Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill: postponed

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

07 July 2020
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Audio: Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill: deliberations
Media Statement: CoGTA Committee Adjourns Meeting Due to Outstanding Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Report on the Bill 

The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs met with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to continue its deliberations on the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill [B2-2019].

After a brief discussion Members unanimously opted to adjourn the meeting and postpone the deliberations on the Bill to the following week, citing the Department’s failure to provide the requisite socio-economic impact assessment report and the Department’s failure to abide by Parliaments 24-hour rule in which to submit documents.

Members felt that it would establish poor precedent if the Committee were to deliberate and decide on a report Members had not adequately engaged with. It was agreed the Committee would not proceed if documents were not submitted timeously.

Meeting report

The Chairperson commenced the meetings proceedings by welcoming Members and expressed appreciation for Deputy Minister Parks Tau’s presence, as the Minister was unable to attend due to a family emergency.   

The Chairperson noted late attendance apologies from Mr B Hadebe (ANC), who was attending to an urgent matter in his constituency. The Chairperson explained that Ms G Opperman (DA) had informed her that she was experiencing network connectivity issues and may not be able to attend the meeting if the issues are unresolved. The Chairperson stated that she was presently waiting for the parliamentary legal advisory to log onto the Microsoft Teams meeting and would inform Members once the legal advisory team has joined.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee previously requested that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) submit an impact assessment report before the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament. She explained to the Committee that she had currently only received a one-page sign off document from the Department – she asked the Department to provide clarity on the purpose of this document. The Chairperson highlighted that the impact report would provide the Committee with a comprehensive understanding of the envisioned outcomes of the Bill, stating that she intended for the Committee to do a page-by- page reading of the impact assessment report in this meeting.

The Chairperson invited the Deputy Minister to make opening remarks.

Deputy Minister Tau stated that the Ministry has processed the CIS report and that his colleague, Mr Tebogo Motlashuping, will present on the Presidency’s findings and amendment suggestions on the CIS report.

The Chairperson noted this and welcomed Ms Avril Williamson, COGTA Director-General, and invited her to make opening remarks.

The Director-General extended welcoming remarks to Members and Deputy Minister Tau, stating that she welcomes the Presidency’s observations and findings.

The Chairperson stated that before the presentation can commence, she needed clarity on the one-page document that the Department provided, asking where the actual impact assessment report is.

The Director-General explained that she felt Mr Motlashuping’s presentation will cover some of the key aspects of the impact assessment report and stated that the actual report will be provided if the Committee still required the report after the presentation.

The Chairperson said the Committee concluded it needed to analyse the impact assessment report for Members to have a better understanding of the intended outcome of the Bill. She further stated that the Department had also been tardy in its submission of the current meeting’s presentations and failed to meet the mandatory 24 hour rule that stated that documents for discussion had to be submitted 24 hours prior to the meeting.

The Director-General replied that it she was under the impression that the Department had met the 24-hour deadline and apologised on the Department’s behalf if this requirement had not been met. She requested that Mr Motlashuping continues with the presentation and that the Department will provide the document if it was still necessary after the presentation. She apologised to the Chairperson and Members for the misunderstanding.

The Chairperson said the Committee had clearly stated, in concluding its last meeting, that Members needed to be provided with a regulatory impact assessment report and not a sign off form.

The Director-General said she would communicate with her team and would attempt to provide the report during the meeting.

The Chairperson asked Members to deliberate on whether to proceed the meeting without the report.

Mr H Hoosen (DA) asked whether the Chairperson was referring to the regulatory impact assessment report. 

The Chairperson confirmed this and reiterated that Members had concluded in the previous meeting that they intended to discuss the report in the current meeting.

Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) stated that she understood from the last meeting that the Committee would be provided with an opportunity to interact with the impact assessment report before hearing the presentation, adding that Members would not be able to discuss a report that they do not have. She felt that the Department’s conduct was disrespectful, especially given Members commitment to meet at 6pm to work.  This had been a recurring issue with the Department’s previous DG, emphasising that this affects the Committee’s work negatively.

Mr I Groenewald (FF +) acknowledged that there may have been a miscommunication with the Committee and the Department, however continuing with the meeting, while awaiting for the report to arrive during the meeting, would be in breach of the parliamentary 24 hour rule. He stressed that this may set a bad precedent and the Committee may continue to struggle with the same issue for the duration of this term of office.

Ms D Direko (ANC) agreed with Mr Groenewald, reiterating that the Committee has been having a recurring issue of late submissions and poor presentations. Members would not be able to continue with their deliberations as they would not be able to trust the integrity of the presentation without the requisite impact assessment report. She also highlighted that Members would not have enough time to engage with the report if it were to arrive during the meeting.

Mr Hoosen concurred with Ms Direko and Mr Groenewald.

The Chairperson explained that Members were unanimous in their sentiment not to continue with the meeting. She felt that the Department was especially disrespectful in sending a one page covering memo in breach of the parliamentary 24hour rule, whilst the Department was informed of that the Committee requested an impact assessment report. She echoed Mr Groenewald’s sentiments and stated that the best way forward is to adjourn this meeting and to discuss the matter in the next meeting.

The Chairperson explained to the DG that she is welcome to contact the Committee’s Secretary for clarification if there is any misunderstanding. If the Department was having difficulty submitting the report for various reasons, an exception can be granted if it is communicated beforehand. The Chairperson strongly advised the DG that she is accountable to Parliament through this Committee and that she should prioritise this Committee, while accounting to her political principals.

Committee Administrative Matters

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to advise on the next meeting’s agenda and meeting times. 

The Secretary stated that the Committee would be meeting on Thursday, 9 July to discuss the budgets and Friday, 10 July for the O.R Tambo Municipality briefing.

The Chairperson asked the DG to provide the documents for the Thursday meeting on Wednesday, as per the 24-hour rule, warning that if documents were not provided the meeting will not proceed.

The Chairperson asked whether the Deputy Minister has concluded the signing-off of the presentation.

Deputy Minister Tau responded that the signing-off process has been concluded. He requested to meet with the Chairperson and DG offline to get a better of the Committee’s processes to ensure that reports are submitted on time.

The Chairperson agreed and reiterated that she intended to emphasise the importance of following the parliamentary processes.

The Committee Secretary stated that the Committee was supposed to be concluding the Bill the next day, but this will now be moved to a later date.

The Chairperson explained to the DG that she initially thought that the Department accidentally sent the cover page of the report and not the entire document, but when the DG explained that she would inquire if the report could be sent during the present meeting, it raised concerns. She emphasised the importance of the 24hour period.

The Director-General thanked the Chairperson and agreed to meet the 24hour deadline.

The Chairperson said the Department’s Executive Members were present in the meeting and were responsible for providing support and assistance to the newly appointed DG in her work.

The Chairperson stressed that the Committee has now lost two working days due to the Department’s failure to provide the requisite impact assessment report. If there were any issues in providing future reports, the Department should contact the Committee Secretary.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their attendance.

The meeting was adjourned.


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