The Committee was briefed by the parliamentary support staff officials, led by the Content Advisor, on how far they had progressed with processing the NHI Bill. The meeting took place on a virtual platform. Members had been tasked by the National Assembly to process the NHI Bill. The Committee suffered some constraints in their task due to Covid-19 and the national lockdown.
Members heard that scanning is limited to the hand delivered submissions (32 217). The purpose of scanning the submissions is to ensure that Members have electronic access to these submissions. The email submissions (32 634) are already available in Uvimba for Members’ access. The scanning process is projected for completion by the end of December 2020, and if the parliamentary support staff receives additional resources, the completion date for scanning is the end of October 2020. 2 202 email submissions supported the Bill, 27 321 email submissions did not support the Bill, 2 885 email submissions did not fully support the Bill, and 226 email submissions provided substantive written submissions. The team had analysed 100 of the 226 substantive submissions. In terms of the forthcoming oral submissions, a total of 121 organisations and individuals have expressed interest to make oral submissions in Parliament. It must be considered how to structure the oral submissions.
Members were informed that there was a need for support for the proposal to procure an external service provider. The Committee asked how the entries for the petitions that were submitted registered; ‘How were the petition entries counted and registered in terms of the totals given to the Committee’?; what was meant by ‘if additional resources were provided for the scanning process that it would be completed by the end of October’. Members asked further ‘Besides Covid-19, what stopped this process from ending before the end of October as the country was on level 2 lockdown’?; ‘On what level is this process being sorted if the country was currently on level 2 lockdown’?; ‘Would the email submissions also be scanned into a system’? ‘If yes, how long would this process take to be completed’? On the external service provider, ‘what guarantee was there that the service provider would handle the submissions in a fair and safe manner’?
Members were particularly concerned about hiring an external service provider in this process and felt that it was important to have a conversation about what the service provider would actually do and what the terms of reference given to the service provider would be. With regard to oral presentations the Committee said that huge restrictions could not be put on oral presenters who may have very relevant proposals and that the Committee should be reasonable in terms of the time allowed for people to come from afar and present. Members asked ‘Around the security matters of external service a provider, what guarantee was there that the external service providers would handle the submissions in a fair and safe manner’?
It was decided that through the Chairperson, Members would go back to their political organisations and raise all the submissions once off and include all of their points as a comprehensive package. Members did not have to come back the following day and could get back to the Chairperson on Saturday morning or Sunday night. He would then collate all of the submissions with the Committee Secretary and present a comprehensive report to the Committee based on Members’ inputs and how he was able to balance them.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson requested that the Committee observe a moment of silence as they found themselves in a prolonged period where they continued losing healthcare workers in the health sector which was close to the work that they did. The Committee was also mourning the loss of former South African National Defence Force Surgeon-General, Dr Vejay Ramlakan, who had passed away in the previous week as a result of a heart attack. Another public health Professor had been lost in KwaZulu-Natal and there were many other healthcare workers that had lost their lives all over the country that he might not have remembered by name. He asked the Committee to observe a moment of silence and hoped that the souls of the departed may rest in peace. The Committee was on a journey that they had started a few weeks prior.
As the Portfolio Committee on Health, Members had been tasked by the National Assembly (NA) to process the NHI Bill. This Bill was currently with the Committee and had to leave their space someday to go to the next level which included going to the National Council of Provinces and elsewhere.
The Committee had been constrained by Covid-19 and the national lockdown in terms of focusing on the NHI Bill. However, as he had alluded to the Committee that he had approached the House Chairperson who indicated that it was perhaps time for the Committee to come back to the process and see how they could handle the process going forward. Today’s presentation was very important because the parliamentary support staff officials, led by the Content Advisor, were going to indicate to the Committee how far they had progressed. At the time that the process had been suspended in March some work had been done. The parliamentary staff were also affected by the national lockdown and had to curtail their work. As the meeting’s programme concerned listening to the presentation, there were certain decisions that were expected from Members on the suggestions that the presentation was going to make – which had already been pre-empted by discussions that he had had with the House Chairperson.
The Committee Secretary noted an apology from Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP), who was attending a meeting of the Standing Committee on Appropriations.
Briefing on the NHI Bill Progress Report on the processing of public and oral Submissions in Parliament
Parliament has an obligation to facilitate public participation in its processes and in that of its Committees as per Section 59 (1) of the Constitution. This mandate extends to the processes of the Committee. The Committee has a (broad) discretion to determine how best to fulfil this Constitutional obligation. The Committee’s discretion lies in the reasonableness of its processes. The Committee placed an advert calling for the submissions of public comments and conducted a comprehensive programme of nationwide public hearings in all provinces. 961 members of the public participated in oral submissions during the provincial public hearings. The next stage was thus oral submissions in Parliament.
As reported on 3 March 2020, public submissions in response to the advert were received as follows:
- 32 217 hand delivered submissions – Some of these submissions are accompanied by additional submissions for example the South African Pharmacy Council made 215 submissions supporting the Bill and 100 were opposed; The Professional Provident Society submitted a booklet with comments on the Bill from 80 members; and a submission from an organisation endorsed by a list of 40 000 names.
- 32 634 email submissions – Some submissions contain several other individual submissions for example Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) NHI consultations made 40 submissions; Indlamlenze Group and Productions made 31 submissions; Scanned submissions sent by an individual amounted to 277 submissions; A submission from an organisation with 103 554 further submissions; and another submission with 177 602 submissions.
Regarding the work done so far in relation to the scanning process, there were two inter-related processes of scanning the hand delivered submissions and email submissions. Scanning is limited to the hand delivered submissions (32 217). The purpose of scanning the submissions is to ensure that Members have electronic access to these submissions. The email submissions (32 634) are already available in uvimba for Members’ access. Metadata fields in the scan profile of the submissions form include: originating organisation/submitter; file plan reference, name of the person making the submission and individual or group submission. 1 031 out of 32 217 (3%) hand delivered submissions have been scanned validated and captured in uvimba. Progress was affected by the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. The bulk of the hand delivered submissions, approximately 30 200, is of the one line variety for example I support/I do not support the Bill. 30 200 (94%) of hand-delivered submissions support the Bill. If the parliamentary support staff continues to scan all the documents using the available resources, the scanning process is projected for completion by the end of December 2020. If the Parliamentary Support Staff receives additional resources, the completion date for scanning is the end of October 2020. 2 202 email submissions supported the Bill, 27 321 email submissions did not support the Bill, 2 885 email submissions did not fully support the Bill, and 226 email submissions provided substantive written submissions. The team had analysed 100 of the 226 substantive submissions.
There are varied responses in the provincial public hearings hand-delivered and email submissions. The majority of the submissions made during the provincial public hearings support the Bill in its current form. A similar picture emerges with the hand-delivered submissions. The email submissions give a contrasting picture. A matter for consideration was - given the volume of submissions that remain to be analysed - recommended that the proposal to procure an external service provider be revisited to continue with the work started by the internal service providers.
In terms of the forthcoming oral submissions, a total of 121 organisations and individuals have expressed interest to make oral submissions in Parliament. It must be considered how to structure the oral submissions. The parliamentary support staff proposed a draft skeleton programme: public hearings to be conducted on Tuesdays to Fridays, beginning in the last week of October until the first week of December 2020. The NA focus area document with details of the fourth term is to be released by the Office of the House Chairperson towards the end of the third term. Seven submissions are to be conducted per day for the 121 submissions to be covered (4 weeks x 4 days x 7 submissions +2 days). The duration of the submissions are 50 minutes each including discussion. There are two scenarios for the draft skeleton programme. Scenario one entails morning sessions of 20 minutes each (including discussions), covering seven stakeholders per day. Scenario two entails morning and afternoon sessions of 20 minutes each (including discussions), covering nine stakeholders per day.
Decisions were required from the Committee. There was a need for support for the proposal to procure an external service provider. The Committee was to consider the adoption of the draft programme of the public hearings in Parliament. Lastly, there was a need to support that the public hearings and analyses of the submissions run concurrently.
The Chairperson summarised that there was a temptation that the presentations were to be separated. The last part of the presentation is what Members were to firstly consider, as this was what he had mentioned when he was discussing with the House Chairperson. There was a Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRR) that had to be completed before the end of October 2020, and thus the Committee would perhaps only get one week to start the process of getting the 121 submissions done. It would be recalled that this would probably be done as a hybrid, as the majority of the Members would probably have to be in Cape Town, but there were Members who would not be able to attend and would be allowed to log in from wherever they were. Presenters were also being allowed to come to Cape Town or sit in from wherever they were, but this system would be delved into later. Parliament was not going to incur additional costs of accommodating Members elsewhere, hiring gadgets etc. Therefore, Members were either to be in Cape Town or logged in from their personal space. The House Chairperson had said that, because of the importance of the working being done by the Committee, on certain days like that afternoon, there was an oral question session of the Ministers on the Committee’s cluster. So, all Members were to be present, participate and show interest in the oral question session. If there was any other cluster not directly affecting the Committee, the Committee would be allowed to continue their work during that sitting. Members would have to log in just at the time of starting the next session so that they could do as much as possible. This presentation made a request that presenters should be allowed to be given 20 minutes of the reports that they would have read anyway, and therefore each and every presenter would be engaged with for 30 minutes. He wanted Members to comment on this.
The second part of the presentation provided the Committee with a background on what they had received that was still to be processed. The parliamentary staff were saying that this may take a bit longer if they continued the way that they were in terms of analysing and asked for external support procured for this process. Members were saying that they needed to be given clear terms of reference. It was another story to ask Members whether they could in principle support this view but saying that the parliamentary support staff still had to give the Committee the details on what the external service providers would actually be doing in supporting them to get the work done – this part had not been included in detail. They firstly waited for Members to agree and endorse this in principle and thereafter ask for the details on what the support would entail. The processes were not mutually exclusive. The process could start at the end of October 2020 and on the first day the parliamentary support staff could present to the Committee the terms of preference agreed upon. This would allow the process of analysis to go on while the Committee allowed oral presenters to visit them. The last bullet of the presentation was thus saying that the process could run concurrently.
Ms H Ismail (DA) asked how the entries for the petitions that were submitted registered. How were the petition entries counted and registered in terms of the totals given to the Committee? She was concerned about the days that were given being from Tuesday to Friday. Fridays were usually the days that Members travelled back to their constituencies to do constituency work, and Thursday morning was for caucus meetings. Even if leeway was given for Thursday afternoon, Members had caucuses on Thursday mornings.
Ms N Chirwa (EFF) asked what was meant by ‘if additional resources were provided for the scanning process that it would be completed by the end of October’. He asked further ‘Besides Covid-19, what stopped this process from ending before the end of October as the country was on level 2 lockdown’? and ‘On what level is this process being sorted if the country was currently on level 2 lockdown’?
Dr P Dyanti (ANC) thanked the presenters for the work they had done during very difficult times and said that this was appreciated. She agreed with the fact that the processes could be done concurrently. In one of the meetings that were held during the Committee’s visits to provinces, it had been foreseen that external help would definitely be needed because of the loads of work. The explanation given was that out of the people who were doing the analyses, there was only one person who was supported by people who had other jobs. Whilst the hearings were being done, a service provider could be brought in to do the analyses and scanning that was being done because it looked as though the scanning was taking a lot of time. If the Committee agreed on the service provider, they should also be given the terms of reference and input thereon so that they could look through it. In terms of the days given from Tuesday to Friday, while the Committee provided input, perhaps they could also look at how best they could request their different organisations. This was so that, at least, the Committee could be given two Thursdays to look at this work as it was a mammoth task.
Mr P Van Staden (FF+) referred to the first slide on ‘hand-delivered submissions’. If talking about additional resources, the Committee had to make it clear and ask the question regarding what the process would consist of. ‘Can these additional resources from outside of Parliament be trusted’? The submissions had to be handled in a manner similar to that of voting ballots, as this was a very serious situation and had to be handed as such. ‘Would the email submissions also be scanned into a system’? ‘If yes, how long would this process take to be completed’? On the external service provider, it had to be asked what guarantee there was that the service provider would handle the submissions in a fair and safe manner – relating to the security issue. His point of view on the matter was that Members were elected into Parliament and, due to the security reasons, as elected representatives they had to handle the process themselves. Before going to the next process, being the oral submissions to Parliament and the Committee process, the scanning and sorting process first needed to be sorted out otherwise everything would be scrambled. He suggested that the scanning be done first and then the sorting process before going to the oral submissions process. If the oral submission process was moved onto afterwards, he suggested that the oral submissions should be 60 minutes and not 50 minutes to provide 10 minutes extra to the presenters.
Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) thanked the parliamentary support staff for all of the work they had done. Looking at the 121 people who would make verbal submissions, she suggested that everyone went to Cape Town and used their homes there. She did not think that it would be wise to leave all of the work in the hands of those who were scanning and emailing. She asked that the Committee be allowed to verify all of the work so that they knew exactly what the output etcetera. was. This would allow the Committee to be a witness for the public. She concurred with Dr Dyanti for the service provider if it could be received. However, the Committee should first verify all of the work so that they could say that they knew what was going on and verified their decision as a Committee as they were representatives of the public.
Ms A Gela (ANC) appreciated the work done by the officials in the parliamentary support staff. Extra resources and people were needed to carry on with the work done as the submission was huge especially the emailed and hand-written submissions. For the Committee and parliamentary support staff to make sure they worked together, she thought that extra people were needed to carry on their work so that they met the target they had put aside for achieving the NHI Bill goal. On the month of October, there would be a BRR and there would only be one week available for the Committee. During the public hearing, weekends were also used to cover some of the work. She did not know whether it was possible for the Committee to work over the weekend so that there was at least enough time to achieve participation and listen to what people wanted to submit in terms of the NHI Bill.
Ms E Wilson (DA) said that one of the most important sections of the entire presentation was the fact that the responsibility of the Committee was to ensure that processes were reasonable. The Committee had a meeting on one of their public hearing days with regard to this where they resolved to get an external auditor to manage the processes, and that when a tender was sent out they would submit clear terms of reference on exactly how the process had to be followed. This part would be supported but it had to happen quite urgently. She thought that the Committee needed to have a meeting with regard to the term of reference and ensure that the process has begun. However, she did not believe that any further action, particularly in terms of public hearings or any similar proposals, could happen until such time as the entire process of scanning had been done and until the Committee had been given an opportunity to go through all submissions as they were completed. The Committee could not proceed until all submissions were finalised. This included the written submissions, which played a part in the Committee’s assessment of the public submissions – they went hand in hand.
The draft programme could not be accepted. When looking at the programme in terms of either proposal A or B, it referred to starting at 09h30 for the first submission and finishing the submission at 09h50. This was actually 20 minutes. Some of the people who were coming to present to the Committee were academics who submitted lengthy submissions. Under no circumstances could the Committee limit those people who had spent a lot of time and effort to put forward submissions and provide lengthy presentations in 20 minutes with only 10 minutes of questioning. A minimum of one hour per public submission had to be allowed to present the big picture, so that the Committee could go through the documents and prepare proper, relevant, and feasible questions. This could not be done in 10 minutes. There were more than 10 people on the Committee, which meant that each person would get one minute to ask a question and then there would be no time for answers. This would not be accepted under any circumstances. This was not a process that had to be rushed. The entire country’s future with regard to health was dependent on this process and on the NHI. The process was done professionally and in a reasonable manner. One had to understand that apart from the Committee, Members had other responsibilities to Parliament as well as to their constituencies – which had to be taken into account as well.
Ms S Gwarube (DA) thanked and appreciated the parliamentary staff for the work that they had done and for the guidance that they had given. She had three elements that needed to raised: the process element, content element, and the substantive things that needed to be considered about the NHI Bill. In terms of process, Members had provided a reminder that when the Committee met in Mpumalanga they had a made a decision that it was important to get a service provider. She remembered that it was a lengthy conversation about how the service provider had to be chosen, but also about what the function of the service provider would be. The Committee decided that it was important that they understood that the process of going through the recommendations or submissions was the work of the Members of Parliament. It was not the work of the Content Advisors of parliament; it was the Committee’s job. She agreed that the Committee needed the assistance in being able to sort out each and every one of the submissions. However, ultimately, the buck stopped with the Committee and the responsibility lied with the Committee. To this end, she thought that it was important to have a conversation about what the service provider would actually do and what the terms of reference given to the service provider would be.
For instance, her view was that a service provider should merely regroup the submissions to say which submissions are hand-written, videos, from academia, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) etcetera. The Committee needed to decide on this and she thought that they had the capacity to do so because they understood the work that was at stake and the gravity and seriousness of the NHI Bill. Thus, the Committee needed to decide what the service provider would do and what the Committee’s role would be. This was because, ultimately, the Committee needed to make sure that they knew what they were talking about. When people asked the Committee whether or not the Members had read and looked at their submissions, the Committee needed to be able to be confident and not say that it was handed over to a service provider. It was important for the Committee to do the terms of reference, agree on them as a Committee, and then Parliament needs to go out to tender and get the service provider. She thought that the Committee needed to then sit down with the service provider and have this discussion. The work then needed to commence and the submissions needed to be sorted out. This was so that the Committee could make sure that by the time that they started with their public hearings with the stakeholders that they already knew what they were dealing with.
On the allocation of time, she agreed with the Members who had said that the allocated time was inadequate. When looking at the slides presented to the Committee, there was already an indication of groupings of the entities that wanted to come and present to them. There were industry experts, academics, NGOs, and a lot of different types of people who were not simply going to say yes, no, or maybe, but that were going to point out clauses and make recommendations on redrafting the NHI Bill in certain ways. She did not think that it was fair or proper for these people to be curtailed in the cut-off time that they are given. It would be fair for each entity to be given 30 minutes to present and 30 minutes for the Committee, as legislators who had to then make the law, to interrogate their submissions. Lastly, the Committee had to be careful. She understood that there was an urgency but the Committee had to be careful of court challenges. She did not want to be a part of the Members who had been found wanting in terms of making sure that the process is followed and that it is followed well. The Committee had to make sure that they gave people ample opportunity, that they went through the process well, and that the process is balanced out with Members’ constituency and other Parliamentary work. She supported the programme insofar as saying that Tuesdays and Wednesdays were solid days for the Committee to work throughout the day, and perhaps get excused from plenaries on those particular days if needed. However, Thursdays were caucus days and on Fridays most Members travelled back home.
Ms Wilson commented that huge restrictions could not be put on oral presenters who may have very relevant proposals. To not allow them the opportunity to effectively present and respond would be a slap in the face to the public participants and would lead to bad media. An analysis and hearings could not be done at the same time. An analysis must be done on completion of all submissions, including oral presentations, as they were all linked to each other. She agreed with Ms Gwarube, in that a court challenge could not be dealt with – which was a real possibility if proper processes were not followed.
Dr K Jacobs (ANC) noted that it could be seen that there were a couple of different views and also views which were agreed upon by Members. He thus wanted to raise his views in terms of those points. There was an agreement that the Committee should look at the employment of a service provider as well as look at the terms of reference and discuss and have a process for the terms of reference. He agreed that that in itself was the process that the Committee needed to follow. There was a disagreement in terms of the days which the Committee would have to use. The suggestion was Tuesdays to Fridays, with some Members saying Tuesdays and Wednesdays and other Members saying weekends etc. He was in agreement with as many days as the Committee could do. Perhaps the Committee also needed to look at the programmes of Parliament upfront and see which days were reasonable for the Committee to meet. It could be that one might have to sacrifice some time and to look at the need for this. In terms of the oral submissions, he also thought that the Committee should be reasonable in terms of the time allowed for people to come from afar and present, and for the Committee to ask questions in terms of the reasonableness. This was so that the Committee was clear on what people were presenting. The Committee trusted the officials who had done the work up until now, trusted that they would have compiled the results given to the Committee, and would trust them going forward to assist the Committee with the process. The Committee just had to be very clear on what it was that the Committee had to do and make certain that the programme was above any reasonable doubt. This included the outcomes of the public hearings and interrogation thereof.
The Chairperson added that most Members had reminded the Committee that they had taken a decision that from what they were gathering from the officials of Parliament, they may need external service providers. This part had thus already been dealt with and resolved. It was acknowledged that Mr Van Staden had not joined the Committee at all other public hearings. All that the Committee needed was for the parliamentary support staff to show what service the external service providers would be providing and what type of reference. Ms Gwarube was correct in saying that the work should be outsourced without the Committee knowing and seeing what was actually there. He had also been appraised by the parliamentary staff that all of the submissions that were emailed were already captured in the system and could therefore be accessed by Members. This was not a challenge about the emailed submissions, but about the hand-delivered submissions. He could hear from Members that there was a varied process in terms of time. He had corrected some of the parliamentary staff members who were saying that the presenters should be given 10 minutes, and he had said that this was too little time. However, to move to another outlier of a one hour presentation may just be too much. The Committee might have to play in between the suggestions that Members had come up with – such as the suggestion by Ms Gwarube of a 30 minute presentation and 10 minute engagement, and then to take it from there. Perhaps the Committee could also rest by saying that political parties might not be able to resolve the processes in the meeting. This is because it may be party-decisions to decide whether, after caucuses, to reconvene after lunch and presentation on a Thursday. Parties could agree that Fridays were not a good day. Therefore, this might not be resolved immediately as he was sure that it would need caucuses to come back with a mandate of their parties. However, the Parliamentary Staff were just presenting what the options were that the Committee could work with.
Ms Wilson commented that the Committee would require at least 30 minutes for the presentations and 30 minutes for questions and responses. If seven presentations were done a day, this would require at least nine hours of meetings in order to change over speakers etc. If Parliament would not carry costs, this would be a huge issue.
The Committee Content Advisor picked up the area of agreement that Members highlighted and that the Chairperson reiterated, which was the area of an employment of an external service provider. The Parliamentary Support Staff would take this up and already had a presentation on the terms of reference. If time allowed, he would present the presentation today or could reconvene a meeting to look into this. In terms of the petitions, one of the slides indicated that petitions were recorded as one petition for example where there were several people supporting the petition. There was an instance on one of the slides where 40 000 people supported one petition, and it was recorded as such just to show that it was a petition and the diversity of the nature of submissions that there were. He left the issue of the days of the week for Members to decide. This was because the Chairperson had already addressed the matter that Members would have to relook at their proposal and refer it to the parliamentary support staff. Regarding the additional resources, the parliamentary support staff was currently working with seven committee assistants from the committee section. Therefore, when talking about additional resources in this particular instance, the Parliamentary Support Staff wanted to look at the other sections of Parliament that could provide them with additional resources. Working with the Information and Communications Technology section, it had been agreed that in order to complete the process by October 2020 if the internal staff continued to be used, then ten designated staff members from Parliament were needed. This was an issue that was currently being looked at. Parliament and other sections had to be looked at via Human Resources to see who was available. He thanked Dr Dyanti for supporting the idea of the process being run concurrently. Members were to remind him if he had not addressed something that had been raised.
Discussion and Response
Mr Chairperson said that Mr Van Staden had spoken about trust. ‘Was there trust in terms of the external service provider that could be sent to the Committee’? The emails were already available to Members right now, so he had answered this question asked by Mr Van Staden. The Content Advisor was thus to say something in regard to whether the external service provider would be a fair group of identified people to work with through the process.
Mr Van Staden clarified that his question was actually about the security process. He had said that the matter should be handled like voting ballots. ‘Around the security matters of external service providers, what guarantee was there that the external service providers would handle the submissions in a fair and safe manner’?
The Content Advisor said that the question was a tough one. The parliamentary support staff could come up with checks and balances. Perhaps, right at the beginning, the issue of security may need to be included as a requirement and put in the terms of a reference. He would take up this matter for discussion with his colleagues. As indicated by the Chairperson, Members would have access to the submissions. The idea was not to take the constitutional responsibility of Members. Members should actually drive the process as they were currently doing. in terms of needing extra people, the parliamentary support staff supported the proposal to get an external service provider. Clearly this matter was receiving overwhelming support and had to be taken up going forward. Members were to remind him if he had not addressed something that had been raised.
Ms Gwarube had a suggestion. She was a bit worried that perhaps the recommendations from Members may have been lost one way or another. She recommended that Members send their inputs on the presentation in full to the Chairperson or Committee Secretary, including the deliberations that Member would have with their caucuses to provide a full comprehensive response. She did not want the Committee to proceed on certain things that may be missed in the engagement. She thus recommended that Members submit a full comprehensive report by Monday so that their suggestions could be in writing, as well as what they agreed upon in terms of their engagements with caucuses.
Ms Wilson supported Ms Gwarube’s suggestion.
The Chairperson thought that this might be a good suggestion because he had a presenter who was now not sure where he was going to look for answers. The Content Advisor could not find answers and was not sure whether he had completed his process of replying to the Committee’s questions. Ms Gwarube’s recommendation would be taken as one of the options. He did not know whether it was actually fine, but the Content Advisor has given him the impression that he had done all that he was expected to do and answered all of the questions.
Mr Van Staden supported Ms Gwarube’s suggestion. He asked that every Member put their suggestions before the Chairperson in writing by Monday in the following week. This was also so that the Committee could have the suggestions in writing. Otherwise something could happen where Members came back after another meeting and someone would say that they did not say something or said something else.
Dr Dyanti asked if the proposed term of reference had been sent to the Committee.
The Chairperson did not remember.
Mr Jacobs asked if he could read a WhatsApp message that he had received from Mr T Munyai (ANC) in terms of his input since he could not connect.
The Content Advisor asked if he could check whether the presentation on the terms of reference was sent to Members.
The Committee Secretary confirmed that the terms of reference was sent to Members with all of the other documents on the previous day, along with the presentation.
The Content Advisor asked explained that the presentation Members had received the previous night summarised the main issues regarding the terms of reference. What could be done is that the parliamentary support staff could submit a narrative version of the terms of reference.
The Chairperson noted that he had missed what was discussed but hoped that it was sorted out. There was an apology from Mr Munyai who was unable to connect to the meeting.
Mr Munyai had written to the Committee saying that he agreed with Dr Dyanti in that there should be trust in their staff. The Committee was not doing this for the first time. He disagreed with Mr Van Staden and Ms Gwarube. He suggested that the Committee have the consult not conflicted that expressed any view in trying to consolidate all submissions. He did not agree with Ms Wilson as the Committee did not have endless time and energy. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that the NHI was needed more than ever before and the process needed to be sped up. He thanked the Parliamentary Staff for their hard work, as well as for the key areas and road map of the NHI process. He asked that the Committee move to Zoom meetings as it was easier than Microsoft Teams.
The Chairperson added that Mr Munyai’s comment about Microsoft Teams was a struggle to him. Somebody still had to educate him as to why the Committee was on Microsoft Teams. Was it cheaper or what was it? Microsoft Teams was really a headache in terms of getting into the process. This was something for the parliamentary staff to help the Committee with. There were, however, certain things that needed to be dispelled of. It was not the first time that the matter of the external service provider has come before the Committee, as it had been agreed upon in other meetings. All that the Committee was asking was that the parliamentary staff members explicitly provide an indication as to what they would be presenting. Where are the challenges in the terms of the reference? Members were to asking for all emailed submissions, which was easy to have, as they wanted to have a look at them. The emailed submissions were to be sent to him. He asked that somebody comment on how Members could see the emailed submissions. The hand-delivered submissions were being processed. 1 000 out of 32 000 submissions had been scanned and processed. If things were left as they were, the scanning would only be finished in December.
What he was not getting from the Content Advisor asked was whether he was making a request or whether he was getting support in saying that the other ten additional staff members would be dedicated to this process. The Content Advisor asked was saying that the additional staff were available as and when they did not have a job elsewhere. This meant that the scanning would finish in December if they relied on the process outlined without any firm decision and confirmation from him to say that the additional staff shall be dedicated to the Committee and would therefore be scanning as of the next day. This was a very grey area that he left the Committee with, in terms of saying when this would actually be processed. The Content Advisor asked was not saying that an external process was needed to do scanning. Could the scanning be fast tracked inhouse and be done in parliament by members of the parliamentary staff? This would become known to the Content Advisor asked, who had to motivate for this. This was so that the next level could be reached where it could be said that all hand-delivered scans were done and in the process. Further, it was so that it could be given to Members to see that 32 000 submissions had been scanned and were available electronically for them to see. Members were also differing on the point of whether other processes could be started while the scanning process was going on. Three were 121 organisations who had requested to make presentations, and Members were either saying that this process should start or not start. This was something that would perhaps not be able to be presently resolved in the meeting as the Committee was trying to accommodate everybody else.
He requested that clear terms of reference discussion should be sent to the Committee, stating what the external service provider would be doing, and where the parliamentary support staff would be with the scanning in the following week. Why it was pushed to have this meeting was because the Committee would be getting a recess of more than three weeks. However, in a fortnight he might probably request that a meeting be logged into. Parliamentary staff and parliamentary processes were separate issues, so if it was recess then there were no meetings. The Committee might not be able to know whether they would have a meeting in three weeks’ time or should wait until they came back to get a presentation on the terms of reference and agree upon it. Perhaps by this the Content Advisor asked would tell the Committee where they were in terms of the scanning of the hand-delivered submissions. On the issue of political parties agreeing to only Tuesdays and Wednesdays, this needed to be refined outside of the meeting. Members needed to agree on the days in terms of what they had been given by their political parties. There were still certain things needed to be tied up in fortnight’s time, provided that the Committee was allowed to have a meeting. He asked to hear from Members as the Content Advisor asked had given him the impression that he had finished answering what he was asked to answer.
Dr Dyanti thought that if the terms of reference were sent the previous day, in the collation of all of the view being spoken about, Members would have time to look at the terms of reference. By Monday, everything that Members thought should be added in the terms of reference and sent to the Committee Secretary. She suggested that, sometime in the following week, the Committee should have another meeting to round up everything that had been discussed and written. She believed that the question of the oral submission could surely not wait for those service providers who were still waiting on terms of reference and going out to tender. Surely the Committee could continue with those submissions that had shown that they wanted to come and present to them.
The Chairperson thought that the Committee may take what Dr Dyanti had said into consideration. He was not sure whether the following week Wednesday was too soon because he would still have to make a request to the House Chairperson. In principle the Committee might agree, but whether this would take place in the following week had to be paused a bit in terms of firmly agreeing on this.
Ms Gela fully agreed with Dr Dyanti. The Committee could proceed with the oral submissions, even if this was not in the following week the work at least needed to be started. The Committee could not wait for long and were to proceed with the oral submissions so that there was at least some work being done as the Committee.
Mr Van Staden heard what Members were saying but asked that they remember that the process could not be scrambled or mixed up. This was a very serious matter and if the right way was not going to be followed, the Committee would face serious problems with stakeholders and the public outside of Parliament. The Committee had to make 100% sure that the process was 100% fully accurate. This was why the process could not be scrambled. The scanning and sorting had to be looked at first, and then only could the Committee look at the programme for oral submissions. On the external service provider, the Committee had to be very careful here. It was not only the security and so forth, but the audited process also had to be built in if it was agreed that an external service provider would be used. Someone could not just be appointed because there had to be an audited process on the work that they were going to do. This was a very serious matter and these issues had to be sorted out before just going and taking a decision. This was why he asked that Members give their written inputs to the Chairperson by Monday, after they had spoken to their various caucuses about the use of constituency days or just Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He did not want to foresee that the Committee be dragged into a court challenge because of processes not being followed. The Committee had to make 100% sure of what they were doing.
The Chairperson was tempted to agree that the Committee refine their processes after a pause. The Committee could have the wisdom to do it in the current meeting but sometimes Members were much wiser when they referred to and had the input of their political parties. This was because Members would bring him a comprehensive story saying whether they were allowed by their political party to convene on a Thursday afternoon etcetera and agree upon a process. He asked that Members refine this but did not want the Committee to keep going back to the external service provider or security of Parliament. All of this was being said and it was suggested that this be looked into, added onto and collected. All that he was saying was refining the terms of reference in the following week was too short as he still had to request a meeting. If the meeting was allowed then Members would be informed, and if it was not allowed then it would be done in a fortnight’s time. Members could also refine the issues as to whether the processes should or should not be concurrent and were to also get an engagement within their group. He would then take the process and refine it for the Committee’s next meeting.
Ms Gwarube said that the Chairperson had clarified this. Members would refine, and in their next meeting clarify it with their written submissions to the Chairperson and speak to it. For her it seemed moot because when then was the point of the service provider if the Committee was going to see some people for oral submissions whilst it was not sure what the service provider was doing exactly. It was important for the Committee to go out and figure out what exactly they wanted from the service provider and have been through the submissions in writing too. She endorsed the Chairperson’s summary.
The Chairperson requested that Members go into their groups and say that, with reference to the Portfolio Committee on Health meeting that they had they had, for example, the following seven submissions to raise. All the submissions were to be raised in the group once off and included all of their points as a comprehensive package. Members did not have to come back the following day and could get back to him on Saturday morning or Sunday night. He would then collate all of the submissions with the Committee Secretary. He would then present a comprehensive report to the Committee based on Members’ inputs and how he would balance it. He thanked everyone for their attendance.
The meeting was adjourned.
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