The Committee met with the Board of the South African Weather Service (SAWS) to deal with a number of matters which have been raised over the past which and has been of concern to the Committee regarding operations of the Board. This was mainly in relation to allegations levelled against the Board, matters involving employees, how the Board is operating, the performance and effectiveness of the Board, interface between the Board and SAWS senior management, appointment of certain individuals and salary disparities.
The Board presented on interface between itself and senior management in terms of legislative prescripts, defined reporting lines between the Board, CEO and executive team in line with approved organisational structures, the Delegation of Authority policy and performance of the Board since its inception in terms of the Shareholder Compact with the Minister and responsibilities of the Board.
The Committee was deeply concerned by the superficial nature of the presentation. The Committee in fact took this as an insult as these were facts already well known to Members and lay people. Members expected that the presentation would address specific issues the Committee wanted to probe regarding the interface between the Board and management and an evaluation of the Board’s performance. This included critical decisions taken by the Board during their meetings, crucial issues grappled with and key milestones – the request of the Committee in this regard was clear. The Committee was concerned by the attitude displayed by the Board where the perception was created that the Committee did not have the right to be asking such questions of the Board since it is not responsible for appointing the Board. The Committee was also surprised to find out that the Board took the Committee’s request for this information to the Minister for approval. Members did not understand what the Board’s presentation to the Committee involved the Minister. Members were also alarmed to learn that the Board did not meet on the presentation delivered to the Committee today when it was important to have a report which all Board members could own.
The Committee made it clear it would not be undermined and disrespected by the SAWS Board and took strong exception to condescending comments of certain Board members which displayed contempt of Parliament and its Committees. It was clear the presentation today was compiled in such a way as to deliberately frustrate the Committee –this was effectively giving the Committee the middle finger. The Board has complied to come physically to Parliament but only to give the Committee nothing and inform Members on things which are already known and they do not need a lecture on. As public representatives, the Committee had the right to question any public entity which received money from Parliament. The Minister would have to be engaged on what has transpired today.
The Committee agreed that the Board will return to the Committee with a report of the performance of the Board since its inception to date. An account needs to be given of decisions the Board has taken since it was appointed, from the time it was appointed up to today, per financial year. The Board had yearly, semesterly or quarterly meetings. In those meetings, major decisions were taken. The Committee would like a summary of decisions taken at those meetings, highlights of major issues which the Board has had to confront ever since it was appointed, what the Board’s response to the matters have been, highlights of the Board’s performance, the most contentious issues the Board has ever had to deal with, how the Board has dealt with them, what informs the approach of the board in dealing with those issues, interface between the Board and management, what characterises that interface and the notion that there is excessive interference in the administration of the organisation by the Board members. The Committee will not be shaken in its resolve to confront the ‘monster of arrogance’ in this Board. Comments of the Committee have to be taken seriously A discussion has to be had with the Board members. If the Board appears to be holding back information, then it is inviting trouble. This is the last time that the Committee is giving the Board an opportunity to account for the issues which have been raised in the meeting.
Chairperson Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted several apologies, namely, from Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson and Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Director-General. There were also apologies from Prof. Elizabeth Mokotong, SA Weather Service (SAWS) Board member, Ms. Sally Mudly-Padayachie, SAWS Board member and Adv. Derick Block, SAWS Board member.
The Chairperson noted a matter that involves the employee against whom there were some allegations that the Committee dealt with in the past and there were some outstanding documents that the Committee needed from the Board. The Committee’s discussion with the Minister is that that matter will be discussed in camera when the meeting reaches that specific aspect of the report, which was a psychometric test. In other words, that matter would be discussed in a closed Committee meeting because of the confidential nature of that report and the fact that there had to be some consent from the said employee in order for those records to be released. Unless there is an objection from the Committee Members, there is no problem with this arrangement.
The Chairperson indicated the Committee agreed to have a discussion with the SAWS Board to look at a number of matters regarding how the Board is operating, how the Board interfaces with management and general effectiveness of the Board. There are two matters outstanding from the last meeting. When the Board last appeared before the Committee, Members were unhappy about the absence of Board members – this was something for the Board to address as the Committee did not take kindly to the absence and apologies which were received very late.
This is an unusual and extraordinary meeting for the Committee to decide the entire SAWS Board be present. The last time this was done was when the Committee probed issues regarding early termination of the contract of the SAWS CEO. This interaction is very crucial for the Committee because of some observations made over a period of time.
Briefing by the SAWS Board
Ms Ntsoaki Mngomezulu, SAWS Board chairperson, apologised for her non-attendance at the previous engagement between SAWS and the Committee due to undergoing a medical procedure.
By way of introduction, Ms Mngomezulu gave a breakdown of the content of the briefing which would cover the Interface between Board and Senior Management; Performance of the Board; the SAWS Salary Structure and Adjustments; and Psychometric Test Results of Ms J Mphafudi.
Regarding interface between the SAWS board and senior management, the Board, as an accounting authority and controlling body, continues to play its oversight role over implementation of strategies by the CEO, the executive team and staff of SAWS, in line with the provisions of section 49 of the Public Finance Management Act. Section 17 (1) of the South African Weather Service Act, 2001, as amended, appoints the CEO of SAWS as the Accounting Officer in spite of the provisions of Section 36 of the PFMA, as amended. A Performance Agreement is signed with the CEO on annual basis for each financial year. Section 29 of the SAWS Act provides that the Board may make rules which are not in conflict with the SAWS Act or regulations for proper management of the Weather Service and its interests.
Furthermore, in compliance with Section 6 (f) and (i) of the SAWS Act, the Board must continue to monitor performance of the Weather Service and make adjustments to conditions of service of the personnel with due regard to the applicable labour legislation and approve a business plan for the Weather Service annually for the next three years and submit it to the Minister for final approval. The Board, through its committees, continues to enable SAWS to operate effectively and efficiently through consideration and approval of policies submitted by senior management. In line with the provisions of section 6 (d) of the SAWS Act, the Board continues to facilitate succession and give guidance in appointment of senior managers.
There are clearly defined reporting lines between the Board, CEO and the executive team which are in line with the approved organisational structure of SAWS. The Delegation of Authority (DOA) Policy is utilised by the Board and senior management as a means by which the Board defines the limits of authority designated to specified positions within the SAWS and establish thresholds on the types and amounts of transactions that may be approved by staff and/or formally established governance structures. Oversight activities of the Board and its committees are regulated by charters for the (i) Board, (ii) strategic programmes committee, (iii) human resource and remuneration committee and (iv) audit and risk committee.
Concerning the performance of the Board since its inception, the Board was appointed for a three year term which ends in August 2018. The Shareholder Compact concluded between the Minister and the Board outlines responsibilities of the Board. Responsibilities of the Board and its committees are outlined in the Charters and Annual Work Plans. Annually, strategies approved by the Board and key performance deliverables are audited by the Office of the Auditor-General. SAWS has not received a qualified audit from AG during the term of office of the Board. Bilateral meetings are held between the shareholder and the Board for discussion of pertinent matters. The Minister assesses formally in such quarterly meetings based on the Shareholder’s Compact. Based on the Shareholder Compact, the Minister makes formal assessments in Quarterly Meetings with the Board. The Board and its committees participate in Board and committee performance self-assessments. Finally, the Board and its committees have, over the term period, achieved between 95% to 98% of its outputs as per the Work Plans.
The Chairperson asked whether this is all that the chairperson can present.
Ms Mngomezulu confirmed this.
The Chairperson asked whether Ms Mngomezulu could share the number of meetings the Board held or attendance per individual member of the Board in terms of performance.
Ms Mngomezulu responded that this would be included in the SAWS Annual Report which will be tabled in due course once approved.
The Chairperson said this was generally known. When Ms Mngomezulu speaks to the interface between the Board and senior management, the expectation was that specific issues would be raised regarding this interface. Similarly with the performance of the Board, an evaluation must be carried out of the Board’s performance. Bearing in mind that the Board’s term of office is coming to an end in August, the Committee wanted to have an evaluation of the Board’s performance. To this end, the evaluation of individual Board members has to be done, committees attended and general performance of the Board. There are policies that guide the Board in doing its work and there is a Compact signed with the Minister where the Minister evaluates the Board’s performance – these are facts already known to Members.
The Chairperson stressed the Committee wanted specifics about performance of the Board - this was absent from the presentation. The Committee expected information on performance of the Board since it was appointed and it took critical decisions. At each Board meeting, there are minutes produced with discussions and summaries of decisions taken – why was the Committee not furnished with these details? What are the critical decisions that the Board has undertaken? What are the key milestones of the Board? Where is the assessment of the Board’s performance? Is this too much to ask for? It is uncertain whether the Board is confident about the report it is giving the Committee. As a manager or leader, one starts with one’s performance in the institution – if the Committee asks for the performance of the Board it wants this assessment from the inception of the current Board to date. The expectation was for the Board to tabulate its performance per year. What are the key issues that were dealt with, the decisions that were made? What is the overall assessment of the performance of the institution?
Ms Mngomezulu responded that the way the Board understood it is that Annual Reports are tabled to the Committee. For the first two years, the Board thought that would suffice. The Board will be assessed in June. After the assessment is when the Board can give the Committee what it is requiring at the moment. Concerning management of meetings, the report is currently being compiled. It has not been tabled by the Board or published yet. Once approved, the board can present it to the Committee with substantive information. This was the Board’s understanding.
The Chairperson asked whether Ms Mngomezulu understood what it meant to present a report on the Board’s performance since its inception. Was the Board saying the Committee does not need to ask this question since it can just refer to the past reports?
Ms Mngomezulu responded that this is not what the Board is saying - when the Board received the invitation, the Board took it to the Minister, as shareholder, to agree with her as to answers to the Committee. The Board accepts the Minister as a Member of the Committee
The Chairperson said the Minister was not a Member of the Committee.
Ms Mngomezulu responded that the Minister is a shareholder.
The Chairperson replied that the Minister is part of the Executive. The Committee is part of Parliament and is constituted of the Chairperson and Members. There is a Minister, as part of the Executive, comes and reports to Parliament through the Committee on the activities of the DEA. She is not part of the Committee.
Ms Mngomezulu thanked the Chairperson for the correction. The Board, however, went to the shareholder to ask or agree on what the Board could present to the Committee. The Minister said she would write to the Committee as it was her role to answer to these questions as she is the one who is supposed to be assessing the Board as the shareholder. The Board is here to present what it could. If this is not satisfactory the Board can go back and prepare as the Chairperson is asking.
The Chairperson asked if the Board received the Committee’s request to present an account of the Board’s performance since its inception. The request was also to report on the interface between the Board and SAWS management. It has now come to light the Board took the request to the Minister. Was the Minister saying the Committee could not make such a request from the Board and that she would instead write to the Committee?
Ms Mngomezulu responded that, on the contrary, the Minister was not preventing the Board from presenting to the Committee. She was going to write to the Committee so that these matters are also addressed by her. Having said that, when the Committee called the Board, the Board went to its shareholder to say that the Board received an invitation. This would also allow the Board to present to the Minister what it intended to present to the Committee and she could make additions. The Board’s presentation was approved by DEA.
The Chairperson wanted to vent this matter because he thought the Minister was preventing the Board from giving the report to the Committee. So the Board informed the Minister it was going to present to the Committee and the Minister then approved the presentation?
Ms Mngomezulu agreed that the presentation is DEA-approved.
The Chairperson wanted to understand where the Minister comes in - is the Minister stopping the Board from accounting to the Committee on the Board’s performance or has the Minister approved the Board’s presentation? These are two different things. The Minister should not be dragged into the quality of the Board’s presentation – her role was only for approval. He was worried that the Minister informed the Board that it cannot account to the Committee as she is the one who is supposed to account. However, that matter is clarified. The role of the Minister was to approve the presentation while the board should be responsible for compiling the presentation.
Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) concurred with the Chairperson’s views as it relates to information provided by the Board today. At this level, no one expects such content given to Parliament in this fashion. Firstly, a presentation on the interface between the Board and senior management, in the spirit of public administration and the Constitution, needed to delve into the issues of how this interface operates, interaction that takes place and decisions taken by the Board on the basis of that interface. This interface is called the politics-administrative dichotomy. It shows exactly the relationship that exists between the doctrine and the phenomenon in relation to who takes decisions. In fact, there is a contradiction when it comes to the delegation of authority between the Board and management around matters concerning ‘the limits of authority designated to specified positions within the SAWS and to establish thresholds’ - these are operation matters. At which stage does the Board say unit manager number x can make a determination? It does not even exist there. When the Board goes to management, this involves operations - decision making and operations are two different aspects. The Minister approving a presentation of this nature leaves much to be desired. It is difficult to see how the Minister could agree that the Board should present something to the Committee that is already known to a lay person. This is a high-level discussion and decision-making which the Minister is unlikely to be party to. It is important to determine whether this is the Bard chairperson’s report or that of the structure. If it is the structure that has given the Committee this type of a report, this leaves a lot to be desired. However if it is the chairperson’s report, each of the Board members should account for what they were expected to do. This is really something that does not belong to all of us, including the Board as a whole.
The Chairperson took Dr Luyenge’s point to check with the other Board members on their take on this presentation – does the presentation represent the entire Board? Was there a meeting of the Board to approve this submission to Parliament today? Does the Committee really deserve this kind of reporting from the Board since every member of the Board is present, apart from the apologies? Is this really what the Board agreed it was going to tell Parliament, namely, that this is the Board’s performance since its appointment?
Mr Rowan Nicholls, SAWS board member, responded that the Board, over its three year term, has achieved a certain amount. The organisation has gone through some difficult times. The most important thing from the Board’s point of view, especially from a weather science perspective, is that factor of the collection of data. The Board has had a specific effort and focus related to radars, which are the main collection of data. SAWS has had a special programme related to that.
Dr Luyenge interjected that unfortunately the speaker has not responded to the question of the Chairperson - what is needed is an undertaking or declaration that the Board was part of or discussed the contents of today’s presentation. The speaker should not get into detail on other aspects that are not subject of the current discussion.
Mr Nicholls answered that there was no meeting to discuss the presentation before the Board came to the Committee.
The Chairperson highlighted that if the Board had a meeting, the Board would factor in what it is reporting as its successes. What Mr Nicholls is saying should have been in the report as key highlights of this Board. So there was no meeting as a Board to approve this report presented?
Mr David Lefutso, SAWS Board member, responded that when the Board was sent the agenda and Committee request by the Company Secretary, the Board did briefly discuss the matter. However, because the matters raised are unclear, the Board sought to request intervention of the DEA to assist with regards to how the Board should respond. In terms of the interface between the Board and SAWS senior management, in his 46 years of existence, there has never been an occasion where Parliament has asked about the Board and senior management interface as a matter of discussion. Guidance was needed.
Dr Luyenge interjected that Mr Lefutso has not answered the question posed to the Board. From the time he opened his mouth, he did not address what the Committee wanted. Was Mr Lefutso part and parcel of the adoption and confirmation of this as a report of the Board? Was there a meeting? For Mr Lefutso to say that he does understand why Parliament wants this or that is potentially and unfortunately undermining Parliament. The statement made to the Committee to that effect needs to, in fact, be withdrawn. This is how, in the past, bureaucrats treated politicians i.e. Committee Members. In the past there were those politicians who could not read but Members are not that lay this time around. The Board cannot undermine Parliament. If Mr Lefutso believes he knows much more than Parliament knows he should write a submission that the Parliament of South Africa has no capacity.
The Chairperson asked Mr Lefutso to withdraw his statements. Firstly Mr Lefutso has not been a Board member for all of his 46 years of existence - Mr Lefutso started his experience two to three years ago. It was undermining Parliament to say the Committee could not question what it was. It is being condescending to Parliament. The Committee takes strong exception to that. Mr Lefutso must withdraw his comments. Moreover, Mr Lefutso must tell the Committee whether he was part of the meeting which adopted this report and if he aligns himself or agrees with the content.
Mr Lefutso said he aligns himself with the contents of the report. He apologised to Parliament for his views that he indicated earlier and wished to withdraw those views.
The Chairperson asked which views.
Mr Lefutso responded that he is withdrawing his views regarding the interface between the Board and senior management. The contents of the presentation by the chairperson of the Board are backed and understood fully.
The Chairperson asked whether Mr Lefutso was part of the meeting which adopted this report.
Mr Lefutso answered that that presentation has not been presented to the Board. However, it is still backed fully in spite of its shortcomings.
Ms Nandipha Madiba, SAWS Board member, added that the Board did not have an opportunity to sit and discuss the presentation. It was shared via email for members to have knowledge of what is in the presentation. There had not been a meeting which the Board conducted to discuss the report. she asked that the Board be given time to reflect on what ought to be included in the report and then be given another opportunity to present the reworked report to the Committee, including inputs from today’s meeting and include everything the Committee requested. The challenge is timing. Some of the Board members were away and some came from different provinces. She asked if further time could be provided for the Board to work on a report that was of better quality and where all Board members can own up to the report.
The Chairperson remarked that it is clear that this is not a report of the Board. Maybe that is why it does not capture the essence of what the Committee is looking for. Perhaps it was drawn up by Mr Lefutso because he is the one who is firmly aligning himself with the Board chairperson. Or was the report drawn up by management? The Committee does not know who drafted the report. What is the way forward?
Ms Mngomezulu indicated that she recently had a medical operation. When the Committee invitation came, most of the Board members, as Ms Madiba indicated, were unavailable which meant that management came up with drafting of the report. Board members are correct in saying that the report was never discussed with the Board but the report was circulated among all Board members.
The Chairperson responded that the report was shared yesterday whilst the Board members were making their way to Parliament.
Ms Mngomezulu responded that the report was shared in April.
The Chairperson did not like murmurings among the Board as the meeting progressed – this was unacceptable as the Committee grappled with pertinent matters. If there was disagreement, Board members could raise their hands. This was the wrong attitude – it was ignored in the past but the murmurings had reoccurred today and it must be stopped.
Mr S Makhubele (ANC) commented that Parliament can, in most cases, ask information in whichever way. It can, among others, come in many formats with varying degrees of detail. Requests will never be the same. If this time around the Committee wanted information to suit a specific purpose, that is how the response of the Board should be. At this level, at times, the Committee may not need much detail because it expects a high-level presentation. Most Members understand the issues. It depends on what extent particular information is required. The Board should have appeared before the Committee on 20 April but the Committee felt the meeting could not go ahead because its purpose would not be achieved. In other words, a report of the Board was already supposed to be completed that far back. Whether other Board members were present or not, the Board was supposed to come and present a report at that point. It seems as if there was an extension of time whereby the Board expected to go back and return today. It is difficult to understand how the report could have been changed between then and now because, apparently, the Board was convinced this was the report to give the Committee. In fact, those were the aspects which the Board thought it need to clarify to this meeting. The impression should not be created that if the Committee had met with the board in April, the Committee would have received a different report but was now receiving a new report. This is unlikely. It is possible that the Board agreed on this report, together with the shareholder, to be presented. What the board presented was more of an induction of how the Board operates.
Mr Makhubele indicated that he missed a meeting between the Board and Committee where indeed the matters which necessitated this report were discussed. Getting this kind of report makes it difficult to even question the report because it is outlining the obvious. It is possible that in the meeting where Mr Makhubele was not present, there were areas of interest, tension and aspects which the Board was confronted with from the institution generally. Issues and challenges bedevilling the institution were supposed to be clarified and taken into the report. When it leaves, it is important for the Board to understand what it needs to cover. There are areas or issues that needed to be included in the report. As the current report stood, everything was normal within the institution – this would mean it was unnecessary for the Committee to call the Board to present before it. These interactions between the Committee and Board were necessitated by the Board’s interaction within the institution (personalities that are involved and some aspects that may not have been proper). The Board needs to know what the issues are which the Committee is interested in and for them to be covered so that the Board is clear on which areas to address – this is in reference to Committee suspicions or perceptions that things are not really well within the institution. That would have gone some way to making the report acceptable. The Board was not assisting the Committee today with the report presented. This scenario could have been avoided had the Board understood issues been clarified. Unfortunately the impression is that the Board and DEA seem to have agreed on the report. In most cases, where there is a particular inquiry or probe from the Committee, it is on the basis of certain issues which the Committee would like to find out, which must be covered in the reporting. If the Board is very economical in terms of how it reports, giving as little information as possible, the Committee has even more reason to doubt the Board because of the way it reports. Behind clauses which were highlighted in the report are the actual operations which cause problems in the institution – these are areas the Board needs to address. For the report to be acceptable to the Committee, it must clear on certain things and the sources of challenges. These are the challenges which gave rise to the Committee meeting with the Board today. Those are the issues which the Board must focus on and give the Committee a view of.
Mr T Hadebe (DA) added that this report was necessitated by certain allegations levelled against the entity. The Board should have had no doubts as to how the report should be compiled. There were some allegations levelled against the entity. It must be clear that the Committee did not want a general record of the performance of the entity. The Committee wanted specific issues to be addressed concerning, for example, appointment of certain individuals, salary disparities that exist in the entity, the RADAR network and land development. Therefore, there were specific issues which the Committee wanted clarity on. There were a number of matters raised and the Committee wanted clarity on. In terms of the interface between the Board and senior management, there were also allegations of interference of the Board in the management/administration of the entity. The Committee wanted to understand how the interface occurs in the entity. This would have given the Committee clarity as to what the problem is. There were specific questions posed to the Board and the Committee wanted the relevant responses, not just general responses which pertain to general running of the entity. The Chairperson of the Committee needs to remind the Board as to what those questions were and, based on that, the Board can give the Committee the proper responses.
Mr R Purdon (DA) added his weight behind the extreme disappointment. The Committee is not being taken seriously. The Board has had since the April meeting to prepare and consult. The Board members fly in at considerable expense. The Board has not even had a chance to meet on the report. There is no excuse. The meeting was at 09h30 so the Board could have met at 07h30. There is Skype, phone conferences etc. There is absolutely no excuse. The Committee has had a very disappointing ride with the SAWS board and allegations dealt with a while back. There were certain Board members’ names which came up in those allegations. There are many unanswered questions for the Committee. The behaviour of the Board is totally unacceptable.
The Chairperson continued that how the report was put together by the Board is obviously meant to frustrate the Committee. The Committee cannot obviously leave Parliament and go to the head office of SAWS to go and dig for information. Any information that comes to Parliament is information supplied by the Board. Even if the Committee does oversight, it can only go to the boardroom and ask for information. What the Board is doing is really frustrating Parliament. It does not want to give the Committee information. The Committee Whip, Mr Makhubele, was correct in pointing this was not the first interaction with the Board – the Committee had requested this information on 20 April. To say there was no time for the Board to meet is misleading Parliament because a meeting could have been held even to prepare for the submission of the report on 20 April. That meeting never took place. The report today does not even count as information and is only meant to frustrate the Committee. The SAWS Act was passed by Parliament. Therefore, the Committee knows what the responsibilities of the Board and CEO are. The Board need not lecture the Committee on this.
It is clear Committee does not have what it wants. The Board has complied to come physically to Parliament but only to give the Committee nothing and inform Members on things which are already known. This is not good and may well be a deliberate attempt at frustrating the Committee. Each time the Committee asks for something from the Board, it does not get it and the Committee has to probe and insist to get the information. When the Committee does not get all the information, it simply allows the process to proceed. Should there be another session? There needs to be a serious discussion within the Committee to look into the possibilities of a proper inquiry into the board. Clearly the Committee is being taken from pillar to post. It is not being respected. Mr Lefutso’s comments that in his 46 years has not received such questions from Parliament is indicative of the attitude of the Board. This was an attitude of utter contempt of Parliament and its Committees.
The Chairperson continued that perhaps the Board was trying to make it clear it was not appointed by Parliament but by the Minister and so accounted to the Minister, as per the SAWS Act. This was giving the Committee the middle finger and indicating that Parliament could not do anything to the Board. However, any public entity in SA receives money from Parliament and accounts to Parliament. Even if the board is not directly appointed by Parliament, it is still accountable to Parliament. If this attitude persists, something is clearly going to give between Parliament and the SAWS Board. It will not be the Members of Parliament. Committee Members were elected by South Africans as representatives in Parliament – Members have all the right to ask the questions they are asking. The Board must respond to all these questions. The Board can be guaranteed that it will respond to all these questions no matter what it takes. This attitude of ‘what type of questions are you asking?’ will not be accepted. The Committee will engage with the Minister because it does not help anyone for this attitude to continue to prevail. The Minister will have to act on this Board. As long as this Board exists, it will come to Parliament to give a full account of the work it is doing. The matter is straight forward. In between now and when the Board’s term of office lapses, or Board members are dismissed by the Minister, the Board will come back to Parliament. The Board will answer. The Board can agree to a meeting amongst itself. There are all kinds of technology that can be utilised for the Board to agree on a report. The Board could distribute the report, have a teleconference, discuss the report, request inputs and come to the Committee with something that all Board members can own up to.
The Committee is aware that Board members are not full- time members. Nevertheless, there are other means of taking decisions without all members being physically in one place. The Committee wants the performance of the Board since its inception to date. An account needs to be given of decisions the Board has taken since it was appointed, from the time it was appointed up to today, per financial year. The Board had yearly, semesterly or quarterly meetings. In those meetings, major decisions were taken. The Committee would like a summary of decisions taken at those meetings, highlights of major issues which the Board has had to confront ever since it was appointed, what the Board’s response to the matters have been, highlights of the Board’s performance, the most contentious issues the Board has ever had to deal with, how the Board has dealt with them, what informs the approach of the board in dealing with those issues, interface between the Board and management, what characterises that interface and the notion that there is excessive interference in the administration of the organisation by the Board members. This is what the Committee would like to know. Once more, the Board is not doing the Committee a favour in compiling this information and giving it to the Committee.
For as long as they hold public office, the Chairperson clarified, Board members will respond to the Committee, as the public representatives. If Board members do not want to, they should just tender their resignations and walk away. If this is what it takes to correct issues in SAWS, the Committee would like to have the Board before the Committee again. The Minister will also be communicated to and she can also give the Committee a separate report of her own independent assessment of the Board’s performance. The Committee would, however, like the Board to give its own account of its performance and the Committee will then make an assessment of that performance. It has all the right to do that. Nobody who occupies a position of power will stop a Committee of Parliament from probing the matters of state-owned institutions. The Board should not ask the Minister for approval to present a report. It should prepare its own report, give an account of the work it has done and the Minister will give her own independent assessment of the Board. The Committee retains that right to come to its own independent conclusion based on its own interactions with the Board. Unfortunately, the committee could not, once again, delve into the issues not because of Parliament, but because of the Board. No serious information has been given on the activities of the Board.
Ms Madiba, after highlighting that she took note of all matters that need to be included in the report, clarified that her comment on the email received yesterday was not meant to imply that the report had not been seen by other Board members. If the Committee can remember, Ms Madiba was abroad when the Board came to the Committee in April. The comment was not intended to mean that the Board members did not have sight of the report.
The Chairperson decided that remaining items on today’s agenda be postponed to the next scheduled meeting and for further discussion to be had when the Board returns before the Committee.
Mr Lefutso, by way of correction, clarified that, for the record, he is not the author of the presentation.
The Chairperson thought that Mr Lefutso would talk to his earlier comments which were arrogant in stating the Board’s expectation of what Parliament is supposed to do. If Mr Lefutso did not feel the need to address his comments, this could be symptomatic of the attitude prevalent in the Board. The Committee will not be shaken in its resolve to confront the ‘monster of arrogance’ in this Board.
Mr Makhubele asked whether the report on the psychometric tests distributed could be distributed to the public. Or should the documentation be returned until further discussions?
The Chairperson responded that the Committee does not have the actual copy of the report on psychometric tests that will be discussed in camera. It is with the board. It is not in the packages which were handed out. This report will be handed out ‘in chambers.’
Dr Luyenge commented that anything that is part of the package but is not a product of a collective meeting of the Board should not be considered. The Board must go back and respond to the issues as presented by the Committee.
The Chairperson explained that the actual report is not here. There is a qualified psychiatrist in the House and will present the report. At that point, the report will be shared with the Committee. Is the CEO alone or is there support staff and other officials from SAWS?
Mr Jerry Lengoasa, SAWS Chief Executive Officer (CEO), answered that support staff from Human Resources (HR) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) were not present today.
The Chairperson asked whether these support staff will assist in answering questions about salaries.
Mr Lengoasa confirmed that there were two questions which these support staff will assist in responding.
The Chairperson highlighted that one of the other ways to avoid a lot of expenditure is that when the Committee asks for the Board, only the CEO and Company Secretary should be present. It is understandable however in this case because there were issues around salary adjustment and psychometric tests which requires the CFO and HR official to be present. There should also be a qualified psychiatrist?
Mr Lengoasa clarified that there was a precondition which was set by the staff member for the release of the report. There was some confusion about the level of detail, since it is a detailed report, as to whether the Committee was interested mainly in the final paragraph which summarises the assessment or a detailed point by point assessment of that report. The staff member’s request was that if it is going to be a detailed presentation of the report, then it has to be presented by a professional and not lay people.
The Chairperson said the Committee is interested in the recommendations of the report which, based on discussions with the Minister, in fact is part of the post-appointment process. It is not something to be considered before appointment in the public service generally. It does appear to be something of a futile exercise that gets done to comply with public service regulations. The tests are used for personal development but it is not a precondition for appointment. Because the Committee has asked for it, it must have the report. It does appear that it is not that material in determining whether the person should be appointed. The Board will need to explain this formally when it meets with Committee again. Only a summary of the report is required. Who will give the report?”
Mr Lengoasa responded that HR will give the report.
The Chairperson reiterated that it is agreed that this discussion will be postponed for when the Committee next meets with the Board. The main discussion the Committee would like to have is with the Board. Even if other officials are present, they are not really going to help that much. For as long as the CEO is here, and other Board members, the Committee will be able to engage in discussion. DEA as a shareholder will have to be present.
Mr Lefutso highlighted that Ms Mphafudi made a request that the report should be presented by a health professional, namely, psychologist or a psychiatrist. The Committee needs to accede to her request.
The Chairperson responded that this in not Mr Lefutso’s meeting. It is not the intention of the Committee to deal with the entire report. The Committee is interested only in the recommendations which somebody from HR can present. The need for a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist does not arise.
The Chairperson reminded Mr Lefutso that he was very integral to allegations made by the whistleblower. It is worrying that Mr Lefutso is almost representing the said employee when he said the employee made a request which the Committee must accede to. The role that Mr Lefutso is playing in this particular matter is very worrying. It is better for Mr Lefutso to keep quiet and not be a shop steward of the said employee. In discussion with the Minister, the Minister did not understand why psychometric tests are done because it is not really of serious consequence in terms of the appointment. The Committee will nevertheless proceed. A view will formally need to be presented.
Appealing to the board, the Chairperson stressed that the reputation of the Board chairperson, as the driver, is on the line. Comments of the Committee have to be taken seriously A discussion has to be had with the Board members. If the Board appears to be holding back information, then it is inviting trouble. This is the last time that the Committee is giving the Board an opportunity to account for the issues which have been raised in the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
- SAWS: Adoption and Update on Strategic Programmes Committee Work plan For 2017/18
- SAWS: Board Workplan for 2017/18
- SAWS: Update on Audit & Risk Committee Workplan For 2017/18
- SAWS: Update on the HR & Remuneration Committee Workplan for 2017/18 Financial Year
- Shareholder Agreement Between Executive Authority (as Owner/Shareholder/Policy-maker/Regulator) Minister of Environmental Affairs
- SAWS Board Charter
- SAWS Terms of Reference: Human Resource and Remuneration Committee
- SAWS Charter Audit and Risk Committee
- SAWS Terms of Reference: Strategic Programmes Committee
- SAWS Delegation of Authority Board