Members expressed disappointment at the absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Public Works as well as the Director-General from the meeting. Members did not question the competency of the DPW delegation present to handle the briefing but felt in principle that it was an insult to the Committee that no political head was present. Members felt that if the Minister was unable to attend then the Deputy Minister could have attended in his stead. The Committee was equally divided on whether or not to proceed with the briefing. It was noted that putting the matter to the vote would not have helped and it seemed as if the Committee had reached an impasse. The Committee decided to adjourn the meeting for a short while to deliberate over the matter behind closed doors. When the meeting reconvened the decision had been taken by the Committee not to go ahead with the briefing and to reschedule it to the 20 June 2017. As a consequence the original budget vote debate scheduled for the 20 June 2017 had to be rescheduled to the 27 June 2017 in terms of the rules. On the 27 June 2017 members would not debate on the budget vote but would only vote on it.
Briefing by the Department of Public Works (DPW) on its revised Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan 2017/18
The delegation comprised of Mr Imtiaz Faizel Deputy Director General: Governance, Mr Paul Serote Head: Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE), Ms Anbigay Naicker Director: Strategic Planning, Mr Samuel Thobakgale Deputy Director General: Project Management Office (PMO), Mr Aaron Mazibuko Chief Director, Ms Pearl Lukwago-Mugerwa Chief Director, Mr Stanley Henderson Deputy Director General: Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and Mr Herman Pienaar Director of Financial Planning: PMTE.
Mr Dickson Mkono Parliamentary Liaison Officer: Office of the Minister was also in attendance.
Mr Faizel extended the apologies of the Minister Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, Deputy Minister Mr Jeremy Cronin and the Director General Mr Mziwonke Dlabantu to the Committee. The DPW also had another committee meeting in the National Assembly. He also apologised for the Chief Operating Officer (CFO) of the DPW being absent from the meeting as he had lost his son overnight.
Mr Mkono stated that the Minister could not attend the meeting as he was dealing with some family problems.
The Chairperson extended the Committees condolences to the DPW’s CFO and his family.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) pointed out that the previous Minister of Public Works Mr Thembelani Nxesi had diligently attended the Committee’s meetings. If Mr Nxesi was unable to attend he would always send the Deputy Minister and the Director General of the DPW to attend. He said that with no political heads being present and even with the Director General being absent how could members pose political questions. The officials present although capable in their own right could not answer political questions. The situation was totally unacceptable. This was not the first time that political heads from departments had not attended meetings of the Committee. He felt that the meeting should be rescheduled until such time that a political head was present. The meeting had been called to deal with the budget of the DPW. The Committee was expected to approve the budget.
Mr M Chabangu (EFF, Free State) was also disappointed the DPW did not take the meetings of the Committee seriously. The DPW should give the Committee preference over the National Assembly. It seemed as if the National Assembly was taken seriously and the National Council of Provinces not. He supported the suggestion that the meeting should be rescheduled.
Mr L Magwebu (DA, Eastern Cape) also expressed his condolences to the DPW’s CFO and his family. Officials had said that the Deputy Minister of Public Works and the Director General had other business to attend to. The inference that could be drawn was that the work of the Committee was not taken seriously. He also felt it to be unacceptable. The Committee was to be presented with the budget of the DPW and was expected to approve it. It was an important issue at hand. The Committee needed to set a precedent that its work needed to be taken seriously. He also felt that the meeting should be deferred to a time when the DPW’s political heads could be present.
Mr B Nthebe (ANC, North West) understood what members were saying but he did not support the suggestion of deferring the meeting. There was a new Minister of Public Works in charge. In the past where Ministers of departments had not taken the Committee seriously the Committee had dealt with it. The team from the DPW were quite capable and the briefing could go ahead. In the past where departments had not appeared adequately before the Committee, action too had been taken. The DPW was not one of those departments. The DPW was always on top of things. He noted that it was a plenary planning matter of parliament that had scheduled the Committee to have a meeting on the same day as its portfolio committee counterpart in the National Assembly. He reiterated that the meeting should continue.
Mr E Makue (ANC, Gauteng) respectfully agreed with Mr Nthebe’s sentiments. As members had said the DPW had always been professional in its attendance of meetings of the Committee in the past. The DPW could be cautioned that the situation should not repeat itself. It was after all not the DPW’s fault that planning was not properly done in the planning Committee. He too felt that the briefing should continue.
The Chairperson remarked that if there was a department that should be punished it should be the Department of Transport as the Committee had never seen its political leadership. It was a first for the DPW that its political leadership was absent from a meeting of the Committee. There needed to be engagement between the Committee and its portfolio committee counterpart where there was a clash of meetings. He pointed out that the DPW was the last department that needed to brief the Committee on its Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan. Unfortunately there was no other time to meet with the DPW. The Committee budget vote debate on the DPW was scheduled for the following Tuesday 20 June 2017. The debate could not go ahead if the briefing had not taken place. It would be difficult to reschedule the meeting whilst the debate remained as planned. The DPW was definitely not one of those departments that needed to be taken to task about its political head’s attendance at meetings.
Mr Faber said that it was not about punishing the DPW. He noted that the Committee was the final legislative body that needed to let the budget of the DPW to go through. It was the budget and it was a priority matter. If the Minister was not able to attend then the Deputy Minister and the Director General should have attended. He said that officials of the DPW should try to get hold of the Deputy Minister and the Director General to avail themselves for the briefing. If they did not pitch up and the briefing went ahead then he would walk out of the meeting. He did not blame the officials of the DPW. Their political leaders should be present.
Mr Nthebe said that the Committee was standing the risk of reaching an impasse as members were divided as to whether the briefing should go ahead or not. The DPW could not be punished based on what other departments had done in the past. The Committee could not be held to hostage because the political leadership of the DPW was absent. The DPW’s track record on the attendance of its political leadership to meetings had always been exemplary.
Mr Magwebu stated that after the cabinet reshuffle Minister Nxesi had been shifted to the Ministry of Arts and Culture. A new Minister of Public Works was appointed and the Committee was yet to meet him. If the Minister had a personal issue to deal with he should have deployed the Deputy Minister to attend the meeting in his stead. Even the Director General of the DPW was not present. He meant no disrespect to the delegation that was present. This was not a good start for the new Minister of Public Works. The issue was not about punishing the DPW.
Mr Chabangu said that it was a matter of principle that the meeting should not continue.
Mr Makue accepted that it was not about punishing the DPW however not continuing with the briefing would jeopardise the work of the National Council of Provinces and would jeopardise the budget of the DPW going through.
The Chairperson said that it was a futile exercise to put the matter to a vote as the Committee was equally divided over the issue.
Mr Mkono stated that he could attempt to get hold of the Deputy Minister of the DPW to see if he could attend the meeting.
The Committee decided to adjourn the meeting for a short while so that members could behind closed doors deliberate over the matter.
After the recommencement of the meeting the Chairperson made an announcement that the meeting would not continue without the Minister or the Deputy Minister of Public Works. The briefing would be rescheduled to the 20 June 2017 when the Minister or Deputy Minister would be able to attend. If the briefing had gone ahead members could have prepared for the budget vote debate on 20 June 2017. Seeing that the briefing was rescheduled for 20 June 2017 the rules stated that a budget vote debate could only take place three days after the briefing. Taking the rules into consideration the budget vote debate would then be rescheduled for the 27 June 2017. The Committee would on the 20 June 2017 no longer have the debate as the programme stated that members would be voting on the Appropriation Bill. On the 27 June 2017 members could still vote on the budget but there would be no debate.
Mr Serote once again apologised to the Committee on behalf of the political heads. The DPW would ensure that on the day of the briefing there would be political leadership present.
The meeting was adjourned.
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