Public Works Committee Oversight & Annual Report

Public Works

05 February 2019
Chairperson: Mr H Mmemezi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Documents handed out: Report on the 2014 oversight visit to Gauteng by Portfolio Committee on Public Works; Public Works Portfolio Committee 2017/18 Annual Report; Fifth Parliamentary Legacy Report - Portfolio Committee on Public Works [Tabled Committee Reports once published]

The Committee met to discuss the 2014 Gauteng oversight report, the Public Works Portfolio Committee 2017/18 Annual Report and the Portfolio Committee Fifth Parliamentary Legacy Report but did not have time to address the Legacy Report which was held over to the following week. The Committee and the support staff spent much time discussing the technical details of what was contained in the Annual Report, and how to address incorrect impressions and timeframes in the Report.

The Committee discussed the 2014 Gauteng Oversight Report as it had not been adopted by the Committee at the time but had to be adopted before the end of the Committee’s term of office. The visit had been intended to familiarise Members with the five-year plan of the Department of Public Works. The Committee had visited all of the offices belonging to the Department and some of the projects in Gauteng to familiarise Members with the Department of Public Works and its entities that worked with other departments, such as the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Human Settlement. Another reason for the visit was the concern of the footprint of the Construction Industry Development Board as it was a struggle for small contractors to get registered to work in the non-urban areas of Gauteng.

Previously, the 2017/18 Annual Report of the Portfolio Committee had been an administrative function of the support staff and not considered by the Committee. The staff had submitted the Committee’s Annual Report in 2018. However, in August 2018, the staff had been informed that the Annual Report had to be considered and adopted by the Committee Members.

The Annual Report noted that one of the highlights was the improved collaboration with the Office of the Minister, as well as with the Department, after the change of leadership. Reflections included the fact that the Expropriation Bill of 2015 had been rejected and then re-introduced so that public hearings could be conducted. The Report outlined the process of the 2015 Expropriation Bill and how it had reached the point of rejection. The Committee and support staff held extensive discussions on how to describe that process in the Report. The Report noted that the AgrémentSA Bill had been signed into law.

A major issue that year had been the monitoring of the Department’s Turnaround Strategy, including the stabilisation in management and leadership and movement of the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) from a disclaimer to qualified audit opinion. The report also covered the project to review property owned by the state outside of the country and the Committee’s strong focus on the movement of temporary EPWP employees to permanent employment. There had been an emphasis on rural development, and the security of Parliament had been addressed during the year.

Opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomes the Portfolio Committee Members and the support staff. He highlights that this meeting is one of the few meetings left in this term of office before elections and many reports have to be adopted before the term concludes.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson presents the minutes of the previous meeting of 27 November 2018. The Committee agrees to provide a reason for the deferment of the oversight visit, to provide explanations of the abbreviations, such as “SOP” and “HLP”, and grammatical errors are corrected. The minutes are adopted by the Committee.

The Chairperson notes that the Department has not followed the Committee’s directive and the Department will be requested to explain the failure to do so at the next meeting that the Committee holds with the Department.

Dr Q Madlopa (ANC) proposes that the Committee staff follow up on all resolutions taken at Committee meetings.

Adoption of the 2014 Gauteng Oversight Report
The Chairperson presents the 2014 Gauteng Oversight Report to the Committee. He asks the Committee Content Advisor to assist wherever issues are not well covered as the Advisor was among the few that attended the oversight visit in Gauteng. The Report was not previously been adopted but it has to be adopted before the end of the Committee’s term of office.

The Content Advisor states that most of the Members of this Committee present, were part of the visit. As this visit was to clarify the five-year plan of the Department, the Committee visited all of the offices belonging to the Department and some of the projects in Gauteng to familiarise Members with the Department of Public Works and its entities that worked with other departments, such as the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Human Settlement. Another reason for the visit was the concern of the footprint of the PIDM (Construction Industry Development Board) as it was an issue for small contractors who struggled to get registered to work in peripheral areas or the non-urban areas of Gauteng. Those were the Committee’s two main objectives for the visit. One of the useful aspects of the visit was the observation of one of the two settlements in the country where different types of houses are erected by different companies using the fast building method. The biggest and oldest example is in Erick Molothbi in Soshanguve, and the other one is in Mboweni near Paarl.

The Content Advisor adds that another reason that the Committee went to Gauteng was to assess a brickmaking project in Mamelodi. The Members also observed different types of toilets.

The Content Advisor refers to a block of flats for student accommodation which was a tall building on a small physical footprint. He states that such a project is a high-density accommodation. The challenge with such a project is that construction demanded a lot of machinery which detracted from the creation of labour opportunities. He notes that the project was undertaken by a private company and not government, so the Committee could not say much about the issue but the Committee was pleased to find that the company that did the painting of the student building was a women-owned company.

Dr Q Madlopha (ANC) asks why the report looks like an unfinished work. She states that she was one of the Committee Members that went on the oversight visit and when they received the report in 2014, it had seemed like it was still a draft. She proposes that the report should be adopted as it is because of the time constraints the Committee is facing.

The Chairperson says that no one should be blamed because the Committee at that time was not the same as it is now. However, the incoming Committee should be advised to plan ahead and beware of such occurrences that transpired during the fifth term.

The Content Advisor says that it should be on record that the report was written based on the timeline given by the sitting Committee and every process was followed correctly. He had requested that the Committee relook at the time given to produce a quality report to avoid a situation where a lack of time resulted in a low-quality report that looked like an unfinished draft.

Mr Sithole says he does not see why the Committee is debating an issue that cannot be resolved given that it is almost the end of term. There is little to nothing that the sitting Committee can do besides adopt a report which was written in 2014. He suggests that the Committee adopts the report, with corrections if need be, instead of debating it.

Ms P Adams (ANC) says this should be a lesson to the present Committee and be recorded for the incoming Committee so that this matter does not repeat itself.

Dr Madlopha supports the proposal by Mr Sithole to adopt the report. However, she says this should be a lesson learnt moving forward.

Mr D Ryder (DA) agrees with the proposal of adopting the report in its current form. He also suggests that it might be useful to include the names of the Committee Members at the time.

The Chairperson agrees with Mr Ryder’s suggestion of naming the Committee Members who were responsible for the oversight visit and its report. However, he is critical of blaming the previous leadership. Instead they should work together.

The Content Advisor says there is an edited version of the report and if the Members do want to go ahead and adopt the report, amendments can be made available to the Committee.

Ms E Masehela (ANC) proposes that the reports are adopted with amendments.

Ms P Adams (ANC) seconds the proposal.

The Chairperson requests the Committee support staff to make the amended report available by the following day to avoid a backlog.

The Chairperson requests the Secretary to brief the Committee on the Annual Report.

Consideration and Adoption of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works 2017/18 Annual Report
The Committee Secretary explains to the Committee that in the past the Annual Report of the Portfolio Committee had been an administrative function of the support staff and not considered by the Committee. The staff had submitted the Committee’s Annual Report in 2018. However, in August 2018, the staff was informed that the Annual Report had to be considered and adopted by the Committee Members. The report which was before the Committee has already been submitted but the Committee needed to approve and adopt the report. That meant that most of the issues have already been effected.

The Secretary notes that much of what is in the Annual Report has been discussed for inclusion in the Legacy Report. She presents the executive summary of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works Annual Report which encompasses most aspects of the report. It reports on key activities and considers the focus areas, the programme and challenges for the year, 2017/18. The report also includes oversight reports and statistics relating to those oversight visits. The Committee previously decided not to include all the recommendations that would be included in the Legacy Report.

One of the highlights was that there was more collaboration with the Office of the Minister as well as with the Department after the change of leadership. The Committee had identified the need for a stakeholder forum and that was a recommendation. The Committee found that there was a lack of procedures for contractors, sub-contractors and others working with the Department. That was one of the reasons for the many challenges that prevented the completion of projects. Leadership was initially lacking but there had been an improvement over time and the Auditor-General’s Report has also shown an improvement in several units in the Department.

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) had some successes. Some of the municipalities have done well but there are still many challenges. The Secretary is hoping to receive a report on the EPWP summit that the Committee could consider before finalising the Legacy Report.

The reflections included the fact that the Expropriation Bill that had been rejected in 2015 was re-introduced and public hearings had been conducted. The Report outlined the process of the 2015 Bill and how it had reached the point of rejection. The AgrémentSA Bill was signed into law in 2015 by the then President.

A major issue had been the monitoring of the Department’s Turnaround Strategy including the stabilisation in management and leadership and the movement of the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) from a disclaimer to qualified audit opinion. The report also covers the project to review property owned by the state outside of the country. The Committee engaged strongly the Department on the movement of temporary EPWP jobs to permanent work. There was an emphasis on rural development. The security of Parliament was addressed during the year.

The Report also looks at key areas for future work, but it is too late in the parliamentary term for the Committee to do much more. Other matters to be addressed in the future include a review of the Public Works White Papers by 2019, introduction of the Public Works Bill by 2020 and the streamlining of the IDT (Independent Development Trust), the re-introduction of the Expropriation Bill after the Section 25 issue has been resolved, and dealing with corruption.

One recommendation was for the Department to provide Quarterly Reports timeously and another was for joint oversight visits with other Committees.

The Secretary continues to read through the details of the Annual Report.

The Content Advisor points out a matter of a referral in October 2018 by Mr Walters with regards to a pedestrian bridge crossing R554 in an area called Elandsfontein in the Free State, which was constructed 1919 and was incorrectly referred to the Department of Public Works. It has to go the Department of Public Enterprises because Transnet has to deal with it. The bridge needs maintenance; however  it does not fall under the Department’s jurisdiction. He will refer the matter to the Department of Public Enterprises so that the Committee can say it dealt with the community’s concerns.

The Committee Secretary refers to the section on the Expropriation Bill.

Mr Sithole explains that the President sent the Expropriation Bill back because there had been insufficient public participation. That was addressed and a report sent to Parliament and Parliament had approved that report.

The Chairperson says that Mr Sithole was going back to the beginning.

The Secretary notes that the letter from the President’s Office explaining the problems was dated 17 February 2017 but the Committee only received it in October 2017. The letter was extremely unclear and also there was no rule in the National Assembly for dealing with it. Everything was completed by 2018 but there had been a problem with the turnaround time.

Dr Madlopha asks for clarity on whether the Committee is discussing the content-related challenge, or the Expropriation Bill as discussed in the report. The matter had been referred to Parliament and then referred to the Committee. There was some confusion over which House the President was referring to. But if there was a mistake by the National Assembly, it affected both Houses and the process had to start afresh. That was according to the Joint Rules.

The Secretary explains that the major challenge had been in trying to find the correct rule for a rejection or a withdrawal of the Bill by the Committee. The rule could not be found in the National Assembly Rules or the Joint Rules which was why the staff had looked at all of the other rules.

Dr Madlopha refers to the first paragraph on the Expropriation Bill, dealing with the first time the Bill was returned by the President. She says that regardless of the House, the Joint Rule applies, and therefore applies to resolutions taken by the Committee. The Joint Rules clearly state what the Committee must resolve.

The Chairperson agrees that the Report is confusing and has to be amended.

Mr Ryder says that the Committee needs to go back to the resolution on the matter where the Committee agreed on the word “reject”. The Joint Rules state that the Committee can only reject a resolution and not use the word ‘withdraw’ in a case where the Committee does not accept the resolution.

The Chairperson replies that the issue was the word ‘reject’ which is very strong. He says that the Committee suggested that the Joint Rule Committee look into the usage of the word ‘reject’ as opposed to ‘withdrawal’.

Dr Madlopha is adamant that the Committee had been dealing with the Joint Rules because the Bill had been a Section 76 Bill.

The Secretary explains that the paragraph suggests that there should be one rule that speaks to such instances so that the Committee does not have to refer to many different rules.

Mr Sithole says that although Dr Madlopha is right, but the timing is wrong.

Ms E Masehela (ANC) says that this matter is not of great concern. She explains that the word used in Parliament is ‘reject’ so she does not understand what they are trying to say in the paragraph.

The Secretary explains that the Committee had not wanted to say ‘reject’ but ‘withdraw’ and there was a problem at that time with finding a rule to allow the Committee to withdraw the Bill.

Mr Ryder reminds the Committee that it was not the Committee, but the Department that had wanted to reject the Bill at that time. If that point is added, it will explain why the Committee had looked for a rule to allow withdrawal.

The Content Advisor points out that the section of the Report under discussion is about challenges. Dr Madlopha is correct about using the Joint Rules which stated that the Bill had to be rejected. The Report does not just report on what happened. It is necessary to explain challenges so that the problem can be resolved by Parliament.

The Chairperson understands the point made by the Content Advisor and asks the Secretary to simply read what is there and not to justify what she has written.

The Secretary explains that what she is reading is not a recommendation but what transpired at the time.

The Chairperson wants that section rephrased, especially as the Members say that the letter from the President’s Office was not unclear.

A dialogue continues in which the Secretary is adamant that the administrative staff has a duty to make recommendations.

Ms Masehela states that Dr Madlopha is correct, and it had not been a challenge for the Committee. She recommends that the part about it being a challenge be removed.

The Content Advisor says that certain sections must be taken out, such as the statement that the President’s letter was unclear. The participation of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was a challenge, and that remains a challenge. The Report must state that the NCOP gave insufficient time for public participation. But the Secretary should add that there is no rule in the House of Assembly to deal with that. The staff are saying that there is no rule when the matter is referred to a National Assembly Committee. The Committee had used the Joint Rules. He suggests that the Committee recommends that a workshop be held to address the matter and look at case law.

Dr Madlopha explains that Joint Rules apply to both Houses and, therefore, there is no challenge.

The Chairperson and the Committee staff discuss the appropriate way to amend the report. He asks them to make the changes after the meeting and not hold up the meeting.

The Secretary refers the Committee to the sections on oversight visits and the study tour undertaken. She notes that the Department did not submit two of the four Quarterly Reports in the previous year. Reports and responses were not sent by on time by the Minister’s Office.

The Chairperson and staff engage in some discussion as to the specific details. The Quarterly Reports had been received, but not on time.

Dr Madlopha asks for clarity on the bridge referred to on page 51. The details have to be included. The bridge is in Elandsfontein and does not belong to Public Works.

The Chairperson asks why, if no one claims responsibility for it, the Department does not fix it even if it does not belong to the Department. He says that instead of trying to wait for someone to fix it, the Committee should adopt it and fix it as it will be for the benefit of the community which the government serves.

The Content Advisor says the investigations regarding the owners of the 1919 Elandsfontein pedestrian bridge suggest that it might belong to the Department of Public Enterprise. He is certain that it does not belong to the Department of Public Works. The matter should be investigated by the referral body.

The Chairperson and the Content Advisor do not agree on how the matter of the bridge should be handled and who was responsible for addressing the concerns about the bridge.

The Chairperson warns staff not to take the position that the request from the Speaker’s Office had been sent to the wrong Department.

Dr Madlopha says that the only answer is to obtain a written statement from Public Works as to whether it is responsible for the bridge or not. The Report cannot make a referral without knowing who is responsible for the bridge.

Mr Ryder says that the situation is the reason why the Committee should stress the need for an asset register so that the Department knows what it owns and what it does not own. The majority of bridges were built by municipalities or the railways. It is possible that the referral about the bridge had been an incorrect referral.

The Chairperson stresses the need to have agency and take responsibility for the work that brings betterment to the lives of the people. He says that the referral gives Public Works the authority to do the work and not make excuses about something that they can perform and that can bring change to the community. It is not right to go looking for other departments when the Committee has been given a job to do. The Committee must not be reluctant to do the work as not doing it affected the community. In the past five months, the work had not been done. He suggests that the staff prepare a request to Public Works to do the job.

The Secretary refers the Committee to the last page of the report. She explains that the recommendations are scattered all over the report in the areas where the matter is discussed.

The Chairperson instructs her to consolidate all the recommendations at the end of the report. That is the correct format.

 The Secretary says that the Report ends with a statement that says that the Portfolio Committee did not have a strategic plan.

The Chairperson states that the Committee cannot have a strategic plan outside the mandate of Public Works. The Committee simply follows the strategic plan of the Department. Whether it is written or not, it is a given that there is a strategic plan. The statement gives the public the impression that the Committee did nothing the whole term whereas he invested a good deal of his time and labour in working for the Committee.

Mr Ryder says maybe the Report should be embarrassing. The Report could say that the Committee did not formally adopt a strategic plan. That will help the new Committee to do better.

The Chairperson is adamant that the Committee knows exactly what it is doing and will not be embarrassed.

Mr Sithole suggests that the Chairperson could not protect that position as he had asked the previous Chairperson for a workshop to develop a strategic plan, as was expected of the Committee.

Dr Madlopha proposes that, in the Legacy Report, the incoming Members of the Committee be advised to have a workshop with the DG of Public Works to fine tune the plan for the Committee. It had not been properly done in that Committee and the support staff should have provided guidance to the Committee when it was newly appointed.

The Chairperson agrees that the staff have to produce a draft and the Committee can discuss it on a Tuesday. He objects to the Report suggesting that the Committee did not have a plan.

Ms P Adams (ANC) explains that the Department and other role players will have to attend the strategic planning workshop so there is some expense and organisation involved in the suggestion.

An extensive discussion follows on how to deal with the fact that there is no document containing a strategic plan, but without making the Committee looking bad.

The Content Advisor explains that the 2018/19 Annual Report cannot be finalised as it covers the period to the end of March and the Committee still has to do the Budget Report and the Annual Performance Plans. Inclusion of the Budget Report is critical. Annual Reports are only finalised in April.

Mr Ryder states that the Annual Report needs correcting, particularly in respect of timelines. Point 2 deals with the programme for the year 2018 but 2.1 is incorrect. The Expropriation Bill was not first introduced in 2018, but in 2015. The same applies to 2.2 which deals with the AgrémentSA Bill. Also, 2.8 refers to visits concerning rural development. Those visits happened before July 2017. In addition, 2.10 has to be excluded for the same reason.

Mr Ryder then refers to the point on Focus Areas. It says it is the same as point 2 but it does not correlate with the concerns raised in the Auditor-General’s report. Those concerns must be included. Under briefing and/or public hearings, the briefings of the Auditor-General and others to the Committee must be included.

The Chairperson agrees that those points are important.

Mr Ryder points out that the meeting has overrun by an hour and he had a flight to catch.

A discussion between the Chairperson and the support staff takes place about the deadlines. They are mindful of the deadlines already set for reports to be submitted by the Department.

The Chairperson says that the support staff must correct the reports before the end of the day for him to sign them.

The Secretary informs Members that the draft Portfolio Committee on Public Works Fifth Parliamentary Legacy Report will have to be changed to reflect the changes to be made following the changes made in the Annual Report.

Ms Masehela reminds the Chairperson that the Committee Programme has to be revised in the light of the fact that Parliament will rise on 20 March 2019. She expresses her appreciation for the work performed by the support staff, especially as it is not very easy work.

Closing remarks
As the meeting has gone beyond the allocated time, the Chairperson asks Committee Members to read the Portfolio Committee on Public Works Fifth Parliamentary Legacy Report, bearing in mind the changes to be made, and the Committee discuss the Legacy Report on Tuesday, 12 February 2019.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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