Comments on the Foreign Service Bill 2015 were received from the Department of Labour, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Department of Health.
The Department of Labour’s comments were premised on the its experience and interaction with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in order to provide a smooth transition for officials posted abroad and to ensure better coordination between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and other departments in the execution of foreign policy. The Department of Labour proposed that the expertise that resided with different government departments was not replaced by a generalist approach, particularly on labour related issues. Other proposals made include the need to build capacity and ensure increased representation of minority groups and women in the foreign service; that the Bill should make provision of the Director General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to work closely with counterparts in partner departments in order to establish priorities for each department and also advance South African policy imperatives; and also that the Bill should be as transformational as possible, particularly with respect to implementation, development and engagement of foreign policy.
One of the concerns raised by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the Bill included that the Bill was silent on issues of budget and financing. The Department proposed that the Bill should outline funding arrangements to provide for the establishment of a single foreign service for the Republic of South Africa for the administration and functioning of the foreign service; as well as to provide for supportive structures and accommodation.
The Department also proposed that attachés should report to ambassadors as their immediate supervisors and report to their respective departments on a quarterly basis; that the clarification of the budget implication for a single foreign service proposed by the Bill should also address the status of moveable assets; and also, that the Bill should spell out the conditions for reinstatement of attachés.
One of the recommendations of Department of Health in relation to the Bill was the need to ensure coordination, as well as ensure that the role of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation was given back to that Department. This was because many departments assumed the role of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation by thinking that they understood foreign laws, whereas they only understood international laws pertaining to their respective sectors. Engaging with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation would result in getting straightforward answers to issues pertaining to international laws, since this was the mandate of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
The Department of Health supported the Bill because it would assist the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and other departments in understanding their roles.
The Department of Health supported and accepted all clauses of the Bill.
In the Discussions, Members said there is a need to include labour and health related issues in the trainings offered at the diplomatic academy; asked whether or not the implicit inclusion of minority groups and women in the Bill would not be discriminatory in itself; asked about the adoption and implementation of a single term policy which meant that all correspondences from attachés would pass through the head of mission before getting to the departments; asked about the requirements for deploying attachés on missions and the role of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in managing such attachés on behalf of the department; asked whether or not the proposed advisory committee would not result in a duplication of roles; sought clarity on what would constitute moveable assets for attachés; asked whether or not the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (and other departments) would expect compensation on the transfer of assets to the head of missions; asked whether the Department of Health was considering having an attaché in Africa; if the Department of Health sent nurses to Cuba to specialise as was done for medical students; sought clarity on how the Department of Health would reconcile the reporting from attachés only after they have returned to the country from the mission with the fact that such attachés have been transferred to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation whilst on the missions; and sought clarity about what portfolio an attaché would be equal to whilst on a mission.
As the Chairperson was unavoidably absent as he had to attend another meeting. Mr B Radebe (ANC) was nominated to act as the Chairperson in his stead.
Apologies were received from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Department of Labour (DoL) comments on the Foreign Services Bill
Mr Virgil Seafield, Deputy Director General (DDG): Labour Policy and Industrial Relations, noted that an apology had been submitted in writing for the absence of the DG and Acting DG. The DG was currently in Geneva for the meeting of the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) while the Acting DG was attending a different Committee meeting on Labour.
The DoL worked effectively with the ILO and participated at other international forums such as the AU and the BRICS confederation in order to promote issues of labour and economic growth within those structures. DoL’s relationship with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) resides across the abovementioned responsibilities, as well as its engagement with ILO. DoL’s mission and touch point within foreign services was located in Geneva and it had only one attaché post within Geneva that dealt with ILO matters, as well as other services conducted for other structures that the department engages with. DoL has been located within the ILO for some years but had been faced with four different limitations with respect to the attaché post. At some stage, it wanted to create a post within the Asian, American, and African Union region but could only postpone such engagement due to cost constraints.
The DoL’s comments on the Foreign Service Bill (FSB) were premised on its experience and interaction with DIRCO in order to provide a smooth transition for officials posted abroad, as well as to ensure better coordination between DIRCO and other departments in the execution of the foreign policy.
Although DoL’s engagement with the Bill only started when it was invited by the Committee, the engagement has tried to address some of the issues relating to the Bill.
As the Bill creates coherent structures to deal with foreign policy, DoL proposed that the expertise that resided with different government departments should not be replaced with a generalist approach, particularly on labour related issues. This proposal was informed by the fact that the expertise and the responsibility for labour matters were primarily located within the DoL, where the Department engaged with the changing nature of employment, as well as international migration policy in conjunction with other departments like the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). In reality, the expertise needed to deal with emerging issues was located within the department. Whilst DoL acknowledged the responsibility of foreign services to manage foreign relations, it was important to understand that the Department would still have to engage with issues in a coherent and constructive manner in order to effectively respond to those issues.
For instance, it was a well-known fact that the Department did not have the expertise to grow the country’s economy. It was therefore, necessary to create such expertise within the country through foreign relations with South Africa’s international migration policy as an example. Such issues should be addressed from a labour perspective. It was for this reason that the Department was proposing the creation of a structure or an advisory committee consisting of relevant departments with expertise, and who can advise on matters relating to foreign services in such departments. DoL was of the view that foreign policy should not be the exclusive domain of the DIRCO, as foreign policy comprised of other policies and issues that departments engage with on the international front, such as the ILO and African Union (AU). There was therefore, a need for consistency and consultation with the different levels of expertise that exist, as well as with the responsibilities that exist within the different departments.
DoL also noted that it was necessary to build the capacity and increase the representation of the minority groups and women in the foreign services, not only in relation to embassies but also in institutions where the Department was represented, such as the ILO.
The Department also noted that the Bill was silent on how to tap into the expertise, skills and abilities that exists in the diaspora in relation to securing employment for local recruited personnel residing in foreign countries, as well as ensuring that such persons can work in the embassies and commissions. The Bill was specific on the fact that only South Africans should work in such embassies and commissions. However, it was necessary to consider the reality of tapping into expertise that may exist outside.
On the dispensation of foreign service personnel, DoL noted that the Bill was silent on the creation of a separate dispensation for foreign service personnel to complement or address issues that were unique to their working conditions. The Public Service Act and other related legislation could be insufficient in addressing issues that may arise out of local expertise or employment within the embassies, as well as employers from the host countries or citizens of the countries where embassies are situate. This point has been previously raised by the Department at the time when it was confronted with issues at the embassy in Geneva and that of Ireland. DoL had to intervene and mediate in some of the disputes that arose in those embassies. DoL also intervened in resolving disputes that arose in South African embassies.
The Bill was silent on foreign policies as it did not provide for the relationship of departments with embassies within the host countries and how issues that may arise could be dealt with. Although the Department did its best to intervene in some issues, its interventions were limited by international conventions. However, DoL has been required on several instances to deal with the realities that exist.
The proposed foreign service personnel system would assist in facilitating inter-departmental secondments, which was not yet a practice in the South African diplomatic service. It has been envisaged that DIRCO would consider a system of complimenting its establishment by obtaining officials with specialised knowledge to serve in foreign missions. DoL acknowledged DIRCO as the responsible department in this regard. However, there would be significant tension if a departmental official of DoL is seconded as an attaché to the embassy in the City London, as an example. The question that would arise is how such secondment would relate to the management of that individual within the embassy under the control of the DG, the ambassador or the head of the unit. Nevertheless, the performance management still resided with the DoL, and any performance management issue would be handled by DoL. However, DIRCO would be responsible for officials on missions. It may therefore be a dynamic tension that would exist but such tension could be resolved as time goes on.
In addition to the above, the DoL acquires infrastructure for the attaché to be hosted within the embassy and such infrastructure would be funded through the budget of the Department. It was therefore, necessary to ensure that assets of the Department are managed within the context of an administrative arrangement that falls within the remit of the head of the mission or the DG of DIRCO. The Bill does not deal adequately with these realities.
With regard to the integration of foreign policy, DoL proposed that the Bill should make provision for the DG of DIRCO to work closely with counterparts in partner departments so as to establish priorities for each department to advance the South African policy imperatives. These policy priorities may be developed for each mission and/or group of missions, as appropriate. In addition to priorities, the Bill should prescribe the establishment of regional hubs or clustering of counties with a view of having some presence of certain departments/entities to service a group of missions. For example, DoL has proposed an engagement with DIRCO for the purpose of establishing attachés for the Americas and Asia within the department. The principle that underpins such placement of attachés would be that such attachés would be responsible for engagement with all countries that fall within the American and Asian region, and would have a coherent approach to dealing with the different countries in that context.
DoL acknowledged that the Bill sought to deal with fragmentation of the administration of foreign services but the Department also held the view that the Bill should deal with issues relating to the management of foreign policy, which would be in relation to the implementation of foreign policy.
In terms of training and capacity development, DoL opined that the Diplomatic Academy did not link up adequately with other government departments to deal with what has been envisaged within the Bill. A gap existed between what the academy provided and what the Bill intends. It was important for this gap to be addressed.
Also, the Bill talks to the requirement of an individual to be appointed as a foreign service practitioner, but DoL held the view that there was a need for a closer link between the requirement of the Bill and that of the academy.
DoL also raised a fundamental concern on the fact that whether or not the Bill establishes or maintains status quo, it would not change the existing realities, nor assist in responding effectively to those realities. This was because the Bill did not provide evidence of the transformational agenda that it was intended to serve.
Whilst there is a need for integration, it seemed the Bill only relegates different actors (that is departments such as DoL, DoH and so on) by making them pre-referral to the foreign policy instead of being integral to foreign policy.
DoL proposed that the Bill should be transformational as far as possible, particularly because the implementation, development and engagement of foreign policy was cross-cutting. Foreign policy did not only fall within the domain of international relations; it also fell within the domain of different government departments. It was therefore, logical that a strong coordination mechanism be established in order to deal with different areas of policy formulation, policy implementation and engagement with different areas. DoL was of the view that the status quo was no longer compatible with the realities of the global environment where foreign policy has to be executed.
Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) said the Committee agreed with DoL on the need for coordination, consolidation, coherence and consistency in the foreign policy, which was the aim of the Bill in terms of having a common objective on the foreign policy. The Committee also agreed with DoL on the issues of candidacy diplomacy as it relates to the involvement of minority groups or women, as well as the other categories of people seconding South Africa’s technocrats at international forums. South Africa was known to always contribute towards these institutions without influencing them in terms of seconding its citizens in those institutions. Candidacy diplomacy was therefore, very important.
The issue being raised by the DoL around coordination for the secondment of officials was the fundamental reason behind the current engagements around the Bill, particularly in terms of disciplinary issues of attachés where DIRCO should take precedence over DoL. The discussions therefore, buttressed the need for professionalising foreign services. The idea of clustering the missions and having attachés from different departments can assist as it would help in covering more ground.
On the issue of coordination in terms of the diplomatic academy, he noted that although South Africa’s diplomatic academy taught its cadets on a variety of fields, he was not sure if there were trainings on labour. This should be looked into in order to ensure that the cadets were trained on how to deal with ILO and/or international labour or international migration. Failure to train the cadets on this may result in problems with the Locally Recruited Personnel (LRPs). The suggestion given by DoL to look into LRPs in the diaspora was therefore, important in solving the issue of recruitment of LRPs in the department.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) held the view that foreign service personnel enjoyed some benefits and the DoL’s intentions was to make sure the personnel were well-rounded individuals that can assist DIRCO in implementing other issues of South Africa’s interest. She wanted to know how pacts/benefits from DoL with a condition of bargaining issues could be balanced in a way that personnel would be well-rounded, especially because people could not be expected to be in the same position throughout their entire work span. It would be totally unfair on other employees of the department to have a single person be a permanent attaché in Geneva, as it may become impossible to develop other professionals in the department.
She also sought clarity on people who return from missions that they were deployed to and still expect to be paid the same salaries as what obtained while they were on the mission.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked if the Bill was worth having or should be scrapped. This was because the submission by DoL highlighted lots of gaps in the Bill. She highlighted the point made by DoL with respect to the role of DoL in handling labour disputes involving recruited personnel whether in South Africa or in the missions abroad, as well as references to the attachés. In her opinion, the role of DoL was two-fold. She also noted that although DoL was guided by the public service Bill, ambassadors were not guided by that Bill; instead they were guided by a different set of criteria.
On the proposed advisory committee, she asked the Department to specify the key ministries that should be included in the committee, as it would be infeasible to have all 33 ministries represented on the committee.
She also sought clarity on whether the proposed inclusion of minority groups and women in the Bill would not be discriminatory in itself, particularly because the Constitution has made provisions for these minority groups. She opined that there was no need for such inclusion to be implicit in a Bill. Nevertheless, the Department was asked to comment on why the Bill should be implicit in making specific quota suggestions for minority groups.
Mr M Lekota (COPE) said it was important for South Africans to always bear in mind that they cannot recreate the world with the point of view of apartheid that the country comes from, especially since the whole world does not have the same apartheid background. For example, when the Americans put together their Olympic team, they did not consider the number of blacks or whites in the team. They are only concerned with those who would bring the gold medal home. Although the black section of the American population was only about 11%, the Olympic team of the USA was immensely dominated by black section because the selection of the team is guided by merit, not by colour. South Africa should also emulate this in its selection criteria, by ensuring that only the best is chosen to represent the country. The same should apply to departments in terms of foreign relations. Departments should understand that DIRCO was a coordinating department; it had no intention to compete with partner departments like DoL on labour issues, for example. The DoL still gets to decide who to deploy on missions. However, once an attaché has been placed on a mission, such person falls under the management of South Africa through DIRCO. DoL should inform DIRCO of attachés that have been deployed, so that DIRCO can keep watch over the attachés and also ensure that they (the attachés) do not contravene the laws of South Africa.
The requirement for attachés to report to the ambassador was premised on the fact that the ambassador was a representative of South Africa. Reporting to the ambassador was therefore, necessary to ensure accountability to both the head of mission and the department from which such attaché has been deployed. Ambassadors were not expected to deal with the content of the reports made by attachés. The deploying department, which would be DoL in this case, still has to deal with the content of those reports in order to verify that the mandate of the department was being followed. The proposal to create an external structure may result in such structure supplanting the collaboration of ministries. The most important point to note was that no South African can be placed outside the country without being accountable to the government either through the DIRCO or some other department assigned for that purpose.
The Acting Chairperson opined that the Bill had no intention of taking the mandate of other departments in the Foreign Service. However, the issue of coordination was very important because in other countries, there was the issue of a single term policy, which meant that all information coming from any person representing a country must be sent through the head of mission of that particular country. He wanted to know if DoL had a problem with such single term policy. He cited an example of the current dispensation, where reports can be sent directly to the DG of Labour in South Africa without wiring the head of mission. He wanted to know if such was happening in DoL, as this was the kind of scenario that the Bill was trying to correct in order to ensure that the head of mission can account for all the diplomats of the country.
He also asked for the rationale behind the suggested inclusion of designated groupings in the Bill.
On the question raised by Ms Kalyan around the inclusion of minority groups and women being discriminatory in and by itself, Mr Seafield referred to the employment equity report launched by the DoL. In the report, it was discovered that South Africans were still unreformed in terms of employment. South Africa was a country that had seen a very weak response to the Department’s efforts to equalise the society. One of the things DoL was proposing was the need for a more responsive approach to transforming the society. Although it was good to say that the best man should be placed in a certain position, it was still necessary to put measures in place to deal with the realities of systems that may not allow the best man to be placed in certain positions. The Department did not think that the inclusion of minority groups in the Bill would be discriminatory in itself. The proposal for such inclusion was aimed at promoting transformation in the labour market.
On whether the Bill was worth it or should be scrapped, it was pointed out that the DoL shared the same views with DIRCO on the need to have a Bill on foreign services. DoL believed it was an important and critical area of regulation that needed to be in place. However, there were areas in the Bill that could be improved upon.
The Department agreed with the comments made by Mr Mokgalapa. The notion of regional hubs was not to supplant. Instead, it was aimed at having a coherent approach to policy informed by all role players in the arena with the aim of ensuring consistency across the country’s interest action around policy. This would lead to an approach in the foreign policy that does not contradict other foreign policy interventions. It was for this reason that the Department was proposing a coordinating function.
On the number of departments that should form the advisory committee, Mr Seafield said that the number should be informed by the issues and dictates of specific foreign missions. A one-size-fits-all approach should not be used in relation to the composition of the committee. The composition of the advisory committee should be informed by issues that are tabled for discussion, as well as the foreign policy responses to such issues. Depending on the issues to be discussed, DIRCO and other relevant departments would be part of the proposed committee. The proposed committee would stand as an institution that deals regularly with responses relating to foreign policy.
On the issues raised in relation to ensuring that foreign service personnel were well-rounded, he said that it was an important requirement for foreign service personnel to be well-rounded. However, this did not mean that all foreign service personnel possessed the intricate details or knowledge of all areas of foreign policy. Nonetheless, the responsibilities of different government departments should not be relegated in the sphere of foreign policy and international relations.
Mr Lekota emphasised that it was important for departments to talk to each other. However, it cannot be overemphasised that South Africa’s foreign policy was carried out by the internal arrangement of DIRCO. Therefore, DIRCO cannot act as though it was not aware of the prescriptions made in the law.
He clarified that DIRCO would not prescribe who the DoL should deploy on missions. DoL was expected to identify people within the department that are well rounded; prepare such persons and then place them on missions. DIRCO would only manage such persons after they have been deployed to countries outside South Africa, and would ensure that the attachés report on a regular basis and do not contravene the laws of South Africa.
Mr Seafield said DoL did not see any tension in relation to the current status quo. There was no tension in terms of how the current status quo infringed on the rights of foreign service personnel when posted abroad and are receiving pacts or benefits, which are then reduced when such attachés return to South Africa. This was because the benefits that accrue on missions were conditioned on the work to be done abroad, which changes by nature when such attachés return to base. The Department was however, concerned that no specified pact/benefit has been provided for the movement or transfer from one position to the other. The Department agreed that people cannot remain in the same position for their entire work span. However, this issue would be looked into for better and more effective ways of dealing with it.
With regard to the department playing a dual role, it was pointed out that the submission on how the Department engaged was made purely as an illustration of how DoL viewed the current regulation. The different set of criteria used by ambassadors did not meet the requirement alluded to. Mr Seafield cited the example of a dispute in Ireland where foreign workers were treated differently to what the law required and DoL was expected to engage, advice, and provide clarity on the creation of a distinction between relating with local and seconded officials in this regard.
The Acting Chairperson sought clarity on whether labour attachés are first sent to the diplomatic academy before being sent to Geneva on missions. He opined that it would be unthinkable for attachés to be sent abroad without being trained as diplomats.
Mr Seafield said that the attachés are not necessarily sent to diplomatic academy.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) sought clarity on the location of the other three attachés of the department as the comments from the Department only talked about one attaché.
She also raised a concern on the proposal for an advisory committee, noting that it may duplicate issues that the Bill sought to reduce in order to achieve a single foreign service system. She sought clarity on what the implication of having an advisory committee to look into administrative and strategic issues of foreign service would be, and whether or not such committee would not result in a duplication of roles.
On the issue around the number of attachés, Mr Seafield said that the number given in the submission was an historical figure. It has been previously indicated that DoL had only one attaché in Geneva because of the ILO, but there were intentions to place more attachés in future.
The proposal given in relation to the advisory committee was quite simple. It was not a matter of duplicating structures. Rather, it was about ensuring that the persons saddled with responsibilities managed such positions effectively. Although none of the ambassadors may be experts on labour issues, the proposal for the advisory committee was to ensure that ambassadors engaged and managed their offices with an understanding of the issues that may inform the work of their mission. The advisory committee was not a proposal for an alternate structure to develop policy. Rather, it was aimed at ensuring that policies were developed on informed basis.
The Acting Chairperson noted that the Department had given a good account of itself. He observed that other countries had fully fledged ambassadors when they attend meetings of multilateral institutions like the ILO and world trade organisations (WTO). However, the Department only has attachés in Geneva. He therefore, wanted to know if the Department had plans to upgrade to the level of other countries by having ambassadors in these institutions, as ambassadors had more access to other places that attachés could not access. He wanted to know why DoL had no ambassador at the only single multilateral institution.
Mr Seafield said the issue would be taken into advisement.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) comments on Foreign Service Bill
The Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said he was standing in for the Acting DG who was currently overseas. He indicated that DAFF had prepared inputs on the FSB in a written form and these inputs were forwarded to the Portfolio Committee on International Relations in the previous week. The input would however, be presented by the acting DDG responsible for the branch where international relations was located in the Department. He noted that the inputs were made based on the notion that the Bill belonged to DIRCO, as well as the critical role that DIRCO had in terms of coordinating all foreign services for South Africa.
Ms Phindiwe Dingile, Chief Director: International Relations and Trade, DAFF, said that the Department was affected by the Bill, as it was represented in about 12 countries making the Bill applicable to the Department. DAFF had members in all BRICS countries; an official in Ethiopia; a secondment in the SADC office; an office within the United States of America (USA) embassy; four offices in the European Union (EU) region; an office in Geneva contributing to the WTO; an office in Brussels that looks into the regulation in terms of sanitary issues; as well as an attaché in the Asian region with an office in Japan.
The first area of concern DAFF identified in the Bill was that the FSB was silent on issues of budget and financing. This was a common concern for other departments like the DoL. DAFF proposed that the Bill should outline funding arrangements to provide for the establishment of a single foreign service for the Republic of South Africa for the administration and functioning of the foreign service; as well as to provide for supportive structures and accommodation. This proposal was made because of the existence of a potential for reprioritisation and opening up of new offices. If for instance, the Department identifies Asia and the Middle East as places with emerging markets that can provide opportunities that could be maximised; there would be a need to open additional offices in such regions. Putting pressure on individual departments to open offices may not be helpful, hence the proposal to have a single-housed financing system within DIRCO, as a centralised system would be better and more responsive to the needs of departments, as well as assist departments in maximising the benefits from identified opportunities.
DAFF also identified that the Bill spoke about the ambassador as one in charge of missions, without clarifying how attachés would report and account to their respective departments. It proposed that attachés should report to ambassadors as their immediate supervisors and then report to their respective departments on a quarterly basis.
On the provision that allows the DG of DIRCO to approve appointments and posting of officials, DAFF sought clarity on whether the DG of DIRCO could reject an official from a partner department. This buttressed the second proposal for requirements to be standardised and well known by other departments, as this would not necessarily grant all powers to the DG of DIRCO. This was because the DG of any other partner department may have influence based on the opportunities that have been identified by any such department in a certain region and such department would be able to take ownership of such identified opportunities. DAFF therefore, proposed that DIRCO, in collaboration with partner departments, should identify strengths of other countries’ relevance in terms of political, economic, level of technology and skills.
DAFF also noticed that the Bill was silent on movable assets. It therefore, proposed that the clarification of the budget implication for a single foreign service proposed by the Bill should also address the status of moveable assets. At the moment, the procurement of moveable properties required the transfer of all items to the ownership and management of DIRCO.
DAFF also highlighted section 5 of the Bill where the recall of members pending their enquiry was suggested. The Bill did not however, state that there would be conditions for reinstatement. It was recommended that the conditions of reinstatements should be spelt out.
Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) said the implications of the first and last proposal of DAFF would extend to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in terms of report. It was necessary to get clarity on who the accounting officer would be. Currently, the DHA and DIRCO disagreed on how moneys from visas were reported in the annual financial statement. It may become necessary to involve the Auditor General (AG), as there would be findings and the AG would not consider the internal arrangements of the department, but rather look into the legal prescripts in this regard. DAFF was asked to give suggestions on resolving this issue.
Ms Kalyan said the issue about the assets was a common trend in all submissions by various departments. She however, sought clarity on what would constitute a moveable asset that an attaché in DAFF could have in order to execute his or her duty.
She also wanted to know if DAFF would expect compensation for the transfer of such properties to the head of missions or whether the attaché should bring home such properties or pass it on to the next attaché. She needed clarification on the concept of a moveable asset in terms of individual positions.
On the issue of secondments of officials from other departments, Mr Mokgalapa clarified that the Committee was not in support of DIRCO issuing such secondments. Instead, the Committee was saying that the underlining functions of attachés sent by departments should be under the head of missions, which was the ambassador. The reporting would therefore, be directly made to the ambassador before such reports are submitted to the department. This was also linked to the proposal made by DAFF to spell out conditions of reinstatement. The challenge DAFF had was that it operated in a unique situation. If an attaché from DAFF commits a serious crime in a foreign country and the receiving state tags such person as non-grata, it means that such person cannot be reinstated to that country again and this might affect the credentials of such attaché in getting attached somewhere else. It was therefore, not the regular arrangement of having disciplinary hearings within a department, as the situation at hand had international implications. This could be the reason for the non-clarity of reinstatement conditions in the Bill, but it may be necessary to rework the affected provision in order to provide clarity in this regard.
He agreed with Ms Kalyan on the need for clarity around components of moveable assets for attachés. He however, noted that the most important stakeholder department in relation to assets was the Department of Public Works (DPW) due to issues of maintaining properties that are purchased or leased, as well as disposing of such properties.
He also noted that the responsibility of posting and appointing attachés remained in the Department. However, once such attaché is appointed, the mandate would be place don DIRCO to ensure the line function management.
Mr Lekota said the appointment of staff of a department remained sacrosanct and cannot be interfered with. However, it should be noted that a dual reporting mechanism existed and attachés would have to report to their departments on a quarterly basis whilst reporting to the head of missions in between such periods. It was for this reason that daily reports are lodged with the missions, not for DIRCO to deal with but to ensure appropriate reporting. Once a disciplinary matter arises, DIRCO would indicate such matter to the relevant department. Strictly speaking, an attaché of a department remains under the discipline of the department that deployed such attaché. This therefore, explained the recalling of such attachés home for the department to institute disciplinary hearings. Such disciplinary matters would be handled by the department involved and not DIRCO. DIRCO cannot take staff appointed by any department from them, as it believed that any such department would have carried out necessary procedures and investigations before appointing its staff.
On the issue of moveable assets, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) acquires properties either by lease or by purchase. It acquires accommodation for South Africa’s foreign missions. When any of the partner departments appoints an attaché, office spaces or any other accommodation required would be acquired for the sister departments to house persons relevant to the mission. This would help in accounting for what such persons are doing in that country. It was only the accredited mission that can do this. In order to maintain the mission, a relationship is initiated with DPW. In essence, attachés from DAFF do not need to rent other properties when on a mission. There are no huge moveable properties involved, except for a few things like computers, printers and so on. As for machines and other equipment, arrangements could be made between DIRCO and the deploying department.
Ms Kenye also expressed concern about the omission of moveable properties from the Bill. She sought clarity on the categorisation of moveable assets, particularly because there was a register for such assets and also because the audit opinion would require clarification on such assets in order to ensure that such audit opinion was unqualified.
On the issue of recalling people that have been deployed abroad, Mr M Maila (ANC) said that there are instances where the recall may be as a result of the host country declaring a person to be a persona non-grata. In such instance, it would be impossible for DIRCO or the relevant department to intervene.
The Acting Chairperson said the Department would be responsible for dealing with issues relating to the incompetence of personnel in executing a given task.
He noted that DoL and DAFF had responded to the provision of Clause 3 (2) of the Bill. The said provision was the accurate position of things. It would be unthinkable for a person to be deployed to serve at an international organisation without having undergone training at the diplomatic academy. This was because, such deployed person would be going to such international organisation to represent the country and not the department from which the person has been deployed.
He emphasised the need for clarity on the issues raised by Mr Hlengwa, noting that budget issues resided in the departments. The head of any such department would be responsible for accounting to the AG. To transfer such responsibility to DIRCO would mean that a new mechanism had been put in place.
In responding to the issues raised, Ms Dingile said the proposal for a single foreign service was based on the current document and analysis of the content of the said document. The concerns raised around management formed the basis of the proposal from DAFF to have a central point where departments could account to.
On the issue of moveable assets, it was pointed out that there were a number of items that could be categorised as moveable assets. These include household furniture utilised by an attaché, office furniture, or vehicles.
In terms of the internal arrangement referred to by Mr Lekota, it was pointed out that a DG to DG agreement has been signed between DAFF and DIRCO to the effect that after the procurement of any asset, the asset would be transferred immediately to DIRCO for the latter’s management and disposal, thereby vesting full responsibility on DIRCO.
The Acting Chairperson appreciated DAFF for the work being done outside the country, particularly in relation to opening up the market for South Africa’s agricultural products. However, the Department still has to deal with an outstanding matter in Brussels in order to ensure the free movement of South African products into the country’s market.
National Department of Health (DoH)
Ms Nelly Malefetse, Director: International Health and Development, DoH, appreciated the opportunity given to the Department to share its interventions and inputs towards the FSB. A brief overview would be given on the approaches to international relations. Currently, DoH has four health attachés in missions such as Washington DC, Geneva, Cuba and Brussels. These health attachés held the portfolio of a Minister. This was because they provided specialised knowledge and skills to the missions.
The laws of international relations and DIRCO were very clear on the requirements for posting departmental officials to missions. The Department identified a need to have a health attaché in the USA, and this was informed by DoH’s foreign policy and understanding of the relationship with the USA. DIRCO identified the health sector as one of the critical sectors needed in its interaction with USA at the time. A health attaché has currently been placed in USA to assist the Minister in the coordination and participation of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In essence, although the Minister was sometimes away in South Africa, there was always a representative of the Minister who could assist in engaging with the counterparts of the departments.
The mission in Geneva was also critical as most of the multilateral organisations sat in Geneva, including the World Health Assembly. Having a health attaché in Geneva was identified as a critical need for DoH. This was discussed with DIRCO, following which the portfolio and competencies on areas of health issues were identified in different countries. After such competencies were identified, attachés were placed in such countries were such competencies have been identified.
In Cuba, there were problems with doctors and students, hence the high prioritisation of the area as one requiring interventions from the department.
DoH’s role was to promote health priorities as informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030.
It was reiterated that the posting of attachés to missions was informed by the Public Service Act, as well as the guidelines from the international relations framework. Attachés are not sent on missions without having passed through the diplomatic academy training. All health attachés are security-cleared and they report to the ambassador/head of mission. The performance agreements of individuals are signed by the DG and endorsed by the head of mission. In every mission, management meetings are held on Mondays and the health attachés attend such meetings to share the performance agreement and priorities. In other words, health attachés engage directly with the head of mission.
One of the recommendations of DoH in relation to the Bill was the need to ensure coordination, as well as ensure that the role of DIRCO was given back to DIRCO. This was because many departments assumed the role of DIRCO by thinking that they understood foreign laws, whereas they only understood international laws pertaining to their respective sectors. Engaging with DIRCO would result in getting straightforward answers to issues pertaining to international laws, since this was the mandate of DIRCO.
DoH supported the Bill because it would assist DIRCO and other departments in understanding their roles.
It was pointed out that the PFMA would apply to issues relating to transfer of money to DIRCO and other budget issues.
As for the FSB, it was further emphasised that coordination was necessary in order to resolve fragmentations and clarify misunderstandings around the mandates of departments.
DoH also supported the FSB because it would assist with the coordination and administration of services.
On the issue of recruitment and placement of employees within the missions, Mr Michael Matsape, ? DOH, pointed out that DoH’s view was that once a department has recommended a person for placement, such recommendation would be submitted to DIRCO. The process of vetting such individual as well as ensuring the attendance of necessary trainings would have been carried out before placements were made.
As for assets, DIRCO handled issues relating to office spaces for people placed on missions. DIRCO would also assist in sourcing accommodations for attachés locally, after which necessary information would be sent to the department concerning the compliance of such accommodation to the laid down requirements.
It was pointed out that the issue of assets, particularly in relation to vehicles, was raised at one of the international relations forum. Certain departments purchased vehicles for their employees on missions but it was discovered that some employees have failed to hand over those vehicles. However, DoH has clarified that vehicles would go to the missions and the missions would manage the vehicles, including the log books. Although this process has been in place, it was not regulated. However, this process has now been captured in the Bill.
Ms Malefetse stated that DoH supported and accepted all the clauses of the FSB 2015.
Ms Raphuti said that although government has prioritised education and health, the priority of education and health globally only has four kinds of departments with 126 missions. DoH could therefore, contribute to the issues of health in South Africa and globally. She wanted to know if DoH spoke to the NDP in relation to employment issues.
The Acting Chairperson urged members to focus on the Bill in asking clarity questions.
Mr Maila said focusing on the Bill could be very limiting as the DoH has accepted the Bill. He however, noted that the submission made by DoH showed that there was no confusion. The way the Department related to the missions was quite encouraging and other departments could take a cue from this.
He however, asked if DoH has not seen the need to have a health attaché in Africa, particularly in the African Union (AU).
He was also impressed that the health attachés undergo the necessary trainings before being deployed abroad. He wanted to know if it were possible to have health related programmes in the diplomatic academy, which could also benefit other deployees from departments.
On the development of a national global health strategy that would shape the global health agenda, Ms Kenye sought clarity on what would happen to countries without a Foreign Service Bill such as the one under discussion.
As for the attachés in Cuba, she wanted to know if DoH sent nurses for specialities in Cuba like it did for medical students, especially because the nurses were very good with communities.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) said according to the Bill, the employees of the Department temporarily cease to be employees of DoH after being deployed to missions as they are handed over to DIRCO whilst they are outside the country. For instance, the normal thing was for employees of DHA was that they would get their basic salaries from DHA and allowances from DIRCO. He wanted to know if the same procedure obtained in DoH. He also sought clarity on how DoH would reconcile the reporting from attachés only after they have returned to the country from the mission with the fact that such attachés have been transferred to DIRCO whilst on the missions.
Mr Mokgalapa commended the DoH for capturing the essence of what the Committee sought to achieve.
He sought clarity on whether DIRCO would recommend an office and accommodation for attachés outside the official accommodation of the mission, and if so, whether the Department would bear the cost for such office or accommodation.
Ms Kalyan sought clarity on the equivalent of an attaché in the DoH, which was different from the equivalent of an attaché in DAFF. This raised a concern of consistency in the designation of attachés, as the implication of the equivalence of an attaché to a Minister would impact on not only privileges and benefits, but also in the execution of the attaché’s duty.
Ms Maleftse said the identification of placements of attachés depended on the information received by DIRCO. Wherever health issues were prominent and would benefit the Department, and where the representation of the Department has been approved, DIRCO would inform DoH. DoH on the other hand, has a direct communication with its multilateral agencies and this helped with identifying areas where the Department could benefit. Nevertheless, the Department aligned itself with the NDP in terms of the strategic priorities and also in terms of placements in countries with competencies.
On the placement of attachés in Africa, it was noted that DoH provided support to SADC. However, South Africa did not want to be seen as imposing itself on Africa, but the agenda 2063 was clear on the issues that the Department needed to relate to. A health attaché was deployed to support the SADC secretariat on health issues. However, after it was discovered that the secretariat was well-capacitated, the office of the health attaché was closed.
The proposal to include health related programmes in the diplomatic academy training programme was appreciated by the Department. The Department was currently in negotiation with DIRCO to include the global health strategy in the diplomatic academy. Having a course that talks about global health in the diplomatic training would be very helpful. Discussions were ongoing on this issue. The DG was discussing with University of Pretoria and DIRCO on the need to develop a module that talks about global health.
It was important to note that the Bill would still undergo different processes, hence the reason why the Department has not elaborated on many issues. However, if there was any issue to be clarified, it could be done via a DG to DG correspondence between the Department and DIRCO.
On the global health strategy, it was pointed out that the EU and USA have a clear health strategy in terms of official development assistance strategy, and where technical or financial assistance would be provided to developing countries. It was necessary to engage with DIRCO in order to get necessary advice on international matters.
The Minister would be informed about the concerns raised in relation to sending nurses to Cuba.
Doctors at primary level were very few and Cuban doctors specialised and were the best in primary health care.
It was clarified that attachés of the Department do not cease to be employees of DoH once deployed on missions. The Bill only provides for coordination between partner departments and DIRCO. DIRCO will not take over the mandate of DoH.
This also relates to the payments of allowances. Although the allowances would reflect as though they were paid by DIRCO, the Department actually pays those allowances. The allowances are budgeted, itemised and sent to National Treasury (NT). The approved budget is sent to DIRCO for administration and DIRCO sends DoH invoices. In other words, the department had a clear accounting system.
Mr Matsape said a memorandum of understanding has been signed by DoH and DIRCO on the administration and placement of officials in missions. Accommodation was usually two-fold, one relating to the office space in the mission which DIRCO would have acquired, and the other being the residential accommodation for the attachés, which is also handled by DIRCO. DIRCO secures these accommodations and reports to the Department to ensure full compliance with laid down requirements. The Department would then enter into an agreement, which would be linked to the term of deployment.
Ms Malefetse clarified that attachés posted on missions are equivalent to the level of chief directors in terms of the Public Service Act. However, when they (the attachés) are posted on missions where representatives from regions are present, they are given the portfolio of a Minister. This does not mean that such attachés are Ministers in the true sense of the post.
The Acting Chairperson appreciated the departments for their inputs.
The meeting was adjourned.
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