Adjustments Appropriation Bill: finalisation & committee report

Standing Committee on Appropriations

28 July 2020
Chairperson: Mr S Buthelezi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Audio: Adjustments Appropriation Bill: Finalisation & Committee Report 

The Committee adopted the Committee Report recommending that the National Assembly adopt the Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B10-2020] with one amendment. The Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters rejected the Bill.

Meeting report

Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B10-2020]
The Chairperson read the Motion of Desirability for the Bill before the Committee embarked on adopting it.

Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) and Ms D Peters (ANC) moved and seconded its adoption.

Mr D Joseph (DA) voted against adoption on behalf of the Democratic Alliance.

Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) voted against adoption on behalf of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The Chairperson noted the objections and the Motion of Desirability was adopted.

Adjustment Appropriation Bill [B10-2020]: amendment
The Chairperson briefly read the amendment to the Adjustment Appropriation Bill as a reminder before the Committee embarked on adopting it.

Amendment of section 6 of Act 7 of 2020

8. Section 6 of the Appropriation Act, 2020 (Act No. 7 of 2020) is hereby amended by the substitution for the introductory part of subsection (1) of the following:

“(1) Despite any provision in any other legislation to the contrary, and before [an] the second Adjustments Appropriation Bill is introduced in Parliament, the Minister may approve expenditure, if it cannot reasonably be delayed without negatively affecting service delivery and such expenditure—”.

Mr X Qayiso (ANC) moved for its adoption. Mr O Mathafa (ANC) seconded.

Mr D Joseph (DA) voted against the amendment to the Bill on behalf of the Democratic Alliance.

Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) said that she was not mandated to vote on the Bill and would abstain from pronouncing on the insertion of clause 8 into the Bill amending section 6 of the Act. She said she intended to reject the Committee Report on the Bill in its entirety.

The Chairperson confirmed that they would discuss the Committee Report next which was next  on the agenda. He noted Ms Ntlangwini’s abstention to the amendment.

The insertion of clause 8 into the Adjustment Appropriation Bill amending section 6 of the Act was adopted.

Committee Report on Adjustment Appropriation Bill
The Chairperson asked for Ms Ntlangwini’s input.

Ms Ntlangwini clarified that she would raise the grounds on which the Economic Freedom Fighters would be rejecting the Bill during the National Assembly debate. She wanted to know earlier if she needed to raise her objection per clause as the Chairperson took the Committee through the Committee Report in a piecemeal fashion or if she should raise it at the end.

The Chairperson replied that she should raise her objection to the entire Bill at the end when he asks the Committee if they agree to adopting the Bill. He took the Committee through the report page-by-page.

Ms Peters made some suggestions to improving the phrasing of some sentences.

The Chairperson agreed with most of these proposals.

The Chairperson asked if there should be consistency with the word "bill" being capitalised.

Mr Darrin Arends, Secretariat to the Committee, confirmed that it was incorrect and that they would capitalise the word "bill".

Ms Peters proposed that in Point 7.9, there needed to be stronger wording by adding "perennial" underspending on CAPEX.

The Chairperson asked in Point 7.14, if the word condition should be singular or plural.

Ms M Dikgale (ANC) confirmed that it should be singular.

Ms Peters proposed in Point 8.4 adding "put in place" to the sentence: Also, the Minister of Police should provide the Committee with preventative measures put in place.

The Chairperson acknowledged this.

Mr A Shaik-Emam (NFP) proposed that emphasis should be put on more serious considerations of the procurement processes currently being followed as a Committee recommendation.

The Chairperson acknowledged his proposal and requested he construct wording to add to Point 8.9.

Mr Shaik-Emam proposed: "The Minister of Finance should ensure that stringent measures are put in place to ensure that procurement processes are transparent and credible, including the attainment of value for money".

Mr Sifiso Magagula, Committee Content Advisor, proposed that they add more substance to the sentence as Mr Shaik-Emam was referring to the current procurement process for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chairperson disagreed and stated that the Committee had been vocal before COVID-19. The statement applies to the timeframe prior to the pandemic as well – which was confirmed by Mr Shaik-Emam.

Ms Peters seconded Mr Shaik-Emam’s proposal, especially as the Committee had been vocal about value for money. In their engagements with all departments, the Committee spoke about the quality of the services/products the service providers are providing.

Mr Joseph proposed that they recognise the input made by stakeholders at the public hearings from people who voluntarily and passionately participate in this public forum as a recommendation.

Mr Arends commented that Mr Joseph was proposing a finding and not a recommendation.

The Chairperson confirmed that in the report they have extensively acknowledged everyone who engaged with the Committee.

Mr Joseph acknowledged that there is extensive coverage in the report on it but clarified that his point was to make a recommendation that recognised them. Nevertheless he accepted the Chairperson’s submission.

Mr Shaik-Emam reminded the Committee that the Public Service Commission and National Treasury identified another major challenge: lack of capacity. He proposed they call on the Department to do some kind of research into the capacity of officials at the different levels of government and report on that so they can deal with that problem. There seems to be a problem with a lack of capacity even though the employees have qualifications.

The Chairperson agreed and asked Mr Shaik-Emam to construct a sentence to include in the report.

Mr Shaik-Emam commented that it depends on whose responsibility it would be to identify those challenges.

The Chairperson suggested that it is the responsibility of the Minister of Public Service and Administration.

Mr Shaik-Emam agreed as it was the Public Service Commission and National Treasury that highlighted this problem.

The Chairperson said that he sometimes feels that they give too much work to the National Treasury, but since the Public Service Commission raised it they should address it with Public Service Minister.

Mr Shaik-Emam formulated the recommendation: The Public Service Commission undertake research into the capacity of all structures of government and report accordingly.

Mr Joseph clarified that the Public Service Commission said there is not a shortage of skills as there is an average of three degrees per person. The challenge is the scarce critical skills which should be included in the report. For example the shortage of skills is with the accountants, the engineers and so forth. In principle he agreed with Mr Shaik-Emam but the recommendation should not be generalised, it should focus on those critical skills for capacity building in the public service.

Mr Shaik-Emam contended that the problem is two-fold. While the public service might have a shortage of critical skills, what was highlighted was that they have officials with the necessary qualifications but they lack the skill and the capacity to be able to perform their duties optimally and deliver. That is the crux of the problem. The Public Service Commission must undertake a study or research into the capacity of those employed in strategic positions, to ensure that they are able to be capacitated adequately and are able to deliver on their strategic plans. Those employees have the qualifications but do not have the skills or the capacity to perform the responsibility given to them.

Mr Arends commented that when the Public Service Commission spoke about the skills shortages, the Committee asked for reports. They complied with the Committee’s request and these reports have been distributed to the Members. If a recommendation is made along these lines it may appear as if they have not complied and done research into the critical skills and capacity challenges within the country.

Mr Shaik-Emam reiterated that there are two different matters at hand. One is critical skills and the other is the ability of those currently employed with the relevant qualifications. Was the department suggesting that the qualification is not worth the paper it is written on? That might not necessarily be the case in all instances but what is important is that the critical skills is one aspect. The other aspect is those that are employed with the relevant qualifications do not have the necessary skills and capacity to perform that responsibility optimally or satisfactorily to deliver. That is where they are running into trouble: people employed with the degrees and the qualifications, but perhaps in the Minister’s simpler terms, they are not fit for purpose.

Mr Magagula suggested that they interrogate the reports from the Commission first to see what was covered. If there is still a need, they can write to the Commission to investigate the matter further outside of this current report as the Committee does not know what is in the documents the Commission submitted.

Ms Peters rejected Mr Magagula’s proposal. Those documents could become part of the package. There was a submission by the Public Service Commission and there is a need for an investment by the DPSA, together with all other institutions including the School of Government, in capacitating those public servants who lack capacity. It is not necessarily about skills or qualifications but that they are capable of carrying out the task at hand. She agreed with Mr Shaik-Emam’s formulation as the Committee should not postpone dealing with this matter.

Mr Joseph said considering all perspectives, it might be easier to say that the Committee will further engage with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on capacity building and the shortage of critical skills. They should formulate a one sentence recommendation that will allow the Committee to revisit those documents and engage with the Public Service further which is their intention. It should be formulated as: The Committee will engage further with DPSA on capacity building and shortage of critical skills.

The Chairperson said that he did not want to water down Mr Shaik-Emam’s proposal but rather strengthen it because it is a fact that there is poor performance which is reflected in the reports where it is found that the entities are underspending and not performing their duties properly.

Mr Shaik-Emam formulated his proposal: The Public Service Commission must undertake a comprehensive exercise and provide a report on the capacity of those employed in the different spheres of government, at all three levels, local, provincial and national, to be able to deliver on their mandate, including providing if they possess the necessary skills and/or capacity to be able to deliver in terms of strategic plans.

They could water it down to simply recommending that the Public Service Commission undertake a comprehensive exercise to establish capacity levels in the different spheres of government. However, he felt it was important to be comprehensive in stating that it must be all levels of government. There is a move to zero based budgeting now and if they do not have the capacity which the PSC has shown over a period of time, they are never going to be able to manage that.

Mr Joseph said that the answer was recorded in the 10 July 2020 minutes where COSATU recommended that political deployments should be based on suitably qualified candidates. He agreed that the concerns about capacity building and critical skills must be pursued.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Joseph’s comment and said that what Mr Shaik-Emam said covered Mr Joseph’s submission.

Mr Qayiso said that there was a strong feeling coming from the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) on the wage bill. One of its recommendations was to deal with the size of the public sector. He proposed that they look at what the FFC was saying on that particular item and using the FFC words in their recommendation. They need to find a way to express and contextualise it because it will perpetually remain a challenge in the public domain without any proper resolution. He proposed looking at the FFC comments.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Qayiso’s submission but asked that they table that discussion for a later stage where the Committee has a properly instructed mandate to tackle the matter. He instructed the Secretary to use only Mr Shaik-Emam's formulation of the recommendation.

Mr Arends read out the formulation for Recommendation 8.10: The Minister of Public Service and Administration should ensure that the Public Service Commission undertake a comprehensive research study into the critical skills capacity shortages in all structures of government and report accordingly to Parliament. Furthermore, the Public Service Commission should assess if those employed with the necessary qualifications are able to perform their duties optimally.

Mr Shaik-Emam confirmed that he was happy with the wording but it should state "with or without the necessary qualifications" because some may be employed without the requisite qualification.

Ms Peters and Mr Joseph agreed to the wording of the recommendation.

The Chairperson took the Committee through the Conclusion of the report.

Ms Dikgale said the Conclusion states the reason given by the Democratic Alliance for opposing the Bill. Is it advisable that the DA give its reason in the Conclusion as if we are debating or are all the political parties allowed to do that? It is pure speculation on the part of the DA. It is not that the Minister claimed that this R12 billion would be used for South African Airways instead of healthcare and service delivery.

The Chairperson reminded Ms Dikgale that the report has many elements and it covers what transpired. The Committee agreed that that should be contained in the report because it captures what transpired – in that the Democratic Alliance objected and it should be stated as such in the report.

Mr Joseph contended that it was included because the Committee interrogated National Treasury. It was not raised out of the blue. It was in response to the Treasury presentations the Committee received.

Ms Peters said that this is a Committee Report but the way it reflects, it is as if the Committee accepts the rationale advanced by the Democratic Alliance. She agreed with Ms Dikgale. Perhaps it should be placed under some kind of note? It reads as the DA’s objection to the Bill. It is the DA’s view that there is no commitment from National Treasury about using R12 billion on South African Airways. The way it reads worries her because in two years' time when her grandchild who is interested in this Committee reads this report, he will believe that Ms Peters supported the DA’s view that R12 billion will be used for South African Airways when that is the DA’s view.

Mr Arends clarified that the Rules allow for the opposition parties to state their objections with reasons. They have done so in the past and there is nothing wrong with doing so in this current report.

Ms Peters clarified that she did not have a problem with the objections being raised in the report but the way it reads in the report is the problem.

Mr Shaik-Emam agreed that the sentence reads as if the Committee believes there was no commitment from the National Treasury. It needs to be amended to read that the Democratic Alliance objected to the amendment as in its opinion there was no commitment from the National Treasury.

Mr Joseph contended that it must be seen in its totality. To illustrate his point, he removed the politics from the matter with him being a DA member. In the recommendations it shows that first and foremostly, the Committee recommends that the Bill be adopted with the following amendments. In essence the majority rule in this Committee is captured in that first paragraph. The majority of the Members in the first paragraph is the African National Congress. The rest of the Members in that last paragraph are able to express themselves in the way they wish but it does not mean that it reflects on the Bill not being adopted or understood in a different way when it is adopted. It is the right of the other parties to express themselves as they wish.

The Chairperson seconded Mr Shaik-Emam’s wording of the recommendation in that it should be very clear that it is in the view of the DA so that all the Members are covered.

Mr Joseph suggested that after the statement that the DA objected to the adoption of the Bill they should add their reasons after that because it would separate them from the others.

Ms Peters submitted that she would be satisfied with that proposal because Mr Joseph should note that the issue is that it is on the concluding remarks of the report. The statement of the Economic Freedom Fighters reads quite well but the DA statement reads as if the Committee is in agreement with their views in rejecting the Bill. They should have stated that the Democratic Alliance’s rejected the amendment of the Bill and provided their reasons for it after that.

The Chairperson proposed the possible wording as: their reasons is that they are of the view that there was no commitment.

Mr Joseph seconded the Chairperson’s suggestion.

Mr Darrin Arends, Secretariat to the Committee, asked for clarification on if the Chairperson is saying they should start with: the DA objected to the amendment of the Bill and followed by, their reason is that in their view, there was no commitment.

Mr Mathafa moved for adoption of the Committee Report approving the Adjustments Appropriation Bill.

Ms Dikgale seconded.

Mr Joseph submitted that the DA voted against adoption of the Committee Report as they objected to the amendment to the Bill from the beginning.

Ms Ntlangwini submitted that the Economic Freedom Fighters voted against adoption of the Committee Report as it objected to the proposed amendment to the Bill as tabled by the Minister of Finance.

The Chairperson concluded that the Committee Report was carried and it is a reflection of the Committee’s engagement with the Adjustment Appropriation Bill. He commented that the time they provide for public participation is not sufficient and rushing the public is not an optimal way of doing things. The Committee should encourage more people to participate seeing as meetings are now virtual because previously it would have been difficult for people to attend meetings in Cape Town. It should not be seen as an esoteric process, just for the elite. It should be inclusive for the people coming from the rural parts of South Africa to also be able to interact with Parliament and the budgetary process through this forum.

Ms Ntlangwini proposed that they run an advertisement to alert the public on whether they want to participate in the process, perhaps on radio or newspaper?

The Committee Secretary replied that they have been doing that all along so that is covered.

The Chairperson said that they do advertise, but the question would be about the medium they use to advertise which speaks to access. He suggested they postpone a discussion about virtual public participation until they can speak fully on it because it needs to be discussed properly.

Mr Shaik-Emam noted what is happening in the public domain. The Committee had requested certain departments provide the relevant information and to date many of them have not. As the Appropriation Committee, he suggested they set some standards. Can the Committee request that each department furnish a comprehensive report on what they spent on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that contain exact quotations on how much they paid. This would enable them to get to the root cause of who benefited particularly with PPE provision in the pandemic. The report should be comprehensive like that which we got from the South African Police Service so the Committee can pick up on and help government beat corruption once and for all.

Ms Peters elaborated that it should not be a report on PPE only but also on the water tanks/tankers.

The Chairperson proposed that an all-encompassing word would be "COVID-19 related spending".

The Members collectively agreed.

Mr Shaik-Emam agreed but said that the report furnished should not contain a general figure on PPE expenditure but rather give details from where they bought PPE and exact amounts spent.

Mr Mlenzana asked for clarification on where this specific resolution finds expression in the Committee Report to be submitted to Parliament.

Mr Arends clarified that the report was already adopted. The matters being discussed are separate.

The Chairperson clarified that these matters are going to be minuted.

The Committee adopted the minutes dated: 10, 16, 17, 21 and 22 July 2020.

The meeting was adjourned.


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