The Committee met to discuss several reports on the Foreign Service Bill. The Chairperson suggested that members go home with the reports including the submissions by individuals and institutions. This was to give members the opportunity to engage thoroughly with the reports which will be consolidated in the next meeting.
The Committee instructed the support staff to summarise the submissions to save time especially since there is not enough time to deal with the Bill before its submission to the National Assembly.
The Chairperson welcomed members of the Committee to the meeting. The welcome was also extended to the Deputy Minister of the Department. The Chairperson announced that next week there would be a debate on Vote 6 of the Department of International Relations. Members can allocate speakers from their parties.
Speaking on the draft programme for the Foreign Service Bill till 6 June 2018, the Chairperson reminded members of the instruction from the Chair of committees that by 25 May 2018, this bill must be in the National Assembly for the debate. It turned out that the 25th of May is the last day for the plenaries regarding budgets of different Departments, but the date has since been extended. There are three Committees that have Bills since 2015 and the Department of International Relations is one of them. It is therefore important that the Committee finishes the Bill. The Committee also made a written report to the Chief Whip as well as to the Chair of Committees about the possibility of being able to do this work.
Apologies were received from Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) who is in Senegal on political party business, Ms S Kaylan (DA) who is attending the Pan African Session and Ms C Dudley (ACDP) who is attending the PC on Health meeting.
The Chairperson read out the agenda and tabled it for consideration.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) moved the motion for the adoption of the agenda. The motion was seconded by another member of the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the motion of desirability of the bill has to be voted, agreed and adopted by the Committee next week. The Committee has to vote and agree that the Foreign Service Bill is in fact desirable in terms of Rule 286. It is necessary that this is done so that the Committee can work on the Bill totally.
On the consideration of comments made by stakeholders’ in respect of the Bill, he suggested an approach to make the meeting short. Since the Committee has received the documents, they can go and read these documents in their own time. The Committee had looked at the report of the seminar on the Foreign Service Bill and adopted it but felt that there has been a long-time lapse since then. This is because the Committee went to Pretoria to consult all the stakeholders and so needed to bring the report back. There has also been a long-time lapse since the Committee looked at the report on the study tour in Canada and it also needed to bring the report back. The Committee has been consulting stakeholders particularly the Departments. This report must be referred to the Department to note the concerns, views, objections and recommendations raised by the stakeholders particularly stakeholders within government.
Draft report of the Public Seminar on the Foreign Service Bill
The Chairperson said that the report of the seminar on the Foreign Service Bill dated 3 May 2017 has been tabled before the Committee for reading. He asked why it is still draft, if it has been adopted. Does it mean the report is being re-tabled before the Members?
Ms Lineo Mosala, Content Advisor, responded that it is still a draft.
The Chairperson then said that next week, the Committee would decide to make a wholesale adoption of the pieces of the report on the bill including the report from study tour to Canada, the stakeholders, and the written submissions.
Ms Mosala explained that the stakeholder’s report for consideration would include all the activities that the Committee undertook starting from the public hearing of the bill till the submissions by individuals and submissions from departments. It will be called a stakeholder’s report. Once the Committee has agreed on the content, the report would be sent to the Department for response.
This report had been tabled before, it is mainly here today to refresh the memories of the members before they start dealing with the stakeholder report. It will assist the members to understand to the background.
Committee report on the Study Tour to Canada
The Chairperson reminded members that the report has been re-tabled before the Committee. Just as the Content Advisor said, it will assist to understand the report when it will eventually be discussed as a whole. He advised that they concentrate more on the lessons they learnt especially the best Canadian practices on their own foreign legislation.
Submission from Individuals
Submission from individuals was also re-tabled in the same manner.
Mr Lubabalo Sigwela, Committee Secretary, said that prior to the seminar that was held in January last year; the Committee had taken out newspaper adverts and received a few submissions. Some submissions were received after the closing date. All were supposed to be read and referred before making the final report.
The Chairperson noted that the report of the stakeholders from the seminar was summarised, which made it easy to read. But the submissions from different individuals and institutions on the bill had not been summarised as to who says what.
Mr Sigwela said members are seeing the submissions for the first time. The submissions will form part of the report that will be tabled by the Content Advisor next week. It was tabled today for members to familiarise themselves with the submissions, but it will form part of the next week’s report.
Ms Mosala said the submissions came as they were.
Ms Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, said she had volunteered to come to the meeting to gain more insight and information. She agreed with the Chairperson and suggested to summarise all the documents and attach the copies for details, to save time.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) added that a huge document had also been received from elsewhere. Hence, it would be better if these documents are summarised together in one document.
The Chairperson emphasised that there was nothing wrong with bringing the individual submissions in their raw state, but someone must take the burden of summarising the submissions and bound the submissions as one document.
Ms Raphuti suggested that it would have been better if the Secretary could have said when the documents were received and also to acknowledge the people because some of them had done an excellent job. The information was very critical. Raw as they were, members still had to engage with them. For proper communication, accountability and governance, Members needed the dates of the receipts of the submissions. The Committee accepts the documents, but some lessons had to be drawn.
The Chairperson then suggested that the Secretary write a one pager stating the number of submissions, the dates of the receipt of the submissions, areas of recommendations and from whom. It is the responsibility of Members, to read the individual submissions thoroughly especially for the clause by clause engagement. The summary does not take away the responsibility.
The Content Advisor explained that the report for next week would have an introduction which would capture the reason and the objective of the Department proposing the Bill. The second part would be the stakeholders consulted, which would have all 28 names and dates of the meeting. All details of submissions would be noted in the report. There would also be a section which shows members present in the sessions. It would be a very detailed report. Then there would be a matrix form denoting who commented on which clause. There would also be an empty block which has the heading called ‘Department’s response’. The Department is going to respond clause by clause, and that entire report would then be sent further to the next stage after deliberation by members. Each submission will be summarised.
Mr M Lekota (COPE) suggested that the submissions be summarised to enable the Committee to make its decision fast. Submissions with similar recommendations should be put together. The recommendations will be given to the Minister and Department for their response.
Ms Anthea Gordon, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said the role of the legal services would be to assist the Committee and to facilitate the process. If there are any amendments in the clause by clause discussion, the legal team would take care of it.
Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation said her intention was to attend the meeting and answer questions related to the Department. She came to apologise that she may not be able to stay for the whole duration of the meeting because it is cabinet day. She will make sure to attend meetings, though the present meeting does not need her presence. The Deputy Minister will see the matter to a closure.
The Chairperson appreciated the Minister’s attendance. He reminded the Minister that the programme deals with the Bill. The Chair of Committees has also instructed Committees who have outstanding bills to work diligently on it because the term of the Parliament is drawing to a close.
The Minister then explained the Cabinet process in relation to the Bill – the Bill is submitted through the subcommittees of cabinet and then submitted to Cabinet. The Bill is then sent out for public comment and later referred to Parliament.
Mr Sigwela stated that next week 16 May 2018, the Committee is scheduled to present the motion of desirability on the Foreign Service Bill and also consider and adopt reports by stakeholders consulted on the Bill. On the same day, the Committee would also receive a response from DIRCO on the recommendations of the stakeholders; this item might need to be shifted because it might too much for the members. On 23rd May to the 1st of June, the Committee would be looking at clause by clause discussion of the Foreign Service Bill and on 6 June would be the consideration and adoption of the Bill.
The Chairperson reiterated the programme and agenda of the next meeting to the members.
The Content Advisor asked for a 10 min break to consult with the Chairperson. It was granted.
Mr M Maila (ANC) said that when the Committee discusses the bill clause by clause, it should factor in the responses of the Department. The Department should therefore get its responses ready.
Ms Kenye asked for clarity on the dates.
The Chairperson responded that 25th of May is the date imposed by the Chair of Committees for Bills to be discussed in the National Assembly. But, the Programming Committee chaired by the Speaker looked at the processes and amended the dates as it is the end of plenaries in Parliament. Committee with Bills must discuss the Bill and make sure that when Parliament reconvenes the Bill is tabled. Committees must also draw up their programmes.
The Chairperson stated that he had written to the Chair of Committees on this issue.
The Content Advisor said that the detailed examination of the bill would need more time, so 16 May 2018 would be given to do that. They can move the responses by the Department to 23 May, which would give enough time for them to respond.
On 16 May the Committee would be considering its own stakeholders’ report. On 21 May the Committee would now consider another report from stakeholders but this time with responses from the Department. The Committee would now have its own take on the matter and on 24 May the Committee would have a look at the consolidated report.
The Chairperson and Members agreed to the scheduled changes.
The meeting was adjourned.
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