The Standing Committee on Appropriations met for the consideration and adoption of the 2016 Appropriation Bill. The Democratic Alliance submitted and presented proposed amendments to the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
The Committee discussed the proposed amendments presented by the DA but they were concerned about the time that had lapsed for the DA to come up with those amendments on the day before the debate on the Bill. There was the suggestion that the debate be held the following week. However, the Committee rejected the DA proposed amendments which was put to a vote.
The Committee amended and approved its Committee Report which recommended the adoption of the Appropriation Bill.
The Chairperson said that after the adoption of the Fiscal Framework and the Division of the Revenue Bill the Committee received the Appropriation Bill on 4 May 2016, for consideration. This was followed by a briefing by National Treasury on 6 May 2016. The Bill was advertised in national and local newspapers and on social media, inviting the broader community to participate and make public inputs on the Bill. They received submissions from COSATU and 204 online submissions using the International Budget Partnership (IBP) tool. The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) and six other stakeholders were invited to comment. Members could be assured inputs from these stakeholders have been consolidated into the Committee Report that will be considered by the Committee in this meeting. The Committee has to consider the report on the Appropriation Bill and what will be key in considering the report is what is in the best interests of the country.
Consideration and Adoption of Committee Report on the 2016 Appropriation Bill
The Chairperson said that in considering the report they will go through it page by page.
Dr M Figg (DA) said that previously the Democratic Alliance has indicated that they would like to make some amendments and they should be given an opportunity to present those amendments in considering the report.
Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) proposed that they first deal with the report and after that they entertain the DA proposed amendments. If the amendments are acceptable, they will consider them in terms of the clauses.
Mr M Shaik Emam (NFP) said that he would like to add two more recommendations to the Committee Report.
The Chairperson said that since they have gone through the report she would allow the DA to submit its amendments, but procedurally the DA should have given copies of amendments to Members so that they farmiliarise themselves with the amendments.
Dr Figg said that they have hard copies for Members to peruse and will circulate them immediately, and it is a norm to circulate documents in the meeting. Mr Maynier who is an alternate Member of the Committee will present the amendments to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the norm of circulating documents in the meeting should change because she wanted Members to come to the meeting fully prepared so that they make a meaningful contribution to the discussion. Documents should be circulated to Members at least three days before the meeting, so that they familiarize themselves with the content.
Ms S Shope-Sithole (ANC) said that to put it on record it is not a norm of the Committee to circulate documents in the meeting, they actually detest that and they have told many departments that they did not want to receive documents at the last moment. They are a very serious Committee and want to read documents prior the meeting so that they apply their minds to the matters.
The Chairperson said that it is therefore an anomaly they will have to correct moving forward.
Dr Figg apologised for that mistake and promised it would not happen again.
Ms N Louw (EFF) said that her concern is that Mr Maynier has just come in with the documents and they were only receiving those documents in the meeting, and they were supposed to make inputs on the proposed amendments. Therefore, if this happened again, considering the apology from Dr Figg, they will not entertain those amendments, which is also what they have told the departments.
Mr Shaik Emam said there is a challenge with this because they have to engage with many different departments. However, whatever is in the interests of the people on the ground, the Committee should encourage it. It is a problem coming in at the eleventh hour because they were dealing with amendments for various departments. It will very difficult for them to engage on this at the eleventh hour because time is not on their side to discuss these with the departments.
The Chairperson said that the underlying message is that they should correct this in future because this creates problems for Members.
Ms M Manana (ANC) proposed that they take a five minute caucus so that Members could familiarize themselves with the amendments.
Mr Gcwabaza said that he is not opposed to the five minutes caucus, but when they consider the amendments they should also look at those of Mr Shaik Emam.
The Chairperson asked Mr Shaik Emam if he has circulated his recommendations.
Mr Shaik Emam responded that he will talk to his recommendations for the Committee Report.
Ms M Madlopha (ANC) said that indeed Mr Shaik Emam was talking to the report in terms of recommendations unlike the proposed amendments to the Bill as submitted by the DA.
Mr Shaik Emam spoke to his proposed recommendations. He has observed that there was a lot of emphasis on underspending and rather than pushing departments to spend money, they should push them to spend money appropriately so as to get value for money. There was lot of fiscal dumping because they push departments to spend their money and as result they did not get the desired output and value for money in that spending. On point 6.1.1 of the Recommendations, they should add to the recommendation that the departments should spend their money in terms of the strategic plan they have provided.
Mr Shaik Emam said that they should also recommend to National Treasury to identify those departments in provincial structures that were repeatedly not complying with provincial regulations so that National Treasury could address those challenges, empowering those departments to ensure it did not happen continually.
The Chairperson said that the Committee agrees to those amendments.
Proposed Amendments to the Appropriations Bill 2016 by Democratic Alliance
Mr D Maynier (DA) said that the proposed amendments were budget neutral and will be funded by reprioritizing expenditure within the existing budget, and will have no effect on the fiscal deficit, which is estimated to be R139bn or 3.2% of GDP.
The first proposal is on the creation of jobs where they proposed an amendment to the Appropriation Bill to increase the appropriation of Vote 11: Public Works by R1.2bn to provide approximately 180 000 work opportunities in the 2016/17 financial year.
The second proposed amendment is on fighting crime to increase the appropriation to Vote 23: Police by R500m, to provide for the establishment of a specialized unit within the South African Police Service, dedicated to fight against gangs and drug related crime in 2016/17.
The third proposed amendment is to support students by increasing the appropriation to Vote 15: Higher Education, by R2.73bn to provide more support to poor students in 2016/17.
The fourth proposed amendment is combating corruption by increasing the appropriation to Vote 21: Justice and Constitutional Development, by R117.89m to provide full funding for the Public Protector in 2016/17.
The other proposed amendment is battling high food prices by increasing the appropriation to Vote 17: Social Development by R2.24bn to provide a buffer to social grant beneficiaries battling high food prices in 2016/17.
The last proposed amendment is drought relief by increasing the appropriation to Vote 24: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, by R2.73bn to provide for drought relief to drought stricken communities in 2016/17.
Mr Maynier concluded by emphasizing that to fund the proposal will require reprioritizing expenditure, within the existing budget for 2016/17. They have identified a total of R9.52bn in savings, which can be used to fund their six budget proposals for 2016/17 (see document).
Mr Gwabaza said that the Appropriation Bill was tabled to the Committee on the 4 May 2016, and on the 6 May 2016, the Democratic Alliance gave notice that it will make some amendments to the Bill. The elapsed time between 6 May and 17 May is too long for the DA to come at this late hour to submit its amendments to the Bill. It is unreasonable to come with amendments just on the eve of debate of the Appropriation Bill in Parliament the next day. The Annual Performance Plans of the different departments will be affected by these amendments. Also, there is nothing new to these amendments because what is proposed by the DA is what Government is already doing. Therefore, as the African National Congress, they will not accept these amendments.
Mr Shaik Emam said that the amendments did not give clear indication of how the jobs will be created and what is to be done, and they need lot of interrogation. It would have been nice if they came earlier so that they could be engaged fully. Therefore, the National Freedom Party will not support the amendments.
Ms Manana said that the timing of the amendments is not good and therefore they should not be entertained. The Committee should carry on and approve the Committee Report on the Appropriation Bill.
Ms Louw said that as the Economic Freedom Fighters, they do not agree with the amendments but supported the one that refers to the increase for the budget of the Public Protector.
Ms Shope-Sithole thanked the DA for its elaborate work. But as a Committee they take their work seriously and if they are not looking at the strategic plans and annual performance plans (APPs) of the different departments how were they going to hold them accountable. In future they could look at such amendments but for now it is too late and time is not on their side because the Appropriation Bill will be debated in Parliament tomorrow, and they need to adopt it in this meeting.
Ms Madlopha also thanked the DA for the amendments, but they were too late and she will not support them.
Ms D Senokoanyane (ANC) said that as her colleagues have indicated, she will also not support the amendments because they came in too late.
The Chairperson asked Mr Maynier whether the amendments are in alignment with the Fiscal Framework and the Division of the Revenue Bill.
Mr Maynier said that they are in alignment with the Fiscal Framework and the Division of the Revenue Bill as already indicated in his introduction.
The Chairperson asked Mr Maynier if he wanted to talk to the issues raised by Members about the amendments.
Mr Maynier said that as soon as the Appropriation Bill was sent to the Committee, they gave notice on 6 May that they wished to make amendments to the Appropriation Bill. This is the first opportunity they have had to make those amendments. Secondly, it is clear that Members felt boxed in because the debate on the Appropriation Bill. But it is less of a factor this week than it was two weeks ago because Parliament’s term has been extended. And if this Committee has a real appetite to propose an amendment, bearing in mind in terms of the Money Bills Act, the Committee could propose an amendment and ask Parliament to shift the debate on the Appropriation Bill to next week. Therefore, there is time and certainly there is time within the Money Bills Procedure Act if they follow the procedure.
Mr Maynier said in reply to the comment that there is nothing new in the amendments, he would differ on that. Although they have similar methods of reprioritization of the budget, they have found additional savings of R9.52bn which could be further prioritized, and that in their view is new.
Mr Maynier moved for the adoption of the amendments.
Dr Figg seconded the move.
Ms Senokoanyane made a counter proposal of not accepting the amendments.
Ms Madlopha seconded the move.
The Chairperson said that since there are two proposals, the matter will be put to a vote.
Five Members voted for the rejection of amendments, two Members voted in favour of amendments and one Member abstained from voting.
The Chairperson said that the majority of Committee Members do not support the amendments. Therefore the Committee will not accept the amendments to the Appropriation Bill.
The Chairperson asked Mr Shaik Emam to make his recommendations to the report.
Mr Shaik Emam moved for the adoption of the Committee Report with amendments he had suggested earlier.
Ms Madlopha seconded move with the amendments made by National Treasury and those of Mr Shaik Emam’s recommendations.
Dr Figg said that the DA would reserve its right to support the adoption of the report unitl it was presented in the National Assembly.
Ms Louw said that the EFF objected to the adoption of the report and further submissions will be made in the plenary.
The Committee nevertheless adopted the Committee Report with amendments.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.