Documents handed out: Draft Report of the Portfolio on Economic Development on its activities undertaken during the Fifth Parliament (2014-2019) [once available Tabled Committee Reports]
The main agenda of the meeting was to deliberate on the Portfolio Committee’s legacy report, which covered the work that it had started in May 2014, and which would pave way for the upcoming Committee -- whether it was as the Economic Development Portfolio Committee, or was incorporated into another committee. It would help the incoming Committee to know the kind of work done by the Fifth Parliament, the areas they dealt with, and areas that still needed to be pursued.
The Chairperson took the Committee through the draft report, and points of concern were raised which needed to be amended. Areas for future work included the inclusion of the Industrial Development Cooperation in the Committee’s focus area, and ensuring the sustainability of government investment initiatives such as the Industrial Development Zones and the Black Industrialist Programme. There was also a need to give careful attention to the outcomes of the forensic audit into the irregular expenditure at the Competition Commission.
The Committee decided to finish its deliberations on the draft report the following week, to give the Committee Secretary more time to correct some areas which had not been clearly presented.
Committee legacy report
The Chairperson greeted everyone and noted that the term was nearly coming to an end. The agenda of the meeting was therefore to deliberate on the draft report which had been tabled at the previous meeting. The legacy report covered the work that the Committee had started in May 2014. It was this work that would pave way for the upcoming Committee, whether it was as the Economic Development Portfolio Committee or was incorporated into another committee. This would help the upcoming Committee to know the kind of work done by the Fifth Parliament, the areas they dealt with, and areas that still needed to be pursued. Additionally, this would help them have an idea about the parastatals they dealt with and the legislation which they used. She observed noted that the legacy report was still in draft form, and the Members had to engage with it in order to have a product that would be representative of the work done. She asked for full cooperation from the Members because the end product would be reflective of all of them
The Chairperson took the Committee through its draft legacy report. She suggested this be done by going through it page by page and item by item, so that everything was scrutinised and was amended. Members pointed out key issues which needed to be corrected in the final legacy report.
The Chairperson referred to page 3, which focused on the Committee’s focus areas during the Fifth Parliament. She asked the Members if they were satisfied with how this was presented.
Dr J Cardo (DA) noted that the three points raised were:
- to ensure decent employment through inclusive economic growth;
- a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive economic growth path; and
- an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network.
They had neglected specific mention of the industrialisation and trade aspects of the portfolio -- in other words, the entities of the Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC). He asked if it would not be possible to insert a specific bullet point on the IDC.
The Chairperson responded that the challenge would be that these three points addressed the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), as assigned to the Department. Perhaps they could accommodate his concern by putting the MTSF points as number one, and his contribution as number two, or perhaps find another space somewhere else in the report to include it.
Mr S Tleane (ANC) agreed that Dr Cardo had raised a very important point, but the explanation given about the MTSF did suffice. However, he concluded that they should rather find a space for it in the report, rather than to squeeze it into the issue at hand.
Mr M Cele (ANC) agreed with finding another space to locate the issue raised by Dr Cardo, and even suggested they put it on page nine where there were other entities.
All the Members agreed.
The Chairperson moved on to point three, which entailed the challenges during the Fifth Parliament. She asked the Members if they were satisfied with what was presented. She added that instead of writing this point as a paragraph, it should rather be in point form.
Mr Tleane also noted that where it said “… the Committee functioned without the full content support staff complement,” it should rather read “… the Committee functioned well without the content staff complement.” This showed that the Committee had been able to perform despite the lack of a content adviser. However, this did not mean that they did not need one.
All Members agreed.
The Chairperson moved on to point 4, which entailed the key areas for future work. She asked if the Members agreed with what was presented.
Dr Cardo said that he needed to understand what was meant by bullet point two, and what the Members sought to do with it. He also asked if points three and four were realistic and if it was the duty of the Committee itself to try and promote those partnerships within the relevant state organs and entities. Was it also realistic for the Committee to ensure that they sustained the government’s investment, and if there was any capacity and expertise to try and work out and have effective oversight of those investments.
The Chairperson suggested that they go through each point and scrutinise them.
The first point stated that “The next Parliament should intensify the monitoring of the implementation of legislation on infrastructure development and competition practices with a view to making meaningful interventions where necessary.”
Mr Tleane agreed with point, mostly because it related to infrastructure which was key to economic development.
Mr I Pikinini (ANC) also supported this view. The necessary intervention that had been done by this Committee, not only in terms of the monitoring policies, was quite phenomenal considering everything that it was dealing with. The Committee had managed to pave the way for competition processes taking place in the country.
All Members were satisfied with point one.
The second point stated that “The next Parliament should assess potential drawbacks in the pursuit of economic development objectives during the 5th Parliament and develop proposals on how these should be addressed in order to enhance Parliament’s contribution to the creation of an inclusive economic growth trajectory.”
The Chairperson noted that the 5th Parliament was the one which was supposed to do that. However, the question was whether it had the capacity to do so. Was it within the function of a Portfolio Committee to do that? Was it within the competency of the legislature to do that?
Dr Cardo said the Committee should try to analyse the obstacles to economic growth and put forward proposals on how they could try and overcome those obstacles. Consequently, they would obviously need the expertise of experts about what went into economic growth and what prevented it. There was therefore a need to add a bullet point which said something about the need to draw from expertise.
The Chairperson asked Dr Cardo if he was retracting what he had previously said, or adding.
Dr Cardo replied that he was adding, and that his query was also about whether the Committee was equipped to do the things stipulated in bullet points three and four.
The Chairman commented that the Parliament could do that. There were partnerships with international committees -- for instance, sponsorships that committees got from the European Union (EU). This sponsorship normally supported discussions and debates about economic issues. So, in terms of capacity, the Committee could do so as long as it was exposed enough. What the Committee might have forgotten to include when they dealt with the challenges was that a committee like this was not given an opportunity to interact with the international community or with international forums. The Committee was never part of platforms where it engaged with the European Union, for instance, or became a member of such an important forum. Such interactions actually helped in strengthening the Committee’s work and understanding of issues. She suggested that they include this in the report so that the Parliament was aware of the importance of such exposure.
The Chairperson asked if everyone was satisfied with including this in the report, and all Members agreed.
The next point stipulated that “The Parliament should ensure sustainability on government investments in initiatives such as the Industrial Development Zones (the expertise of business partners was crucial in this regard).”
Dr Cardo commented that he would suggest possibly broadening this point to include government investments in other industrial initiatives, such as the Black Industrialist Programme, for example.
The Chairperson asked the Committee how they felt about that.
Mr Tleane agreed that it should be included, as it was a critical point.
The last point stated that “The Parliament should strengthen content analysis support to the Committee, while also improving the predictability of the overall Parliamentary programme to assist with planning and implementation at the level of committees.”
Dr Cardo said that he would consider adding a fifth bullet point. For instance, looking at the work done by the Fifth Parliament, it had spent a lot of time addressing competition policy issues. Would it not be a key area for the work of the future Parliament to exercise oversight over the implementation of the Competition Amendment Act? Also, looking at the budget review, the Competition Commission was likely to get a significant amount of additional expenditure, pending the outcome of a forensic audit. He suggested that the 6th Parliament should pay careful attention to the outcomes of the forensic audit. There was also a need to ensure that the competition authorities were capacitated in such a way to implement the provisions of the amendment Act effectively.
The Chairperson observed that there were two issues raised by Dr Cardo -- the forensic audit, and the implementation of the provisions of the Amendment Act. She also noted that in terms of the forensic audit, the Minister had said that he was going to look for people who were going to look at the forensic audit. However, the Committee had not made a follow up on that. She asked for permission from the Members to try and call the Minister to brief the Committee on that before the conclusion of the report.
Mr Cele supported her proposal to meet the Minister before coming to the Committee.
All the Members agreed.
The Chairperson referred on page 15 to the statistics of Committee activities, where it was stipulated that in 2018/19 they had processed legislation. She pointed out that they had not processed any legislation, as this was done in the 4th Parliament.
She moved to page 16, which covered the Committee focus areas and briefings over the five-year term. She said that the report needed to be corrected where it said, “During the course of the term the Committee identified tourism as one of the focal areas for its oversight work…”. The tourism sector was the last thing which had been dealt with. The Committee had started with the manufacturing sector. They had also done the auto industry, the green economy, and visited the site for the production of HIV/AIDs medication, among other things.
She then moved to page 17, which identified the challenges encountered during Committee briefings. Issues which had been raised included the late receipt of documents, which in turn did not give Members enough time to prepare.
Dr Cardo suggested that the 6th Parliament should try to have documents sent at least 24 hours before meetings.
The Chairperson said that they had initially stated that Thursday was the day for documents to be given to Members, but unfortunately that had not been followed. She conceded that sometimes the problem was not with the Committee, but Parliament itself. Additionally, it was difficult to send documents electronically, because some of the Members were not computer literate. She proposed that every Member should try and be information technology (IT) literate.
The Committee moved on to the issues for follow-up on page 18
Ms C Matsimbi (ANC) said that she did not see them as issues for follow-up, but rather as issues for recommendation to the 6th Parliament, since there was no longer time follow them up.
Mr Pikinini suggested that the Members should leave the follow-up issues and focus on the recommendations.
The Chairperson asked if there was any Member who felt that there were some things the Committee had not followed up. She said that the Members had visited the Science Research Council, but it had not been concluded -- the Committee was supposed to have had a joint meeting with the Science and Technology Committee. Additionally, the Committee had visited the Innovation Hub in Pretoria to look at the function of the South African Bureau of Standards. This had also not been concluded, since they were supposed to have met with the sister Trade and Industry Committee. These were the issues which should be reflected under follow-ups, so that the next Parliament could follow-up and deal with them.
The Committee then moved to page 19 dealing with legislation. The Chairperson asked about the legislation which was supposed to come to the Committee, but could not make it on time. There was still outstanding legislation that the Committee was supposed to deal with, especially that which needed to be amended. In terms of the Minister’s reports, the annual or quarterly reports promised to amend the law on International Trade.
Regarding the recommendations of the section, the Committee agreed that the manner in which the recommendations were crafted was wrong
Mr Tleane recommended that the Committee should give the Secretary more time to go and review why he and his support system had crafted the recommendations in that way. He then proposed that the meeting should end and be resumed next week, which was accepted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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