In this virtual meeting, the Standing and Select Committees on Finance and Appropriations met jointly to prepare for the Parliamentary Budget Office Director interviews.
Members were informed that the CVs of the shortlisted candidates were published for public input on Parliament’s website and social media accounts.
The revised programme was presented. The interviews will take place on 29 September 2020.
Members were informed that the SubCommittee will only receive its questions when it meets on the interview day. They were encouraged to guide the support staff on the type of questions that should be asked to the candidates.
Members were advised that what fit and proper means needs to be established and it’s something the Committee needs to include in the interrogation of the candidates. It goes further than simply ethical standards, but includes all areas involved in this position.
The Chairperson welcomed all present at the meeting and apologies were heard.
Mr D Joseph (DA) asked about the statement published on to the Parliamentary website for the public to make comments. “If it’s on the website, will it be open for comment for those who are interested, because I’m not sure how the public knows we are busy with this process. Will this information be communicated to the public”?
Ms Felicia Lombard, Media Officer, Parliament, explained that a media statement is sent out that contains a link to the Parliamentary Website and this information is also posted on Parliament’s social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter which also provides a link. Ultimately it goes out as a media statement which is normally how this is done.
The Chairperson said the Committee should move on to the consideration of the revised programme. At the meeting held with the support staff, one thing that was omitted was public comments and Advocate Frankie Jenkins, Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor came out very strongly on this. This is what pushed the Committee back from the date initially agreed upon, 18 September 2020.
Mr Lubabalo Nodada, Committee Secretary: Standing Committee on Appropriations, took Members through the revised programme on the appointment of the Director for the PBO.
Following the meeting on 11 September, the SubCommittee proposed to the Chairperson that the programme should be amended and it was agreed that this would be tabled to the Sub-Committee today.
The next meeting with the Chairperson and technical support staff will take place on 23 September 2020 at 9am-11am to conclude on logistical issues.
Final preparations for interviews with the Sub-Committee and support staff will take place on 28 September 2020 from 18:00 to 19:30.
Interviews will take place on 29 September 2020. This is another issues that was strongly proposed by our colleagues. They said there would be a need for a dry-run with the technical team from 08:30-09:30 since interviews would be broadcasted, following which interviews will commence.
Interviews will take place from 09:30 until midnight.
The Committee will convene again on 30 September 2020 from 09:00-13:00 to deliberate on the interviewed candidates and identify the top three candidates.
On 13 October from 15:00-18:00, the Subcommittee will present to the full joint committees on its final report. This will take into consideration the HR and Protection Services vetting of the top three candidates and the decision on the three candidates. The Committee’s will individually adopt their reports on the proposed candidates.
The Chairperson said the Committee ran into serious trouble during interviews for the appointment of the AG and the number of the candidates which is why interviews would take place until midnight.
The Chairperson asked Members if they had any comments.
Mr G Hill-Lewis (DA) said it was extremely inconvenient to have the programme shifted like this. “Obviously we have other commitments as I am sure everyone does. I am speaking for myself, but I have no doubt that others are in similar positions. We have children, my wife works full-time and I understand we have to travel, but it takes quite a lot of planning and arrangements to travel as we have to arrange babysitters and so on. It’s very inconvenient that the programme has been shifted at such short notice and I only found out yesterday afternoon. I will try my very best to rearrange things to be there”.
The Chairperson said this was a very valid concern. “Our optimal situation in dealing with these interviews is that the Committee be at one place. In the Committee’s last meeting with the technical staff, one Member was unable to join the meeting as she was in self-isolation and the technical team was able to arrange a virtual connection for the Member at short notice. If all else fails, the team should be able to arrange a virtual participation for you, but If arrangements can be made to be there physically, it would be highly appreciated”.
Mr M Moletsane (EFF) said he was comfortable with the latest programme.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee could proceed factoring in the issues that have been raised by Members.
Mr Nodada asked if the dry-run would be one hour or thirty minutes.
The Chairperson said one hour would work as the technical team took into consideration their past experiences with this.
Preparation for interviews
The Chairperson moved on to agenda item no 5 and offered the Committee some background information on the process. He asked Advocate Mongana Tau, Unit Manager: Finance and Economic Unit and HR to explain this to the Committee. We need to guide the support staff and HR on the type of questions to be covered in the interviews. The Committee will not discuss specific questions, but this should be discussed broadly. The SubCommittee will only receive its questions when it meets on the day of interviews. The position being filled is about leadership, so Members should engage to guide the support staff on the type of questions they need to prepare for the interviews. The person we choose should have the ability and responsibility to lead, because at the end of the day, this is an accounting officer.
Mr Joseph said he would like to be guided by other Members.
Mr Hill-Lewis said he was comfortable with being guided by other members.
Mr Moletsane agreed.
Ms D Peters (ANC) said she was comfortable with HR preparing the questions.
The Chairperson said this position involves a lot of research and should also cover some things like the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and related Acts. The main Act we are responding to is the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act and the responsibility of the Director of the PBO. He asked Adv Tau and his team to speak to the Committee.
Adv Tau said the areas covered are well understood. He asked if Members would be interested in hearing whether the candidates understand the political dynamics within the institution and that it is a multi-party democracy with the independence of the institution. This is to understand if the candidates are able to navigate without compromising the independence of the Office of the PBO.
The Chairperson said this was at the centre of the requirements and the candidate should be able to advise without fear, favour or prejudice. This is very important for the institution.
Adv Tau asked Adv Jenkins to present on the ethical part of the process and whether this area should be covered in the interview process to ascertain the fitness of the person. Apart from the records, perhaps members can probe on this to satisfy themselves that the candidate is a fit, proper and ethical person.
Adv Jenkins said what fit and proper means needs to be established and it’s something the Committee needs to include in the interrogation of the candidates. It goes further than simply ethical standards, but includes all areas involved in this position. This would include the qualifications of the candidate, financial savviness and whether the person has insolvency hanging over him or her. Can the candidate manage their own finances and handle the management of the office is also a question that needs to be considered? On Adv Tau’s question about including ethical matters in the interview questions, “we most certainly need to do this”. There has been issues around conflict of interest and where that has not been taken seriously, a candidate could be disqualified. The candidate must understand that the PBO is part of Parliament, but is at arm’s length and provides objective advice on the budget so that Parliament is able to question the assumptions and predictions of National Treasury. “The PBO should be able to assist Committees to interrogate the budget and be sure that the Money Bills are actually delivering on the priorities that were set. Fit and proper includes all of this and the candidate needs to understand this”.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to move on to the next item on the agenda. Members are free to ask him for clarity on anything. The Committee will see the questions when it meets in Johannesburg.
On the way forward, Mr Nodada said the SubCommittee needed to give the go-ahead to proceed with preparations for interviews.
Ms Estelle Grunewald, Committee Secretary: Select Committee on Appropriations, said she had nothing else to add and the Committee needed to give the go-ahead on preparations for interviews.
The Chairperson said the Committee Secretariat could proceed. Just make sure that all the T’s are crossed and all the I’s are dotted. He advised them to continue being professional with the process.
The Chairperson made closing remarks and thanked all present at the meeting for availing themselves as well as the support staff for their efforts.
The meeting was adjourned.
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