Video: JM: PC on Tourism and SC on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, To
Audio: Department of Tourism on withdrawal of 2020/21 Strategic Plan & APP; severe impact of COVID 19 on tourism; with Minister
The plan was for the Committees, in the presence of the Minister, to be briefed on the Department of Tourism’s Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan for 2020/21. However, due to the severe impact of the COVID 19 on the industry, the Minister decided to appeal to both the NA and the NCOP to withdraw and review these documents as well as those of South African Tourism (SAT).
Members heard that even though the Annual Performance Plans (APPs) for both the Department and South African Tourism had started from last year and was completed in January, COVID19 was then unheard of and its impact therefore not anticipated for. As a result, when COVID19 struck, the Department was unprepared for the damaging impact on the South African tourism industry. Hence it was necessary to review the APP given the severe impact of COVID19 on the tourism sector, and redirect its resources. The Department had written to request for a withdrawal of its APP from both the Chairperson of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP. The Minister emphasised the importance of the link between the critical issues in the APP, the Department’s needs and mindfulness of the pandemic environment.
Members while initially surprised at the request for a withdrawal but quickly understood the position and said that there was nothing wrong as long as the Department re-submitted its review before the deadline.
Members heard that with regard to the re-submission timeframe there were three proposals or options. The first two options were more in keeping with the Department’s programme. Option one had the Committee tabling the APP in the week from 11 - 15 May. Here, the draft Committee Report could be considered on 26 May and it could be adopted on 1 June. Option Two had the Department tabling the APP in the week 18 - 22 May, and then the Committee would be briefed on the Department’s APP on 25 May and South Africa Tourism’s APP on 26 May. The Committee would then have to consider the draft Committee Report on the 1 June and adopt it on 2 June.
Members requested the Department considers the inputs made by the Committee in previous meetings, particularly prioritisation of villages, small towns and townships. The Committee felt strongly that since the Department’s four programmes have been disrupted by the pandemic, it is important that the Department reprioritises. Also, Members urged the Department that when deliberating about the options to take into account issues of transformation, combating poverty and unemployment.
While Members were concerned about the Department being able to meet the deadline, they also asked how the postponement would fit into the timeline in terms of the 2019 Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) Bill.
The Minister confirmed that the Department would comply with the two-day period. She put forward a suggestion for the Department to select option two if possible then there would be no need for the two Chairpersons to have that discussion and the review would be within the timeframe of what the DoRA stipulated. The Minister added that the re-tabling could be ready next week at the latest.
The Committees resolved that given that Members will need time to synchronise their inputs on the three options, the NA and the NCOP Committees would each send their Members an agreed-upon version.
Co-Chairperson Mahumapelo thanked Members for their patience and understanding regarding the technical issues which had briefly held up the meeting. Since there was a quorum the meeting would proceed.
Through Mr H April (ANC) and Ms M Gomba (ANC) the agenda was proposed, moved and accepted.
The Chairperson gave condolences to the family of the Deputy Minister and requested the administrator to provide the list of apologies.
The administrator asked to defer the list of apologies because Members were still getting connected.
Co-Chairperson Rayi greeted and welcomed all Members from the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Select Committee as well as the Minister of Tourism and her Department. He expressed condolences to the Deputy Minister for the loss of her brother.
He informed Members that as a norm, Committees dealt with the Department’s Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan during this period of time. However, he acknowledged that the Select Committee had received a letter from the Office of the Chairperson of the NCOP. The letter was brought forward by the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Speaker.
Chairperson Mahumapelo said that in terms of the Public Finance Act and Rules of Parliament, the Committee deals with departments and other governmental departments’ Annual Performance Plans (APPs) in preparation for the budget. However, he had received a letter from the Minister of Tourism specifically requesting the withdrawal and review of the APP for reasons she would explain in the presentation.
Briefing by the Department of Tourism
Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism, thanked both Chairpersons and Members of the NA and the NCOP. She was joined by the Department’s Director-General, Mr Victor Tharage, and the Deputy Director-General, Ms Aneme` Malan. She thanked both Committees for their condolences for her Deputy and said that she would convey their condolences.
The Minister said the tabling of the Annual Performance Plans (APPs) for both the Department and South African Tourism (SAT) had started from last year and was completed in January. However, at the time of the work, South Africa had not been affected by COVID19, nor had anyone in government anticipated that COVID19 would happen. As a result of COVID19 and its damaging impact on the South African tourism industry, a major part of the Department’s programme, such as the Destination Development Programme and the Tourism Incentive Programme, the Department was unable to fulfil those programmes. Hence it was necessary to review the existing targets to enable it to redirect resources.
The Minister acknowledged the Department’s accounting role to Parliament and said that she did not wish to take the tabling of the APP as just mundane and technical compliance. It was for this reason that the Department had decided to review its APP given the severe impact that COVID19 has had on the tourism sector.
The Minister said that her Department had written to request for a withdrawal of its APP from both the Speaker of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP. The Department so far has not received any indication from both either, but she assured both Committees that the review work had been started in the Department. She emphasised the importance of the link between the critical issues in the APP, the Department’s needs and mindfulness of the pandemic environment.
She assured Members that both APPs for the Department and SAT had almost been concluded. Both the Department and SAT needed a week to do their review before APPs would be submitted to Parliament and be provided for Members.
The Minister said that her Department had checked all the rules on re-tabling budgets. She also asked both Chairpersons to be mindful that there are precedents in the re-tabling of budget reviews during election time periods. Usually departments table their APPs in February but there is still time for departments to do review based on their mandates after election. Thus, she believed there was sufficient ground for the Department to request the withdrawal.
The Chairperson informed both Committees that he had taken the initiative and talked to Mr C Frolick, the House Chairperson, about the Department’s request to withdraw its APP. Mr Frolick agreed that the Department could withdraw it as there was nothing wrong as long as the Department re-submitted its review before the deadline. Subsequently he had also spoken to the administrator of the Committee with regard to the re-submission timeframe and there are three proposals.
Dr Sibusiso Khuzwayo, Content Advisor, Parliament informed Members of the three options.
Option 1: if the Department was to table the APP in the week from 11 - 15 May, then the Committees would be briefed on 18 May for the Department’s APP and briefed on SAT’s APP on 19 May. The Committee may consider the draft Committee Report on 26 May and it could be adopted on 1 June.
Option 2: If the Department tables in the week 18 - 22 May, the Committee would be briefed on the Department’s APP on 25 May and South Africa Tourism’s APP on 26 May. The Committee would then have to consider the draft Committee Report on the 1 June and adopt it on 2 June.
Dr Khuzwayo said that these two options are in line with Parliament’s regulations.
Option 3: If the Department could not make it and tables on the 29 May, then the Committee would receive the Department’s briefing on 1 June and SAT’s briefing on 2 June. Then the Committee will have to consider its Report on 8 June then adopt on 9 June. Dr Khuzwayo pointed out that the issue in this option is that the Chairperson requires special permission from the House Chairperson.
Co-Chairperson Rayi made a suggestion that he would like both Committees to accept the Minister’s letter and consider whether to grant the Department permission to withdraw its APP. He said the timeframe can be discussed by the two Chairpersons and the staff because it was an administrative issue. As his Select Committee dealt with seven departments, it was difficult to work out a date in the meeting.
Chairperson Mahumapelo agreed with the Co-Chair’s suggestion.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) agreed with the Minister and said the Committees should accept the Minister’s request for withdrawal because no one could have predicted COVID19. This pandemic is obviously affecting the work of the Department around its budget allocation. He endorsed the Minister’s request to withdraw the Department’s APP for review as long as it was done within the ambit of the law.
He requested that the Department considers the inputs made by the Committee in previous meetings, particularly the prioritisation of villages, small towns and townships.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) said the Committees should accept and grant the Minister’s request. Since the Department’s four programmes have been disrupted by the pandemic, it is important that the Department reprioritises.
She urged the Department to take into account the issues of transformation, combating poverty and unemployment.
Mr H Gumbi (DA) agreed that the Department’s current APP needed a review. He agreed with the Minister that the Department’s accounting role to Parliament should not be about mere compliance, it should be about benefitting people. He agreed that it would not be feasible to discuss the timeframe at this meeting and that it should be discussed by the Chairpersons. However, he made the suggestion that Options 1 and 2 are preferred.
Mr Gumbi commented on the three-minute rule. He stressed that Members were ultimately at meetings to do a job, so the concern about live broadcast streaming should not be a reason to curtail their time to interrogate the Executive.
Chairperson Mahumapelo agreed with his point and said that this rule does not apply to this meeting.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) commented that the Committees needed to accept the Minister’s request for withdrawal. It is important that the APP should reflect reality, and the current reality was different to what it was prior to the pandemic. The current APP cannot be implemented because of the pandemic, so it should be reviewed by the Department.
Ms S Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) said that she understood where the Minister came from and agreed that the APP tabling should be postponed. She hoped that both Committees would get their reviewed APPs in time so that they would have sufficient time to apply their minds to them.
She enquired about how the postponement would fit into the timeline in terms of the 2019 Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) Bill.
Mr H April (ANC) said that he had anticipated that programmes proposed in the APP had to be changed under the circumstances so he agreed to the Minister’s request.
Mr April asked if the Department’s communication could be jacked up a bit as it would be really helpful for his constituencies in Sandton who are badly affected.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) said that Members had not received the Minister’s letter. He wanted to understand what would happen if the Committee were to grant the Minister’s request. He expressed concern about whether the Department would be able to meet the deadline.
Mr E Landsman (ANC, North West) accepted the Minister’s request. He emphasised that the reviewed APP needed to show a prioritisation towards villages, townships and small towns and to make sure that the review will not negatively disadvantage the poorest section of the population.
Mr K Mmmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) accepted the request because he felt the Minister’s explanation made sense. The APP is regulated by Section 5 (1) of the Money Bill, thus he appreciated the fact that the Minister saw this provision in a very serious manner. If the Committee were to adopt the APP and interrogate the Department as it is, it would put the Department on the wrong side.
He also agreed with the Minister that the APP should not only be for mere compliance, it should be considered a matter of serious importance.
Chairperson Mahumapelo explained to Mr Sithole the basis on which both Committees were now suggesting approval be granted to the Minister’s request. He requested the administrator of the Committee send the Minister’s letter to Members of both Committees last week. He offered profuse apologies to anyone who had not received the letter. He then informed Mr Sithole that there was a discussion between Mr Rayi, the House Chairperson Mr Frolick and himself about this letter. The resolution from that meeting was that both Committees must look at the request from the Department today, process it and give a report back to Mr Frolick.
In terms of the DORA Bill, Chairperson Mahumapelo assured Ms Boshoff that everything the Committees were going to do on this matter will be compliant with all laws of the Republic of South Africa. The Minister also indicated that she and the Department had also looked at all the laws regulating Parliament and the precedents when such incidents occurred.
Chairperson Mahumapelo said it was clear that permission was given by the Committees for the Department and SAT to review their APPs. He said that they would make a selection between option 1 and option 2.
Chairperson Mahumapelo said the Committees asked the Department to consider prioritisation of budgets towards villages, townships and small towns as inhabitants of those areas are more likely to be poor and suffering the most as a result of COVID 19. He further asked the Department to take note in their review process to focus all programmes on addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality with a specific emphasis on the two categories women and youth. In South Africa, 60% of the youth population were unemployed and the country remained the most unequal society in the world.
He also asked for an intensification of the communication with the Committee so that constituents will know about matters of tourism and the Department’s activities.
The Minister’s closing remarks
The Minister confirmed that the Department would comply within the two-day period. She put forward a suggestion for the Department to select option 2 if possible then there would be no need for the two Chairpersons to have that discussion. Then, if the Department selects option 2, the review would be within the timeframe of what DORA stipulated. The Minister said the re-tabling could be ready next week at the latest.
She expressed her appreciation of Members’ support and understanding and said that Members’ inputs on prioritisation would be taken into account.
The Co-Chairperson’s remark
Co-Chairperson Rayi explained to Mr Sithole that the Presiding Officer had sent out an email with a copy of the Minister’s letter.
He clarified the three-minute rule. As a norm, there is usually no time limit for Members to adhere to. The last joint meeting in which he implemented the three minute rule was due to the huge number of Members present and the given time slot of only two hours. In order to give every Member a chance to speak, he had no option but to impose the three-minute rule. But since meetings for this week had been extended to three hours, he saw that there was no need to implement that rule anymore.
Chairperson Mahumapelo thanked Co-Chairperson Rayi for chairing the meeting last week when he experienced technical issues. He thanked the Minister for her response and expressed the Committee’s understanding. He remarked that the solutions that the Department will come up with will not address all the challenges but they will be committed to the betterment of the lives of all South Africans so that when the pandemic was over, people working in the sector will re-emerge. He remarked that South Africa was already in a recession before the virus struck and this was evidenced by the grading agency’s downgrading. Finally, he asked the Department to submit its review in time so that Committee Members could study them.
Consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes dated 17 March 2020
Ms Makhubela-Mashele moved and Ms Gomba seconded the adoption of the minutes.
The draft minutes of 17 March 2020 were adopted without amendments.
Chairperson Mahumapelo made a resolution that given that Members will need time to synchronise their inputs on the three options, the NA and the NCOP Committees would each send their Members an agreed-upon version.
The meeting was adjourned.
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