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STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS (SCOPA)
4 June 2003
ALLEGATIONS ON ARMS DEAL INVESTIGATION FINAL REPORT; REPORT-BACK BY WORK GROUPS; ADOPTION OF REPORTS
Chairperson Mr F Beukman (NNP)
Documents handed out:
Draft Resolution on Safety and Security
The Committee discussed at length the media allegations that there was substantial editing of the draft Auditor General's Report on the Arms Deal investigation prior to the Final Report being released to the public. The Committee deliberated whether SCOPA should make recommendations to Parliament about the allegations or request guidance from Parliament on how the matter should be addressed. It was decided that the Committee Chair would write to the Speaker of Parliament requesting direction on how this matter should be dealt with.
The Committee adopted a number of reports, discussed the categorisation of reports and the contents of a recent SCAG meeting was noted.
Mr B Kannemeyer (ANC) gave an in depth report on his work group's activities.
Work Group Report-back
Mr B Kannemeyer (ANC), on behalf of Work Group 2, said the group had not yet replaced one of its members who had left the group. Mr B Bell (DA) had been brought into the group. They had received replies from the different departments on questions the group had sent to them. The group would also conclude work on a number of departments.
The Education Department report was unqualified, the group was satisfied with the answers given and proposed a standard resolution on the Department's report with emphasis on the issues raised.
State Information Technology Agency (SITA)
There was agreement that this has been categorised for a possible hearing in late August or early September.
Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
The report has been tabled and evaluated, the questions and replies have been checked and the group recommended a standard resolution.
Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS)
The GCIS replies have been received, it has been processed and a standard report is recommended, with emphasis on the issues raised with the Department.
Department of Public Services and Administration
Mr B Kannemeyer said there are two matters: untaken leave and affirmative action issues, which the group would like to include in a resolution. The group was still awaiting the final evaluation from the auditors on the replies received from the Department. He added the group was satisfied with the answers received.
Department of Provincial Affairs and Local Government
The Department was previously linked with the Department of Constitutional Development and this was the first year the Department has been on its own. However the Department has received unqualified reports the last three years. The group noted that the improvement of the Division of Revenue Act, which indicates how much individual municipalities will receive in terms of the different conditional grants made it easier for them to plan their own budgets.
There are a total of 102 reports of which 18 are main Votes reports. Of the total 102 reports roughly 51 are already processed. Of the 18 main Votes there are two that must still be categorised: the Department of Communication and the SA Management Development Institute.
Mr Beukman said the Auditor General had informed him that he could give the Committee a preview on which Department reports would be finished by August. He added it is important to resolve this early because of time constraints expected in 2004.
Parliament's Response to SCOPA Needs Assessment
Ms N Keswa, Parliamentary Manager, represented Parliament. The SCOPA Needs Assessment Report had been sent to her for an official response from Parliament. This report had been conducted by an independent consultant last year to assess the resources available to SCOPA and ascertain its actual needs.
Ms Keswa said she was not sure what the status of the report was within SCOPA but she had taken cognisance of the report. She gave a broad overview of the parliamentary needs that Palriament itself had identified:
- The need for legal support especially in committees that deal extensively in complex legislation,
- Content analysis to assist committees to understand sophisticated legislation.
- Additional research capacity - she said committees could outsource research work to the pool of National Assembly researchers on a needs basis.
- Inefficient document management system - she added the improvement of this system was delayed due to lack of funding. A project manager is now in place and an electronic management system installed.
Mr Beukman pointed out that SCOPA needed two committed researchers.
Mr B Kannemeyer said the number of secretarial support staff in SCOPA was adequate. However there is a lack of resources as evidenced by the poor quality tape recordings and a lack of document storage space. He added that SCOPA's success lies in follow-up and a committed researcher would be able to track the history of matters under discussion.
Mr Paul Mosaka (Office of the Auditor General: General Manager) asked on what basis had the parliamentary committee needs been analysed.
Ms Keswa said the needs survey was started in June 2001 and only recently completed. They had only managed to communicate with 45% of the intended people. She added that not all committees have the same volume of work and this too should be considered.
Mr N Bruce (DA) complained that proportional representation in SCOPA should be revisited, as smaller parties are currently overextended. He also suggested secretarial support staff learn from other countries especially Ireland whose parliament runs very efficiently.
Mr Mosaka commented that minority parties with fewer members in Parliament could only benefit from more research information, when deciding on which meetings to attend.
Adoption of Reports
South African Police Services (SAPS)
The Committee requested this resolution be held in abeyance. This was as a result of SAPS correspondence to the Committee after the report was drafted, resulting in certain sections requiring redrafting and certain sections becoming redundant.
Corporation for Public Deposits
The report was adopted unanimously.
Health And Welfare SETA
An amount of R64 million was listed a contingent liability and could not be verified, thus it could be anything from R64 million to R4 million. The Committee decided this should be referred back to the relevant cluster and followed up later.
Despite problems highlighted, the report was adopted.
Malawi Study Tour
Malawi Study Tour report not voted on as report was not available to all members beforehand.
Categorisation of Reports
Mr Kannemeyer and Mr Gumede said both workgroups had agreed on the format for the categorisation of reports. Mr Kannemeyer said having the two workgroups deal separately with this matter was not the best approach - as it was not a question of one group versus another.
Mr Kannemeyer and Mr Gumede said their groups were happy with the draft of the standardised resolution presented by the Auditor General's Office, except for the conclusion which should be the same for the three different types of resolutions. They emphasised that SCOPA's work is not based on whether there is a hearing on any state entity, the rules indicate that SCOPA has to consider all reports. He said hearings were only required in terms of the SCAG process for Category A reports (qualified reports from the Auditor General).
SCAG Report Back
Mr Beukman outlined matters discussed in the 5 April 2003 SCAG meeting:
- The Cluster Motivation Report (CMR): strengthening and implementing the CMR
- Research capacity - the new Committee next year would have to deal with this in detail. SCAG noted the need for a historical perspective on hearings.
- SCOPA's role with regards to Performance Audit Reports.
- Criteria for Standard Resolutions
- Membership of SCOPA
- Media liaison, press release
- Responsibility for following up executive replies.
Arms Deal Allegations
Mr Beukman referred to Mr Bell's letter dated 2 May 2003. The letter stated that according to a Business Day news report, substantial information was edited out of the Final Report of the Auditor General.
Mr Kannemeyer said he wanted more clarity on the allegation of 'substantial editing'. He cautioned against taking action based solely on newspaper reports. The Committee could not discuss this matter as no one had seen the draft version of the Report. The Committee should not take decisions based on unverified media reports. He said Committee should protect the integrity of this specific Chapter 9 institution until the facts are proven and not contribute to the reputation of an important institution being tarnished. He said that Mr Bell stops just short of saying that the integrity of the Auditor General was impugned.
Mr Beukman said the Committee needed to establish how to proceed with this matter.
Mr V Smith (ANC) said the Committee was already discussing the question as if a decision had been taken that SCOPA would review this matter. It was not necessary to reach consensus on this issue, it should go to the Speaker of Parliament to decide on the way forward. There is consensus in the Committee that Parliament should show the way forward, and he asked whether Mr Bell would stick to the position that SCOPA should review this matter.
Mr Beukman said he would, on behalf of SCOPA, write a letter to Parliament requesting guidance on this matter.
Mr Bruce said he hoped that this Committee would make a recommendation to Parliament. The content of the proposed letter to Parliament is an important question. Further, the Auditor General should make the draft Report in question available to the Committee.
Mr Bell said he believed SCOPA should discuss this and recommend the way forward. He added that SCOPA had been marginalised before on the Arms Deal issue and it should not abdicate its responsibility now. SCOPA could strengthen itself as a body and become a better committee. He said SCOPA had been marginalised over the Arms Deal when the Final Report "was pushed to" seven other parliamentary committees.
Mr V Smith raised a point of order and said a decision was already taken. He said if Mr Bell had another proposal he should raise it.
Mr Bell said the content of the letter to the Speaker is still in question. He asked whether SCOPA would be supplicant or make a recommendation to Parliament. To ask Parliament for guidance would signal that SCOPA has again been marginalised.
Mr V Smith said the Committee had agreed to take this matter to Parliament to decide. This is what the ANC proposed and anything more in terms of detail should be left to Parliament. He said it would be presumptuous of SCOPA to decide for Parliament.
Mr Beukman said he did not believe SCOPA has been marginalised and this very discussion proved that.
Mr Bell said it was a function of the Committee to make recommendations for Parliament to consider.
Mr P Gerber (ANC) said the Committee would marginalise the allegations if it did not forward this matter to Parliament.
It was decided that Mr Beukman, the Chairperson, would write a letter to Parliament requesting direction on how this matter should be dealt with.
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