The Ad Hoc Committee on Funding of Political Parties met briefly to approve the programme for processing the Political Party Funding Bill. The programme included two half-days for oral submissions on the Bill. The intention was to have a final meeting on 27 June 2018 to adopt the Bill, but Members indicated that the timeframes were too tight, and the process would probably require more time. It was agreed to tentatively schedule at least one meeting for the first week after the upcoming recess.
The Unit Head of Parliamentary Committees made a brief presentation on procedures to be followed when processing a Section 75 Bill. Rule 207 provided procedures for processing the Bill. When the Committee considered the Bill, it had to ensure that processes were open to the public and the public was given an opportunity to give input. The Committee could also invite anyone to present on the Bill. When the Committee was deciding on any amendments, it had to consult the Joint Tagging Management to ensure that the proposed amendments aligned with the classification of the Bill, and with constitutionality and procedural requirements. The Committee could accept the Bill, reject it or accept the Bill with amendments.
The Parliamentary Legal Advisor provided a brief background to the Political Party Funding Bill. Currently public funding of political parties represented in national and provincial legislatures was provided through the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act 103 of 1997. The National Assembly had decided that an ad hoc Committee should look into an amendment of the Act.
Members enquired about the difference between the report and the memorandum that had to accompany a Bill to the House. What were the implications if the NCOP adopted the Bill with amendments? Questions of clarity about the Bill dealt with the meaning of sponsorship and services rendered. Who determined the funding formula for the Bill, and if the formula was not there, who would be responsible for determining the formula?
The Chairperson welcomed Members and noted that everyone’s programme was very full, so he would start the meeting without delay to be finished before other meetings began. There were only five short items on the agenda.
Presentation of the draft Committee Programme
The draft Committee had been distributed. The Chairperson requested the Committee Secretary, Estelle Grunewald, to present the programme. Members would need to review the programme and make amendments, if necessary, so that the Committee could adopt the programme.
Ms Grunewald told the meeting that the advertisement calling for submissions had been prepared and signed off. The advertisements would appear from Sunday, 27 May 2018 up until Friday 1 June 2018. The advertisements would appear in national newspapers on the Sunday and in regional newspapers for the rest of the week. Members of the public could indicate if they wished to make an oral submission. One submission had already been received in response to the advertisement on the parliamentary website. The closing date for submissions was 8 June 2018. The submissions would be collated and circulated immediately thereafter.
The next meeting Committee meeting would be held in two weeks’ time. National Treasury and the Independent Electoral Commission would brief the Committee on the Bill. Public hearings had been scheduled for two half days on 19 and 20 June 2018 and the week thereafter, on 27 June 2018, the Committee would meet for deliberations.
The Chairperson thanked the Secretary and asked for responses from the Committee.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA; Western Cape) noted that the date for closing of written submissions was 8 June 2018 and that some of the people who had submitted written inputs would come to the public hearings. She noted that the last hearing was on 20 June 2018 which gave Members seven days, including the weekend, to work through the submissions. She asked whether the Committee could hold one meeting in the first week after the recess to finalise the process.
Ms T Motara (ANC; Gauteng) agreed with Ms Labuschagne in principle but suggested that the programme be kept as it was because much depended on the submissions. Some might be easy, some might be difficult. The Committee could get into the detail of follow-up meetings after receiving submissions. She suggested scheduling a tentative meeting after 27 June 2018.
The Chairperson agreed that Ms Labuschagne had offered a good suggestion and Ms Motara had suggesting following the programme until Members had an idea of the magnitude of work and then adding days, if necessary. He asked for any further input.
Mr M Monakedi (ANC; Limpopo) asked if the Committee was expecting a lot of interest in the matter as he saw that two days had been allocated for public hearings.
The Secretary explained that it was, in fact, only two half days. She added that the National Assembly had also spent two half days on public hearings when Members there were dealing with the Bill.
Mr Monakedi moved for adoption of the programme with the proposals made by Ms Labuschagne. Mr M Gaehler (UDM) (Eastern Cape) seconded the proposal.
The next item was a presentation on procedures.
Presentation on procedures for processing a section 75 Bill
Dr Mangana Tau, Unit Manager, Parliamentary Committees, made a brief presentation on procedures to be followed when processing a Section 75 Bill. He understood that Members might be aware of the procedure, but he needed to formalise the Committee’s understanding of the Bill as that was a procedural requirement in the National Council of Provinces.
Rule 207 provided procedures for processing the Bill. When the Committee considered the Bill, it had to ensure that processes were open to the public and the public was given an opportunity to give input. The Committee could also invite anyone to present on the Bill. When the Committee was deciding on any amendments, it had to consult Joint Tagging Management to ensure that the proposed amendments aligned with the classification of the Bill, and with constitutional and procedural requirements. The Committee could accept the Bill, reject it or accept the Bill with amendments.
The Committee needed to add a supporting memorandum to explain the objective.
Mr T Motlashuping (ANC; North West) asked about purpose of the memorandum. He was out of order, but a report had to be detailed and even indicate any proposed amendments. It had to give information about issues raised regarding the Bill. Legal services would add further details.
Dr Tau added that when the Committee decided on the Bill, the majority of permanent members had to be present. If there was an equal number of votes for and against, the Chairperson had to cast the deciding vote.
The Chairperson requested that Members allow both presentations and then ask questions of clarity.
Presentation on the Political Party Funding Bill
Mr Michael Prince, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, provided a brief background to the Political Party Funding Bill. Currently public funding of political parties represented in national and provincial legislatures was provided through the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act 103 of 1997. The National Assembly had decided that an ad hoc Committee should look into an amendment of the Act.
Mr Prince provided the Members with a brief outline of the contents of each chapter in the Bill and the two Schedules attached to the Bill.
The Chairperson asked if there were any clarity-seeking questions.
Mr Motlashuping said that he had asked about the memorandum because his understanding was that a report had to record everything that happened in the Committee. What was the difference between the memorandum and the report? A majority decision was needed to vote on the Bill. Did that apply to approving proposed amendments? He asked what the implications were for the Committee if it made any amendments to the Bill in the light of the fact that the Bill had already been approved by the National Assembly.
Mr Tau stated that the memorandum explained what the Bill would attempt to achieve if it were passed. When the Bill went to the House, the Bill and the memorandum would be tabled. The report recorded exactly what had transpired. If the Committee adopted the Bill as it stood, it was tabled in the House and did not even need a new memorandum. If there were amendments there would be two versions in the report, the proposed and the adopted amendments. The new version of the Bill had to be tabled in the Committee.
What was the implication of when a Bill was adopted with amendments? If the House approved an amendment, it would go back to the National Assembly. If National Assembly agreed with the amendments, the Bill would go to the President for signing. If the National Assembly chose to amend the Bill, it had to go back to the NCOP because the two Houses needed to agree. The proposals had to be noted in the report. If there was not total support of the report, the views of each party were captured in a way that revealed the views expressed, any differing views and any reservations.
Ms Labuschagne asked a clarity question on the Bill. She had noted a reference to a formula in clause 6(2), which she read out. Who determined that formula and if the formula was not there, who would be responsible for determining the formula? A definition of donations had been included but it did not include a definition of sponsorship and services rendered. What did the two terms mean? Was there an amount that sponsorship and services could not exceed?
Mr Motlashuping had thought that the agenda did not address any engagement with the Bill and that the time would be afforded for the Committee to make solid proposals regarding the Bill, but Ms Labuschagne was already engaging with the Bill.
Mr Prince informed Ms Engelbrecht that the formula had been determined and amended in the Regulations in Schedule 2 and the equitable share had been amended in Regulation 4. The issue of donations in kind, which was services rendered, was qualified by the word “personally” to suggest, for example, a party worker who donated his or her own time. Sponsorships had the same meaning as in every day use. The quantity was addressed in clause 9 of the Bill which dealt with disclosures of all donations above a prescribed threshold.
Consideration of Minutes
The Chairperson asked the Committee to consider the draft Minutes of 16 May 2018. The minutes had been sent to the Chairperson who had, unfortunately, assumed that the Secretary had sent them to Members, so he ruled that the Members would go through the minutes together. The Committee Secretary gave an overview of the minutes.
Mr Motlashuping moved for the adoption of the minutes as a true reflection of the meeting of 16 May 2018. Ms Labuschagne seconded the adoption of the minutes. The Committee approved the adoption of the minutes.
The meeting was adjourned.