The Portfolio Committee on Social Development and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services met jointly to receive a briefing on the process of appointing candidates to serve on the Central Drug Authority (CDA) Board. The presentation also highlighted the role, composition and challenges facing the Board. The Minister of Social Development was in attendance.
The Joint Committee heard that the Fifth Parliament was requested to interview nominees to serve in the CDA and send recommendations to the Minister. But due to the time constraints and other priorities the Portfolio Committee could not do so before the end of their term. The Portfolio Committee then advised the then Minister of Social Development to extend the term of office of the members of the CDA. The term of office of CDA members was extended from 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2019.
Members were informed that the current CDA Board was depleted; some members had passed on and others had relinquished their positions; whilst some representatives of departments had left such departments or had already been shifted from units that dealt with substance abuse issues to other units; and the CDA is not functioning optimally. The Department of Social Development recommended that, firstly, the Joint Committee note the process of appointing the CDA; secondly, new CDA members be appointed; thirdly, Act 70 of 2008 be amended to allow implementation of the recommended structure of the CDA; and, fourthly, that note that the National Drug Master Plan will be tabled to Cabinet to ensure that the newly appointed Board immediately starts with the work.
The Minister stressed that whatever extension granted now must be the last extension. The new Board must be in place in the first portion of January. In summary, the current board must be left as is. Secondly, there may only be one more extension. Thirdly, there must be a new Board in place by the end of January. Members reiterated the Minister’s appeal that there was a need to appoint the Board speedily and said: ‘as long as it is transparent, the law permits us to address this matter with urgency’.
Mr Gungubele welcomed everybody to the meeting.
Apologies were read out.
He explained that this is a joint session between the NCOP and the NA. He proposed that there should only be one item on the agenda. The meeting would start with a presentation from the Department. In this meeting, the process of appointing the board of the CDA (Central Drug Agency) will be discussed.
Opening remarks by the Minister
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, stated that the appointment of the CDA Board is of utmost importance in terms of the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. In another meeting concerning the statistics on crime, a very disturbing finding was the continued violence especially against women and children. Important contributors are alcohol and substance abuse. The Department cannot afford to take these matters very seriously. It would not be surprising if South Africa features quite high globally in term of the abuse of drugs and alcohol. It is important that all systems and opportunities that South Africa has to put together in fighting this scourge have to be done as quickly and as effectively as possible. The current CDA membership expired in September 2018 and was extended twice to allow the 5th Parliament to facilitate the interviews but the 5th Parliament was not able to do complete due to its hectic schedule ahead of elections in May. The second extension is until 31 September 2019. The Department will potentially be forced to extend it again. Continuous extension of boards is not something that we should get used to. The Department proposed to the Joint Committee that the advertisement be published and that the current list of nominated candidates will be considered during the shortlisting process if they are still interested. The Committee may also want to advise on the period of the advertisement.
The legislation was quiet about such timeframes and the period of lapse of adverts. This is an urgent matter. The Department will work with the Committee in fast-tracking the appointment process and ensure completion within the shortest period of time without compromising the process prescribed by the law. The Committee is requested to please look at the advert and make inputs where necessary. Depending on the substantive nature of the inputs, nominated candidates on the list may be subjected to new requirements. As a Nation, we have the responsibility to move with the times. If there are new things that need to be added so that the process can be sharpened to ensure that the best candidates are selected, the Committee can advise the Department in this regard. The proposal is for the Committee to extend the term of office of the current members by one or two months, while the appointment process is being finalised. We would not want to be continuously delaying the appointment. The Department considered the time that would be adequate to finalise the process. The CDA is still to submit its annual reports for 2017/18 and 2018/19 to Parliament. The National Draft Master Plan will be taken to Cabinet soon to enable the CDA and the country to fight the scourge of drugs.
The visit to Kraaifontein showed that the problem went beyond homelessness; it was also about getting social services to assist. The beautiful children out there are going into the miserable conditions where their parents are intoxicated. Issues of substance, drug and alcohol abuse will be fought to reduce the occurrence. Concerning the evaluation of the previous Draft Master Plan and the coordination mechanism, the weaknesses identified and the recommendations made by the DMPE are acknowledged by the Department. These recommendations were tabled in Cabinet during 2018. The DPME (Department Monitoring and Evaluation) recommended, among others, that the Department needs to relook at the repositioning and structure of the CDA and its Secretariat in order to strengthen the coordination mechanism so that it still delivers on its mandate as required by legislation. The Department has started its work to look at the current policy that will allow it to amend the current legislation and change the coordination structure as recommended by the DPME. The DPME is one other instrument of government that the Department takes very seriously. Monitoring & Evaluation helps that Department to understand what it is doing well, what the challenges are, and what are the proposals and remedial action that can be taken. The team will brief the Committee on the CDA and the process of appointing this board so that Members can take informed decisions on the way forward.
Briefing by Department of Social Development (DSD)
Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director- General (DDG), DSD, made the presentation.
Establishment of the CDA
The CDA is a statutory body, established in terms of Section 53 of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, (Act No 70 of 2008).
Roles and responsibilities of the CDA
In terms of Section 56, the powers and duties of the CDA include the following:
Oversee and Monitor the National Drug Master Plan;
Facilitate and encourage the coordination of strategic projects;
Advise government on policies and programmes in the field of substance abuse and drug trafficking; and
Recommend to Cabinet the review of the National Drug Master Plan every 5 years.
Composition of CDA
The CDA has structures at the National (CDA), Provincial (Provincial Substance Abuse Forum) and Local Levels (Local Drug Action Committee).
Appointment of the members of the CDA
According to Section 56(3) of Act 70 of 2008, the process, among others, of appointing members of CDA is as follows:
Advertise call for nomination through Media and Government Gazette;
CVs of nominated persons are submitted to Parliament for shortlisting and interviewing by Parliamentary Committees for Social Development the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces; and
The process should be open and transparent.
The Portfolio Committee of the 5th Administration was requested to interview nominees to serve in the CDA and send recommendations to the Minister. But due to the time constraints and other priorities the Portfolio Committee could not do so before the end of their term. The Portfolio Committee then advised the then Minister of Social Development to extend the term of office of the members of the CDA. The term of office of CDA members was extended from 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2019
Ms Nxumalo indicated that:
The current CDA Board is depleted. Some members passed on and others relinquished their positions whilst some representatives of departments have left such departments or have been shifted from units that deal with substance abuse issues to other units
The CDA is not functioning optimally.
It is recommended that the:
Joint Committee notes the process of appointing CDA;
New CDA members be appointed;
Act 70 of 2008 be amended to allow implementation of the recommended structure of the CDA;
Joint Committee notes that the NDMP will be tabled to Cabinet to ensure that newly appointed board immediately starts with the work.
Minister Zulu said that, in light of the fact that the board is depleted, it is preferred that the bigger process is speeded up.
Ms Gungubele explained that the Committee is faced with a situation where an advertisement calling for nominations ran its course until December 2017, followed by the processes of putting together a list. Now it is 19 months later and nothing has been done. The Committee finds itself in a position where it stands in an uncomfortable contrast to the regulatory imperatives. This is why it is important to discuss how best to legally fit into this situation. One approach is to make an advertisement and take what happened into account. Knowing these developments, it is like the Department is trapping the Committee. While it may not have been intended in this way, it appears as a form of blackmail. The Department is supposed to do that now there is an opportunity for advertising anew, knowing how long it will take and all the facts in totality, how long it will take for the board to be in place. In terms of timing, the Committee may even shorten the time to accommodate the urgency alluded to by the Minister. The Department needs to state the minimums that ought to be adhered to for the board to be in place by a particular date. The Committee will then focus on these. What the Department has instead done is to break down the details and has offered excuses.
Minister Zulu explained that, being new, she would not want to shorten the appointment process without having the conversation only to find that the Department is forced to extend again. Considering the challenges, it may be possible to shorten the period of appointment. Having looked at the submission, there should be a way of shortening the process especially considering what they went through even before the current administration. ‘We are not doing this for ourselves, but in order to have an impact out there’. It could have been that things were not done because of elections. This should not be encouraged especially when the commitment is to service delivery. To delay this process is unnecessary.
Ms Gillion said that while the depletion of the board is recognised, it is also important to acknowledge the legalities. When we look at what is happening around us when it comes to substance abuse, it is very important to call for new nominations and work very hard towards a timeframe. It is possible that the current nominations are not even interested anymore. The impact of this board is going to have vital implications in tackling substance abuse. This must be the message sent.
Ms B Masango (DA) noted that the presentation speaks to the overseeing of the Drug Master Plan and in the following slides it speaks about the Drug Master Plan still needing to be processed. What is the rationale or benefit of rushing the process of actually having the Board there when what is central to their work is still being processed? Or, are we saying because of the pressure we are under given the levels of drug abuse out there; there will be something that the Board will be doing? If the appointment of the board is fast-tracked, will the processing of the plan also be fast-tracked which the board will be overseeing to implement? Which one is the chicken and the egg in this process? It is agreed that the appointment of the Board needs to be fast-tracked.
Mr Gungubele said that it is important to focus on both the chicken and the egg.
Mr D Stock (ANC) stated that the Committee, working from that premise, needs to accept the reasons given for the non-appointment of the CDA Board for a longer period than expected. There is one reason; however, that is not a legitimate reason. To say that a reason for the non-appointment of the CDA board for a longer period than expected was that it was because of the elections implies that there is no government when there are elections. This is wrong. What happened between December 2017 and elections this year? The Department must take full responsibility. Be that as it may, we are left with a situation where we are trying to avoid repeated extensions going forward. The proposal is to restart the process. What happened in the past needs to be taken into consideration? The advert must go out. People need to be nominated and the process should not be prolonged any further. The role of the Committee is to fast-track the process.
Mr Gungubele stressed that the Committee must be given an idea, taking into account all these processes, when the new Board will be in place?
Ms Nxumalo explained that the entire process takes three months. The new Board will be in place by the end of December.
Mr Gungubele confirmed whether the new Board will be in place by the end of December. The current Board must be left to do whatever it is doing. Whatever extension that is done now must be the last extension. The new Board must be in place in the first portion of January. The Minister said a few things. Firstly, the current Board must be left as is. Second, there may only be one more extension. Three, there must be a new Board in place by the end of January.
The Committee Secretary made a few announcements.
Mr Gungubele once against stressed the need to appoint the Board speedily. He concluded the meeting by saying: ‘as long as the process is transparent, the law permits us to address this matter with urgency’.
The meeting was adjourned.