Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) Legacy Report

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

13 March 2019
Chairperson: Mr T Godi (APC)
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Meeting Summary

Available here once published: Legacy Reports

The Committee reviewed and discussed their Legacy Report which detailed their activities undertaken during the 5th Parliament and provided recommendations to the 6th Parliament.

Members recommended the insertion of a section on ‘Introductory  remarks’ by the Chairperson which should contain a political overview which talked to the real issues dealt with and linked SCOPA’s mandate to the National Development Plan (NDP).

Members raised concerns about the structure of the Report and its  similarity to those from departments. They emphasised that SCOPA ‘was not a department, but a Committee which does political oversight’. The report should be structured in a way so that it will leave a strong political legacy and provide direction for the 6th Parliament.

Members pointed out that the Report should include all of  the outstanding issues. Some of these outstanding issues that should be added were the problems with the Supply Chain Manager, the problem of the SAA’s board having many chairpersons, and the issue of SAA outsourcing Officials. The recommendations suggested for inclusion were the implementation of the Public Audit Amendment Bill, the training of Members and the establishment of an Implementation Committee.

The Legacy Report of the Standing Committee of Public Accounts was adopted.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson said that the only item on the agenda was the Legacy Report. Its aim is to highlight the things that SCOPA has done five years down the line as well as to provide recommendations to the 6th Parliament. Members returning to the Committee could use the Document as a guide for the new members, especially the new Chairperson.

Presentation on the Legacy Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA)

The Chairperson presented the Legacy report to the Committee Members. 

He said that the Report provides detailed information and accounts of the work of SCOPA. The purpose of the Report is to inform the new Members of Parliament, the 6th Parliament, of achievements as well as key outstanding issues pertaining to the oversight work of SCOPA. In addition, the Report highlights the challenges that emerged during the period under review and the issues that should be considered for follow-up during the term of the 6th Parliament.

At the beginning of the 5th Parliamentary session, at its first strategic planning meeting, the Committee agreed on the three core objectives. The core objectives which remained the same over the period under review are:

  • To consider all annual reports tabled;
  • To enhance the oversight effectiveness of SCOPA; and
  • To improve the understanding of the work of SCOPA by the public.

Having established the focus areas for the 5th Parliament, which are aligned to Parliament’s core objectives and mandate, as stipulated in the Constitution, the Committee further developed key focus areas for each oversight year. SCOPA’s focus areas over the year period included:

  • Compliance with Supply Chain Management Prescripts;
  • Internal Controls;
  • Unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure;
  • Consequent management against officials who do not comply with legislation
  • Financial health of departments and entities (including accruals, contingent liabilities, commitments);
  •  Non-payment of invoices within 30 days;
  • Human resource Management (Including vetting of employees) and 
  • Deviations and expansions

Regarding the recommendations the 6th Parliament, the Committee should

  1. Exercise its powers and authority to summon anyone, including the officials and Ministers who have left the Department/public entity;
  2. Strengthen and maintain relationships with law enforcement agencies, where the HAWKS and Anti-Corruption Task Team provide regular updates on the status of cases relating to maladministration, fraud and corruption in the public sector;
  3. Follow closely the implementation of the Public Audit Amendment Act, which gives the Auditor-General powers to act against those who have misused public funds;
  4. Undertake more oversight visits; and
  5. Allocate more time to consider and adopt Committee reports for further debate in the house. 

Discussion

Mr M Booi (ANC) suggested that the Chairperson should add an introductory remark, so that it does not become an administrative report. The ‘Opening remarks’ should have a political overview which talks to the politics that has been guiding the duties of SCOPA throughout the 5th term. The ‘Opening remarks’ should include the reason why SCOPA would not want to undermine other institutions and act on its own.

Mr Booi added that the Report should talk about the performance of the Zondo Commission.  The Zondo Commission is doing very well in terms of being able to diagnose the problem which SCOPA was trying to solve. The report should mention the problem of Officials delivering reports with no slips to assist the Auditor General to continuously identify the inefficiencies within the state. It is difficult to hold them accountable if they do not have slips and do not follow legislation. Further, it was discovered that Officials do not even know what is in the Constitution that is related to their Department. SCOPA's Report should highlight to the Zondo Commission the deficiencies that SCOPA found within the state.

Mr Booi said that one issue that should be raised sharply is  the fact that Members did not let their party positions affect the work of SCOPA. That is why SCOPA remained an effective Committee that could be able to face and pull the ‘bull out of the water’, which was corruption. The Report must talk to that. It was one of the Committee's strengths. 

Mr Booi said that the main factor that worried SCOPA was the level of corruption within the state and how to deal with corruption. If this does not appear in context, SCOPA would have failed South Africans. The Committee has made enemies and made friends, and it was all done for the good of South Africa.

Mr Booi said that SCOPA gave context to how Municipalities must deal with the payments in the different areas. Municipalities are collapsing as per ‘short-termism’ in the nature of payments or the bailouts that have been taken up. SAA (South African Airways) is not coming out of the trough, even with all the bailouts that have happened.

He said that there is the need to contextualise this Report. It cannot be dry as it currently is. It leaves a lot to be desired.

Mr Booi said that SCOPA Members should be able to confront themselves and ask from their own consciousness, how did Bosasa happen when we were dealing with correctional services?

He said that, in reflection, the AG (Auditor General) was honest with the Committee as they had pointed out the state of things in relation to Bosasa. Now, Zondo is a step ahead of SCOPA in dealing with Bosasa. SCOPA had the whole five-year period dealing with correctional services and it could not see that problem. The Report must be clear about the issue even though it implicates  one of the Committee Members. 

Ms N Khunou (ANC) said that the report should add the fact that SCOPA had a problem of the Supply Chain Manager being vetted in most Departments. That is why they could do as they pleased.

Ms Khunou said that here are key outstanding issues that do not appear in the Report. In the two meetings SCOPA had with SAA, they said they were going to install cameras that will monitor. But they have been installing those for ever.  They should have dealt with it.

Ms Khunou that another outstanding issue in relation to SAA is that, when SCOPA met the board, they had small committees within the board, each with a chairperson. As a result, every time they met, they could not agree on things because there were a lot of chairpersons.

Ms Khunou said that SAA also has the issue of the outsourcing of officials. They had a CFO who was from London because they said they did not have the skills in South Africa. They had to bring that person on board together with all other people who were from outside. They can source that from within the country as South Africa had a lot of chattered Accountants.  Those are some of the key issues that are still outstanding.

Ms Khunou said that another outstanding issue, relating to SAA, is that they have poor labour relations. They are not working with the unions.

Ms Khunou said that regarding the DPW (Department of Public Works), there was a problem of stock control. They were paying exorbitant amounts of money. There is need to do stock control and find a way of minimising the costs.

Ms Khunou said that it is important to highlight the implementation of the Public Audit Amendment (PAA) Bill. The Report should emphasise to the 6th parliament that they should work closely with the AG. The AG has been going all over the country to actually let the stakeholders know what they will be dealing with. If SCOPA does not work together with the AG, the Committee is not going to achieve what it has always wanted to achieve, Consequent Management.  The PAA has that achievement of Consequent Management because it says, even if one leaves Department A and one goes to Department B, as long as they had issued a certificate of debt, they will always be followed. It does not matter if one leaves this Department and goes to another Department. As long as there is certificate of debt they will have to pay.

Ms T Chiloane (ANC) said that, regarding Contract Management, the political overview and recommendation should emphasise that the 6th Parliament especially SCOPA should be able to continue working on the deviation.

Ms Chiloane said that some of the Evergreen contracts are contributing to the downfall of the economy. People are just eating money. The 6th Parliament, especially SCOPA should put the issue up on the agenda.

Mr E Kekana (ANC) said that the Report should talk about the training of Members.  Members did have training, but it was inadequate. The 6th Parliament should focus on the issue of the training of Members. At some stage, SCOPA Members were using their common sense in dealing with the issues.

Mr Kekana said that SCOPA did not deal only with the Municipalities that owe ESKOM. The Committee also dealt with government departments that were owing ESKOM.  That is also a serious problem if you look at the debt in ESKOM. The Report is not forthcoming on the departments that are owing ESKOM.

Mr Kekana suggested that the report should link SCOPA’s mandate with the NDP (National Development Plan). It should highlight whether the Committee has achieved what it was supposed to achieve in terms of what is in the NDP.

Mr Kekana said that the Report is also lacking the mechanism regarding the following up of decisions. During most of the hearings, SCOPA took a number of decisions. The Committee seems not to have a mechanism to follow up on those decisions.

Mr Booi said that the Report should not look like the reports of the departments. SCOPA is not a department; it is a Committee that does political oversight. The structure of the Report should be totally different. If it is going to be written in a manner that is ‘departmentalised’, it will seem to be a big cumbersome report that does not deliver the political issues for politicians to be able to learn from what The Committee has done. This Report is going to be given to the 6th parliament. It must talk to the real issues. Otherwise, it will just be a departmental report repeating what the departments are talking about. There is need to give political direction for the new Members in the 6th parliament. The structure of the report should leave a strong political legacy.

Mr Sifiso Magagula, Researcher: SCOPA - Parliament, said that on the outstanding issues for the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Report should have a bullet about the monitoring of the organogram.

Mr Magagula said that SCOPA asked National Treasury to go and look into the matter of how deviation and expansions are approved. That should be reflected in the report.

Mr Magagula said that regarding the Post Office, when they were relocating from Pretoria to Centurion, there was an 11-month period where they paid rent without staying in the building. The AG said that the money must be recovered. They promised that they are in the process of recovering that money. It will be useful for the 6th Parliament to look into that matter.

Mr Magagula said that the SITA (State Information Technology Agency) was in a process of terminating some contracts. The 6th Parliament should look at the progress made by the SITA in terms of the termination of contracts.

Ms Chiloan said that, regarding issues discussed at the hearing, sometimes there is the need go and debate issues in Parliament. It should be recommended that Committees should be able to take issues for debate in Parliament.

Ms Khuno said, regarding Transnet,  they were going to leave the building that they had and go to rent a building in the Waterfront because the elevators were not working. That was going to be costly. It seems that all these departments that are suffering financially are actually  creating more unnecessary expenditure.

Ms Khunou said that in the recommendations, the Report should emphasise the Internal Audit. All the departments that SCOPA met, together with their entities, did not take the Internal Audit Report seriously. The implementation of the Internal Audit should be emphasised in the 6th Parliament.

Ms Khunou said that other countries had an Implementation Committee. After they tabled their reports to Parliament, there is an Implementation Committee that makes sure the SCOPA resolutions are implemented. That could be put as one of the recommendations for the 6th Parliament that there should be an implementation team. Without that, the departments are getting away with all the wrong things that they are doing. If there was a body that looks at the implementation and gives time frames to that, it will help the 6th Parliament to be stronger.

Ms Khunou said that some departments ended up not reporting on time because they disagreed with the AG's report. It is something that is growing and it is going to create serious problems for the next Parliament if it is not dealt with.

Ms Khunou said that the administrative staff should be included in this Report because SCOPA is where it is today because of their efforts and their passion.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and the staff. He said that it was a very interesting term that this Committee has had. The team has been the best team he has had the privilege to have worked with. Unfortunately, everything must come to an end. Those Members coming back to the Committee should build on what SCOPA has done.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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