Department of Human Settlements briefing on appointment of Rental Housing Tribunal board members

Human Settlements (WCPP)

07 August 2019
Chairperson: Ms M Maseko (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Human Settlements briefed the Committee on the shortlisting of candidates for members of the Rental Housing Tribunal board. It said the recommendation should be for four members, including the position of chairperson. The Department had scored Mr Lionel Esterhuizen higher than the other candidates for having experience in consumer matters. However, it conceded that it had not conducted interviews to assess the level of experience of each of the candidates.

The Committee was dissatisfied with the manner in which the Department had scored the candidates. It argued that none of the candidates had experience in consumer matters, so none of the candidates was suitably qualified to be recommended for appointment. It recommended that the Department re-advertise the positions, with a specific requirement that candidates should have a qualification in consumer matters.

The Members were evenly split on whether Mr Esterhuizen or Ms Sibongile Morara should be recommended for appointment as chairperson, with the Committee Chairperson making his casting vote in favour of Mr Esterhuizen.

The draft minutes and a Committee report were adopted without any amendments.

Meeting report

Rental Housing Tribunal

The Chairperson said the Committee would discuss only the criteria that were used by the Department for shortlisting candidates as board members for the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT). These criteria were found in the Rental Housing Act, 1999.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) said the 2014 Rental Housing Amendment Bill had sought for the membership of the RHT board to be expanded. He asked why the Department was referring only to the Rental Housing Tribunal Act of 1999.

Mr Roy Stewart, Acting Director, Land and Asset Management: Department of Human Settlements (DHS), replied saying the 2014 Rental Housing Amendment Bill had not yet been passed by the Provincial Parliament, therefore references could be made only to the 1999 principle Act.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it must recommend one candidate for the appointment of chairperson of the Tribunal, and three ordinary members, of which two would be appointed as alternate Members.

Mr Herron asked who decided on which additional criteria to add to the ones already found in the Act. He suggested that the principle Act already provided enough criteria for the recruitment and selection of members.

Mr Stewart replied that section 3.2 on page 2 of the handout document referred to the criteria found in the Act, and page 3 addressed the skills needed for candidates to qualify for appointment to the Tribunal. The criteria in section 4.2 were the additional criteria that had been added by the Department to use for scoring the candidates, as a way of elimination. All Members serving on the Tribunal should know how to draft quarterly report.

Mr Nathan Adriaanse, Director: Communications and Stakeholder Relations: Department of Human Settlements, said the Committee must recommend four candidates to the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Human Settlements for appointment, and two candidates must be recommended for alternate member of the Tribunal. The RHT had scored all the candidates who had been shortlisted for appointment, and Mr Lionel Esterhuizen had received the highest score, as he was knowledgeable on consumer matters, which was one of the essential criteria.

Discussion

Mr Herron asked what assessment tools the Department used to evaluate the level of qualification of candidates in consumer matters. Mr Esterhuizen’s curriculum vitae (CV) did not indicate that he had a qualification in consumer matters, yet he had scored very high under that criterion. Had the candidates been interviewed?

The Chairperson asked how the Department assessed whether the candidates possessed skills in consumer matters if interviews were not conducted.

Mr Stewart confirmed that indeed no interviews had been conducted.

Mr D America (DA) asked what weighting had been applied to each of the criteria. There should be a balance of skills and knowledge among members who served on the Tribunal.

Mr Herron said the Act was specific that members of the tribunal should possess skills in consumer matters, but did not specify the weighting of each criterion.

Mr A Lili (ANC) asked for an explanation as to how the Department had concluded on the points awarded to the candidates.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) asked how one assessed whether a lawyer had knowledge of consumer matters. The former chairperson of the Tribunal had been an experienced expert in consumer matters, but unfortunately there were not enough lawyers with such skills or knowledge.

Mr Herron said that as no interviews had been done, the Department had to prove to the Committee that it had been able to assess adequately whether candidates met the additional criteria.

Mr America said the Tribunal’s mandate was to ensure that provisions of the Act were implemented. The members of the Tribunal did not serve the interests of particular persons or sectors, but the Western Cape as a whole.

Mr Herron said the Committee’s difficulty was in understanding how the Department had been able to assess whether the candidates possessed the additional criteria without conducting interviews.

Mr Adriaanse replied saying the Act was not explicit as to what constituted a candidate as having experience in consumer matters. The Tribunal was indeed an independent body and its members must have a varied set of skills and qualifications. The recruitment and selection process for members of the Tribunal was done solely as a paper exercise, therefore the shortlisting of candidates was done based on what was contained in the CV. Mr Esterhuizen had indicated on his CV that he had experience in consumer matters, hence he had a higher score.

Mr Herron disagreed with the fact that Mr Esterhuizen had experience in consumer matters. Mr Esterhuizen worked for the Department of Human Settlements, and was responsible for managing the rental for government departments, and not for consumers. He also did not have a qualification in consumer matters, therefore, he should not have scored higher than the other candidates.

The Chairperson asked for the names and experience of the members who currently served on the Tribunal. This would help them to recommend candidates who would complement the current members’ experience and demographic details.

Mr Stewart replied that there were no Tribunal members with experience in consumer matters. All the current members had been appointed in March 2017, and their terms would expire in 2020.

Mr Herron said it was clear that none of the members of the Tribunal had experience in consumer matters. The November 2019 advertisement should have been explicit that the Tribunal was looking to appoint someone with experience in consumer matters.

Mr D Smith (ANC) asked if the Committee could continue to shortlist candidates in the absence of any of the candidates having a qualification in consumer matters.

The Chairperson said the Committee did not have to postpone the recommendations to the MEC, but it could seek to improve on the composition of the Tribunal by placing another advertisement that would specifically ask that nominees should have experience in consumer matters.

Mr Herron suggested that the Committee make a recommendation for a chairperson, and one member. The other two alternate members would have to have experience in consumer matters.

Recommendations

The Committee resolved that a chairperson and a member be appointed to the Tribunal. It also resolved that the Department must advertise to appoint two alternate members who had experience in consumer matters pertaining to rental housing.

Mr P Marran (ANC) said the candidates’ scores would hinder the Committee’s recommendations, because the scores had not been properly allocated, yet they would have to be considered when the Committee made its final recommendations to the MEC.

Mr Van der Westhuizen said the recommendation to the Department should include the Committee’s decision that it was not satisfied with the Departments’ recommendation to it on the shortlisting of candidates.

Mr Herron said he was concerned about the Department’s relationship with Mr Esterhuizen. He recommended Ms Sibongile Morara for the position of chairperson of the Tribunal.

Mr America recommended Mr Esterhuizen for the position.

Mr van der Westhuizen also recommended Mr Esterhuizen.

Mr Marran said the scores were not a true reflection of the candidates’ qualifications.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee disregard the scores at this stage, and evaluate each candidate according to their CVs and qualifications.

Mr America said the Committee could not completely disregard the Department’s scores for the candidates when making a recommendation.

Mr Van der Westhuizen said for the Committee to recommend the right candidate, the CVs must be assessed against the criteria found in the Act.

Mr Smith suggested that the Committee recommend the current acting chairperson for the position of chairperson of the Tribunal.

Mr Lili agreed with this proposal.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should vote for the recommendation of either the current acting chairperson or Mr Esterhuizen for the position of chairperson. The candidate with the majority of the votes would be recommended.

Voting

Mr America and Mr Van der Westhuizen recommended Mr Lionel Esterhuizen for the position of the chairperson.

Mr Herron and Mr Lili recommended Ms Sibongile Morara.

The Chairperson made the casting vote, and recommended Mr Esterhuizen for the position of the chairperson.

Mr Herron said the recommendation to the MEC should also reflect that there were Committee Members who also favoured Ms Morara for the position of the chairperson. However, it was the at the MEC’s discretion to appoint the chairperson. The Committee should also recommend Ms Morara for appointment as an ordinary member if she was not appointed as chairperson.

Mr Van der Westhuizen recommended Ms Marion Wannenberg for the appointment as an ordinary member.

Mr Herron and Mr Marran agreed with Mr Van der Westhuizen’s recommendation.

Adoption of minutes

Mr Herron moved the adoption of the minutes of 31 July 2019.

Mr America seconded.

The minutes were adopted.

Adoption of Committee report

The Chairperson said the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) was to brief the Committee on the damage to houses in Mossel Bay that had been damaged due to soil erosion. The briefing would focus on when the organisation planned on compensating the home owners. The meeting would be held on 14 August.

The Committee adopted the report on the matter without any amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

Documents

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