Executive Undertakings tabled

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

20 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee went through the Register of Tabled Executive Undertakings. Only two submissions were made and tabled, from the Minister of Health, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and the Minister of Human Settlements, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Members commented that they would have expected to receive more since budget votes had been held. The Committee noted the need to build internal capacity so that the Committee could identify and conduct its own Executive Undertakings. The Procedural Advisor for the National Council of Provinces, briefed the Committee about the development of the Executive Undertaking rules, noting that the Rules Committee was still busy with these. The Committee expressed its concern that it was expected to work without having yet received any drafts of the rules, procedures or guidelines and although the Advisor noted that the Committee should continue to work on these matters since amendments would be a lengthy process, the Committee resolved to formally request the Rules Committee to prepare a written report and draft Bill.

The Committee noted that the Indaba had been postponed and that no oversight visits would be conducted in this term.  They asked why the Indaba was postponed and requested a formal notification to bind Parliament to the new date. A DA Member pointed out that the main purpose of the Indaba was to consider the draft Bill on petitions and thought that the processes could be combined, particularly since they were likely to involve the same stakeholders, to save cost and time. However, the ANC and EFF suggested that two different processes would be useful, pointed out that not all the same stakeholders would be involved, and that both processes would serve a purpose to enable the Committee to get a wide range of views and consider the issues fully. They pointed out that the Indaba had been agreed upon and budgeted for and there was no reason to cancel. The DA asked its opposition to what it saw as duplication to be formally recorded, but the majority of Members formally resolved to proceed with the Indaba as planned.

Members considered and adopted (with amendments) minutes from meetings on 18 February, two sets of minutes of 18 March and 6 May. Matters arising from those included a discussion and resolution that the Committee should call upon those Members who were not regularly attending minutes, without tabling apologies, to come and explain their position to the Committee, because the rules allowed for a Member not attending three consecutive meetings to lose his/her membership of the Committee. Members asked about the outstanding petitions and suggested that future minutes should clearly indicate which matters were being attended to.


Meeting report

Tabling of Executive Undertakings referred to the Committee to date
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had received two Executive Undertakings to date, of the Minster of Health, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and the Minister of Human Settlements, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Sittings for these had taken place on 7 May 2015 and 12 May 2015, respectively.

Mr J Julius (DA, Gauteng) asked whether those were the only two cases the Committee had received, and whether any other submissions were made, especially with regards to the Budget Votes.

The Chairperson emphasised the importance of Mr Julius’ point. The Committee was currently relying on the Council Chairperson’s submissions, because this Committee had not yet built its internal capacity to identify and conduct its own Executive Undertakings, and needed to do that in future.

Procedural Advisor's briefing
Mrs Shahida Bower, Procedural Advisor for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), apologised for the absence of the Chairperson of the Rules Committee.

She then briefed the Committee about the development of the Executive Undertaking rules. She explained that currently there was an overall review of the NCOP rules ongoing. The Committee would be welcome to submit any recommendations, reviews and/or amendments to the Rules Committee.

She explained how the procedure and process works in terms of submissions. A proposal/s is sent to the Rules Committee sub-committee, and after reviewing the proposal the sub-committee then sends it to the full Rules Committee. Having reviewed that, the Rules Committee would make a recommendation and proposal to the House. If the House was happy with this proposal, it is adopted. There is currently a working group responsible for formulating the rules and procedures for Executive Undertakings.

Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State) was under the impression that the Rules Committee would present a draft bill to the Committee, one outlining draft rules and procedures for Executive Undertakings. He suggested that if at all possible, this should be presented to the National Indaba.

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) did not understand where the Rules Committee received its powers. She found this problematic. She stated that the Committee could not discuss anything without documentation before the Members. She asked who was leading the Rules Committee and said that the relevant person should be present to brief this Committee.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee had been given an expectation without a mandate. He asked where the idea of Executive Undertakings came from, and what informed the establishment of it. He also stated that the Committee was more than ready and willing to make an input.

Ms Bower explained that in 2010 it was noted that there was a gap between oversight and accountability and a structure was needed to fill this gap and hold the Executive accountable. Other countries, such as Malawi, had similar structures in place.

Ms G Manolope (ANC, Northern Cape) requested a written report in order to see the progress that has been made by the Rules Committee.

Mr Mohapi asked if the Rules Committee had anything to bring to the table at this point.

The Chairperson said the Rules Committee had nothing.

Ms Bower explained that there was nothing before the Rules Committee in terms of the Executive Committee undertakings specifically, but that there was nothing stopping this Committee from functioning in the meantime, especially since establishing and adopting rules was such a lengthy process. It was established that a draft would be put together and be presented to the Committee.

The Chairperson stated that rules were needed to provide clarity. For instance, the Committee needed to know what "Executive Undertakings" actually meant, and at what point a statement by the Executive amounted to an undertaking. He also thought it important for this Committee to be given a specific mandate.

Ms Wana pointed out the lapse of more than four years since the idea was mooted in 2010, and asked what had been done, and what specifically had been done to support this Committee in fulfilling its role.

Ms Manolope asked that a written report be given to this Committee, so that it would be in a position to develop a submission to the House and process what is being said. She also asked what the term Executive Undertaking meant, to emphasis the need for written rules, guidelines and a mandate.

The Chairperson suggested, and Members agreed, that the Rules Committee be asked formally to report to the Committee in a written form, that should indicate outlines, rules, procedures, guidelines and a mandate.

Mr Mohapi asked for more details on this, and on the oversight visits planned.

The Chairperson explained that the officials had called off the intended oversight visits, so these would have to be re-planned and re-arranged.

Mr Mohapi was concerned to hear about these cancellations. He emphasised the need to hold petitions outside of the Western Cape, in order to offer the same attention and assistance to citizens in all parts of the country. He emphasized the need to focus and attend to other provinces.

The Chairperson stated that management would be scheduling the intended oversight visits in the third term.

The Chairperson explained why the Indaba was postponed. Parliament had fallen behind on its schedule. The Chairperson had asked for a letter explaining why the Indaba was cancelled, in order to circulate it to the Committee. The letter was circulated to the Committee via email. The Chairperson met with the responsible committee and had indicated his disquiet on the postponement of the Indaba, which had caused much inconvenience. The Indaba was postponed to 1 August 2015 and would be taking place in Gauteng.

Ms Manolope supported the dates and applauded the Chairperson’s intervention.

Mr D Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) felt undermined by the officials, because a request for an Indaba was submitted timeously. He felt that the officials were being unprofessional and that it showed poor administration.

Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) accepted and supported the new dates. He asked whether the Committee could receive a confirmation letter confirming the details in order to bind the committee/officials to the concept and the dates. He sought clarity around the whereabouts of the strategic planning programme that was formulated during the strategic planning period.

Mr Mohapi and Ms Manelope made some inaudible remarks.

Mr Julius asked how the objectives of the Indaba would affect the Draft Bill on Petitions. He asked whether it was necessary to have the Indaba, and asked why the Committee could not simply adopt and move with the Bill, then make an argument for it at the Indaba. If there was a draft Bill, he would have thought the Indaba unnecessary. He pointed out that the Committee was already far behind with its other work on petitions.

Mr M Chetty (DA, Kwa-Zulu Natal) agreed that the Committee might end up by going through a duplication of processes which would be a waste of money and resources. He suggested that this could be avoided by having the draft Bill presented to the Indaba, for the same stakeholders will be present for both processes.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee had been allocated R2.5 million, and since the Committee would not be going for oversight visits, there would be enough money to carry out other activities. Money was not an issue. The Committee could afford to carry out both processes. This would not be wasteful, since both processes would help the Committee fulfill its mandate.

Mr Chetty emphasized the duplication of processes. He explained that Section 76 of the Constitution, under which the Bill would be introduced, allowed for public participation. Both processes involved exactly the same processes and procedures, and stakeholders, and both serve the same purpose, so he argued again that it would make sense for the Bill to be tabled at the Indaba.

Mr Mohapi argued that the Bill cannot be serviced or tabled at the Indaba, and said that it would not be futile to have two separate processes as each would give the Committee the opportunity to engage with the various stakeholders and promote participation.

The Chairperson said that the Committee’s mandate included executing public participation in the best possible way, and assisting the people of South Africa. The Indaba would be a consultative process that would allow the Committee to get a sense of how it could assist the people of South Africa, which would help to enrich the core responsibility and mandate of the Committee.

Ms T Mokwele (EFF, North West) explained that public participation was a broad concept. She stated that the Indaba and the tabling of a Bill were two different processes, with different practices, that each served different objectives and would engage differently. All Members had, at the start of the year, agreed on the need for an Indaba, and she was surprised to hear discussion again on this.

Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) sought clarity on whether the Committee would be receiving a confirmation letter for the Indaba, and requested that the Chairperson specifically ask that one be sent.

Mr Julius believed that the purpose of the Indaba was to work on a Bill that the Committee already had, and all he was advocating was that the Bill be formally introduced again to the Indaba. He wanted it recorded that the DA would object to any duplication of processes.

Ms  Manolope agreed with Ms Mokwele that the fact of the Indaba was already settled and did not need to be further discussed. She suggested that Committee Members note that two different processes would follow.

Mr Mohapi proposed the adoption of the concept document. He felt that there was a misunderstanding on the purpose and form of the Indaba and asked if the DA would attend.

Mr Julius raised a point of order and asked that the Chairperson rule Mr Mohapi out of order for attempting to pre-empt the position of the DA.

The Chairperson said Mr Mohapi was not out of order.

Mr Mohapi called on Members to be considerate. He reiterated that the strategic planning meeting had already agreed in principle on having an Indaba. The Indaba would focus on very specific stakeholders, whereas the tabling of the Bill would be much broader and have a variety of stakeholders. Both would be beneficial because they would address the challenges the Committee faced and inform the Committee how to move forward.

The majority of Members voted again to continue with the Indaba. However, Mr Julius emphasised that the Indaba was intended to establish a petition framework for Parliament, in the form of a Bill. He pleaded for the Committee to attempt to immediately introduce the draft Bill.

Adoption of Committee minutes
Minutes of 18 February

Mr Julius raised the question of attendance at Committee meetings. He commented that the correct rules and procedures had to be followed for attendance and for apologies. If a Member was absent three times without making a formal excuse or apology, that Member would be removed immediately from the Committee.

He specifically asked that Mr M Mhlanga and Ms T Wana should be marked as absent for that meeting, because they did not submit formal apologies.

He also asked what disciplinary action would take place for Ms T Mokwele because she had been absent for a number of meetings without submitting formal apology or excuse.

The Chairperson clarified that he was calling for corrections to the minutes at this point, and was not opening up the floor for discussion on the points raised. He said these could be discussed under Matters Arising.

The minutes were adopted, subject to corrections noted.

Minutes of 18 March 2015 - two sets, 08:30 and 15:00
Both sets of minutes from meetings on 18 March 2015 were adopted.

Minutes of 6 May 2015
Ms GM Manolope (ANC, Northern Cape) was marked as absent but she had sent through an apology to excuse herself from the meeting.

Mr MJ Mohapi (ANC, Free State) was marked as absent but he had sent through an apology.

Mr M Chetty (DA, KZN) was marked as absent but he had sent through an apology.

Mr Mohapi asked for points number nine and twelve, Hearing on Fuzane Petition and Committee Resolutions on Fuzane Petition Hearing, respectively, to be linked and combined.

The minutes were adopted, subject to the corrections on apologies, and Mr Mohapi's suggestions.

Matters arising from minutes
Attendance at meetings

Mr Julius said that he would now like to follow up on the issue of attendance and apologies for meetings, arising out of the minutes of 18 February.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee Secretary should compile information on the attendance of Committee members, and bring it to the next meeting, so it would be clear who had been absent with or without apologies.

Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State) recommended that Committee members be given the opportunity to first appeal to the Chairperson or Committee before any disciplinary action was instituted, and before the compilation of members’ attendance was put together, to enable the Members to share their side of the story.

Mr Julius said that he was anticipating that any Member affected would indeed be summoned to appear before the Committee to speak in their defence. He emphasised the purpose of this procedure and the fact that the Committee should not be lenient with the rules around meeting attendance.

Mr Mohapi suggested that a more effective mechanism be put in place to deal with apologies in terms of submitting and recording them. He applauded the Chairperson’s staff on the SMS reminders they sent to the Committee on the day before a meeting.

Mr D Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) agreed with both members, but confirmed that any Members not attending a number of meetings should explain their poor attendance.

The Committee agreed that Members showing poor attendance would be asked to explain this to the Committee at its next meeting.

Mr Mohapi stated, as a follow up to the minutes of 18 March, that there were still some outstanding issues in terms of the petitions. He asked how the Committee would be dealing with these issues.

The Chairperson explained that all those petitions were programmed and will be dealt with.

Mr Mohapi suggested that in future the minutes should clearly indicate and separate what is being done, what still has to be done, what is outstanding and what has been resolved.

The Chairperson thanked him for this useful suggestion.

Other business
Mr M Mohapi said he was not receiving documentation for the meeting, and asked the Committee Secretary to confirm his address.

The Chairperson suggested that documentation should be sent to Members' Parliamentary and personal e-mail addresses.

The meeting was adjourned.

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