Department report postponed due to absence of DG; Children's Amendment Private Member Bill; Committee Report on Northern Cape

Social Development

02 March 2016
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development (DSD) was expected to give a presentation on the progress of some of the programmes from April to June 2015, but the Director General had sent an apology, since he was attending an imbizo, and the delegation was led by the Chief Financial Officer. Members were concerned that this person was not the accounting officer and would not be able to speak to the issues that the Committee wanted to hear answers on, as discussed previously, and, after discussing the matter in caucus, decided that the delegation would not be permitted to present. The Chairperson noted that this effectively amounted to wasteful expenditure on the part of the DSD and was unfortunately a waste of time for the Committee and legal advisors.

The meeting then moved on to take a formal Motion of Desirability (MOD) on the Private Member's Bill (PMB) - the Children's Amendment Bill [PMB 2-2015]. Although the sponsor of this Bill, Mr M Waters, was not able to be present at the meeting, the Bill had been extensively discussed in the past. At the time that Mr Waters drafted and submitted the Bill he was seeking to bring an amendment that would address the Constitutional Court's judgment in the matter of J v NDPP.  This matter related to the automatic placing of a person's name on the register of Sexual Offences under the Sexual Offences Act, without that person being permitted to make representations. The same wording, and therefore the same constitutional objections, applied also to the automatic noting on the Register of those not permitted to work with children, in terms of the Children's Act. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, who were in charge of administration of the Sexual Offences Act, had (a few months after the PMB was proposed) effected amendments to the Sexual Offences Act. In addition, a short time after Mr Waters had drafted his PMB, the Department of Social Development came up with its own Children's Amendment Bill [B13-2015] and Children's Second Amendment Bill [B14-2015]. These dealt with the very same issues, although the executive and Private Member's Bill also touched on other issues. Mr Waters had indicated that he would have no objection to his own Bill not proceeding, provided that the amendments he was proposing could be incorporated into the executive Bills. The procedure for adopting the Motion of Desirability was explained  by both the Committee Secretary and a Parliamentary Legal Adviser, and it was clarified that the NA Rules required the Committee to consider whether the substance of a private Member's Bill was covered in other pending legislation. In the circumstances, the Committee had taken the decision that the Private Member's Bill should not proceed. This Report set out the background and reasons and noted Mr Water's agreement to this effect. The Report was adopted.

The Committee had also previously considered a draft Report on the Oversight Visit to Northern Cape, but discussed the recommendations again. It was noted that no recommendations were being made specifically to the Minister because the matters were already being attended to by the MEC and the Chairperson of the provincial legislature's Portfolio Committee who had been present at the oversight visit. The general line of recommendation and reporting between Parliamentary Committees, Minister and MEC was outlined and it was agreed that the Committee would follow up formally with the MEC to check on the progress of matters being dealt with. The Report was adopted.

Finally, the Committee adopted minutes of meetings on 17 and 24 February 2016.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development performance report on Programmes 1 and 5: April to June 2015
The Chairperson welcomed the Committee Members and inquired who was leading the delegation that would be presenting. Upon being told that it was the Chief Financial Officer who would lead the presentation, she voiced her concern that the Director General was not there as the Committee had delayed the invitation to the Department, in order to give it enough time and make arrangements and it was disappointing that when the time had finally come to present, the DG was not present.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC), stated that she too was worried whether the Department would be able to assure the Committee that the leader of the delegation would take full responsibility and be able to answer all the questions. If they were still to be deferred to another time, it would be problematic. The Committee would be sending a poor message if it were to instruct the delegation to leave now and incur fruitless expenditure, but the Committee Members had prepared themselves for the meeting and were not pleased to find that the Department had not sent the accounting officer.

The Chairperson asked for a short adjournment so that Members could discuss the situation.

On resumption, the Chairperson made the point that this was the second time that an opportunity had been created for the Director General to come and present and that once again he was not at the meeting. , has failed to show up for the meeting.

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) said he thought it totally unacceptable that the Director General was not present. This was an important meeting. Wednesdays were standing meeting days for the Committee and the Director General needed to account for questions raised. The Members were disappointed that the Director General had given preference to attending an imbizo rather than this Committee meeting.

Ms Mogotsi repeated her concern that the accounting officer was not present. None of the officials present would be able to speak to the Children's Amendment Bill, and none had been present during the oversight visit that the Committee had done. She believed the meeting should not continue.

The Chairperson noted that, taking the views of Members into account, a decision had been taken that the meeting would not proceed. It would be impossible for a Chief Financial Officer to lead this delegation when he himself has to respond to issues that would be raised around financial administration, and would have to be guided and supported by the line function managers who were also not present. She said the Committee had taken serious note of this. The delegation must record that it had spent government funds fruitlessly, and that Members' time, and that of the legal representative, had also been wasted. The Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) had “failed dismally to live up to the expectations of the people”. She asked the delegation to leave. The Committee would expect a report on how it planned to proceed next.

Private Member Water's Children’s Amendment Bill [PMB 2-2015]: Draft report of the Portfolio Committee
The Chairperson wanted to remind the Committee of the current situation with the private member's bill submitted by MP Mr Waters. The decision that the Committee had reached at the last meeting is reflected in the minutes. The legal adviser was present. However, no presentation would be forthcoming from the DSD. She asked the Committee Secretary to recap the process for the Committee.

The Committee Secretary mentioned that the Private Member's Bill (PMB) was referred to the Committee in February 2015. The sponsor of the Bill was asked to present on it, and there had been some deliberations. The sponsor then noted that there were two Bills from the executive placed also before the Committee and had asked that the content of the Bills be incorporated.

In terms of the procedure, if there was a PMB before the Committee and there were also Executive Bills that speak to the same area, the Committee is required to come up with a report on the motion of desirability (MOD) of the PMB. If it found it desirable, it would proceed with it; if not, that would be the end of the process The Committee would need to report back to the sponsor, since the PMB had been officially referred to the Committee. Amendments had been proposed by the sponsor of the bill on the two Executive Bills, so the Committee would now have to decide whether all the bills should be incorporated together. The report on the MOD would highlight the deliberations, the similarities and the reasons whether or not to find the PMB desirable.  F

The sponsor, Mr M Waters,  was invited to the meeting but he indicated that he had prior commitments and thus could not attend. However, he had also indicated previously that he would have no objection should his PMB not proceed, but in this case he had asked that the amendments that he was seeking to introduce should be included in the executive bills. The Committee could not at the moment proceed with the executive Bills because of a prior PMB that speaks to the same issues.

Ms D Kassan, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, confirmed that the Parliamentary Rules required the Committee to adopt a MOD on a private Bill. The deliberations had already indicated an in-principle decision that the Committee could stop processing the PMB in light of the fact that there two Executive Bills covering the same areas. The Chairperson may decide if further deliberation is necessary or if the Committee simply needed to consider the draft Report on the PMB and move from there.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) thanked the Committee Secretary and Legal Adviser and suggested that Members could proceed.

The Chairperson wanted to reiterate that Mr Waters was invited and had no objections to the proposed way forward. The DSD had agreed with him that essentially the executive Bills and his own PMB contained the same clauses. Mr Waters had said that he had no objection to the Committee simply adopting its MOD now, and report to the House.

Ms Abrahams then proposed that the Committee go through the draft report, should any Members not have seen it, and make any changes necessary.

The Committee Secretary read out the first two paragraphs (see attached document). She noted that it detailed the MOD for the legislature. She stated that the PMB sought to address the principles set out in the Constitutional Court judgment in the J vs NDDPP matter.

Ms Kassan said that the J vs NDDPP case dealt with the inclusion of a person’s name on the Sexual Offences Register, in terms of the Sexual Offences Act. However, the principles discussed in that case applied equally to the Register set up under the Children's Act. The two Acts had not permitted an accused the opportunity to make any representations before their name was included on the Register, but both the PMB and the Children's Amendment Bill proposed by the DSD sought to now allow for that opportunity. The Executive Bill B13-2015 sought to amend section 120 of the Children's Act of 2005, and this was also what the PMB sought to do.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) took over the Chair at this point.

Ms Kassan continued that some of the other amendments included in the B13-2015 Bill had not been included in the PMB.  Equally, the PMB had covered some points that B13-2015 did not (see page 2, paragraph 4 of the attached document). She added that in August 2015, there was a further development in that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had sought to align its legislation in respect of the Sexual Offences Register with the Constitutional Court judgment. The DSD considered that it would be easier to deal with all the matters in the PMB and its own Bill in a consolidated piece of legislation. Mr Waters, after hearing the briefings, indicated that the amendments he had suggested in his PMB should then simply be incorporated into B13-2015. 

Ms Kassan suggested that on page 4 paragraph 9 of the Report, the words “at the moment” should be deleted. She then listed why the Committee considered that the PMB should not be proceeded with (the reasons already set out) and the conclusion that the Committee was of the opinion that it should not proceed with the PMB.

The Acting Chairperson enquired if there were any additional inputs to be made on the Report. With the consent of Members, the proposed deletion of “at the moment” was approved.

Draft Committee Report on Oversight Visit to Northern Cape Provincial Department of Social Development, Regional SASSA offices and National Development Agency (NDA) projects
The Chairperson took over again and noted that the Report had been partially dealt with at the last meeting, but she had asked Members who were not part of the oversight team to read up on the report and make inputs on those issues they had raised. These included time-frames for implementing recommendations as well as the point that the Committee was not making recommendations to the Minister. She explained that this was because the Chairperson of the Provincial Portfolio Committee had been present to lead the delegation, as well as the MEC,  both of whom expressed themselves very willing to take up the issues that had been identified. For this reason, there was no need for this Report to actually make recommendations to the Minister. However, it would be necessary to follow up in writing to ask the MEC if the recommendations had been implemented as discussed. Some of these recommendations were merely a formality. She was not opposed to them being forwarded to the Minister. Time frames could be added, if Members thought this necessary.

Ms K de Kock (DA) said she had read through the Report, and agreed with the report and recommendations. She agreed that the Committee should follow up with the MEC on implementation. Some of the issues were for resolution over the longer term, and she suggested that maybe the Committee should apply a bit of pressure to assist with gaining compliance.

The Committee Secretary spoke to the recommendations. The person who must account to this Committee ultimately was the national Minister. The  Report would go to the House and the Speaker would then communicate the resolutions to the Minister, who would refer them on to the MEC. She drew a parallel to a previous oversight visit to the Eastern Cape, when the Committee had visited an old age home and sent a report to the Minister. The Chairperson followed up with the Minister, and a task team had been established to look into that particular old age home. The Minister would then communicate with the MECs to ensure that matters were kept in order at provincial level, so the Minister should also be held responsible and accountable for the implementation of recommendations.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee needed to ensure that it would write a letter and outline the issues, as enumerated, and ask specifically for progress reports.

Ms Tsoleli mentioned that the provincial legislatures had a way to track how far the resolutions had gone, and asked if the National Assembly had a similar system – if so, it would help the Committee to ascertain what stage the recommendations had reached. She asked whether the Committee should send a delegation or task team back to the institutions visited previously during the oversight visit, in order to physically observe the process.

Mr Mabilo mentioned that issues emanating from the oversight visit fall under a short to medium term time frame. The short-term recommendations set out on page 15 (see attached document) have been met, according to what the MEC had reported. He suggested that the Chairperson sign a letter to ask for confirmation on all points in writing. He noted that the MEC of Social Development in the province is changing, and this would avoid any problems in the handover. Overall, he agreed that that the Report is good and so are the recommendations.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should agree, in principle, to link directly with those being overseen, and said the Committee wanted to check what was happening in the provinces, and link with the provincial administration, so that the Committee would be informed of problems in advance and be able to act to correct them. Funding approved by Parliament must be tracked to ensure that it was spent to change the lives of people. If the Committee visited any area, it must be effective and be able to make a follow up by requesting a progress report. If that report was good, then a few Members could follow up with a visit to check that the work had indeed been done and issues regarded as finalised. If recommendations had not been followed then the MEC would be asked to step in. The Committee could not change the process that the Committee Secretary had outlined, but the Committee could develop its own way of tracking resolutions and making an assessment of how far the resolutions had been carried out. She asked that the Committee Secretary provide a draft document detailing how this would be done; a form of self-assessment.

Mr Mabilo said that he would be happy to move for the adoption of the Report. He wanted to be quite clear that he had not accounted for how all matters had been handled, but he was only aware of recommendations as set out on page 15 being followed up. He was not aware of the status of Noupoort and other oversight recommendations that may have been made.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to speak to her counterpart in the provincial legislature, and ask that the MEC give a detailed account of which recommendations had been implemented and which had not yet been implemented.

Members adopted the Report.

Adoption of Minutes
Members adopted the minutes of 17 February and 24 February 2016, without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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