Election of Chairperson

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

05 March 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

5 March 2002

[This is a transcript of the meeting, produced by the Public Accounts Committee Secretariat.]


African National Congress

Mr L Chiba
Ms NL Hlangwana
Mr BW Kannemeyer
Ms PK Mothoagae
Mr BZ Nair
Mr BJ Nobunga
Mr VG Smith
Mr P Gerber

Democratic Party

Mr NS Bruce
Ms R Taljaard

Inkatha Freedom Party

Dr GG Woods

New National Party

Col A Blaas
Mr P Uys

United Democratic Movement

Dr GW Koornhof

Apologies: Mr DM Gumede, Mr NH Masithela

Secretariat: A Mamabolo, E Molefe, K Dlamini, N Madide, G Dixon, M Vumazonke

Decisions taken

Mr VG Smith was elected acting chairperson of the Committee, and will act as such until the end of the current session of Parliament. The appointment of a chairperson of the Committee will be finalised at the Committee's first meeting after the March/April recess.


See attached transcript.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Good morning. As per the notice agenda item number one - the election of the Chairperson - I would right away call for nominations for the Chairperson.

[Ms R Taljaard] We would like to raise one or two issues of process and procedure before going into an election, particularly around the agenda item that is on the agenda for today. We would like to have some clarification. We see that on the agenda item it is stated that it is the election of Acting Chairperson - we would like some clarification there, particularly in relation to the Rules and Rule 130 in particular what exact procedure we are doing today.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Rule 130 provide for the election of an Acting Chairperson in the absence of a Chair. In the current circumstances because we do not have a Chair we will have to elect a chairperson. In order for someone to continue with the proceedings, if the Committee cannot elect a chairperson we have to have an Acting Chairperson.

[Ms R Taljaard] I do think that if one reads Rule 130 it clearly deals with a temporary situation where a chairperson of a committee is absent or unable to perform his functions. I think we have had a resignation of our chairperson therefore logic would dictate that this would be the election of a chairperson. That is why we seek clarification on the Acting Chairperson, because the Rules do not deal with Acting Chairpersons once there has been a resignation. We would like some process clarification.

[Mr B Kannemeyer] I was under the impression that up till now there has not been a formal resignation tabled either to this Committee or to Parliament. Is that not why you are talking about an interim Chair or Acting Chair?

[Mr A Mamabolo] In terms of the process of Parliament the Chairperson is elected by the Committee. It was announced. The records shows that the Chairperson announced to the Committee that the Chairperson was resigning and the Committee did not object. So for the purposes of electing a new Chairperson that process can go ahead, but for administrative purposes where the Chairperson has got to inform the authorities of Parliament, I believe that process has taken place. In answer to your question Ms Taljaard, we are going for the election of the Chairperson, the concern you raised about the election of the Chairperson. We are electing a Chairperson. It will only be in case where the Committee will be unable to come up with a Chairperson that someone would have to be elected to act in an Acting capacity.

[Ms R Taljaard] You may or may not be aware that the members of the opposition did receive telephone calls from the other side of this room about this issue, particularly in relation to the appointment of an Acting Chairperson and the candidate who would probably be nominated as Acting Chairperson. I think in the light of the ambiguity that has risen I think that it would not be unwarranted for us to propose a recess for people to review the current status by virtue of the ambiguity between Acting Chairperson and Chairperson, so that we have clarity on what we are engaged in today and what we are electing today.

[Mr L Chiba] I think that with Dr Wood's resignation there is a vacuum where we need to consider very seriously that the work of this Committee must continue and if the work of the Committee must continue then I think we have to elect someone. What I am saying and what we think we should be doing is to elect an interim chairperson. I want to emphasise the point that we need to do that so that we can continue with our work. In no way must this meeting be seen to be tampering with the tradition in Public Account of having a chairperson from one of the opposition parties. This meeting is not about that. This meeting is about how do we continue with our work. And it is only an interim arrangement in the sense that we are going to rise in about three weeks time. Until such time it is an interim arrangement. We are coming back and start with Parliament. The recess will be over. There is going to be a constituency period and until 27 April 2002, somewhere around there, Parliament starts again. We still need somebody to do the administrative work. Let us be clear, we have got to continue with this. Let us have an Interim Chairperson.

[Mr A Mamabolo] I would really be guided by the Committee on what we must do.

[Ms R Taljaard] One can take courage from the fact that we are being given the reassurance that an opposition chairperson and the principle of the opposition, be it an interim chairperson, a permanent chairperson or an acting chairperson, will never be in jeopardy in this Committee. I think we need to take that into account in our deliberations today and it needs to be instructive. One has to also take into account that we cannot do anything in this Committee that falls outside of the Rules of Parliament while we might wish to tag the person who is elected today as an interim chairperson. In effect, in the Rules that person is seen as a chairperson, not as an interim chairperson. So whatever label we wish to attach to that chairperson it is not covered by the Rules. We need to stick to the Rules and look at how we deal with this matter in accordance strictly with the Rules and the adherence to the principle of an opposition chairperson.

[Mr A Mamabolo] If you will allow me, there has been a proposal for recess by Ms Taljaard and the second one by Mr Chiba that we need someone to be in place to take the proceedings forward. I just need guidance from the Committee whether you want your recess to consider this matter further or whether we should go ahead with the election of the Chairperson?

[Mr V Smith] In considering what has been said now, the fact that this Committee needs to continue its work and the fact that there needs to be clarity on that, I think it is going to assist us if Ms Taljaard indicates to us when she says "recess" does she mean that we postpone this meeting for a day and reconvene tomorrow; does she mean that we postpone it until we come back from recess? If there is a timeframe then we must abide. I do think that it is correct for her to look and seek for clarity if she has not got clarity. I also do think that the Committee has got to continue with its work. We have a Hearing, so if we could get clarity on that we can then deliberate on both of the proposals. It is not very clear to us what "recess" means if it is an hour or a caucus for five minutes or what does it mean?

[Ms R Taljaard] I am very happy to clarity that. I think nobody in this room is unaware of the importance of the work of this Committee and the need for the Committee to focus singularly on its work and to get that done. I do think we have had a number of debates that remained unresolved about the issues that were raised by the previous chairperson. I think in terms of clarity - it is really important to have clarity in terms of the Rules what we are electing or not electing today. I think we need a categorical statement about that. We are, in fact, electing a chairperson, not an acting chairperson, for that falls outside the remit of the Rules. In the light of that I think it would not be unreasonable to have a recess of two hours, perhaps longer, depending on how parties feel, because clearly the agenda in its format created an ambiguity, and that ambiguity is contradicted by the Rules, because the Rules do not provide for an acting chairperson. In the light of those ambiguities we need clarity as to what we are electing and then subsequently to that clarity emerging we need a recess of a number of hours. Perhaps more depending on what other partys' views are on this matter.

[Mr L Chiba] I just want to remind this Committee that when Dr Woods was unable to accompany Public Accounts on the overseas trip, this Committee elected an acting chairperson. Now how does that ……….. with what Ms Taljaard is saying?

[Ms R Taljaard] We need to clarity that. It is a different circumstance. In that situation the Rules did apply, both Rule 129 and Rule 130, because the chairperson was in accordance with the wording of Rule 130 "absent or unable to perform the functions of chairperson" at that stage with the overseas trip. In accordance with the Rules therefore an acting chairperson was instituted under Rule 130. The current circumstances are completely different. The chairperson has resigned. He is not unable to perform his functions or absent. Different circumstances not catered for by Rule 130. That is what I am raising, so the analogy with the overseas trip does not hold.

[Mr A Blaas] Just in addition to that, I think in the overseas trip it was more than a group leader than a chairperson of a meeting. It was just a group that went overseas for ten days. In the absence of a chairperson a chairperson would naturally have taken hold of the leadership of the group. It was indicated that Mr Smith lead the tour, but not in the capacity of chairperson, but in the capacity as a tour group leader.

[Mr B Kannemeyer] I thought the Rules provide, as Ms Taljaard said, if the chairperson is unable to fulfill his duties or is not available to assume his duties the provision of interim or acting chairperson then does come in. I do not know if Mr Chiba in his input raised it, but I certainly am aware of certain processes that are underway exactly to address the notion around how do we ensure the whole question of the tradition around chairpersons in this Committee without consulting with the different political parties around that particular matter. I think, for me, the whole question of an interim or acting chairperson is exactly so that you give that particular processes chance to unfold. I would not have any hesitation to give Ms Taljaard her due that indeed the Rules may not provide for the election of an acting chairperson or an interim chairperson, but I would then move that the Committee be cognizant of the fact that there are processes underway to ensure that we arrive at a permanent situation with regards to the chairperson and that we do not undermine the work of this Committee from the beginning by being too hasty to arrive at a decision and not giving the political processes time so that when the Committee and the new chairperson is elected that there is agreement and/or support from and amongst all political parties. I certainly believe that it would be in the interest of this Committee to in the interim therefore have someone so that the work of the Committee proceed knowing the only reason why we do not elect a permanent chairperson today is to allow political processes to continue and that there be discussion between and amongst the different political parties. I therefore move that the agenda item then be changed so that we elect an acting or interim chairperson until that political process has been finalised.

[Mr A Mamabolo] There is a motion on the table. From the Secretariat's point of view we can take a break to clarify the process. I think we would like to be guided by the Committee. Mr Kannemeyer has put a motion on the table.

[Mr V Smith] I do not know if you will allow me to speak after Ms Taljaard, because I think I want to wait for her, but if she does not want me to speak after her that is fine. I think we have to stop doing what we are doing and the work of this Committee must go on. And if the work of this Committee is not going to carry on because Ms Taljaard feels that she wants clarity, then I think let us grant her clarity. I am proposing that we spend an hour going to seek clarity, and that we come back here at 12 o'clock and we will conclude with this matter. I think she is asking for clarity and I think she must be afforded clarity. Let us have the recess she is talking about and clarify what we need to clarify. I think the business of the Committee must carry on. We cannot continue to dilly-dally. I want to second the proposal that we all seek clarity, that we reconvene in an hour, that we nominate somebody to act as an interim chairperson and that the work of the Committee continues.

[Ms R Taljaard] I think we do have a word of caution, and we have raised it before, the Rules do not provide for the election of an interim chairperson. We cannot procedurally do anything that is not in accordance with the Rules. We need to clarify that quite categorically. I do think we need some clarity when we get back and we appreciate the support for a proposal for a recess.

[Dr G Koornhof] We must now focus on what is in the best interest of SCOPA and this Parliament and how SCOPA is going to contribute to that goal, if that is the goal? And that is how are we going to exercise our oversight and accountability role with respect to financial management in the Public Sector. If that is the goal then the election of a chairperson of this Committee is a key step and feature in that process. If the majority party gives the assurance that the chairperson of this Committee will come from the ranks of the opposition we will welcome that. Secondly, if the proposal is to elect by agreement an acting chairperson for a limited period of time to reach this goal of what is in the best interest of SCOPA, surely I think that is a reasonable request. So before we adjourn then, let us just make sure what are we going to talk about and what are we going to agree upon when we come back, namely these three issues. I do not think we should have a problem with it.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Dr Koornhof has raised some questions. Ms Taljaard would you like to address them?

[Ms R Taljaard] I think Dr Koornhof has raised a number of issues. If we speak about the importance of the principle of the opposition chairperson of this Committee, I think that principle ought to be sacrosanct and it also needs to apply in all respects, including in relation to a caretaker if people were to wish to appoint a caretaker if that were to be in accordance with the Rules. I think that is something we need to take into cognizance into our deliberations. In addition to the clarity on the situation in relation to the Rules - we also need to be categorical enough to indicate that an opposition chairperson and the role of an opposition chairperson and the principle underpinning it is sacrosanct and we need to adhere to it, not only in terms of ongoing processes in relation to the instituted chairperson on a long term basis, but if the Rules allow an acting chairperson the same principle needs to apply. I think that needs to inform our deliberations as well.

[Ms N Hlangwana] I agree with what Mr Smith has said. I think what is important as far as Ms Taljaard is concerned is following the Rules. What is not important to her is the continuation of the oversight role that we have in this Committee. So to make her happy let us break for an hour and come back at 12 o'clock and give her what she wants.

[Mr A Mamabolo] The meeting will reconvene at 12 o'clock.

(The meeting adjourned and reconvened at 12h00).

[Mr A Mamabolo] I will first start with the advise that the Secretariat received. We went to consult with the Secretary to the National assembly, Mr Hahndiek. What he said was that a committee's first order of business if there is a vacuum is to elect a chairperson if there is not one. There is nothing wrong with a committee agreeing to elect an acting chairperson. Of course, this is not covered within the Rules, but there is nothing wrong if a committee is not ready to elect a chairperson to elect someone to formalize today's proceedings and to act as acting chairperson. I believe that members have also discussed the issues that were raised an hour ago and I would like to invite members to give the way forward.

[Mr N Hlangwana] Based on the input that you have given us, I am proposing that we move the route of electing an interim chairperson and continue with the work of this Committee's oversight role.

[Ms R Taljaard] Thank you for your clarification by Mr Hahndiek. If there is indeed no difficulty and the Committee decides to go the election route, I will be supportive of that.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Can I proceed straight away to ask for nominations for an acting chairperson?

[Ms K Mothoagae] I will nominate Mr V Smith as an acting chairperson.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Are there any further nominations?

[Ms R Taljaard] Yes, because we believe that the principle of an opposition chairperson is so important that it cannot even be bridged, even in the interim, we would like to nominate Mr N Bruce.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Are there any further nominations? There are two nominations on the table. I will start with the first nomination of Mr Smith. I would like to put then the question that Mr Smith be acting chairperson. Those in favour, can you raise your hand?

[Ms R Taljaard] On a point of order, we do require seconders for the nominees.

[Mr A Mamabolo] Is there any seconder first for Mr Smith's nomination? Mr Kannemeyer seconds. Is there any seconder for Mr N Bruce's nomination? Dr Woods seconds. Can I put the question that Mr Smith be chairperson? All those in favour, can you raise your hand? All those against? Can I put the question that Mr N Bruce be chairperson? All those in favour? All those against? Mr V Smith has got the majority of votes and therefore the nomination of Mr N Bruce will be drops and the nomination of Mr V Smith stands. Mr Smith will you take the chair.

[Mr P Gerber] The Democratic Party, as far as I know, has got two members in this Committee and three people voted for the member just now. Is this correct?

[Ms R Taljaard] We do have two members of this Committee and two members of this Committee voted, not three.

[Mr A Mamabolo] The vote goes to Mr Smith. I declare Mr Smith as the acting chairperson.

[Mr V Smith] Thank you Mr Mamabolo. Thank you for the members that have made us go through this process. I think we have an hour then to put into the time that we have. So without any waste of time the agenda indicates that we will have report back from groups. We also have minutes from the previous meeting. There are matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting that I suggest we cover. But also not from the previous meeting, I think that we were going to ask for a report on how far this Committee has gone in terms of recruiting a researcher?

[Ms R Taljaard] On a point of order, just before we get into the business of the working groups, we would like to raise an issue that we do need to deal with and I think it also emerged through the course of the discussions this morning by virtue of the issue that was raised by Mr Hahndiek. I do think the issue of a timeframe for the current arrangement aught to be our final recorded business before we get into the detail of the working group report backs. I do think Mr Hahndiek's advice to the Committee indicated quite clearly that this is an interim arrangement at best and I think we do need to discuss that and discuss the applicable time period. We would like to move that as a formal proposal?

[Mr V Smith] There is a proposal by Ms Taljaard about the discussion of timeframes. Is anybody opposed to that?

[Ms N Hlangwana] I am not opposing. I was just going to make a proposal on the table of the timeframe.

[Mr V Smith] I do not think there is a problem with us discussing the timeframe as Ms Taljaard has requested it. Ms Taljaard can lead us on that, but we certainly from the ANC's side are very clear on the indications on the timeframes and the nature of this task that I am doing now. So if you want to lead on that you certainly can. I am sure the ANC is prepared to put it on the table so that we can deal with it and get on with the business of the day.

[Ms R Taljaard] I think in all reasonableness, one would wish to propose a very short time period, particularly in the context of the election that we just had. I think if you look at the record of the voting you will notice that the canvassing had a particular voting in terms of the majority versus the opposition. I think one would need to take cognizance of that in terms of the time period in order to have a tolerable situation. I think we need to take cognizance of the fact that we have two weeks effectively before we rise for a recess. We would like to formally propose that the interim measure that has been adopted by voting in the Committee today be a temporary measure until the end of this particular period, which is the end of two weeks from now.

[Mr V Smith] We have a proposal on the table.

[Ms N Hlangwana] I do not think we would have a problem with that. We actually were looking at an interim situation until the end of this term, because we are going to have a Hearing on 20 March 2002 which we cannot postpone. We also have to allow a situation where the cluster work continues and we have a plenary where we can report. That is why we are suggesting an interim.

[Mr B Kannemeyer] Can I propose that we in accepting the proposal that we say that a new chairperson on permanent basis to be elected at our first meeting after recess? The reason is that we are finishing business on 20 March 2002. We have got a Hearing. There are ……………….. preparatory aspects and that will give the different parties, particularly the ANC, time to discuss with the different parties the process of arriving at a permanent chairperson. It would also give the different parties who have got particular views and ideas around this matter time to engage with the ANC on those matters. The effect of it is the same in terms of the person sitting there in front in the chair. I think it is more practical in terms of proposing the same that we on the first meeting in the new term.

[Ms K Mothoagae] I am covered by Mr Kannemeyer.

[Mr V Smith] I am going to allow you in a minute to summarise. I think we ........., but I will recognize you Ms Taljaard.

[Ms R Taljaard] I think a formal commitment of that nature would be acceptable and it would need to the clarified formally. I do not know whether we would also need the views of other members of this Committee.

[Mr A Blaas] We will support that suggestion that the interim arrangements will be applicable until we meet in the next term.

[Dr G Koornhof] We will support that that you will act as the Acting Chairperson till the beginning of the second term.

[Dr G Woods] I support that.

[Mr V Smith] We have support across all political parties that the arrangement is that it will be a situation that will have to be finalised at the first meeting when we get back from recess. And at that first meeting we will then have to have a situation where the interim, or acting or caretaker is dealt with and we have a permanent Chairperson. That is for the record and I think it will be minuted accordingly, and it has the support of all political parties. Can we move onto the next item on the agenda?

[Ms R Taljaard] Is it minuted as "election chairperson" for the next meeting in the next term?

[Mr V Smith] I think what the meeting is saying is that the appointment of a chairperson of this Committee will be finalised at the first meeting. That is our understanding that the various political parties are saying, that the appointment of a chairperson of SCOPA will be finalised at the first meeting after recess. If you are comfortable with that can we get report backs from clusters? Can we start with cluster 3, cluster 2 to follow and then cluster 1? We also have matters arising from our minutes of last week and perhaps a report back on how far we are with the researcher recruitment.

[Ms N Hlangwana] We have got about 30 minutes. The usual time that we finish is 12:30. I am therefore proposing that we do all this work in our plenary tomorrow. I do not think we will do justice to whatever we are starting to do now.

[Mr V Smith] Because it has come from the floor I guess we have to entertain it. There is a proposal that we adjourn the meeting until tomorrow and what we should be having today tomorrow at 9 o'clock. I do know that there might be one or two members that have other commitments, but that would not detract from a formal sitting at 9 o'clock to deal with the matters that we should do today. Are there any counters to that proposal?

[Mr L Chiba] I just want to bring to the attention of this Committee that Dr Koornhof and I have an appointment with the Office of the Auditor-General from 9:30 to 12:30. So if we meet at 9:00 we would like to be excused by 9:30.

[Mr V Smith] I think that is in order. The meeting is adjourned until 9:00 tomorrow morning in S35. Thank you.

The meeting adjourned at 12h30.


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