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WELFARE AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 September 2000
DEVELOPMENTAL WELFARE GOVERNANCE BILL: DISCUSSION
Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee
Documents handed out:
NICC Version to Clauses 3, 5(1), 10(1) and 11 of the 28 May 1999
Draft of the Developmental Welfare Governance Bill, 1999
DCDSS Version to Clauses 3, 5(1), 10(1) and 11 of the 7 September 1999
Developmental Welfare Governance Bill
The Developmental Welfare Governance Bill seeks to create a partnership amongst all developmental welfare stakeholders by means of a South African Developmental Council. However, there were criticisms in the meeting as to whether the Bill allows for proper representatation of civil society and, further, its role has been changed from policy making to advisory body. Tension between the Department of Welfare and the National Interim Consultative Committee on Developmental Social Services (NICC) has hindered progress and the NICC has since been excluded from the process. It was the opinion of the committee that until the Director General is present at these committee meetings to explain the Department's overall plan, it is pointless to deliberate on the Bill.
Developmental Welfare Governance Bill
The Chairperson pointed out that the Bill was the result of a long process of consultation started in 1996. Mr Saloojee had asked the Department's Chief Director: Developmental Social Welfare Services, Mr Ashley Theron, and Law Advisor, Mr P Du Preez, to brief them on developments regarding the Bill. Also invited to speak was Bishop Seoka, former chairperson of the National Interim Consultative Committee on Developmental Social Services.
Bishop Seoka gave an overview of the NICC which had been appointed by the then Minister of Welfare in 1996 and consisted of a wide range of welfare stakeholders. It purpose was to make recommendations regarding the statutory body which would facilitate interaction of developmental welfare structures and the different tiers of government and would be responsible for all welfare issues.
He noted with distress that it was at the time that Ms Lucy Abraham was appointed as the Director General that tension started mounting between the NICC and the Department. NICC members were not invited to present the draft Bill to the Portfolio Committee and the Director General had made unilateral changes to the original document that were not in line with the Minister's intentions. Bishop Seoka had met with the current Minister soon after his appointment to explain the NICC's unhappiness with the changes that had been made. The Minister was supposed to liaise with the Portfolio Committee on this issue. Instead the NICC was excluded from the process and the Departmental Committee on Developmental Social Services had taken over from September 1999.
Bishop Seoka stated that the idea behind the formulation of the Bill was to allow for transformation to take place and members of this Council would be drawn from all sectors such as trade unions, the private sector, national government, provincial government and local government. The Bill would create a juristic person, the South African Developmental Welfare Council, to create transformation and sustainable welfare of the population.
Bishop Seoka noted that the concern of NICC is that the Bill that the Director General has provided has overlooked the White Paper in its entirety. Furthermore, he held that her document is heavily biased towards government. The present Director General deals with it as a line function and civil society has been alienated from the process. He complained that the Director General is always unavailable and should have been present at the meeting.
Mr Theron apologised for the Director General's absence and summarised developments: The draft Bill had been submitted by the NICC in May 1999; it was amended by the DCDSS in September 1999; it was approved by Cabinet and published for comments in December 1999; the Department briefed this Committee on the draft Bill on 8 March 2000. He emphasised that a wide process of consultation had taken place by the Minister and there was a move to link the Minister's Ten-Point Plan with the Bill. The process of consultation provided input that impacted on the direction that was followed.
He then addressed concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee at the March briefing:
- How will non-profit organisations be taken into the rural areas? He said that the Financing policy takes processes to the provinces and the Minister had consulted extensively with seven out of nine provinces.
- The role of the Portfolio Committee with regard to the selection of Council members and making these recommendations to the Minister? This had been catered for.
- The capacity of the Department to ensure that this Bill is properly implemented. This would be sorted out with the restructuring process.
- The question of subcommittee funding? If the Bill is enacted, the Department has the capacity to provide funding and take the process further. The funding will be part of the Department's budget.
Mr du Preez said that the Department had refined the Bill in the meantime. The structure of the Council had changed from a policy-making to an advisory body.
The composition of the Council was first agreed to be 21 members but was later reduced to 9. The Bill was finalised at the end of July. It is now in the hands of the Committee for consideration.
Mr M Masutha (ANC), a former law advisor in the Department, suggested that an organizational framework needs to be put in place to avoid what he termed a "jigsaw puzzle". This plan should bring together all the organizations that are involved in development. He asked if there is a coherent plan that can deal with the coming together of the pieces of the "jigsaw puzzle".
Mr Theron replied that the Department was still in the process of effecting transformation. The Boards were done away with as they had existed along racial lines. He said that while the Bill made provision for a national structure, many of the provinces had introduced their own legislation. He agreed there was a need for a coherent plan.
Bishop Jo Seoka felt that there was no intention of a national plan and that neither the Director General nor the Minister was committed to such a plan. He claimed that the White Paper has been ignored and a lot of issues have been put in abeyance which was a waste of taxpayers' money. He said there can be no national plan until the Minister, the Director-General and civil society come together. He asked why the Director-General is not talking to NICC members. He said again if there is seriousness about this Bill, the government and NICC must come together.
The Chairperson agreed that there has to be a fundamentally different approach to this Bill. The Bill is of critical importance. The opportunity still stands for the people to give input and for the Bill to be amended as the Committee deems fit in order to bring government and civil society together. He noted that it would not be possible to finalise the legislation this year.
Mr Masutha pointed out that clarity is needed with respect to the focus of the Bill. Is the bigger picture to transform the entire welfare service?
Mr Theron believed that all the processes at the department should be taken into account and he replied that the Minister and the Director-General should be able to answer some of the Committee's concerns.
Ms Tsheole (ANC) suggested that the committee should continue with the Bill as is, and allow for amendments. The Committee should focus on the Bill rather than the tensions between the Department and NICC. She suggested looking at issues such as the Council's composition and the financing policy.
The Chairperson stated that it is not the Department's place to make amendments to the Bill - that is prerogative of this Committee. The Bill had been polished with the help of law advisors but several clauses were changed. The clauses should reflect the rendering of services to people at grassroots level. Civil society would be invited to give its input.
Bishop Seoka added once again that the Bill was not what the NICC had developed, nor is it a product of the White Paper and it was representative of civil society.
Ms Jacobus stated that she was confused as to the process that they were taking. She then referred to the clauses dealing with the composition of the Council where the absence of local government and provincial representatives was glaring.
Dr Mbulawa (ANC) added that if the committee continues with the Bill, it will experience problems because civil society, the backbone of the welfare sector, was not on board. Dr Mbulawa reiterated that the Bill cannot be discussed without the involvement of civil society. She said the absence of the Director General was problematic. The Chairperson agreed that the Director General should have been present.
Ms Gandhi (ANC) pointed out that the NICC and DCDSS version were very different especially on whether the Council was an advisory or policy-making body. She said the committee was doing itself a disservice by not clarifying the purpose of this Bill: whether to involve civil society or not.
Mr Masutha agreed. He asked how the Bill features in the Welfare Financing Policy? He said it would be useful for the department to provide a discussion document on how this Bill will operate within the framework of the department and its policies. It was important to know what the Department hoped to achieve in terms of its restructuring plan.
Mr Theron replied that he had noted the Committee's concerns and he agreed that the Director General should be present to answer questions about the bigger picture.
Mr Saloojee stated that it is clear that the Director General needed to be present. He added that very little purpose could served until the Director General makes an effort to be at these meetings. The Committee was only informed the previous Thursday that she would not be attending.
Bishop Seoka requested that the department officials communicate to the Director General that she must not delegate responsibility for this Bill as it is her responsibility.
The meeting was concluded.
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