The nature and status of the Property Management and Trading Entity (PMTE) and its relationship with the Department of Public Works(DPW) was the main subject of discussion when the Committee met to discuss its Draft Report of the 2018/19 Budget Vote Report of the Department and its entities. Members posed a number of questions and asked for clarification on various aspects of this relationship and what it implied for the Budget Vote. The matter of time was also raised because Members implored for more time to consider documents, presentations and other information provided by the Department and entities – receiving this vast information on the day of the briefing was unfair. It was agreed that documents must be provided to the Committee seven days prior to a briefing. Following inputs provided to by Members today, the final Budget Vote Report would be adopted by the Committee at its next meeting.
The Committee was not pleased to learn that the Department did not stick to its pledge to provide the Committee with written responses it endeavoured to provide at its last engagement with the Committee. Strongly worded communication expressing the displeasure of Members would be sent to the Department.
The meeting also heard that a total of 48 Bills were still awaiting adoption by Parliament and the DPW’s Expropriations Bill of 2015 was top of that list - all the more so now that expropriation of land without compensation had become the political/legislative hot button issue. Finalising the Bill was therefore of the utmost urgency, the Committee was told.
The Chairperson thanked Members for attending despite travel disruptions of the recent two public holidays. Today’s meeting was part of the Committee’s oversight and assistive role in the process of finalising the Department of Public Works (DPW) Budget Vote for the 2018/19 financial year. In terms of this process, the budgets of specific national departments were discussed in the Committees which oversee those departments. Once a Committee finalised its work, it submitted a report on its findings to the relevant House of Parliament. In terms of oversight of government departments, Committees could hold departments accountable by comparing budget plans approved y Parliament against what the department had actually done. The process would culminate in the DPW’s Budget Vote debate at a mini-plenary in the National Assembly around mid-May.
Today the Committee would be considering a rough document prepared by the Committee’s Content Advisor, Mr Shuaib Denyssen and the Committee Researcher, Ms Inez Stephney.
Members were invited to go through the report in fine detail and make comments, queries, or propose corrections. Based on these inputs, a final document would emerge which would be the Committee’s official position on the DPW’s Budget Vote proposals.
The Chairperson indicated that at a recent meeting of the National Assembly’s management echelon, he learned that 48 parliamentary Bills were still outstanding and some of these went back to 2013. The Expropriations Bill of 2015, which falls under the ambit of DPW, was at the top of the pile. The Bill was also a sensitive matter in light of a recent motion by Parliament to revisit the Constitution regarding expropriation without compensation. It was therefore a “must” that the Bill, together with the other 48, was passed before the end of the current term. Failure to do so would mean failure at the very core of being a parliamentarian – the making of law.
Apologies were noted from Ms D Mathebe (ANC), Ms L Mjobo ANC) and Dr Q Madlopha (ANC).
Adoption of Committee Minutes dated 17 April 2018
Committee Minutes dated 17 April 2018 were adopted without amendment.
Adoption of Committee Minutes dated 24 April 2018
Members suggested minor amendments to replace certain terms in the minutes.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) asked the Chairperson to confirm whether the written answers to Members’ questions, as promised by the DPW and its entities at the last Committee meeting (under “resolutions” in the Minutes), had been received.
The Chairperson was not aware and asked the Committee Assistant to find out and report back before the end of the meeting.
Draft Committee Report on the 2018/19 Budget Vote of the Department of Public Works and entities
Mr D Ryder (DA) directed the Committee’s attention to the previous meeting at which all the DPW entities, as well as the Department itself, presented Annual Performance Plans (APPs). A total of 138 pages of slides were distributed to each Member of the Committee on the day. It was unrealistic to expect one to engage with that amount of information in one sitting. He proposed that a better system be designed to allow Members enough time to read and interrogate briefing documents and other forms of information presented before the Committee.
The Chairperson replied that the matter of time was explained at the last meeting. He was personally of the opinion that the more information one got the better. Other times it was often heard that briefings were thin on information. He conceded that Mr Ryder however had a point.
Members moved that the DPW be instructed that documents in future should be sent seven working days before a briefing.
The Chairperson told the Committee Secretary to record the instruction.
Led by Mr Denyssen, the Committee considered its Draft Report section by section.
Mr M Filtane (UDF), referring to the Property Management and Trading Entity (PMTE) and its relationship to DPW, asked for clarity as to how this relationship is structured. Who is ultimately responsible for the PMTE? Who is it accountable to?
Mr Denyssen responded that the PMTE emerged from a context where national departments were struggling to keep an effective balance between making policy and implementing it. It was realised that time and energy spent on policy formulation came increasingly at the expense of implementation. The solution was to set up implementing entities governed by boards. However what the DPW had learnt from this experiment was that it was far better to have an implementing agency governed from within the Department. Hence the PMTE had no board and operated as if it were one of the programme areas of the DPW.
Ms Stephney, Committee Researcher, added that a section within the Report itself, in which the role of National Treasury regulations vis-a-vis the DPW was dealt with, further clarified Mr Filtane’s concerns by stating that the PMTE is a “government component” and further that it “implements on behalf” of the DPW.
She suggested that perhaps a footnote on this could help the reader who is in need of more clarification.
Mr Filtane made the further suggestion that a sentence to the effect that “the DPW is still accountable for the PMTE” or something similar, be inserted into the relevant paragraph on the matter.
Ms M Masehela (ANC) asked if the PMTE is different from other DPW entities. If so, why is it listed as one of one of the entities?
Mr Filtane asked why the PMTE is sometimes portrayed as being equal to the DPW and sometimes not.
Mr Denyssen replied that since the PMTE had no board, it was not, in a strict sense, part of National Treasury-scheduled “entities” of the DPW like the Independent Development Trust, Council for the Built Environment and others governed by boards “outside” the DPW. Also, as a key strategic implementing arm of the DPW through the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), the PMTE could not be reduced to a minor player on the DPW stage.
In a bid to clear any more confusion on this matter Ms Stephney made the further suggestion that when dealing specifically with the PMTE Budget Vote, the Report should explicitly indicate in brackets that the PMTE is “a government component within the DPW”. She emphasised that the PMTE was never created to be a separate DPW entity and could best be seen as being another programme of the Department. The back-story behind the creation of the PMTE would be included in the final Report.
Mr Filtane observed that refining of the Draft Report would significantly require a lot of input from the DPW and its entities. For this reason he again urged that the DPW be made to do good on its promise to respond to questions asked by Members at its last meeting with the Committee. Some areas in need of these responses included measurement of the role of Agrement SA in ameliorating global warming and climate change, the real statistical impact of the Extended Public Works Programme on unemployment and extent to which poor economic policies determined unequal spatial development in the country.
Mr Denyssen made a proposal which he urged should be incorporated into the final Report - several Content Advisor in Parliament noticed that when presenting in front of Committees, departmental officials were increasingly presenting budget figures which were at odds (sometimes by quite significant margins compared with those quoted by National Treasury). His proposal was that an official from Treasury always be present during such presentations to make sure that figures from both ends are in agreement.
Dr M Figg (DA) asked for clarification around the budget allocation figures tabled in the Report as some of them did not make sense.
Mr Denyssen asked Members to pay particular attention to a number of matters highlighted in the Report under “matters noted”. These were matters which came up repeatedly in the past financial years and to which there seemed to be no end in sight. He urged that Members zoom in on these and offer concrete suggestions on how to address such matters.
Mr Ryder suggested that other persistent “failures” deserving of inclusion in the Report be the poor state of government buildings, abandoned buildings and those which somehow were not captured in the PMTE’s Immovable Asset Register.
Mr Denyssen noted Mr Ryder’s comments and said a way would be found to include his concerns in the final Report.
Mr F Adams (ANC) echoed Mr Ryder’s comments and stated the DPW should pay attention to service level agreements made with user departments. All departments had maintenance budgets but these were spent on other areas in expectation that the DPW would pick up the tab. When buildings started deteriorating, everyone then turned around and blamed the DPW. He urged the matter be included in the report.
The Chairperson informed Members that the DPW failed to submit the written responses as pledged at the last meeting of the Committee. He however had given instructions that the responses, in whatever form, be handed over.
Mr Adams was much displeased at this and urged that the Committee send a strong message of protest to the DPW. The Department showed disrespect to the Committee by breaking its publicly-made pledge.
The Chairperson agreed and said these sentiments would be communicated.
The Draft Report, with all inputs, would be further refined at the next management committee meeting in two days time. It was his hope that the next gathering of the Committee would then produce the final Report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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