Election of Chairperson; Committee 2017 Annual Performance Plan; Committee programme

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

14 March 2017
Chairperson: Mr M Mhlanga (Mpumalanga, ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

Members of the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings met to elect a Chairperson; consider and adopt the Committee’s 2017 Annual Performance Plan as well as the Committee programme. The Committee went through the Annual Performance Plan page by page. The values of Parliament included openness, responsiveness accountability as well as team work; the strategic goals of Parliament were strengthening oversight and accountability; enhancing public involvement and participation. The Committee in carrying out its Petitions mandate was chiefly guided by National Council of Provinces Rules; the overarching purpose of the Bill was to ensure there was synergy and alignment in the manner in which Petitions were processed; the strategic priorities for the Committee for 2017/18 included clearing the backlog of inherited petitions, and considering newly referred petitions. The Committee had used the template provided by the Parliament to consider its accountability and made annexure in terms of the 15 Petitions that were current and 40 that were pending.

Members elected Mr M Mhlanga (ANC; Mpumalanga) as Chairperson of the Select Committee after some debate on the rules of the National Council of Provinces regarding the election of a Chairperson. They however unanimously agreed that there should be clarity from Chairperson of the House on the duration of his term. Members said the strategic document was what guided the activities of the Committee; there were critical issues that guided the Committee in terms of developing a strategic plan, and that annexures were never included in the strategic plan. Members said the Committee dealt with issues of petitions and should not be run like any other Committee, there should be a consolidation of concretised documents where issues of accountability could be measured; Committees were not measured by the number of meetings but what prompted the meetings; the Annual Performance Plan was a key performance area and could not be utilised without specifics. Members requested a complete list of all current and pending Petitions; and said there was frustration because the study tour of India had not been actualised, and the Committee should do what it could within its power in order not to lag behind.  Members asked the Chairperson to make one of his priorities the passing of the draft Bill on Petitions. The Chairperson said he would take all the relevant matters up with the Chairperson of the House.

Meeting report

Election of Chairperson
Mr Nkanyiso Mkhize, Committee Secretary, called for nominations for an acting Committee Chairperson.

Mr George Michalakis (DA, Free State) said the rules of the NCOP did not make provision for an acting Chairperson when the position of a Chairperson had been vacated, but only made provision when an elected Chairperson was sick or incapacitated. That was not the case here. The position of a Chairperson had been vacated and needed to be filled with a Chairperson and not an acting Chairperson. He suggested that a Chairperson be elected and changes made where there was need in the future. It was irregular to elect an acting Chairperson if the rules did not make provisions for it.

Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State) said it was the practice that in the absence of the incumbent, the nature of politics did not allow a vacuum. In this case absence meant the Chairperson was not present. If the Committee did according to what Mr Michalakis had said, there would be no activism in the Committee. The provisions of the rule did not say when he had resigned; it said when he was not present. An acting Chairperson did not divert the responsibility of the Committee. It was just saying that the facilitation of the Committee work must continue.

Mr Michalakis said it was not simply a case of the Chairperson not being present. He had resigned and had been replaced as well. The fact that he was not in the Committee anymore was a vacancy. It was not just the vacancy of the Chairperson but of Mr S Thobejane (ANC). His vacancy had to be declared for him to be able to be replaced by the new Colleague. He suggested that the meeting could proceed but the Committee should refer the matter to the Chairperson of the House for guidance as to whether the election of today was for a Chairperson or an acting Chairperson.

 Mr Mohapi said if the Committee went by Mr Michalakis’ interpretation of the law even the person sitting as Chairperson today should not be there. Interpretations as well as applications were critical when dealing with the provisions of the law. There should be someone acting, but further clarity on the legitimacy could be dealt with. There was need for someone who would do that on the behalf of the Committee, hence there was need to have someone acting in that position.

Mr Mhlanga was elected Chairperson and accepted the nomination.

Mr Michalakis had no objection. However, when the Committee approached the Chairperson of the House for clarity on whether or not it was an acting position, guidance should also be sought on the duration. He did not want a situation where before every single meeting there had to be an election of an acting chairperson.

 Mr Mhlanga applauded and welcomed his nomination and said Members would work together collectively to move the Committee forward.

Mr Michalakis congratulated Mr Mhlanga on behalf of the opposition. He had no doubt the Committee would have an excellent working relationship with the Chairperson. He hoped Mr Mhlanga will take the questions to the Chairperson of the House for clarity as soon as possible.

 Mr Mhlanga replied that the resolutions would be raised immediately with the Chairperson of the House.

Ms B Engelbrecht (DA; Gauteng) request another item to be added to the agenda.

The Chairperson said that it could be allowed because the agenda was not actually adopted.

Ms Engelbrecht requested that the Committee discuss the executive undertakings for a few minutes. This was seconded by another member of the Committee and agreed to.

Committee 2017 Annual Performance Plan and Committee programme
The Committee considered the Annual Performance Plan (APP) page by page.
Page 1 was on values of Parliament; Pages 2 and 3 were on strategic goals of the Parliament; Page 4(6.2{1.1-1.2}) was on the National Petition Bill; Page 7 was on strategic priorities for the Committee for 2017/18.

The Chairperson said the Committee had used the template provided by Parliament to consider the accountability of the Committee. The Committee populated its programme in terms of oversight on issues of awareness campaign with communities in all Municipalities. Within the programme, the Committee made annexure in terms of the petitions that were current as well as those that were pending. 50 were current while 40 were pending. He asked for adoption the programme as it was.

Mr Mohapi welcomed the election of Mr Mhlanga as Chairperson. He did not see any need for adjustment. The strategic document was what guided activities. Writing or adopting minutes was not an activity. That was why the Committee had said the pro forma template that was developed should not be used. This Committee dealt with issues of petitions and could not be run like any other Committee. There should be consolidation of a concretised document where issues of accountability could be measured.

The Chairperson said Mr Mohapi’s concerns on the strategic plan were discussed in the workshop. The Committee was advised to disregard the template. For accountability and budgetary purposes, the Committee had to indicate how many meetings it would have. In terms of the petitions, it was agreed that there would be annexures which had petitions as well as the dates on which the Committee would be dealing with them in the 1st and 2nd terms.

Mr Mohapi said Committees were not measured by the number of meetings but by what prompted those meetings. He did not know who advised the Committee but the highest decision making body here was the Committee.

The Chairperson said the Committee needed to find a room to move in one sitting. The annexure itemises the programme. The Committee was still going to deal with the actual programme. The programme had indicated the activities that the Committee would do for Parliament to budget for its meetings. These needed to be indicated in the APP.

Ms G Manopole (ANC) said on the annexure that was referred to the Committee, it was said it was to be resolved in 2017/18. The date it was to be considered by the Committee was in 2016. This was now 2017. Was a typing error?

The Chairperson said he was in agreement with Mr Mohapi. There was no programme. The way it was captured made it difficult to be engaged.

Mr Mohapi said someone took the format of other Committees and applied it to this Committee. That person had said the only thing that should advise the Committee in terms of developing a strategic plan was the backlog of both petitions and executive undertakings. There were critical issues that should guide the Committee in terms of developing a strategic plan. He had never seen an annexure in a strategic plan.

The Chairperson said clarity should be given to the Members on the issues pointed out by Ms Manopole.

The Chief Whip said the Committee was told it could not have actual petitions in the APP. The Committee was asked to align all its activities with Parliament’s broader strategic objectives, and was also told that if an activity was not in the APP, it would not be approved.

 Mr Mohapi said the APP was a key performance area and could not be utilised without specifics. It could not be left blank. In this case the document was blank and did not have specifics

The Chairperson said Ms Manopole raised a clarity-seeking question which needed to be cleared. The issue of annexure was addressed in the strategic planning. The Committee was advised by the technocrats who were present. Mr Mohapi was also there.

Mr Mohapi said he could not allow the Chairperson to misquote him. He had said that the same annexure which the Committee had should have been incorporated into the Strategic Plan and it was not there.

The Chief Whip replied that annexure A was the list of pending petitions that the Committee should have ensured were resolved in the current financial year. It indicated the Petitioner; the subject matter; Province; the date it was referred to the Committee as well as the date it was resolved. The date referred to was the date it was considered by the Committee. For one reason or another, the resolution was postponed either because information was outstanding or relevant Stakeholders were not able to make submissions before the Committee. Annexure B was the list of petitions to be considered in the current financial year. There were 15 of them. In this annexure had been indicated the Petitioner; the subject matter; Province; the date it was referred to the Committee as well as the date it was to be considered. Also indicated in this annexure was the Country to be visited on a study tour. India or Ghana had been indicated because the Ghanaian Parliament also had an executive undertaking Committee.

The Chairperson acknowledged what Mr Mohapi was saying. The fault had been noted. There was a need to indicate the actual date that the Committee would deal with the petitions that were considered and postponed. The Committee should adopt an active programme for the coming financial year. The annexures were more like theories, there were no actions attached.

Ms Engelbrecht said the Committee requested a complete list of all petitions.

The Chief Whip asked if Ms Engelbrecht referred to the list that the Committee had considered and not yet resolved or the full list.

The Chairperson replied that it was the entire Petitions that there were in terms of the current term of office as well as those outstanding or inherited. This had been requested many times so that the Committee could measure its performance

Mr Mohapi said the Committee had its Integrated Development Plan (IDP) which was its 5-year Strategic Plan. All the activities envisaged to be embarked upon were outlined. Whoever was advising the Committee was not helping it because the Committee ended up having an extraordinary document called an annexure. On this annexure were activities that needed to be incorporated into a template of Strategic Plan. To give effect to policies, there are strategies. The purpose of   this document was to give effect to the overall vision of the institution. The Members were not disorganising the Chairperson but really wanted to help because they would all own up to any decision that would be taken. Outcomes were the results that had been embarked upon on a particular Strategic Plan. The indicator in this case was the oversight report. Based on the outcome, the Committee should be able to measure itself.

The Chairperson said the Committee had taken note of what Mr Mohapi had said. There was need to feed in the objective; the indicator as well as the outcome. There should be foresight.

 Mr Mohapi said there were 15 petitions; you do not just put in the numbers of petitions, but the details as well. If a blank cheque was given, no one would work.

The Chairperson asked if the House was supporting Mr Mohapi’s motion to specify the programme. These were the issues raised in Strategic workshop. It was not possible to adopt this programme and activities.

Mr Mohapi said the Committee of Executive Undertakings was sitting the next day. He suggested that the annexure should be populated into the strategic plan. The Petitions Committee was unique and it had no history in terms of its operations. The Committee was still struggling to grapple with the real format that would enhance its performance.

The Chairperson appreciated Mr Mohapi’s suggestion, the Committee would take note of that. The programme would be amended. The Committee would also note the point raised by Ms Engelbrecht in terms of taking the totality of the undertakings that it was assigned with. This programme would not be adopted but the Committee would adjourn till the next day to see if all the requests of the Committee had been complied with.

He suggested that item 3, which was consideration and adoption of the 2nd term Committee Programme, should also be kept on hold until the next day for adoption because it was informed by the APP. The Members of the Committee supported this move.

 Ms Engelbrecht said the Committee had been ignoring executive undertakings up till now. The list of executive undertakings stopped in May 2016. Did that mean there were none after that date? The list should be updated so that the Committee would know how it would implement executive undertakings. The SONA executive undertakings were already huge.

Ms Manopole reminded Ms Engelbrecht of the challenge the Committee was confronted with in terms of the executive undertakings as it wanted to go to India to incorporate what it had worked on. When the Chairperson met with the Chairperson of the House on the issue of the duration of his office as the Chairperson of this Committee, he should also communicate the frustrations of this Committee with regard to the study tour as well as the rules Committee not coming forth to do its job. The hands of this Committee were tied because what should have been done by going to India to get a model in order to incorporate what the Committee had worked on had not yet been approved.

Mr Michalakis agreed, and added that the rules made provision for the Committee to make some of its internal rules itself. The Committee could continue without letting the work slip behind. If the Committee waited for the Rules Committee to finish the rules, it would wait for a very long time. The Select Committee should look at the alternative to waiting for the rules to be finalised; do as much as it could within the scope of its powers so that it did not lag behind.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee would take it up with the Chairperson of the House as well as compile the total list of undertakings. There were guidelines on Petitions that should come to the House. On the issue of executive undertakings, what Ms Manopole had said was vital. There was a need to develop a mechanism on how to deal with executive undertakings as it was a mandate that was given to this Committee. This matter would be taken up with the Chairperson of the House.

On the study tour to India with regard to Petitions and executive undertakings, the Chairperson of the House had already signed. The Committee was waiting for the Chief Whip to confirm and the Chief Whip had said there would be feedback at the end of today. A proposal would be taken to the Chairperson of the House on how to cross the issues of the rules.

Mr Michalakis said the Chairperson touched on the Petitions and the Committee had been presented with a draft Bill that was lying somewhere. It was not a question where the permission of the Chairperson of the house or the Chief Whip was needed. All that was needed was the will of the Chairperson of the Committee as well as a discussion with a Committee in the National Assembly to have the draft Bill passed. The rules also made provision for ad-hoc Committees for those purposes to be established. The Committee would ask the Chairperson to let that go in some direction as the Committee had been sitting on that for a year. He asked that it be made a priority.

The Chairperson said there were outstanding issues that needed to be resolved. There would be a follow up on them. He and the Whip together would go to the House Chair to raise the matter.

The meeting was adjourned.

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