Parliament’s 2016/17 mid-year performance; Committee’s 2nd term programme, NEHAWU Letter

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

16 March 2017
Chairperson: Mr V Smith (ANC) Co-Chairperson: Mr S Mohai (ANC)

Meeting Summary

The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament adopted the draft report the on Parliament mid-year performance for the 2016/17 period and considered its second term programme. The Committee further discussed why the Secretary of Parliament did not appear before the Committee to answer on issues the Members raised before. It also deliberated on the correspondence it received from the National Health Education and Allied Workers regarding serious allegations levelled against the leadership of Parliament. Lastly, the Committee adopted five sets of minutes.

Members pointed out that the National Health Education and Allied Workers approached the Committee because the channels of communication were not working and it sees the Committee as the last resort. The Committee should be given the recruitment and retention policy of the Parliament. When the Committee acts, its actions should be based on the availability of these policies. A Member suggested the Committee should separate human resources management issues from those of the financial management of Parliament. it was important to clarify the mandate given to the Committee on exercising oversight on the management of Parliament to understand how far the Committee could go. She warned the Committee that if it allows unions to appear before it, that would not be sustainable in the future. Even if the issues are separated, NEHAWU still has to be given an audience and the Committee should take on the leadership of the management on issues raised.

Meeting report

Mr M Waters (DA) wanted to know why the Secretary of Parliament was not in the meeting to provide clarity on some issues the Committee raised before so that they could be settled before the start of the 2016/17 financial year.

The Co-Chairperson said the Secretary was not invited because the meeting was mainly about addressing outstanding matters of the Committee. The Secretary and the Speaker would be invited during the strategic planning meeting of the Committee.

Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) indicated this was a sign that the Secretary was not complying with the PFMA regulations.

Ms E Coleman (ANC) proposed the matter be set aside and be raised when the Speaker and Secretary attend the strategic planning meeting of the Committee.

Mr Waters stated if the Committee is going to have a meeting with the Secretary and his team and they are unable to attend the meeting, that does not mean the Speaker and her team could also not appear before the Committee. They do not have to appear before the Committee at the same time.

Adoption of the Draft Report on Parliament’s 2016/17 mid-year performance

The Chairperson asked the Members to move for the adoption of the report because they had already discussed it previously as the Committee.

The report was adopted without amendments.

Consideration of letter from NEHAWU

Mr N Singh (IFP) commended NEHAWU for bringing the matters to the attention of the Committee. He suggested correspondence be sent to the Secretary of Parliament for response. If there were impasse, he suggested the Committee should intervene.

Mr Steenhuisen warned the Committee not to play the role of the Labour Court or CCMA. The Committee should be given the documents of the bursary and supply chain management policies to see if there had been a contravention. The bonus issue would also be interrogated. He suggested that NEHAWU be given an audience.

Ms C September (ANC) proposed that the Committee should separate the issues contained in the letter and interrogate them individually. She suggested the Committee find a mechanism to verify the allegations and see how the information would be processed.

Mr A Masondo (ANC) said the Committee should not see itself as a bargaining council and suggested that parliamentary processes should be followed when dealing with the matter.

Mr Steenhuisen pointed out that NEHAWU approached the Committee because the channels of communication were not working and it sees the Committee as the last resort. The Committee should be given the recruitment and retention policy of the Parliament. When the Committee acts, its actions should be based on the availability of these policies.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) suggested the Committee should separate human resources management issues from those of the financial management of Parliament.

Ms September pointed out that NEHAWU had done everything possible on bonuses and there was a stalemate. So, if there were a stalemate between the parties, according to the labour law, the parties have to go for arbitration. The Committee needs to make a proposal to NEHAWU on how to deal with the matter. The Committee should further be given responses from the leadership of Parliament because the allegations are serious, not frivolous. Issues put before the Committee should be separated and addressed individually.

Mr Waters said there was no need to separate the matters. They should rather be discussed because the Committee exercises oversight on the functioning of Parliament. This is some kind of whistle-blowing. The Committee should invite NEHAWU to present its side of the story, and the Secretariat to provide responses.

Ms Coleman said it was important to clarify the mandate given to the Committee on exercising oversight on the management of Parliament to understand how far the Committee could go. She warned the Committee that if it allows unions to appear before it, that would not be sustainable in the future. Even if the issues are separated, NEHAWU still has to be given an audience and the Committee should take on the leadership of the management on issues raised.

The Chairperson said it was easy to get the policy documents from the leadership of Parliament for the Committee so that it could see if the rules have been flouted and take the matter forward.

Mr Steenhuisen said the Committee must not assume powers of the Labour Court, but it was there to exercise oversight on the Offices of the Speaker, Secretary of Parliament and NCOP. The Committee should not only concentrate on the flouting of the PFMA rules.

The Chairperson resolved that relevant policy documents should be sent to the Committee; the letter from NEHAWU be taken to the Office of the Secretary and request a response; and the Committee to act on the responses provided by the Secretary.

Committee’s second term programme

The Chairperson wanted to know if the Committee’s strategic planning session would be held before or after the Parliament strategic planning session and asked if Parliament has finalised its plan. Senior managers of Parliament would be invited to the Committee’s strategic planning session.

Mr De Beer pointed out that the date and time of the strategic plan clashed with the Finance Committee meeting.

Ms September suggested the programme should take into account the work of Parliament because most committees sit on Wednesdays. The dates should be in line with the programme of Parliament to avoid receiving many apologies.

Mr Waters indicated the second term is always intensive because there are many budget votes. Smaller parties would not have the luxury of sending other people to the debates. He suggested the programme be aligned to Parliament’s programme.

The Committee Secretary said the programme was drafted based on the previous programme and that of Parliament. Parliament had a scheduled strategic planning session. Concerning the Wednesday meetings, the Committee could meet during lunch time, if there are no committee meetings during that time, because most Committees on Wednesdays sit between 9 and 12 in the afternoon.

Ms Coleman noted that there was also going to be a mid-term review. So, it was important to be clear on what Members want to do.

The Committee resolved that the content of the programme to be aligned to that of the Parliament. The Committee considered the programme but did not adopt it.


Adoption of Minutes

The Chairperson tabled four sets of minutes for consideration: 19 October 2016, 23 November 2016 (morning session), 23 November 2016 (evening session) and 17 February 2017. The latter was approved with a minor amendment while the others were adopted with no changes.

The minutes were adopted with no amendments. No matters arose from the minutes.

The meeting was adjourned.