The meeting was cancelled and postponed until further notice after a deliberation on whether the Committee would allow the senior officials to account on behalf of the Ministers. Members felt that the meeting could not take place irrespective of the fact that Ministers had delegated their Director Generals to brief the Committee on their behalf. Members argued that should the officials be allowed to brief the Committee on executive undertakings, a bad precedent would be set.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone. He explained that even though the Committee was waiting for the Minister of Health and Minister of Human Settlements to brief the Committee on their Executive Undertakings, they would not be coming.
Before proceedings, he asked Members, delegates from the Departments of Health and Human Settlements as well as others who were present to observe a moment of silence for prayer or meditation.
He officially acknowledged apologies from the Ministers of Health and Human Settlements.
Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) asked when the Ministers informed the Committee that they would be absent and what were the reasons. He remarked that it seemed that Ministers and Deputy Ministers were always busy.
The Chairperson responded that they had submitted apologies in writing.
Mr Michalakis said that the absence of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers was a matter of serious concern.
The Chairperson reminded members that the previous meeting was postponed because Ministers were also not present in the meeting.
Mr Michalakis reiterated that their absence in the previous and the present meeting was very problematic. The previous meeting was postponed because of the same reason of attending a cabinet meeting. This implied that Ministers would never come to account to the Committee and should it allow the meeting to proceed, the Committee would be setting a bad precedent. The meeting concerned the executive undertakings and no other person could account on their behalf.
The Chairperson explained that the Minister of Human Settlements tendered her apology on the basis of being on sick leave.
Mr Michalakis said that he had met with the Minister on Saturday and she appeared to be in good health.
The Chairperson noted that the Minister of Health tendered his apologies on the basis that he would be attending a meeting in Polokwane and that his Deputy Minister would be attending the cabinet meeting. The Minister had delegated senior officials to give a brief progress report to the Committee.
Mr Michalakis appreciated the fact that senior officials were delegated but remarked that they were not the ones to account to the Committee.
Mr S Mthimunye (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that the rules of parliament should apply. Drawing on the rules, he noted that the Minister had power to delegate someone to account to the Committee.
Mr Mthethwa said that the meeting should continue.
Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State) agreed. He remarked that the meeting should proceed provided that it was placed on record that the Minister was not present but delegated senior officials to account. The Committee could not afford to postpone a meeting twice.
Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Director General, Department of Human Settlements, advised the Committee that he spoke to the Minister on Monday. She wanted to attend the meeting. She made it clear that she would come. However, on Tuesday, she could not attend the cabinet meeting because she was on sick leave. The Deputy Minister was on family responsibility leave. The senior team was sent to account to the Committee.
Mr Mohapi said that it was true that senior officials could not account to the Committee. It was only executive that could account to the Committee. However, he wanted to reiterate that the Minister could delegate someone and this was supported by Mr Mthethwa.
The Chairperson requested non-members to excuse the meeting so as to allow Members to deliberate on the question whether on whether the meeting should proceed.
When non-members were called back in the chamber, Mr Mthethwa informed the delegations about the decision of the Committee. He said that, owing to the absence of Ministers and their deputies, the Committee would like to express its disappointment in the executives’ failure to appear before the Committee. Due to their absence, the meeting would not continue on the simple reason that Director-Generals were not executives that accounted to the Committee in so far as executive undertakings were concerned. It was the duty of each and every minister to account to Parliament. This message should be conveyed to executives. It should be emphasised that the Committee had undertaken to reschedule the meeting as soon as the Ministers and their Deputies were available to attend and to reschedule all future meetings where these accounting officers would not be available to attend.
Meeting was adjourned
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