Disaster Management Bill; Local Government Laws Amendment Bill: deliberations

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Meeting report

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
1 November 2002
DISASTER MANAGEMENT BILL; LOCAL GOVERNMENT LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: DELIBERATIONS

Chairperson: Mr Mkhaliphi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Disaster Management Bill [B21B-2002]
Local Government Law Amendment Bill [B61-2002] (as tabled)
Report by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Administration on B61 (Appendix 2)
Local Government Law Amendment Bill [B61b-2002]
SUMMARY
The Committee finalised the discussion on the negotiating mandates. members would have to receive their final mandates from their provinces. The Committee also debated the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill but deferred voting on the Bill. Th

MINUTES
The Chair informed Members that there were two items on the agenda for deliberation. He explained that the Committee would first dispose off the outstanding negotiating mandate from Gauteng and at the same time get clarification from the Department on matters raised in the various mandates.

Gauteng had mixed up issues in their negotiating mandate but all their concerns had been fully addressed. The Chair then asked the Department to clarify the inclusion of the terms 'may' and 'must' at various places in the Bill.

Mr Kgoashi (ANC) noted that the Committee was forced to defer deliberations on the Bill the previous Friday due to non-attendance on the part of the Department. It would be important for the Committee to receive an explanation on why the Department failed to send a representative to guide it through this crucial stage.

Mr Kilian (Department) tendered an apology, noting that he was forced to leave early so as to attend another meeting that had been scheduled in Pretoria. His absence did not in any way imply that the Department treated the Committee with contempt but he had sought to be excused from attendance by the Chair.

The Chair protested that there must have been a communication breakdown at some point since he had requested Mr Kilian to send somebody else if he could not attend the meeting personally. The absence of the Department during deliberations on the Bill has never happened before and he hoped that it does not happen again.

Dr Bouwer: Director: Legal Services in the Department of Provincial & Local Government, pointed out that he had perused all the negotiating mandates and had identified two key issues that called for clarification. He explained that when the Portfolio Committee processed the Bill the aim was to achieve consistency at the National, Provincial and Local Government Level. It later transpired that this objective could not be achieved at certain levels due to the different tiers of Government whose integrity must be respected. He explained that the National Government cannot for instance prescribe rules for Local Government and hence cases would arise where the term 'may' would be appropriately applied whilst the term 'must' suits other situations.

Dr Bouwer explained that, on the issue of placing disaster centres under the office of the Premier, it was not necessary to write this item in the Bill since the present wording allows the premier to determine where the disaster centres should be located.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked the Department to comment on 43(b) on page 44

Dr Bouwer explained that the drafting of the Bill took cognisance of the district and regional-wide functions whose capacities differed significantly. One must therefore take into account specific geographical competencies of a region so as to avoid contradiction.

Mr Kilian commented that the idea was to give metro and district municipalities the competence to create disaster management centres that would be available to serve the entire country. He added that there was need to consult all municipalities in order to deploy the strongest possible resources in case of a disaster.

Mr Maloyi insisted that the term 'one of' for purposes of clarity should replace 'any' in the Bill.

Dr Bouwer explained that the terminology conveyed the same meaning namely that consultations could be undertaken with any of the municipalities.

The Chair informed members that since this was a section 76 Bill, the Provinces would be expected to give the final mandate before it is finalised.

Mr Kgoashi wondered why the Bill could not be finalised since delegates had indicated that they have the final mandates.

The Chair insisted that the right procedure must run full course even if it means seating for two minutes. He reiterated that delegates must go back and seek final mandates especially in view of the proposals by other provinces. The Chair then ruled that the Committee would meet on Friday to receive the final mandates on the Bill.

Local Government Laws Amendment Bill
The Chair suggested that the Committee runs through the Bill clause by clause and that where there were queries Members could pinpoint them and the Committee could deal with them accordingly.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked why section 12 A was inserted in the Bill noting that everybody should pay the service charge and that Councillors should not be treated differently.

Ms Ghoali (ANC) concurred with Mr Maloyi that if this section is retained in the Bill it would send the wrong message to the general populace that Councillors are being exempted, which could create a rift between the people and the political establishment.

Dr Bouwer explained that the three month grace period is not s special treatment extended to Councillors since it was the standard time within which people in business and even Council stuff are allowed to settle outstanding bills before recovery measures kick-in.

Mr Kgoashi (ANC) said that it is important to be considerate to Councillors instead of subjecting them to harsh treatment and thereby opening an avenue for victimisation.

Ms Ghoali insisted that Councillors were not ordinary servants and that they were essentially the face of government. By that description they must lead by example, not to accumulate rates and charges. She pointed out that in the Gauteng Province councillors who accumulate service charges and rates are not voted into office.

The Chair pointed out that these measures are not new and that he did not see why there was such intense controversy around the issue.

Dr Bouwer explained that the section seeks to address a situation where Councillors are discriminated against in that other people are allowed the three months grace period whilst they are not.

Mr Maloyi suggested that the issue be flagged to allow Members time to reflect on it further and see if alliances may shift.

Mr Khotang (legal advisor) pointed out that the insertion in question constitutes a balancing act which acknowledges the fact that Councillors must lead by example. It also caters for situations where disputes may arise on the amount of the rates in arrears. He clarified that the section does not seek to give Councillors undue latitude in any way.

Mr Kgoashi concurred with Mr Maloyi that the issue should be shelved for now and that Committee members would revisit the issue in the following meeting after seeking more clarity.

The discussion ended due to time constraints.

The meeting was adjourned.

Report by the Portfolio Committee on Provincial and Local Government on the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill
[B61-2002]

Having considered the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill the Portfolio Committee reports further as follows:

1. The Portfolio Committee feels that it is unacceptable that the Bill should have been introduced to Parliament so late and that the Committee should have had a limited time in which to process it. However, as the Bill dealt mainly with minor technical amendments, the Portfolio Committee was able to apply its usual rigour to the Bill, particularly in respect of the substantive clauses, and has been able to complete the processing of the Bill within the timeframes decided upon. Despite this, it would have preferred to receive the Bill earlier, and urges the Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government to avoid a recurrence of this.

2. The Committee acknowledges the need to extend the transitional period relating to the MECs' authorizations of the division of powers and functions between District and Local municipalities from 5 December 2002 to 30 June 2003. The Committee feels that it is important that consideration be given in the division of powers and functions between District and Local municipalities to:

· The alignment of the publication of the notices of the Minister's authorization of the four "national" powers and functions and the MECs' publication of the notices of the adjustments of the remaining powers and functions. The publication of these notices takes place by no later than the end of January 2003 in order to give municipalities adequate time to prepare and to budget accordingly.

· The alignment, over time, of the Minister's authorizations of powers and functions and the MECs' adjustments of
the powers and functions.
· The Minister's authorizations and the MECs' adjustments be reviewed, over time, to ensure that the important role allocated to District municipalities in legislation and policy is fulfilled.

3. The Committee was careful to ensure that the clauses seeking to validate the Cape Valuation Ordinance are of a technical nature. They are necessary to ensure that the new valuations of municipalities in Western, Northern and Eastern Cape are legally valid.

4. Related to the issue of validating the Cape Valuation Ordinance is the dispute between the Cape Town metro municipality and the Rates Action Group and the Robertsons. While it is the right of the parties to the dispute to pursue legal action, the Committee feels that all the parties in the dispute should seek to resolve their differences through discussion and negotiations. It is regrettable that a section of the ratepayers is exploiting an unfortunate technical loop-hole as the basis for their legal action against the Cape Town municipality to address their concerns over the new equitable valuations and rates policy of Cape Town. The Committee feels these rate payers' concerns with the new equitable valuations and the rates policy might be more usefully served by engaging with the municipality on the substance of the rates policy. If the new valuations and rates policy of the Cape Town municipality unduly disadvantages any group of ratepayers, the municipality needs to explore whether there is anything that it can do to provide some relief to these ratepayers.

5. In processing the clause dealing with the remuneration of councillors, the Committee noted that municipalities are providing allowances and benefits to councillors in contravention of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act- 1998. Many of these municipalities purport to provide these in terms of the provisions in provincial ordinances But these provincial ordinances do not have legal effect since the enactment of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act. The Committee recognizes that councillors' salaries and allowances need to be adequate, but the dissatisfaction of municipalities around this should be negotiated through the appropriate channels. The present practice of transgressing the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act is unacceptable, and the Committee urges that:

· The Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government take steps to stop this practice.

· The MECs for local government act more decisively against these transgressions.

· The Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government seek to repeal the relevant provisions of the provincial ordinances as soon as possible.

· The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee sends a copy of this part of the report to the Ministry and Department of Provincial and Local Government and the MECs for Local Government and requests them to act expeditiously.

6. The Committee feels that the negotiations with the relevant stakeholders on the Property Rates Bill should be completed reasonably soon and that the bill should be introduced to Parliament next year.

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