The Committee convened to hear a presentation from the Department of Transport (DoT) on the legislative programme for 2015. It was noted that there were three Bills that had received priority and that
would hopefully be presented to Parliament in the first quarter of 2015. They were the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill 2014; Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, 2015 and the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, 2015. In respect of each, the Department gave a broad outline of the scope and purpose, and the procedures still to be followed. The Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill had been approved by Cabinet and was with the State Law Advisers for certification. The National Economic Development and Labour Council had been in favour of two bills presented to it - the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, 2015, which was creating new methods of service, specifically by email, to reduce cost and dependency on the postal service. This Bill had also received approval from the Cluster. The National Land Transport Amendment Bill had been published for comment, and was with the Minister for approval prior to being submitted to Cabinet.
Members were concerned and critical about the report, saying that similar presentations had been made already on these three bills and there seemed to be very little change since. They queried the process, and particularly whether the Members would have a chance to comment on the bills prior to the public hearings, asked to whom the stakeholders reported and whether further briefings would be allowed. Questions were raised on the powers, whether they were delegated, and questions around the new Board Members suggested that the language of the presentation could be clearer and a better distinction made around the processes. Overall, however, most Members were critical that these bills had taken so long already to get to this stage, reminding the DoT that they had received assurances since last May that the matter was being dealt with. They were critical of the lack of specific dates and called for a special briefing session at which specific dates should be given and committed to. Members also decided, in later discussions, that full documentation on the concerns of stakeholders must be presented well in advance to obviate the need for a full presentation and give more time for discussion. In addition, they indicated that they wanted full briefings clause by clause, particularly in respect of the Road Accidents Benefits Scheme (RABS) Bill, and that the accounting officers needed to be before the Committee. The DoT was not permitted to give the second half of the presentation briefly outlining other legislation.
Members adopted the first term programme, with some changes and expressed the desire to see the full year's programme. They also adopted minutes from November 2014 and decided that in future resolutions and tasks would be highlighted. The Chairperson would write to the Minister and raise the concerns of the Committee about the need to ensure the Department worked more cooperatively with the Committee.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson, in her opening remarks, commended Members on the good work done to date, and noted that the Committee had done oversight on a number of strategic operations, and emphasised that the constituencies were seeing value for money, that the Portfolio Committee itself was using its budget judiciously and ensuring that its work would change the lives of South Africans.
Department of Transport Legislative Programme for 2015: briefing
Adv Adam Masombuka, Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Transport, tendered the apologies of the Director General who was unable to attend. This presentation would outlined the legislative programme of the Department of Transport (DoT or the Department) for 2015.
Three Bills were on the priority list for the legislative programme for 2015. These Bills had already been approved by the Minister and had since been submitted to the Deputy President. They were
- National Land Transport Amendment Bill, 2015
- Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, 2015
- National Land Transport Amendment Bill, 2015
Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill 2014
Adv Masombuka read out the objects of the Bill (see attached document) and summarised that the Bill would ensure the improved image of the maritime industry by guaranteeing the labour rights of the seafarers. He said that the Bill was approved by Cabinet and the DoT was presently awaiting final certification of the Bill by the Office of the State Law Advisers. Once the Bill had been certified, the Bill would then be introduced to Parliament. This Bill was therefore at an advanced stage and would almost certainly be brought to Parliament in the first quarter of 2015. Only once the Bill had been tabled to the Committee would the DoT give a full presentation and analysis, clause by clause, of the provisions/content of the Bill.
Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill, 2015
Adv Masombuka said that the essence of this Bill was to achieve efficiency and financial stability of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) and other issuing authorities. The Bill particularly emphasised the method of service of documents through electronic means as well as the method of serving documents by registered mail. He further noted that the Bill would reduce the huge financial burden on the Authority concerning payments made to the Post Office for registered mail. It would also prevent the frustrations caused to the Authority by postal agency strikes, which effectively stopped all RTIA notices, services and letters from going out, which was the main reason for trying to ensure another method of service.
He explained the concept behind service of documents and notices. When an infringer was penalised with a traffic fine, the infringer would get a courtesy letter informing him/her of the traffic fine - and this was traditionally and as prescribed by the current Act done by registered mail. This, however, had huge financial implications to the Agency who had to pay the Post Office for that service. Electronic methods of service were now being introduced. If a person consented to the service of electronic mail on Road Traffic fines then the Agency could simply use electronic mail to notify that person if s/he committed a road traffic offence. This would serve to notify the offender immediately of the fine and the fact that it must be settled.
The Bill was also removing the wide and general powers hitherto given to the Director General (DG) at the DoT and instead conferring these general powers on the Board, which was established under the Bill to open and maintain an account. This account was specifically opened for the purpose of accepting monies from infringers. The Bill also empowered the Authority to give a thirty two day notice to the infringer who made an insufficient payment to the authority in respect of a fine.
Adv Masombuka noted that the Bill was first published in the Government Gazette for public comments. Comments were received and they had been incorporated into the Bill. A formal presentation was made to National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) who had approved the Bill. The Bill in draft form was also presented, on 19 February 2015 to a sub-committee of the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) Development Committee. Once the Bill had been formally approved, it would be presented to the next JCPS meeting, tentatively set for 3 March 2015. If supported there, it would be referred to the Cabinet Committee and if approved there, would be referred to the House and this Portfolio Committee.
Again, therefore, this Bill was at an advanced stage and should be read by or before April 2015, and after that the DoT would present a detailed, clause by clause analysis of the Bill.
National Land Transport Amendment Bill, 2015
Adv Masombuka reiterated the objects of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, 2015 (see attached document). This Bill was first gazetted for public consultation, and comments received had been taken into account and incorporated in the Bill that was then presented to NEDLAC. NEDLAC had approved the Bill and it had been sent to the Minister for Ministerial approval. He noted that once the Ministerial approval was obtained, the Bill would be sent to Cabinet for approval, and if Cabinet approved, it would come to Parliament. Again, the Bill was at an advanced stage and was expected to be before Parliament by April 2015. Again, the DoT would do a clause-by-clause briefing at that stage.
Adv Masombuka then said he thought it would be useful to highlight other Bills in the drafting process.
The Chairperson interrupted him at this point and asked that Members be given the opportunity to raise comment and questions on the three Bills so far described.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) wanted to know whether the DoT would still return to the Committee prior to the Bill being put up for debate, as Members would like the opportunity to make their own comments, and whether stakeholders would also be given the opportunity to address Members, as there might well be issues raised in the Bill.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) asked about the AARTO Amendment Bill, specifically whether the powers referred to in the Bill which had been moved to the Board (no longer the Director General) were delegated powers or original powers.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) followed up on Mr De Freitas' query and asked the Chairperson for clarity whether Members would be given the opportunity to go through all Bills in depth. He referred to page 5 of the presentation document, which said that the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill was approved by Cabinet and was to be submitted to the Parliament. He thought that the process of bringing the Bill before Parliament was an ongoing process and he would like delegates from the DoT to go through all the Bills in the pipeline, so that Members could then raise comments on the Bills.
The Chairperson responded that her intention was that Adv Masombuka present the Bills that had gone through the other processes first, and then move on to other legislation that was still at proposal or drafting stage. There were two sets of bills before the Committee, but wanted the discussions at this point to be confined to the three bills so far described.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) also wanted clarity whether the Bills that had been presented by Adv Masombuka we those which had been approved in principle by Cabinet. The presentation by the DoT was essentially not seeking approval of Parliament, but only approval for the process of Parliament to start, so it really related to an "in-principle" decision only. He suggested that the language in the presentation was ambiguous and should be changed. Only Parliament could "approve" a Bill, after all the required processes had been undertaken.
The Chairperson wanted to raise a technical point and asked how long it would normally take for the processes to be concluded on a Bill before it reached and was tabled in Parliament. Members had been told since last May that the very same bills were on their way to Parliament but they had not arrived to date. She particularly wanted to know exactly how long the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill 2014 was likely to take before it arrived at Parliament, and expressed her annoyance and displeasure at the manner in which the Department had been handling the passage of the Bill. She was of the opinion that the Department should have a tighter schedule to follow up on the matter. She added that it had been her experience in Parliament that all Bills tended to be delayed and were pushed through in one batch near the end of the term, which resulted in "shoddy jobs" being done by MPs. She reiterated her questions - how long would it take for the Bill to get to Parliament? And when would the Bills actually be here? Adv Masombuka stated in his presentation that the Bills would be ready by the first quarter which was between March and June. She insisted on getting more specifics so that Committee Members could prepare and schedule themselves for a public hearing, and would be most disappointed if the Committee was not kept continuously informed or was being strung along. She reiterated that she needed to know precisely when in the first quarter the Committee Members would receive the Bill. People were very eager and anxious to get these Bills passed, and were becoming increasingly concerned at the length of time taken to do that. Parliamentarians were here to legislate and make laws but when Department and Ministries were not doing their job, there was no way MPs could function effectively. She warned the delegation to "brace up for the challenges" ahead. She would not want to see a situation where the Department was unable to amend and Parliament took it upon themselves to deal with the necessary amendments.
Ms S Boshielo (ANC) expressed dissatisfaction at the level of preparedness of the Department. She had thought that the Department was coming to brief the Committee Members with a full report, so that the presentation would not have to be repeated, and was disappointed that the Department would not be giving a full briefing on the whole Bill.
Adv Masombuka reiterated the processes that must be completed for approval of a Bill, and said that the processes were not set by or dependent on him, nor the Bill processers. Stakeholders must be included and must vigorously interrogate these Bills. He noted that his task involved taking the Bills to these stakeholders and presenting it to them, and they would, in turn, indicate to the Department the areas of approval, caveats, corrections or areas where more research was needed, after which the Bills would be updated and sent back to the stakeholders again. It was his job to ensure that the stakeholders were happy. He cited one instance when he had sent a Bill to the JCPS, who had instructed that their own sub-committee must look at the Bill, before presenting the Bill and comments back again to the full JCPS, which took time.
He added that the process of taking a Bill to Cabinet involved Cabinet either supporting or approving the Bill in principle - and by approval he was referring to the administrative executive stage, not the legislative approval. Once the Bills were introduced into Parliament, they became Bills of the legislature. It was difficult to predict a particular date on which a Bill would come before Parliament because it w impossible to predict how Cabinet would deal with them and what it might say. He reiterated that until Cabinet approval was given, the DoT could not bring any Bills before the Parliament.
Adv Masombuka said that his presentation had been brief, but the reason was again that the Bills had not yet been formally introduced in Parliament. Once they were formally introduced, the Department would give a clause by clause presentation and analysis. The DoT's mission today was merely to advise on the Bill, present the main objects of the bill, state the current status of the Bill and indicate when the Bill would be brought before Parliament, although, as outlined, this was tricky because he was dependent on the approval and support of other Committees.
The Chairperson wondered whether, in light of this explanation, it was likely that the DoT could even meet the first quarter deadline referred to in the presentation.
Adv Masombuka responded that good work had been done so far and that the Bills enjoyed the support of all committees involved, and he hoped they could come before Parliament at the suggested dates.
Ms S Boshielo expressed her utter displeasure at this explanation and insisted that the views and concerns of MPs must be taken seriously. Committee Members already had copies of the draft Bills being presented, as well as the summaries already discussed in the Portfolio Committee's earlier meetings, and wondered why the very same issue was being raised and debated again. These bills had been in the pipeline for more than two years, and now suddenly Members were told they would be presented in the first quarter, despite the fact that the delegation conceded that the dates were not dependent on them. Entities had not been able to work because there were problems with the legislation and these bills had dragged on for too long.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) raised a question relating to the process following the invitation for comment. He wanted to know when and how the comments raised on a Bill found effect and how they were handled. He enquired whether the Committee could demand progress reports on the whole process, from when comments were received, to how they were dealt with, over what period, and current reports.
Mr Ramatlakane reminded the Members that the reason for receiving a briefing on these Bill was that Members had expressed unhappiness to both the Department and Acting Director General about the dates, and expected a definitive answer this year. It was not proper for Adv Masombuka to say he would not know what Cabinet was thinking, as that did not help the Committee processes and plans.
Mr Ramatlakane noted that none of the top management team, and especially not the Acting Director General, were at the briefing and expressed the view that there would be little value in continuing the briefing, as it was not answering the questions about the programme with any detail. There was an inference that the DoT itself did not know quite when the process would be finalised. Ultimately, the responsibility of taking the Bill to Cabinet was that of the Department, which did not come forward with a time frame and it could not be dependent on another committee.
Mr M Sibande reminded Members of his earlier recommendation that the Department should be allowed to continue and complete its presentation, whereafter Members could raise issues. He was surprised to hear of the wait. In terms of both procedure and protocol, the Department had a right to come and present the bills to a Portfolio Committee, and the real question was around the deadlines. He enjoined Members to give the Department an opportunity to complete its presentation before raising further queries.
The Chairperson agreed that the Acting Director General needed to appear, being the Accounting Officer who must come to account and give the Committee full details. The Portfolio Committee could not continue to procrastinate. South Africans were eagerly waiting for Parliamentarians to do their work as lawmakers.
Ms D Carter (COPE) reminded the Committee that at the end of November last year, the Department promised to come to the Committee and make a presentation on the Road Accidents Benefits Scheme (RABS) Bill, and reminded the Department to honour this commitment.
The Chairperson agreed and urged the DoT to attend to this and make the necessary presentation on the RABS Bill. She also asked that it be conveyed to Director General and Acting Director General that their presence was required. The programme of the Committee would changed, and the remainder of today's presentation moved to the following week. She told Adv Masombuka that the Committee hoped that the shoddy work of today would not be repeated.
The delegates from the Department were excused from the meeting.
Committee's draft First Term Programme
At the request of the Committee Chairperson, Ms V Carelse, Committee Secretary, gave a weekly summary of the activities of the Portfolio Committee, as follows:
- 10 March: Briefing on the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill (2014). Some stakeholders had been requested to brief the Committee on some of the challenges inherent in the Bill, but she reminded Members that the copy of the Bill tabled then was apparently not the current version, as advised by the State Law Advisers
- 17 March: Feedback needed from the Department on specific issues such as bothersome issues on governance. Information would be sent to Members. The oversight report should be ready for adoption.
- 18 March was set aside provisionally for a joint meeting to do with public enterprises, although it must still be confirmed
- 24 March: Briefing on the Departments 2015/2016 Institutional Performance Plan, Strategic Report and Annual Performance Plan. By that meeting, there would be a draft programme for the second Parliamentary term, detailing how the Committee would process the Strategic and Annual performance plans of the entities, which were due in the second parliamentary term.
Mr De Freitas reminded the Chairperson of the instruction just given to the Department to return next week for the rest of the briefing and said that must be added to the next week's agenda.
Ms S Xego-Sovita (ANC) wondered why today's programme was not with the Members. She questioned whether stakeholders who had raised issues on the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill were directed to the Department or to the Committee, and if comments had been brought to the Committee, then they should be provided to Members to give them a better sense of the issues, to prepare for the meeting on 10 March.
Mr Ramatlakane was of the opinion that it would be better for the Committee to have the whole programme for the year, particularly so that Members would know the comprehensive programme around scheduled oversight visits. If matters had to be changed, at least Members would have a broad idea, and it would be useful to be able to work off a one-year programme during the five-year strategic term.
Mr Ramatlakane also noted the importance of having feedbacks in the form of a page supplied to Members detailing the key issues expected from the various agencies and Departments. There should be an extract detailing the critical points that forms the expectations from Members.
In relation to the programme on 10 March, Mr Ramatlakane queried the presentation to be made by the stakeholders and said that he did not know what trigger points would arise in discussions. He questioned if these would be general issues, or points that would only be repeated again when the Department came before the Committee Members. He advised that the presentation should be different, in light of the experiences today, and said there should be concrete and focused issues to be able to hold discussions outside the formal legislative process.
Ms Carter suggested that some key staff of the Department must come back and report on some of the Bills next week. She asked about the possibility of having a short presentation on the RASB Bill now, to give Members some food for thought and allow them to prepare for next week's meeting.
Ms Boshielo agreed that it is was important for the Department to first make a presentation on the RASB Bill, to give Members a good idea of the content before there were public hearings or debates.
A Member suggested that on Tuesday 2 March, briefings should be made on the Bill, as well as on the 2nd and 3rd quarter expenditure for 2014. If the briefing session did not already include the entities, there should be provision for them to present their second and third quarter reports.
Mr Sibande warned Members not to be hard on themselves. They had already made a commitment that the Department must come back, and the budget votes process was just around the corner. He believed that the Committee programme was on the right track and all programmes would be affected by the budget votes.
The Chairperson remarked that the second and third quarter report presentations had been scheduled for next week, and she thought that an extra day should be set aside for the Committee to raise with the Department matters raised of concern, although the plenaries would prevent full-day meetings. She would like to insist that full reports be presented well in advance to Members, so that no presentation was necessary on 3 March, but Members could go straight to their questions, and they would be able to focus on what were the most important things for the Committee. The programme for 10 March was a little more tricky. Although she wanted the Department to brief Members on the RABS Bill, it might not be able to happen. In the following week, Members would be a draft of the annual agendas, to enable a better understanding of how the Committee would operate for the year.
Mr De Freitas wanted to know if background information could be given before the meeting on 10 March. Members need to know what the stakeholders wanted to present.
The Chairperson responded that the Secretary would make copies and information on what the stakeholder concerns were, prior to the meeting.
Members adopted the revised programme.
Consideration and adoption of minutes from November 2014
Mr C Hunsinger queried the style of the minutes, which did not give Members' names, but merely recorded that "Members noted". He asked why there was no detailed reference to what particular members said, and who engaged or contributed in a particular manner.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the practice, when adopting minutes, was to work through page by page. Corrections or issues of concern would be dealt with as "Matters arising".
Members agreed to adopt the minutes.
Mr De Freitas pointed out that where there are corrections or issues they will be noted and dealt with as Matters Arising.
The Committee Members then went through the Minutes page by page. Members agreed that the Minutes were a true reflection of what happened during the meeting.
Mr De Freitas observed that a lot of issues and resolutions came up in the Minutes. He particularly referred Members to page 4, and thought that there should be follow-up. He suggested that the minutes should list, at the end, the resolutions made and what had been followed up by the Committee. Often, the minutes were tabled but there was no follow-through.
Members adopted the minutes.
The Chairperson reiterated that Mr De Freitas' observations were noteworthy and agreed that the minutes should be structured to highlight recommendations and follow ups.
Ms Carter suggested that the Committee could keep a resolution and implementation register. This may not necessarily be part of the Minutes, but could be a separate record of what happened in the meeting and who said what.
The Chairperson doubted that this would be possible, and anything not incorporated formally into the minutes would tend to fall off the table. She did however suggest that Members should from time to time get a "to do" list.
Mr Ramatlakane referred Members to page 3, item 5 of the Minutes. He wanted to know if the dates mentioned in the closing sentence referred to dates by when the Bill should be presented, after finalisation by Cabinet. He suggested that the Department should brief the Committee on specific dates, not just have general references to them. The Department and all officials should also receive a copy of the Committee minutes.
The Chairperson suggested that she should write to the Minister raising concerns and observations as expressed by Members, for the Departmental officials had consistently let the Committee down on a number of occasions. She was of the opinion that Members deal with the issue at a strategic level and invite the right people to attend meetings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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