The Committee met to consider and adopt the Motion of Desirability of the Foreign Service Bill; the Report of the Stakeholders Consulted on the Foreign Service Bill, and the draft Committee Programme for the rest of the term.
Motion of Desirability of The Bill
DA Members expressed concern at adopting the motion of desirability given that the Department would still be giving a presentation the following day and that this might be in conflict with due parliamentary process. The Chairperson explained that the content of the Department’s presentation would not be new as it would be a report based on four reports: on the seminar with stakeholders, on the visit to Canada, on the meeting with former ambassadors, and on consultations with stakeholders such as other government departments. He said these would not affect the motion of desirability. The Committee then adopted the motion of desirability of the bill.
Draft Committee Program for the remainder of the term
It was made clear to the Committee that at the end of the parliamentary term, if the Committee’s work was not completed by then, it would remain behind to complete it. The proposed visit to Namibia would be provisionally kept on the programme, as this visit was important in the context of clause 8. The program, with amendments was adopted.
Draft Summary of Public Hearings and Submissions
The Committee’s Content Advisor spoke to the public participation processes around the bill and the generic issues that had emerged from public hearings, consultations and submissions. The generic issues that were raised were:
- The question of a single foreign service system
- Encroachment into the mandates of other departments
- Professionalising the service and having career diplomats not political appointees
- That passing an examination be made a prerequisite
- The management of assets held abroad
- That the disposal of immovable assets be subject to the State Land Disposal Act
- That there be citizen and security checks
- That fit and proper persons be appointed at all levels
- That officials be given Diplomatic Academy training before entering service
- The complementary role of other training insititutions
- Labour and bargaining issues
- Officers seconded to international organisations
- Officers posted by SoEs
The report was adopted.
There was then a discussion on the need for the presence of the Minister when legislative bills were being presented to the Committee. Members expressed near unanimous agreement that the Minister had to be present as this was the first comprehensive bill of the Department since 1994 and there were a number of different key issues surrounding the bill. The Committee agreed to postpone the following day’s meeting with the Department until the Minister was present.
Motion of Desirability
Ms S Kalyan (DA) said her understanding of rule 286 was that the Committee looked at further public comments and only then deliberate. Only when the Committee was about to start with clause by clause deliberations was the motion of desirability adopted. Would the following day’s meeting with the Department be in keeping with the rules of procedure? If the Department was to be making any comment, they could not do so after the motion of desirability was adopted.
Mr Lubabalo Sigwela, Committee Secretary, said that rule 286 said that if the motion of desirability was adopted the Committee must deliberate on the details of the legislation. At this stage the Committee was best placed, according to rule 286, to adopt the motion of desirability taking into account the submissions that had been received.
Dr H Mkhize (ANC) said it was appropriate to adopt the motion, as no one was opposing the bill. One could still add or subtract from the bill.
Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) said it was a question of following due parliamentary process and recommended that a check be made with Parliament based on rule 286.
Ms Kalyan said she had no objection to the motion, but queried it because a meeting was scheduled for the following day where information would be provided by the Department and she suggested that the motion be held in abeyance until all submissions had been given by the Department.
The Chairperson said that the Department would present four reports related to the bill at the meeting the following day: on the seminar with stakeholders, on the visit to Canada, on the meeting with former ambassadors, and on consultations with stakeholders such as other government departments. He said these would not affect the motion of desirability.
Ms Anthea Gordon, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said the motion was basically to ask if the Committee was in agreement with the concept of the bill after, which deliberations would go into the detail of the bill.
Ms Dineo Mosala, Committee Content Adviser, said members could still change things in the clause by clause deliberations.
Ms Kalyan said she still felt that all information should first be heard before passing the motion.
The Committee adopted the motion of desirability of the bill.
Draft Committee Programme for the remainder of the term
The Chairperson said because of the mini plenaries that were held, the Committee’s programme had to be adjusted. The bill should be completed by June 13. The Chief Whip and Mr Frolick, the Chairperson of Committees, had said that committees would remain behind, at the end of the parliamentary term, until the Committee’s work was completed. He would leave the proposed site visit to Namibia on the Committee’s program as this visit was important in the context of clause 8.
The programme, with amendments was adopted.
Draft Summary of Public Hearings and Submissions
Ms Mosala spoke to the public participation processes around the bill and the generic issues that had emerged from public hearings, consultations and submissions. She listed the range of stakeholders that had made written and oral submissions and the media in which advertisements had been placed. She moved on a summary of the key issues emerging from the various public participation processes.
- That there be a single foreign service where all international relations work could be done under one roof
- That there was conflict with the Labour Relations Act
- That there was duplication of powers between departments on conditions of service
- That the foreign service be non-partisan, professional, and career orientated
Clause 1 on Definitions
- That the definition of an ‘employee’ needed to be broadened to include Locally Recruited Personnel (LRP) and Special Advisors
- That the definitions should include that of an ‘immovable asset’ and ‘GIAMA’ (Government Immovable Assets Management)
Clause 2 on ‘Foreign Service’
- That there was a need to cover officers posted by SoEs or those seconded to international organisations
- That members of the service should have to undergo exams and that competencies should be tested
- That clause 2(1)(b) was ambiguous; that ‘honorary consuls‘ had been excluded; and that ‘Special Envoys” be included
- That the term consular services might be misunderstood
Clause 3 on Requirements for Members of the Foreign Service
- That permanent residents and dual citizenship should also qualify for foreign service
- That the rules and guidelines governing LRPs should be spelt out
- That Clause 3(1) suggested that anyone outside government may not be part of the service
- That Clause 3(2) should stipulate the minimum and maximum periods for tours of duty
- That members of the foreign service should declare all their interests in a National Foreign Service Interest Register
Clause 4 on the Head of Mission
- That political appointees at Head of Mission (HOM) level be reconsidered
- That clause 4(2) was too restrictive
- That Parliament approve HOMs
- That the bill was silent on what the criteria and requirements for the appointment of HOMs were
Clause 5 on the Recall of a Member of the Foreign Service
- That a recall be in line with SA labour legislation
- That there was concern by partner departments over the Department’s ability to unilaterally recall officials falling under other departments
Clause 6 on the Diplomatic Academy
- That there be a Board of Advisors to oversee and assist the academy
- That the bill encroached onto sections 5 and 7 of the NQF Act
Clause 7 on the Establishment of Coordination and Other Mechanisms
- That the imposition of guidelines by the Minister acting alone might be inconsistent with section 41(1)(g) of the Constitution
- That the coordinating mechanism include other national departments, provincial administrations and municipal authorities
Clause 8 on Assets
- That the remit on Clause 8(1)(a) was too wide
- That clauses be included that the Minister conduct regular audits of assets and that assets be reported in an Asset Register
- That the wording gave the impression that the Department’s control of the foreign property portfolio fell outside of GIAMA
Clause 9 on Policies, Codes and Directives
- That the Department seek input from affected departments when drawing up codes and directives affecting the working conditions of the service
Clause 11 on Offences
- That the section was too broad
- That the term ‘any person’ included employees of the Department, apart from members of the service
Clause 12 on regulations
- That the Minister consult affected ministers before regulations were promulgated
- That the language used was particularly broad
The report was adopted.
The Chairperson reminded the Department that the Minister had to be present when legislative bills were being presented to the Committee.
An official of the Department said that the Minister would be absent, but that the Deputy Minister would be present.
Ms Kalyan said that the bill was introduced to Parliament by the Minister not the Deputy Minister. The Minister needed to be present when the bill was being presented to the Committee.
Dr Mkhize said that this was the first comprehensive bill of the Department since 1994. There were a number of different key issues surrounding the bill like for example the issue of the cooperation of departments and she hoped that the Minister would be present.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) agreed with the previous speaker and said that the Minister needed to be present.
Mr Mokgalapa agreed with these inputs and said that the bill dealt with high level politics, like the appointment and recalling of ambassadors, and needed the presence of the Minister.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) was concerned that if the Committee waited for the Minister to be available then it would not complete its work for the term.
Mr M Maila (ANC) agreed with the sentiments of his colleagues and said that the meeting the following day should not take place since the Minister would be absent.
The Committee agreed to postpone the following day’s meeting until the Minister was present.
The meeting was adjourned.
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