The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was supposed to brief the Committee on its 2017/18 Annual Report. The Office of the Auditor-General was also invited to present on the Department and its entities audit outcomes.
Due to the absence of the Minister and the Director-General, the Committee decided not to proceed with the meeting. Members briefly discussed if apologies were submitted, when they were submitted and indicated that they could not proceed without the key people being present at the meeting.
The Committee would hear from the Department and the entities on the following day.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone and requested the Committee Secretary to read out the apologies.
The Committee Secretary read out the apologies.
The Chairperson then highlighted that in the normally apologies are not really discussed in the meeting but because this is such a crucial meeting to discuss the pertinent issues of the Department, they can not proceed if the key people are not available and only the Deputy Minister Skwatsha is present.
The Chairperson then opened the meeting to the members for input on a way forward before proceeding.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) expressed his clear view that the Committee is not in a position to seriously consider land issues if the DG and the Minister are not available. This was going to be the first Annual Reports presented by the Minister. The meeting needs the Minister to be available for the executive authority to take decisions, remembering that in Parliament a Bill has been passed authorizing the Auditor General to take remedial steps in assisting departments. The Minister and DG are not available at a time in South Africa where the land issue and land reform is lagging behind, and it is on this day that the two key people (Minister and DG) are not available. The records need to capture that the proposal is to postpone the meeting until the executive is available.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) sought clarity if the Minister and the Director General were aware of the meeting taking place today and asked the Secretary to confirm.
The Committee Secretary confirmed that both the Minister and the DG were aware and both sent apologies in writing.
Mr Nchabeleng asked the Chairperson to read the apologies and if the information is accurate then it is out of order for the Executive not to attend such a crucial meeting. “We need the two principals, both from administration and the executive to be available for such a crucial meeting”.
Mr Nchabeleng seconded Mr Filtane’s proposal to move the meeting for the next day. He further raised his displeasure on the lack of accountability to not honour such an important meeting.
The Chairperson asked the Secretary to read out the apology from the Minister.
The Secretary read out the apology. The Minister indicated that that she was in a Cabinet meeting in Pretoria and would be available later during the day. The apology was submitted on 5 October. The Secretary also read out the apology from Deputy Minister who was at the National Dispute Committee (Gauteng) and was therefore not able to be at the meeting.
Mr Nchabeleng suggested to the Chairperson that the apologies should have been read out at the beginning of the meeting from the onset rather than when the meeting is about to commence. The apologies were submitted in time and therefore the meeting could have been rescheduled.
The Chairperson then highlighted that the Secretary should have read out the reasons for the apologies.
Ms N Magadla (ANC) concurred fully with her colleagues and said taking into cogniscance the serious issue of land and the Auditor-General’s Report to be discussed at the meeting, she requested an apology and explanation from the Director-General’s Office. She then went on to propose that before a decision could be taken on the outcomes of the meeting the Portfolio Committee should meet on its own and allow the delegation to excuse the meeting as there are internal Portfolio Committee issues to be dealt with.
Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, sought clarity on why there was no apology letter from the DG’s office.
The Committee Secretary interjected to inform the meeting that the DG had submitted an apology for the meeting and read out the apology citing a prior commitment and the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
The Chairperson then opened the floor for input from members comment.
Mr Filtane was persuaded by Ms Magadla suggestion to meet as a Committee. There is a clear message that the administration and the executive do not take their parliamentary and responsibility duties seriously.
The Chairperson then indicated to the delegation that the Portfolio Committee will sit on its own and take a decision and requested all non MP’s to excuse the meeting.
A decision was then taken by the Chairperson to postpone the sitting to the following day. This would be a long meeting as the Committee needed to hear from the Department as well as the entities. Apologies were conveyed to all stakeholders, especially the Auditor General’s office.
The Chairperson confirmed that the Minister and the Acting Director General would be available for the meeting the following day.
The meeting was adjourned.
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