Committee Report on Financial and Fiscal Commission 20th Anniversary Conference

Standing Committee on Appropriations

17 September 2014
Chairperson: Mr A Mashatile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Summary to follow

Meeting report

Mr Tshepo Masoeu, Committee Content Advisor, ………BRIEFLY SUMMARISE THE DOCUMENT reviewed the prior department briefings to the Committee and the discussions surrounding them. The departments included the Department of Education (DoE), Department of Transport (DOT) and the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Water and Sanitation. 

Discussion
Mr S Mashatile (ANC) remarked on the problems the secretary has had with receiving department briefing documents in a timely fashion and asked for suggestions for improvement.

The Chairperson mentioned meeting attendance and how attendance impacts on voting. The ANC, DA, and _____ are always present, but others are not; therefore, their presence is less useful at conferences. Party members that do not come to Committee meetings do not vote.

The Chairperson agreed to speak to this issue.

Mr A McLaughlin (DA) added that it is also a problem when members only show up to vote and miss prior discussions on the matter they are voting on. The issue runs deeper than just conferences. The reason that members are missing should be looked into. On the other hand, Committee members should also benefit from every member’s input.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) proposed that the Chairperson should consult the whips to alert them that there are members who do not attend the meetings and request their attendance. The issue impacts on the expenditure of the Committee budget too. This includes costs involved in going to conferences, oversight visits, and study tour costs. It is important to know that attendance is the qualification for these expenditures. He suggested that the problem should be approached financially because the Committee does not want to spend its money on members who do not attend the Committee meetings, especially when it comes to covering the cost of conferences. The commitment is not there. This much be relayed to the whips.

The Chairperson agreed to relay this position proposal to the House Chairperson. However, parties cannot be blocked from attending conferences, but those who attend committee meetings should be given first preference. For example, Honorable Gardee signed up for the Conference but he is not at this meeting. Those who attended the meeting have the potential to receive more allocated resources, including attending conferences. Missing members means missing valuable input. The idea of replacing those members who do not attend committee meetings will also be put to the whip. Even though smaller parties have a lot of committees to attend, this Committee is important. It is important to be here. The Chairperson asked if all agreed.

A member added that the Committee might have a crisis where they need to declare a quorum in order to adopt the report.

The Chairperson thanked the members and switched to the topic of the Standing Committee’s interactions with other departments.

The Chairperson stated that most of the departments take the Committee seriously. Both Ministers and Directors General were present. Regarding information not received, the Department of Transport changed their document last minute and as a result, the new document was not received. The Chairperson added that given the seriousness of the Committee and the matters that they deal with more time should be allocated for their discussions, the 9am-12pm slot is not enough time for two presentations. In future, one department should be scheduled per day. More days can be added to accommodate more departments. This is the Chairperson’s only recommendation. The Chairperson will speak with the departments and their Ministers. Either the Minister or the Deputy Minister should be there. These meetings cover important topics such as priority spending areas and shifting funds. Inviting the Minister should be a committee mandate and if the Minister is ill or out of the country, the Deputy Minister should attend.

Mr McLaughlin supported the Chairperson, but added that the discussion should extend to including an ‘appropriation of money’ plan upfront. Then the department can present their expenditure report for the 1st Quarter so that the department can be monitored as they are spending. There is a gap in overseeing the expenditure while it is being spent. Regarding the Department of Transport (DoT), 339% of the budget was spent in the 1st Quarter, and the DoT claims it was due to court ordered underfunding, but someone has to pay for this over expenditure. If it is not covered for by the end of year, then other sources, such as departments, who need this money must give it to the DoT. A report from the department to the Committee should be sent prior to overspending. Additionally, the department presentations are extensive and comprehensive. The Committee members are not experts, so they need ample time to investigate and formulate proper questions. The delay in providing information may be a ploy by the department to specifically avoid certain questionable areas from being explored within the short time-frame. He stressed the importance of receiving briefing documents and reports as early as possible. Two meetings a week is a lot of pressure and requires more time to prepare.

Ms M Manana (ANC) also supported receiving timely reports and proposed that the department plans for submitting the report be made available to the Committee for comparison. Additionally, the Department of Finance’s projections regarding where money will be spent should be made available too in order to compare with the actual 1st Quarter expenditures. These plans are submitted to the Portfolio Committees; therefore, they can be submitted to this Standing Committee as well.

Ms S Shope-Sithole fully supported the other members’ comments. In respect to the time, she asked to adopt the same format as the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry. They worked as a team from the evening into the morning to do things thoroughly. She loves that Committee because they work hard to do things correctly and well.

Mr M Figg (DA) supported the previous speakers and added that work is not only done in Committee but outside of the Committee meeting. He agreed with Ms Manana that the department plans should be checked and verified against what is happening in the field. Hopefully the Committee can get a venue that is definitively the Committee’s, so that they can work late. He agreed with Ms Shope-Sithole that there should be a push in committee meeting discussion, but not to forget about getting out to the public. The next program should focus on this, because two meetings a week may take time away from visiting projects and communities. There needs to be a balance.

The Chairperson said that it would be possible to find a constant meeting room. The Chairperson will request that the Secretary books departmental meeting venues for the entire day in order not to interfere with other Committees’ time. The changing size of delegations is a consideration that would affect a constant meeting space.

Mr M Figg (DA) added that the space should be reserved specifically for day and night.

The Chairperson jokingly said that they will book day and night. The next day they can sleep. The Chairperson suggested that the Good Hope building might be suitable for larger departments but it cannot always be booked off for the whole day due to plenaries. It may not be cost effective to pay for the department’s lodging if there are full day meetings unless the program targets [non-plenary] committee weeks. If there is added pressure to complete particular tasks, exceptions can be made. He added that meeting at 8:30am and cutting lunch short can also be beneficial. Overall, two departments should not be booked for one day.

The Committee Secretary said that the Committee is allowed to be excused from the House.

The Chairperson added that for Member Statements and Motions, Members can be excused from the House, but that they should be present for voting. The House cannot be left empty. The Chairperson suggested that the Committee continue onto the Draft.

Mr Tshepo Masoeu suggested reflecting on the departments’ receipts before continuing to the program. The departments do not provide enough information. It would be ideal that the Committee produces a plan of which actions the department can take. For example, the Department of Health needs to provide an action plan and future improvement plans. The DoT did not engage the Committee on Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), even though it gave the most money to them. The Department of Education (DoE) did not explore how to overcome the challenge with the Implementing Agents (IAs). However, the Department of Education did indicate that 90% of the workbooks have been delivered and the target should be completed by December. The 30 day payment of suppliers was a problem across all of the departments the Committee has seen and should be checked on again during the expenditure report. The Department of Education was asked for numerous reports. The Department of Public Enterprise (DPE) mandate requires much attention and their progress needs assessment. Cross-containment measures should be indicated in the presentations, but only the DoH displayed itemized outcomes. The other departments presented only on the actions that they took. Actual measurable outcomes are needed for proper assessments. Furthermore, when a department performs well, it should be shared with other portfolios as well.

Committee’s Draft Report on Financial and Fiscal Commission 20th Anniversary Conference
Mr Phelelani Dlomo said that it was important for the Committee to be familiar with the format of the BRRR and how to work with it. Ms Manana had raised questions about plans and projections. Regarding that, there were 10 departments that were identified as underspent in the 1st Quarter analysis. The projected and the actual expenditure disconnect was made apparent and this information is important. Each Quarter the departments should be assessed according to how they aligned with their projected goals. From a researcher’s point of view, possible oversight might take place next year for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). A lot of money has been allocated and next year the Committee may have the opportunity to see how PRASA does when tested on compliance. In addition, oversight might be expanded to cover mud schools. R8.2 Billion was spent on the mud schools and the targets have not been met. This Committee has been very adamant about overseeing these schools and they will have the possibility to track their progress better. This oversight can be coupled with the Municipal Water Infrastructure Grant Crimes (MWIG) where 24 district municipalities were identified to construct water supply access measures for poor communities, including long-term plans for dams. MWIC is part of the project that can be coupled with oversight over the mud schools in the Eastern Cape. In Sterkspruit there had been protests leading up to the elections. Most importantly, it is beneficial that the Committee can get a feel for the elections and whether or not the government interventions have been successful. A paper dealing with the 30 day payment period across departments is being worked on. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and National Treasury did a study on this and found that a number of departments were culprits of the day to day payments. Although this department has done work, the Committee has the ability to invite PMB and other companies to explain their issues and its implications. This way the Committee can see if proper measures are in place. If the Committee holds a meeting with all the provinces and departments then the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) should be part of that engagement because they are advising and working on grant design and framework. Yesterday, the issue of the South African state came up and as a result, research will be done into how other countries deal with public entities in their countries. 

The Chairperson requested that what was said be written down and circulated to the members.

Mr Tshepo Masoeu noted that there are grants for the following: delivery of infrastructure in the Department of Basic Education; staffing in health facilities in the Department of Health; integrated infrastructure and staff in the DoT; and, rolling out MIC in the Department of Cooperative Governance. Yesterday’s presentation showed that decisive integration can be made so that the fiscal generation can be sustainable. Interest in the CEO must be raised, but the capacity building challenges must also be addressed. This is an area that needs to be explored in regards to what action to take.

The Chairperson asked again for these statements in writing.

Ms S Shope-Sithole added that Ms Manana’s requested information is critical for producing effective work and that, if it is available, that it be sent to all committee members prior to being briefed. Also, the Department of Health problem is urgent. It is about life. She is worried about what will happen to those who cannot afford to go to private hospitals if DoH is not working properly.

Mr Figg said that he is keen to embark on oversight as soon as possible. He asked if a Member of Parliament who sees no fence around a permanent school in the Eastern Cape, can enter the building without a mission.

The Chairperson responded that the MP could be a visitor. A Member of Parliament can enter a school and speak to the principal regarding a fence. Walking inside should not be a problem. When he was elected, there was a situation where premiers went to a hospital unannounced and the CEO was not there, but sick elderly people were waiting. The Premier of Gauteng (David Makhura) did not wait for the CEO and requested a tour of the facility. Later, the Premier told the CEO they would not leave until all of the patients had been seen. Visiting areas unannounced sometimes allows Members to see how things are operating when they are not specially prepared for the Members. The Chairperson requested that the Committee should meet with the Department of Health once they submit their budget report. The Budget Office must make notes about their reports for the Committee as the Committee is not an expert, so that the Committee can ask tough questions. It will increase effectiveness and improvements. How the money is spent is an area the Committee must also examine. This will ensure quality service delivery for the people. The Committee agrees on the approach. The draft programme needs examination because the month of October is busy.

Committee Programme
The Committee Secretary noted October 14 was the Department of Transport follow-up meeting on PRASA regarding the railways (10-1)

The Chairperson requested a longer time for discussion because PRASA has been given so much money and the Committee would like to monitor the building of trains if the Committee finds this necessary.

Ms Shope-Sithole added that the departments like it when committee meetings are rushed because “there is just enough time to tell the Committee what the Committee would like to hear”.

Mr Gcwabaza requested involving Transnet on the day. The relationship between Transnet and PRASA regarding railways deserves attention. Transnet’s role should be examined.

Ms Manana agreed that Transnet should be invited but the cost-containment matrices should be considered when considering timing.

The Chairperson said that the Departments should be able to make their return flights on the day, but it is important to ensure that the Committee allots enough time for discussion without incurring additional costs for overnight accommodation.

Ms Shope-Sithole suggested that the flights are booked in advance for a designated time and should not be changed.

Mr Figg added that timely briefing document submissions should take place.

The Chairperson added that the slideshow presentation should be limited so that there is time for discussion. Tomorrow the Departments will be told the date by which to submit their report so that the Committee will be ready.

Dr Madlopha suggested that only researchers or employees with input should attend.

Mr A McLaughlin reminded the Committee to clarify who actually owns the train stations so that money can be given to the proper entity.

Ms Shope-Sithole wondered how much property Transnet had transferred to government. It was her understanding that the Transnet houses which it gave to the local municipalities had seemed to “disappear”. There are many things that seem to have “disappeared”.

The Chairperson said that all such concerns can be addressed.

The Committee Secretary said that meetings will be held with the Department of Health; the Budget Office; the Provincial Treasuries and National Treasury from 9:30 till 17:00.

The Chairperson added that the same issues discussed earlier apply to them as well.

Ms Shope-Sithole suggested that all nine provinces and departments meet in the same group.

The Committee Programme read as follows:
16 Oct:  first draft report discussion and the first quarter expenditure patterns
17 – 19 Oct: adverts for the MTBPS regarding the broadening of public participation. Advertising the MTBPS program to communities by Parliament. The committee must indicate which slots they would like to take in advertising.
21 Oct: briefing by Department of Higher Education; NSFAS on the challenges and opportunities of student funding
22 Oct: MTBPS lockup session
23 Oct: briefings and hearings on MTBPS with Minister of Finance briefing jointly the four Finance and Appropriations Committees
24 Oct: joint briefing on the Adjustment of the Appropriations Bill and the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill
The last week of October will be booked for identified stakeholders such as the FFC and the Treasury. The rest of the Parliamentary program has not been finalised yet.

Meeting adjourned.

 

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