both Houses had now adopted the new Code of Ethics, which differed from the old, and the offer had been made that the Committee section could give workshops on the new Code. Members were asked to submit any proposals for additions or corrections to the Committee Secretary, who would compile an executive summary.

It was noted that the Report included a reference to consideration of a complaint by MP Mr B Holomisa (UDM) which was about to be dealt with in closed session. The open part of the meeting was adjourned to deal with that complaint.

Meeting report

Meeting format
Members waited for a long time for a quorum to be established, as several Members were late.

The Committee Registrar / Secretary read out the apologies tendered.

The Co-Chairperson eventually opened the proceedings, outlining the agenda, and asking Members if there were any amendments to the agenda.

Ms A Dreyer (DA) bemoaned the fact that the meeting started so late, saying that it was unfair on Members who had arrived on time for the meeting to have to wait for so long, without the meeting even adjourning.

The Co-Chairperson concurred with Ms Dreyer and said that excuses would not be accepted in future.

Mr B Mashile (ANC) made the point that, although everyone wanted the meetings to start on time and for everyone to be present on time, the suggestion that the meeting should adjourn after 15 minutes if it did not quorate would not assist the Committee in progressing with its work. He suggested that Members should agree upon some flexibility in time so that the business of the Committee could be dispensed with on the set date, without creating backlogs.

The Co-Chairperson reiterated that the proceedings had to move on as there was very little time remaining.

Mr N Matiase (EFF) said that in addition to hard copies of documents being dropped into the pigeon holes, he would appreciate it if the Committee staff could use other means of communicating like SMSs and e-mails.

Ms Dreyer noted that, in addition, it was difficult for Members to deal with documents that were handed to Members only as hey walked in to the meeting.

The Co-Chairperson noted that no amendments were being suggested to the agenda for the meeting.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) noted that the agenda had not accommodated "matters arising".

The Co-Chairperson concurred that that would be added after adoption of the minutes.

Ms Fazella Mohammed, Committee Secretary, read the apologies again that she had noted earlier, and also said that some additional apologies had just been received before the official start of the meeting, which she read out as well.

Mr Mashile asked to be excused early from the proceedings as he had another meeting.

The Co-Chairperson asked that the Committee note his request.

Ms Dreyer asked that the Members who had not submitted written apologies and were not present should please be noted as absent without apology.

Adoption of minutes of 17 September
Ms Kalyan noted a grammatical error.

Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo) noted that his name did not appear on the list of those present, although he had been present. He said that he was also not receiving notifications about planned meetings for the Committee.

The Co-Chairperson apologised, and explained that originally, when the Committee was established,  Ms E Coleman (ANC) had been a Member but had later asked to be excused from the Committee as she had other business keeping her busy. The Committee had agreed that she would be sworn in at a later stage. However, as she was at that meeting the Members had to understand that she was a member of the Committee.

Mr E Makue (ANC, Gauteng) also noted the absence of his name from the list of those present.

Mr Thobejane interjected that possibly members were not seeing their names because they had been misspelled.

Ms Dreyer noted a substantial amendment concerning a letter she had submitted to the Committee as an early warning signal about a possible conflict of interest. She noted that it had been a letter, and not a complaint, and she wanted this to be clearly specified.

The Co-Chairperson also noted a grammatical error.

Members adopted the minutes, with the necessary corrections.

Matters arising from the minutes of 17 September
The Co-Chairperson noted that it would be necessary to refer to the matter of Mr H Nkoana (ANC). He had since disclosed his interests. The code of ethical conduct had been made available to all MPs and the Committee had held its own Code of Ethics workshop, and was urging all Chief Whips of the different political parties to ensure that similar workshops would be held in their respective parties. The Committee Secretary had offered to assist.

Referring to the meetings with stakeholders, the Co-Chairperson noted that the meeting with the delegation from Mozambique had been deferred and that the process to find a suitable date for an alternative meeting was ongoing. The same applied to the meeting with the Capricorn Municipality. Members would be notified timeously of the new dates.

He reported that the meeting with the City of Johannesburg had been held and the two delegations had exchanged ideas and shared experiences. There had been some time challenges, and so it was agreed that another follow up meeting would be arranged in the near future.

Ms Dreyer commented that the Committee had extensively debated on the appointment of Committee Whips. There was a note that the Co-Chairperson would report on the matter to the Committee. The consensus from opposition parties had been that they did not recognise portfolio committee (or any other type of committee) Whips. She asked for a follow-up report.

The Co-Chairperson reported that the agreement was that the ANC, as a political party, would continue to manage its affairs outside of the meeting in any way it deemed necessary. Therefore the question of a Committee whip had no basis.

Annual Report 2014 of the Joint Committee: Consideration
The Co-Chairperson said that the Committee was required to table an Annual Report (the Report) on its activities to the National Assembly, in keeping with similar processes for other Committees and as required by the Rules of Parliament. He then asked the Committee Secretary to take the Committee through the Report and asked the Members to present written submissions so that the Report could be as accurate as possible.

Ms Mohammed then took the Committee through the Report. She said that since the Committee had been constituted quite late, it had reduced the time period for MPs' disclosures of interests, and therefore both Houses of Parliament resolved, on 29 July 2014, that the deadline for disclosures should be extended to 15 August 2014.

One of the matters still outstanding on the new Code of Ethics, from the Fourth Parliament, was that it had been adopted in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) only and not in the National Assembly (NA). That matter had then been revived, and now both Houses had adopted the new Code of Ethics, which would take effect from 1 November 2014.

The new code was substantially different from the old one and the Committee section had written to the different political parties offering to assist with workshops on the new Code.

The Co-Chairperson commented that, as he understood it, the Report of the Committee was supposed to be a single page. Therefore he urged Members to submit their input to Ms Mohammed, who would do a high-level summary to comply with the formatting rules.

Ms Kalyan asked if all Members of the Committee had been involved in the workshop. She asked what was the position with anyone who could not attend that meeting, who also still needed to be taken through that process and queried if there would be another workshop in the foreseeable future.

Ms Dreyer said that the letter that had been sent to the Chief Whip of the DA had then been sent to her, as she was the DA's caucus Co-Chairperson, but she had only received it two days before the day of the meeting. She would consult her caucus and submit the feedback from that as soon as possible.

Mr Makue suggested that when the Report referred to the new Code, this should be specified, and any MPs referred to in the Report should also be named.

The Co-Chairperson suggested that other changes were needed to the date, and the mentioning of the NCOP and the NA and the Committee separately.

Ms Kalyan disagreed with the Co-Chairperson, saying that because the Report would be adopted in the two Houses, there was no need to add ta reference to the Committee there.

Mr Matiase said that the fact that the complaint by Mr Holomisa (which was still to be dealt with) had been mentioned appeared to imply that this had already been dealt with by the Committee. If it had not been processed,he asked why it was included.

The Co-Chairperson explained that the Committee would be dealing with the complaint later. If the discussion did not conclude, then that point would fall away. Essentially the inclusion at this stage spoke to the matter being received, and put on the agenda, and there was no attempt to mislead.

Ms Dreyer commented on the presentation of the Report.

Complaint from MP Mr B Holomisa (UDM)
The Co-Chairperson said that at this point, the meeting would move into a closed session in respect of the complaint by Mr Holomisa.

The meeting was then closed off to the public and media.


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