Outcome of PSC Inquiry report on death of Mr L Garane; Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy on their mandate and functions

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

09 October 2019
Chairperson: Ms P Mabe (ANC) and Ms D Mahlangu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Parliament Statement
PSC Report on death of Mr L Garane (This document has not been made available. It will be published as soon as it is made available)

The Committee heard from Parliament’s Executive Authority on the outcomes of the Public Service Commission’s inquiry into the tragic death of Mr L Garane and from the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD) on its mandate and functions.

Parliament’s Executive Authority formally tabled the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inquiry report into the tragic death of Mr Lennox Garane. Following the tragic death of Mr Garane, the PSC was requested to conduct an investigation into how matters relating to Garane were managed preceding and subsequent to his death. The PSC was provided with six terms of reference as follows:

  • The question of whether Mr Garane was removed from his position and placed in a different role within the division where he worked. If so, for what reasons and whether stipulated procedures for removal and placement were followed in terms of the law;
  • Whether the grievances brought forth by Mr Garane prior to the tragic incident were fully processed in terms of the law;
  • Whether the non-renewal of his contract was lawful and justifiable;
  • Whether existing protocols were properly followed;
  • Events immediately leading to the deceased’s action on 14 September 2018 including the breach of security protocols, if any; and
  • Whether the family and parliamentary staff were provided with necessary services to enable closure following the incident.

The Executive Authority found the recommendations agreeable and acceptable to a greater extent. The recommendations focus on, amongst other issues: Parliament’s policy framework; which was already under review. Some of the recommendations were effected immediately and the Executive Authority would further embark on a process to satisfy itself on their appropriateness. The PSC had recommended that Parliament’s top officials' fitness to hold office be reassessed because of how Garane’s grievances were dealt with. The officials included acting secretary to Parliament, Ms Baby Tyawa and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) secretary, Adv Modibedi Phindela, and Mr Job Sithole. Although the PSC in its findings raise, among others, the question of fitness and proficiency, the overall feeling of the Executive Authority was that Ms Tyawa and Adv Phindela could not be faulted in the manner they handled the grievances of Mr Garane. The two would be sent to "leadership and development programmes". However, Mr Sithole will face a charge of misconduct as the report speaks of the failure to follow due process in transferring Mr Garane to a different division. The decision was irregular and to an extent unlawful. Going forward, it would be useful to reinforce and strengthen Parliament’s capacity to intervene in such cases.

Members said the Garane matter must be treated with the sensitivity it deserves, and should not be used for political point scoring. The PSC report was well-appreciated and the incident was a sharp learning curve which must never be repeated again. The recommendations should be implemented as expeditiously as possible. The way the family has cooperated with Parliament was equally appreciated. Parliament must be the employer of choice for the people. The security situation within the parliamentary precinct needs some revamp as it is dire. Fundamental changes must be effected. A DA Member got the impression that the Executive Authority was wishing to focus on Mr Sithole and gloss over the other recommendations made against the other office bearers in this particular report - and it would be wrong to do that. He believed it would not be appropriate for the Executive Authority to cherry-pick recommendations made in the PSC report that suit them or individuals that they favour. It would be incorrect that, without any form of inquiry, Parliament is now prepared to absolve certain individuals and conduct certain processes against others. Dealing with the protest suicide must begin with interrogating why Mr Garane was unhappy at his workplace. Mr Sithole was being sacrificed as "the fall guy", while Phindela and Tyawa were being protected. This was something which could not just be brushed off. The Co-Chairperson implored the Executive Authority to carry out its assessment and implement the report recommendations in earnest. The Committee would expect a progress report in November, before Parliament rises.

In briefing on its mandate, function and challenges, the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD), stated that its mandate is to enhance the capacity of the National Assembly (NA) to perform its functions of oversight, accountability and support relevant to ISDs (Institutions Supporting Democracy), and to coordinate all interaction between the NA and ISDs. ISDs compliment the oversight role of Parliament as part of checks and balances created by the Constitution. Their reports must be used to check and measure the performance of the executive. Thus, through their substantive/investigative reports they complement the oversight role of Parliament. The strategic objectives of the OISD is to improve: the provision of objective strategic, procedural and legal advice to Parliament on ISDs related matters to strengthen constitutional democracy; provision of objective analysis, research and content support for Parliament on ISDs related oversight matters to ISDs to strengthen constitutional democracy; and stakeholder liaison and coordination by developing a stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure implementation of Parliament’s resolutions on ISDs-related matters to deepen constitutional democracy. OISD was allocated an Operational Budget of R450 000 for the 2019/2020 financial year. Main cost drivers are travel and accommodation. On the Office’s challenges, delays in processing/effecting House Resolution in terms of appointments of members of the ISDs was foremost. Parliament continues to engage Treasury on OISD’s unfunded mandate and to facilitate engagements between presiding officers and the appointing authority (i.e. The President or the relevant Minister)

Members said the OISD’s capacity had to be spruced up as Chapter 9 institutions play a pivotal role in South African democracy. It would be difficult to argue for more funding and alignment for the Office when it is very hard to see the value-add for Parliament. Many of the reports of Chapter 9 institutions never see the light of day in Parliament, and this is a sad thing. Very little had been done to integrate and streamline the work of both Parliament and Chapter 9 institutions. There had to be some form of information-sharing between the Office and Parliament.

Meeting report

Tabling of correspondence received from Mr S Garane

Co-Chairperson Mabe welcomed everyone and indicated the Committee had convened a closed meeting in September where it was agreed that Parliament’s Executive Authority would brief Members on the outcomes of the Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation into the Garane matter. A second briefing was subsequently postponed to enable the presiding officer to first present the full report to the family of the deceased. On 19 September 2019, the family confirmed that they had received the full report. The Committee then wrote a letter to the family, to share Members’ condolences and request their permission to put the report up for consideration by Parliament in an open meeting. The family had expressed no objections in making the 600 page report public and for Parliament to use it in any way it deemed necessary. The family was of the view that Parliament may use the report or any aspect of its contents anyhow it deems fit in execution of its constitutional responsibility. The family trusted that Parliament would use the PSC report to improve its environment for all its stakeholders. Mr Garane’s son had said his father’s actions should be an ordeal worth all the effort to prevent for an august institution like Parliament. She invited the Executive Authority to highlight the contents of the PSC report.

Briefing by the Executive Authority on the outcome of the Public Service Commission’s inquiry into the tragic death of Mr L Garane in September 2018

Mr Amos Masondo, Chairperson, National Council of Provinces, formally tabled the PSC inquiry report into the tragic death of Mr Lennox Garane. The Executive Authority looked forward to fruitful engagements with a view that at the end of it all, a consensus would be reached. Following the tragic death of Mr Garane, the PSC was requested to conduct an investigation into how matters relating to Garane were managed preceding and subsequent to his death. In this entire process, the South African Police Service (SAPS) was also involved. The PSC was provided with six terms of reference. These were as follows:

  • The question of whether Mr Garane was removed from his position and placed in a different role within the division where he worked. If so, for what reasons and whether stipulated procedures for removal and placement were followed in terms of the law;
  • Whether the grievances brought forth by Mr Garane prior to the tragic incident were fully processed in terms of the law;
  • Whether the non-renewal of his contract was lawful and justifiable;
  • Whether existing protocols were properly followed;
  • Events immediately leading to the deceased’s action on 14 September 2018 including the breach of security protocols, if any; and
  • Whether the family and parliamentary staff were provided with necessary services to enable closure following the incident.

The PSC submitted its report in April 2019 and it was appropriate for the leadership of the 6th Parliament to deal with the matter. The Executive Authority had considered the report with particular emphasis on its recommendations. The Executive Authority found the recommendations agreeable and acceptable to a greater extent. The recommendations focus on, amongst other issues: Parliament’s policy framework; which was already under review. Some of the recommendations were effected immediately and the Executive Authority would further embark on a process to satisfy itself on their appropriateness.

In the international relations division, the inquiry conducted by a team of independent experts was still underway- three staff members were moved away from the division as per their request shortly after the incident.

On matters relating to security within the parliamentary precinct, Parliament is working with relevant institutions and entities such as SAPS and the Department of Public Works (DPW) to ensure this is looked into.

The PSC had recommended that Parliament’s top officials' fitness to hold office be re-assessed because of how Mr Garane’s grievances were dealt with. The officials included the Acting secretary to Parliament, Ms Baby Tyawa, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Secretary, Adv Modibedi Phindela, and Mr Job Sithole. Although the PSC in its findings raise, among others, the question of fitness and proficiency, the overall feeling of the Executive Authority was that Ms Tyawa and Adv Phindela could not be faulted in the manner they handled the grievances of Mr Garane. The two would be sent to "leadership and development programmes". However, Mr Sithole will face a charge of misconduct as the report speaks of the failure to follow due process in transferring Mr Garane to a different division. The decision was irregular and to an extent unlawful. Going forward, it would be useful to reinforce and strengthen Parliament’s capacity to intervene in such cases.

Discussion

Mr B Radebe (ANC) said the Garane matter must be treated with the sensitivity it deserves, and should not be used for political point scoring. The PSC report was well-appreciated and the incident was a sharp learning curve which must never be repeated again. It must be acknowledged that Parliament is a learning organisation. He appreciated that the Executive Authority of the 5th Parliament had engaged the services of an independent body to inquire into the unfortunate incident. The recommendations should be implemented as expeditiously as possible. The way the family has cooperated with Parliament was equally appreciated. Parliament must be the employer of choice for the people. The security situation within the parliamentary precinct needs some revamp as it is dire. Fundamental changes must be effected.

Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) said he was not sure which report Mr Masondo was reading from as the one Members were in possession of made clear findings against the three aforesaid officials. Why were recommendations being cherry-picked and not being implemented as a whole? He got the impression from Mr Masondo that the Executive Authority was wishing to focus on Mr Sithole and gloss over the other recommendations made against the other office bearers in this particular report - and it would be wrong to do that. He believed it would not be appropriate for the Executive Authority to cherry-pick recommendations made in the PSC report that suit them or individuals that they favour. It would be incorrect that, without any form of inquiry, Parliament is now prepared to absolve certain individuals and conduct certain processes against others.

Mr Masondo said there was no cherry-picking.

Mr J Julius (DA) said dealing with the protest suicide must begin with interrogating why Mr Garane was unhappy at his workplace. Mr Sithole was being sacrificed as "the fall guy", while Phindela and Tyawa were being protected. This was something which could not just be brushed off.

Mr L Tsenoli (ANC), Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, said the Executive Authority could not be expected to "swallow" the PSC recommendations as presented to it. The PSC recommendations should be looked at as recommendations. If we vary them for whatever reason, we will account for varying them. But it’s a responsibility we have, because we understand the dynamics in the institution and what we have to achieve as guided by yourselves. If we simply swallow all the recommendations as they are, even when we know otherwise, it will also not display appropriate rationale for managing things such as these.

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) asked when a proper security plan will be effected to prevent having a similar incident happening within the Parliamentary precinct again. Who was responsible for the non-functional security scanner on that fateful day? He felt there was no meaningful intervention when Mr Garane indicated he was contemplating suicide. The feedback from the Executive Authority must be rejected. Surely, training would not be enough for the said officials. The Committee should not be satisfied with recommendations that simply suggest training as a necessary course of action for the three officials. When the late Garane had expressed his grievances, it was indicated that his matter was referred to a junior employee who was said to be “imminently qualified”. Those employees themselves had said they were out of their depth- they received no assistance whatsoever from their superiors. It was unclear whether there was any proper intervention to an extent that the general feeling is Mr Garane was left to his own devices. This was a dereliction of duty on the part of the implicated officials.

Mr Tsenoli noted Members’ concerns and said the quality of service to parliamentary staff and Members should be effective at all time. This objective will be emphasised in the host of measures that will be tabled for the Committee’s consideration soon. On the non-functional security scanner, SAPS’ investigations found that only one staff member was present on the day and the contraption was set aside. Disciplinary action was being taken against the people that were staffing on that day. As per SAPS investigations, the incident constituted a security breach and there will be collaborative efforts between themselves and the Department of Public Works to ensure such incidents do not happen again. The only outstanding process matter was for the Garane family to carry out some rituals at the deceased’s office. These are preliminary responses on the part of the Executive Authority. The report was still going to be processed further by assessing whether the recommendations should be wholly approved and effected against the terms of reference. 

Mr Julius asked if Parliament agreed the officials involved were negligent. Why did the Executive Authority believe the recommendations should be reviewed further and not be effected in their entirety immediately?

Mr Brauteseth pointed out that certain parts of the parliamentary precinct were not designated as national key points and such areas could therefore present a security nightmare. There had to be a commitment and deadline by when this would the recommendations would be effected. 

Co-Chairperson Mahlangu said an assessment exercise must be carried out by the Executive Authority in relation to competence and management skills base within the parliamentary labour force. Parliament’s workforce is not happy. The working environment in Parliament is very toxic and this had to be addressed.

Mr Masondo appreciated the feedback and the balanced approached being taken by Members. Although Parliament should be accessible to everyone and not be turned into a fortress, security must be spruced up. He agreed capacity of the labour force should be improved and there ought to be collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. He added that the broader issues of leadership and development and how Parliament intervened needed to be reinforced and strengthened.

Co-Chairperson Mabe implored the Executive Authority to carry out its assessment and implement the report recommendations in earnest. The Committee would expect a progress report in November, before Parliament rises.

Briefing by the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD) on its mandate, function and challenges

Co-Chairperson Mabe invited a briefing from the OISD.

Mr Khayalethu Zweli, OISD, took the Committee through a presentation on the OISD’s mandate, function and challenges. In 2006, the National Assembly (NA) appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to: review and assess the effectiveness of ISDs in strengthening constitutional democracy since their establishment, and to make appropriate recommendations to strengthen them further. The report of the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions, recommended the establishment of a “Unit on Constitutional Institutions and Other Statutory Bodies in the Office of the Speaker. The Committee found that a lack of co-ordination, the absence of systems to monitor reports and track the terms of office of commissioners as being among the major shortfalls in the current parliamentary arrangements for oversight and accountability with respect to the Chapter 9 and associated Institutions.

The mandate of the OISD is to enhance the capacity of the NA to perform its functions of oversight, accountability and support relevant to ISDs (Institutions Supporting Democracy), and to coordinate all interaction between the NA and ISDs. ISDs compliment the oversight role of Parliament as part of checks and balances created by the Constitution. Their reports must be used to check and measure the performance of the executive. Thus, through their substantive/investigative reports they complement the oversight role of Parliament. The strategic objectives of the OISD is to improve: the provision of objective strategic, procedural and legal advice to Parliament on ISDs related matters to strengthen constitutional democracy; provision of objective analysis, research and content support for Parliament on ISDs related oversight matters to ISDs to strengthen constitutional democracy; and stakeholder liaison and coordination by developing a stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure implementation of Parliament’s resolutions on ISDs-related matters to deepen constitutional democracy.

Roles and functions of the Office are as follows: 

  • Receive and, through the Speaker, direct correspondence from the ISDs to the appropriate structure in the NA. This would include recommendations for the most appropriate portfolio committee or group of portfolio committees to which reports should be referred, and drafting terms of reference for such committees in respect of such reports, including timeframes for reporting to the Presiding Offices (POs);
  • Co-ordinate the oversight and accountability functions of the NA with respect to the ISDs to ensure that the NA complies with its constitutional duties in a consistent, efficient and fair manner;
  • Co-ordinate, through the Office of the Speaker, the timely and effective recommendation by the NA for the appointment of commissioners and office bearers to the relevant ISDs; and
  • Highlight issues emanating from reports tabled in Parliament by the ISDs for possible debate in the NA


Operational Budget

OISD was allocated an Operational Budget of R450 000 for the 2019/2020 financial year. The main cost drivers are travel and accommodation. On the Office’s challenges, delays in processing/effecting House Resolution in terms of appointments of members of the ISDs was foremost. Parliament continues to engage Treasury on OISD’s unfunded mandate and to facilitate engagements between presiding officers and the appointing authority (i.e. The President or the relevant Minister)

Discussion

Mr Steenhuisen said it would be difficult to argue for more funding and alignment for the Office when it is very hard to see the value-add for Parliament. Many of the reports of Chapter 9 institutions never see the light of day in Parliament, and this is a sad thing. Very little had been done to integrate and streamline the work of both Parliament and Chapter 9 institutions. It is difficult to do that when reports do not reach the relevant portfolio committees. For example, the Human Right Commission produced a report in April 2018 unpacking the gaps and challenges around gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. There has been a big blow-up of GBV recently but the said report has not been discussed in Parliament as yet. There is no use of having Chapter 9 institutions producing reports which are then not read or traversed in Parliament. There has to be some form of monitoring of the reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions. They must be rigorously debated in Parliament. There has got to be some form of information-sharing between the Office and Parliament.

Mr Radebe said the OISD’s capacity had to be spruced up as Chapter 9 institutions play a pivotal role in South African democracy.

Mr Zweli appreciated Members’ inputs and stated that political will was critical to ensure that any decisions taken do see the light of day. The OISD was there to provide support and if need be would motivate for even more capacity where appropriate.

Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked everyone for the engagements and adjourned the meeting.

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