The Registrar of Ethics and Members Interest noted that the Committee had met with the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Sedibeng Municipality on 20 March 2015. She highlighted some of the observations and findings from that engagement:
●There had been a view that there should be further consultation with other provinces in terms of how the Code was implemented.
●There was also a very strong view that there should be consultation on the development of a general national approach in ethics.
● The Integrity Committee in Gauteng raised the idea that consideration should be given to the role of an independent Commission of Standards Another anomaly in terms of the codes was the matter of the prohibition of doing business with the State. Parliament had a prohibition in its Code of Conduct, but the different provinces did not necessarily have that prohibition. There should be a discussion to create a common situation where all provinces prohibited their members from doing business with the State
The Committee agreed that the deadline for annual disclosure of members’ interests would be 30 June 2015.
Members were informed that the new declaration form contained three new categories for disclosure. MPs now had to disclose trusts (page 11) and the form also now made a provision for the declaration of the conclusion of an existing contract with the State (page 11) and encumbrances (page 12), which referred to long terms loans rather than short term debt. The Committee should perhaps look into defining it, because it also spoke to the nature of the loan that could possibly create a conflict of interest.
Members agreed to the new declaration form.
The 2014 Annual Report of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests was adopted. The final document that would be tabled would have the signatures of both the Chairperson and the co-Chairperson.
The agenda for the meeting was adopted.
Adoption of minutes
The minutes dated 12 November 2014 was adopted without amendments.
In terms of matters arising from these minutes, Ms Fazella Mahomed, Registrar of Ethics and Members’ Interests, explained that the Annual Report was an item on the agenda and the Members could address the corrections to the Annual Report then.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked for confirmation whether the one page document was the Annual Report, because the minutes referred to points seven and eight of the Annual Report, but this document only had six points.
Ms Mahomed explained that the numbering changed based on the recommendations made by Members.
Ms Kalyan referred to the matter in the minutes that stated that “discussions on the Committee Whip were ongoing outside the Committee as agreed”. There was no provision in the current rules for a Committee Whip and she asked if a proposal would be made to the Rules Committee in that regard.
The Chairperson said Members would remember that there had been a heated discussion on this issue and there was a sense that the matter would be revisited as and when. At that moment it was decided that the discussions would continue outside of the Committee. He confirmed that he was not aware of any discussion on this matter currently, but it did not mean it would not arise in future.
Mr B Mashile (ANC) said Members were aware that the process of reviewing the Rules of the National Assembly was underway. This particular subject did not only affect this Committee only and would therefore be dealt with in the House. There was no need to engage on this issue now, because it would be addressed in the review process.
Report on meeting with stakeholders
The Chairperson referred to the meeting with the relevant stakeholders the Committee had on 20 March 2015 and clarified that it was not minutes of that meeting, but rather a record of that engagement in terms of matters for the Committee’s consideration.
Ms Mahomed said some Members of the Committee met with the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Sedibeng Municipality on 20 March 2015. It was important to place some of the ideas that came out of that engagement on record for further discussion by the Committee. There was a view that there should be further consultation with other provinces in terms of how the Code was implemented. It was a sentiment that arose quite substantially in the meeting. There was also a very strong view that there should be consultation on the development of a general national approach concerning ethics. There were different codes of conduct in effect in different provinces and Parliament as well as different levels of implementation. The Committee should perhaps look at the draft programme to see how some of these issues should be addressed. The Integrity Committee in Gauteng raised the idea that consideration should be given to the role of an Independent Commission of Standards. It was something that should be placed on the agenda for discussion. Another anomaly in terms of the codes was the matter of the prohibition of doing business with the State. Parliament had a prohibition in its Code of Conduct, but the different provinces did not necessarily have that prohibition. There should be a discussion to create a common situation where all provinces prohibited their members from doing business with the State. At a municipal level this was covered by the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), but it should be ensured that it was clearly defined in the Act.
Ms A Dreyer (DA) said it was sensible suggestions that should be addressed, but many of the Members could not attend that workshop due to short notice. It was not the first or only time this had happened and it should be addressed.
The Chairperson said the draft programme was meant to address this concern.
Ms Kalyan proposed that some research should be done to identify areas of commonalities across the nine provinces and Parliament which would create a starting point in the alignment of the codes.
The Chairperson said the general idea of the report was for the committee to take all the raised concerns forward.
Setting of a deadline for annual disclosure of members’ interests 2015
Ms Mahomed proposed that the deadline be set for 30 June 2015. It was quite a busy period in Parliament and it would give Members a reasonable time to complete and submit the disclosure. It would also give the Officer of the Registrar time to compile the information in the recess period so that the tabling could happen in early September.
The Committee agreed.
Adoption of a new declaration form
Ms Mahomed said the new declaration form contained three new categories for disclosure. MPs now had to disclose trusts (page 11) and the form also now made a provision for the declaration of the conclusion of an existing contract with the State (page 11) and encumbrances (page 12), which referred to long terms loans rather than short term debt. The Committee was required to approve the new form.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked what the definition of ‘long term loans’ were and if it was spelled out in the Code.
Ms Mahomed explained that it referred to loan terms of more than ten years such as mortgages. The Committee should perhaps look into defining it, because it also spoke to the nature of the loan that could possibly create a conflict of interest.
Mr Mashile agreed and said serious indebtedness would affect the performance of MPs. It was good that the guiding principles were at the beginning of the form, because it spoke to the level of honesty required.
Members agreed to the new declaration form.
Adoption of the 2014 Annual Report of the Joint Committee
Ms Mahomed said following the meeting in November 2014, grammatical changes and changes relating to the numbering had been affected. This was the final draft put forward to the Committee for adoption.
Ms Dreyer proposed that future reports be adequately named and dated to prevent confusion.
Mr Masondo agreed.
Mr Mashile asked for confirmation that the final Annual Report would have a section for the signatures of the two Chairpersons of the Committee.
The Chairperson confirmed that it would be the case.
Review of the 2015 draft proposed programme
The Chairperson said the aim of the draft programme was to address the concerns of the Committee on taking Members’ schedules into account when planning meetings and visits to municipalities and legislatures. The schedule allowed for four meetings per year plus emergency meetings. Members were requested to forward comments on the draft report so that their views could be incorporated.
Ms Labuschagne noted that Members were required to be in their constituencies on 10 and 17 July 2015.
Ms Dreyer said as a rule, no meetings should be scheduled during constituency periods.
The Chairperson agreed and said Members would be accommodated as far as possible, but if members could not attend, a report of that meeting would be made available.
Mr Mashile asked if these meetings could also be scheduled in such a way as to avoid the Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) period.
Ms Mahomed said there was a draft explanatory booklet on the Code of conduct available and she asked Committee Members to take a look at it and to make comments in terms of making the booklet more user- friendly.
The Chairperson thanked Members and the meeting was adjourned.
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