Committee Report on Contract Extension of Parliament Budget Office Director

Standing Committee on Appropriations

24 May 2018
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC), Mr C De Beer (ANC, Northern Cape) and Mr Y Carrim (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Standing and Select Committees on Finance and Appropriations met to consider and adopt the Report of the Contract Extension of Parliamentary Budget Office Director. Members were taken through processes surrounding this action. The proposal was that the contract of the Director be extended for three months after the 2019 general election to allow for continuity as Parliament

Members proposed that the Committee deal expeditiously with the agenda of today but also look at the principle that governed appointment of the Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). There is a need to ask questions as to whether this was an institutional or political office. Clarification of these questions would then explain the manner in which the Committee should approach the appointment.

The DA made it clear it did not support the report or proposal made to extend the contract of the director. It was stated that the PBO, under the directorship of Prof Mohammed Jahed, had been demoralised and broken. It was asserted that Prof Jahed was not objective and independent seemed to be biased towards the opposition as he consistently refused to do work for Members of the opposition. There were other serious allegations against the name of Prof Jahed that he lied under oath in a Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) hearing. This was not the person to be appointed without any consideration and cross-examination.

Other Members rejected these assertions as it was not fair to cast aspersions against someone who was not present to defend himself. It was however accepted that this was not the ideal process to be followed but the report could reflect this. It was said the Committees had applied their minds on the appointment of Prof Jahed and there was no need to cross-examine someone who had been performing very well. There is nothing that prevented the new Committee, after elections next year, to cross-examine the Director of the Office. The Director of the Office had been incredibly good and competent and could only act within prescripts of the Board.

The Committee adopted the report with amendments approving the re-appointment of Prof Jahed as the Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office, until three months after the 2019 national and provincial general elections. Members of the opposition walked out as the report was being adopted.

Meeting report

Adoption of the Report of Contract Extension of Parliamentary Budget Office Director
Mr L Gaehler (UDM, Eastern Cape) wanted to know Members were not provided with the draft report prior to today’s meeting.

The Committee Secretary responded that there was an instruction from the Chairperson that Members of the Select Committee on Appropriations should not be provided with the draft report.

Chairperson Y Carrim (ANC) said that it was a bit unfair for the Chairperson of Select Committee on Appropriations as he was extremely busy with appropriations and someone else should have taken the responsibility to provide Members with the draft report. It was unclear as to why Members of the Select Committee on Appropriations did not get the draft report but someone should apologise to Members. All Members of the Standing Committee on Finance received the draft report so it was unclear as to why the same procedure was not followed with other Members.

Chairperson Y Phosa (ANC) explained that the Standing Committees on Finance and Appropriations, together with the Select Committees, are mandated to process and recommend to both House of Parliament a person with requisite experience, qualifications and leadership skills to manage the Parliamentary Budget Office to execute its function. The Committee would allow the Parliamentary Legal Advisor to outline the process to be followed by the Committee.

Adv Frank Jenkins, Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor; indicated that the Act makes provision for the appointment of a Director based on recommendation of the Committee. There is a parliamentary notice that must be issued to notify the public on the process to be followed by the Committee so as to ensure there is transparency in place. It must be highlighted that this is an appointment procedure for another term.

Chairperson Phosa wanted to know the procedure to be followed from now on.

Adv Jenkins responded that there would be deliberation by the Committee and then adoption of the draft report. The report would go to the Houses for the purposes of adoption which then, by resolution, constitutes appointment of the Director should both Houses agree to the report.

Chairperson De Beer (ANC, Northern Cape) explained that there was consultation with Prof Mohammed Jahed and there was also a Board meeting. The proposal on the table is that his contract be extended up to three months after the 2019 elections. Prof Jahed indicated that he was available to assist for the period of three months after the elections. There would also be a smooth process to start a new process after the elections to fill that vacancy.

Chairperson Carrim said that ideally, the Committee should be appointing a new person after every five years but there was realisation that the term of most Members was coming to an end and most of Members would not be in the same Committees after the 2019 national elections. This is like a Municipal Manager being appointed on the eve of his/her five-year term. The Committee was not making a decision on behalf of the new Members that are coming in after the 2019 elections. There is an understanding that not everyone was entirely happy with the process that was being followed.

Mr N Nhleko (ANC) proposed that the Committee deal expeditiously with the agenda of today but also look at the principle that governed such appointment. There is a need to ask questions as to whether this was an institutional office or political office - these are some of the questions that needed to be clarified. The clarifications of these questions would then explain the manner in which the Committees should approach the appointment. The Committee might want to come back to this issue and this did not mean it should be discussed here now but later on.

Mr D Maynier (DA) indicated that it was incumbent on the Committee to reach a conclusion on whether Prof Jahed was suitable for the position. The main concern is that Prof Jahed is not present in order to conduct cross-examination. There are major allegations against Prof Jahed and they are untested, yet the Committee is supposed to adopt a report that says the individual is an ideal candidate for the position. It was unclear as to how the Committee could come to the conclusion that Prof Jahed is an ideal candidate without any evidence of interviewing the candidate and conducting cross-examination.  There was indication of a Board meeting that took place with Prof Jahed - the important question is when this meeting took place. The Committee should be provided with minutes of that meeting. The DA did not support the report or the proposal that was being made. It would be interesting to know whether the Board did apply its mind on the candidate.

Mr Maynier added that the state of Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) under Prof Jahed had been demoralised and broken. Prof Jahed is supposed to be independent, objective and professional. Experience showed that the incumbent was not objective and independent but seemed to be biased towards the opposition as he consistently refused to do work for Members of the opposition which is provided for in the Act. It would be interesting to know if the Board considered allegations against Prof Jahed especially serious allegations that he lied under oath in the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) hearing. This was not the person to be appointed without any consideration and cross-examination. The Committee should allow the appointment of Prof Jahed to lapse and then appoint a person to act on his behalf so as to appoint a person who is competent and committed to build the Parliamentary Budget Office. There are excellent youngsters in the Parliamentary Budget Office who were demoralised and broken because of the failure of leadership of Prof Jahed.

Chairperson De Beer explained that the PBO is established in terms of Section 15 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act. Section 51.1 is clear that the Director of the Office is supposed to provide independent, objective and professional advice and analysis to Parliament not just related to the budget and other money bills. The Office is part of the institution of Parliament and not a political office.

Chairperson Carrim said there was agreement that this was not an ideal process to be followed but the Committee should be aware that if the contract of Prof Jahed is not extended now then Parliament would not have a Director by 3 June 2018. The Committee could reflect in the report that this was not the ideal process to be followed. The Committees had applied their minds on the appointment of Prof Jahed. There was no need to cross-examine someone who had been performing very well. The Standing Committee on Finance expressed concerns about the behaviour of Mr Maynier towards the Board and Prof Jahed. There is nothing that prevented the new Committee, after elections next year, to cross-examine the Director of the Office. There is nothing wrong in inserting in the report that there should be cross-examination between the Board and the Director. The Director of the Office had been incredibly good and competent and could only act within prescripts of the Board. It was unfair for Mr Maynier to make unfair and serious allegations against a person who was not even present. When the person is being criticised while he is no present, he had a right to be heard. The CCMA case against Prof Jahed was defeated long ago and it was now coming to closure. In terms of performance, Prof Jahed had been very good. Everyone should know there is no demoralisation in the Office and Prof Jahed had created a space for young people to emerge. One of the subtext issues in the CCMA case is that Prof Jahed wanted to encourage people of colour to take over. 
           
Ms T Tobias (ANC) said that it was unfortunate to get reports that the Office under Prof Jahed was incompetent despite playing a crucial role in the Office. It was highly unfortunate for people to bring in some issues against Prof Jahed that had never been discussed before. The Committee believed in the principle of people being heard and given a fair chance to respond to allegations. The allegations should not go unresponded to by the individual concerned. It was unacceptable for people to make unfounded allegations. Prof Jahed is a man of integrity - allegations against him should be tested and people should be held accountable. The Committee was supposed to discuss the principle of the extension of the contract of Prof Jahed and not other irrelevant issues.
  
Mr T Motlashuping (ANC, North West) indicated that the purpose of the meeting today was to discuss the principle on the extension of contract for Prof Jahed and not to discuss whether the individual was fit for the position or not. The Committee was saying there should be continuity in the Office as continuity is good governance and nothing else. He suggested that the Committee should accept extension of the contract of Prof Jahed. There was no co-governance as the majority view should lead the direction.

Ms S Shope-Sithole (ANC) stated that she was satisfied by the work of the Director of the Office as he had been very helpful on number of issues especially appropriations. The Committee should grant the extension of contract.

Adv Jenkins responded that the issue at hand was about continuity and setting precedent connected to continuity. The Committee cannot ignore the context in which this was happening and Prof Jahed had been in this position for almost five years. Any issue related to competency of Prof Jahed should have been raised in accordance with subsection 8 of section 50. The CCMA matter has been closed and it was problematic for Parliament to start reopening this issue. There is nothing that stopped Parliament from discussing this issue.

Mr Maynier asked to be provided with minutes of the meeting that took place with Prof Jahed.

Chairperson Phosa promised that the minutes of the meeting would be forwarded to the Member including who was present in the meeting.

Ms Tobias wanted to know what impact the minutes would have on what was being discussed here.

Chairperson Phosa said perhaps it would be fair to forward the minutes to all Members. The minutes are not being considered in relation to the agenda of the meeting today but merely to comply with a request.

Mr F Essack (DA, Mpumalanga) mentioned that he had not seen the report that being discussed. It could have been emailed to everyone instead of rubberstamping it when not all Members had seen it.

Chairperson Phosa suggested Members go through the report carefully in order to accommodate those that had not seen the report.

The Report of Contract Extension of Parliamentary Budget Office Director was adopted with amendments.

Some Members of the opposition walked out of the meeting as the report was being adopted.

Chairperson De Beer read out that the Committee approved re-appointment of Prof Jahed as the Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office for three months after the 2019 national and provincial general elections. The re-appointment of the Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office is subject to an agreement that the conditions of service (including salary and allowance) would remain substantially the same as those of the top rank of the public service as per subsection 15(5)(b) of the Act, as agreed with Prof Jahed.
           
The meeting was adjourned.


 

Share this page: