The Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCCP) Standing Budget Committee voted not to support the adoption of the final mandate on the Division of Revenue Bill in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Members raised several objections to the Bill, the most common thread being that the “fair share” formula that was used for the Western Cape was not fair. The Committee was told that out of all other provinces that had given their input about the Bill under discussion, all of them had raised concerns similar to what the WCPP Committee had raised – that the Equitable Share Formula needed to change. A few of those provinces had not even made recommendations as to whether they supported the Bill or not, simply because the questions around the Equitable Share had not been answered properly. So it was not that the views from the WCP were in isolation.
The Committee also adopted meeting minutes and quarterly reports.
Final Mandate Report on Division of Revenue Bill [B 3–2020] (NCOP)
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) said that the Committee could not support this Bill because there was a new bill that was coming up on the 24 June and, apart from that, the current Wage Bill had taken a year under review. This was not sustainable and more should have been done to cut the Wage Bill.
Secondly, when it came to education, he had been raising the same issues with the National Treasury every year -- that the funds did not follow the learners, did not follow the teaching posts or the infrastructure needs of some of the schools in communities, as about 20,000 learners were coming into the Western Cape every year. As a result, some of the schools could not keep up because of the lack of funds.
Thirdly, the same applied to health. Funds distributed to the provinces did not follow the patients, health, or infrastructure needs. For example, the Khayelitsha Hospital which was built to serve 5 000 patients per day now received 7 000 patients per day, and there was no infrastructure for such a growing number of patients.
The same applied to the farmers. During the severe drought in recent years, the funds that were given for disaster management last year did not address the challenges that were caused by the droughts.
Mr L Mvimbi (ANC) said that he wanted to give a general comment, and this was not necessarily in support of what Mr Mackenzie had said. When he read reports from other provinces, they showed that most of the time when it came to supporting any Bill, the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP) Committees always abstained from supporting Bills without giving any reasons as to why they were abstaining. What other provinces did was that they invite the Treasury to come and clearly explain some of the issues that the Committee may not be clear about. He concluded by saying that in future, the Committee should give obvious reasons as to why they supported or did not support the Bill.
Ms W Philander (DA) said that she was not in support of the Bill. She did not understand why the national Government was always bailing out the failing state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The money used for bailing out these SOEs could have been spent on some other productive purposes, such as providing support for the frontline services.
The other reason she was not in support of the Bill was that the municipalities had experienced a drop in revenue, and yet it was the municipalities which were close to the people and therefore needed the most support. She also felt that the “fair share” formula that was used for the Western Cape was not fair.
Mr R Allen (DA) said that safety was everyone’s concern, so he could not support the Bill because the WCPP was under-staffed. Recent crime statistics for last year for the province revealed that 18.9% of the murder cases were generated in the Western Cape province. If this province was to cut down the rate of murder cases to half of this percentage, then national Government should increase the allocation because the current allocation it was getting from it was not sufficient. This meant that money had had to be taken from other Departments in the Western Cape province to support the safety plan that Premier Allan Winde had implemented. For those reasons, the Committee could not support this Bill.
The Chairperson said that following what Mr Mvimbi had said, Committee Members should give reasons for not supporting the Bill. National Treasury had answered some of the questions that had been addressed to them, and there was documentation that had been sent to the Committee as well. Mr Mvimbi had a point -- that the Committee needed to include reasons as part of their negotiating mandates, whether they were supporting the Bill, or not. This should happen even after the National Treasury had answered some of the questions already. There was nothing that should stop the Committee from including their reasons as well.
Mr Mackenzie said that he had received a document from the coordinator which showed that out of all other provinces that have given their input about the Bill under discussion, all of them had raised concerns similar to what the WCPP Committee had raised -- the Equitable Share Formula needed to change. A few of those provinces did not even make recommendations as to whether they supported the Bill or not, simply because the questions around the Equitable Share had not been answered properly. So it was not that the views from the WCP were in isolation. This issue was the same across the country, except for one or two provinces that had shown their support for the Bill.
Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) said that just because other provinces had not substantiated their reasons for not supporting the Bill should not give the WCPP Budget Committee members justification to follow their example. As a legislature, the Committee had the responsibility of being answerable to the executive that they oversee. Therefore, the right thing to do was to confirm their reasons, because they had substantive issues that they were concerned about.
Secondly, the Members should speak as people who understood their role, and in what context things happen. If they were to talk about the fair share formula in the current economic situation in South Africa, their conversations should ring true and indicate a balanced view concerning the situation. Members should always consider where the funding they were talking about was going to come from. Much as they were all ranting and raving about the dwindling economic situation in the country, it would be good if they took this into consideration when raising their issues.
However, as a Committee, they should not shy away from raising their concerns. In future, the Committee should come together -- not necessarily for this Bill, but generally -- and look at its past experiences and examine, when Members take positions about the division of revenue, exactly what message they were sending. They kept on taking the same stance and nothing had changed. It could be that they needed to change their approach, because there was no way they could keep doing the same things and expect different results, but this should not make them shy away from expressing their views and concerns as Committee Members.
The Chairperson said that she would like to encourage the Members, especially those from other political parties who had the negotiating mandates for this Standing Committee, to attend the respective sessions to raise their concerns if they had any other views they would like to add to reports.
She concluded that since there were not any other points to raise about the Bill, she put the question to the Committee on whether they should support, oppose or abstain from the Division of Revenue Bill.
Mr Mvimbi proposed that the Committee should support the Bill.
Mr Mackenzie proposed not to support the Bill, given the substantive reasons that had been provided.
Ms Philander also proposed not to support the Bill.
The voting on the motion went in favour of those who proposed not to support the Bill.
Ms Lizette Cloete, Procedural Officer, said that all the reasons, whether in support or not in support of the Bill, should be stipulated in the negotiating mandate, so the reasons Members had given for not supporting the Bill could not be noted in the minutes of the meeting.
Final Mandate Stage
Report of the Budget Committee on the Division of Revenue Bill [B3-2020] (NCOP), dated 22 May 2020, reads as follows:
“The Budget Committee has considered the subject of the Division of Revenue Bill [B3-2020] (NCOP), referred to the Committee in terms of Standing Rule 217, and recommends that the House confers on the Western Cape’s delegation in the National Council of Provinces the authority to not support the Bill.”
The Committee adopted the report
The Committee considered the draft committee minutes of the meeting held on 12 May.
Ms Philander proposed their adoption, and Mr Mvimbi seconded.
The minutes were adopted.
The Committee considered the draft reports for the 3rd Quarter (October – December 2019) and 4th Quarter (Jan – March 2020).
The budget of the Committee from October-December 2019 was as follows:
Budget allocated: R100 000;
Actual spent: R15 054
Balance: R84 946.
Ms Waseemah Kamish-Achmat, Procedural Officer (PO), said that this was a budget from the 3rd Quarter, October to December 2019, and the balance would reflect differently after the 4th Quarter (Jan- March 2020).
The Committee adopted the quarterly report of the Third Quarter.
The budget of the Committee from January- March 2020 was as follows:
Budget allocated: R100 000
Actual spent: R38 835
The Committee adopted the Fourth Quarter Report.
Mr Mackenzie asked if the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) or the National Assembly could send their agenda or budget to the Standing Committee on Budget, because any meetings they were going to hold would have a profound impact on the provinces, particularly with the new budget that was coming up on 24 June. It would also be good if this Committee could be invited to attend their meetings. He cited the Social Development meeting to which they were invited, where they had been able to engage with the National Minister, Lindiwe Zulu.
Ms Nkondlo supported Mr Mackenzie’s proposal, and asked the Committee coordinators to help integrate the dates for the NCOP meetings in the calendar of the Committee Members for them to be aware and able to attend such meetings if they were available on such days.
She also asked if she could have access to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) website to access some of the minutes and the presentations, in case she was not able to attend the meeting. She said she always struggled to have access to the PMG site because of its set up.
The Chairperson said that the Procedural Officer would contact the PMG on this issue to establish what their access requirements were. From what she knew, Members could gain access to the PMG website if they logged in using their official WCPP email address. She was not sure if one had to pay to have access to this site if they logged in using their own email address.
Ms Kamish-Achmat referred to Mr Mackenzie’s proposal about the NCOP meetings, and said they first needed to have a discussion with the Chief Whip on this matter. This was because there was a column in the Parliamentary Programme that indicated the NCOP/National Assembly meetings which all Committees could easily see.
The meeting was adjourned.
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