(Subcommittee) PBO Director Vacancy: Report back on Qualifications verification & Security vetting; Decision on preferred candidate

Standing Committee on Appropriations

30 October 2020
Chairperson: Mr S Buthelezi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Subcommittee on Appointment of PBO Director 30 Oct 2020

Documents handed out: Presentation to Joint Subcommittee on the appointment of Director of Parliamentary Budget Office [Confidential]

The Committee met to receive the qualification and security vetting results of candidates applying for the post of Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

The Committee was provided with legal advice on the fit and proper requirement in order to assist the Committee in its deliberations. Members also heard objections to the candidates

The Committee was generally ad idem in the sense that all the Members unanimously felt the loss of Prof Daniel Plaatjies who was, in its opinion, the best candidate by far. Condolences were extended to his family. The loss of Prof Plaatjies meant that the DA was in favour of recommending to Parliament that the post be re-advertised to find candidates of Prof Plaatjies’ stature and experience. The rest of the Committee Members preferred Dr Jantjies, Dr Orlandi and Dr Mohamed as contenders for the post, feeling that the vetting process was adequate.

The principal committees would adopt its report on the process next week

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming Committee Members and asking if it was quorate. He proceeded to give an overview of the meeting agenda, recalling that the interview process was conducted in Johannesburg two weeks prior, where the Committee agreed on certain processes taking place before it would submit its recommendations. Amongst these was the verification of qualifications and security vetting. He noted that the Committee received a letter from Legislature Watch on the same day and he asked if any other Members had received the email. As no-one responded affirmatively, he asked that it be an item added to the agenda.

The Chairperson asked if there were any apologies and the Committee Secretary confirmed that there were two Members struggling to join the meeting, however, there were no other apologies.

Mr D Joseph (DA) asked if the meeting was open or closed.

The Chairperson confirmed that it was an open meeting as the Committee desires to be transparent in its process. He asked if the two members were in the meeting yet.

Ms Estelle Grunewald, Committee Support Staff Member, confirmed that Members had not yet joined.

The Chairperson asked for the Members guidance on whether the Committee should wait.

Mr G Hill-Lewis (DA) asked if they were otherwise quorate, if so, the meeting should continue as it was scheduled for a specific time.

Ms Grunewald confirmed that the Committee was quorate.

The Chairperson opened the meeting officially saying that the purpose of the meeting was to consider candidates it would like to propose. He asked Adv Mongana Tau, Unit Manager: Finance and Economic Unit and HR, to present on the qualification verification.

Presentation to Joint Subcommittee on the appointment of the Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office

Qualification confirmation

Adv Tau began by saying that candidate’s one, two and nine had withdrawn. Candidate’s three to six and candidate eight were confirmed however unfortunately candidate seven, Prof Daniel Plaatjies, had sadly passed away and he expressed the hope that his soul would rest in peace.

Vetting results

The investigations have yielded that all the candidates are South African citizens with no defaults registered against their names and no security concerns which came to light.

Submission from Acting Secretary to Parliament

Adv Tau displayeda response from the support team to the letter sent by the Acting Secretary to Parliament.

The Chairperson stopped the presentation to ask for the letter dated 30 September 2020, which was referred to on the slide, to be displayed for the sake of completeness.

The main concern highlighted in the letter was whether a forensic investigation was conducted into three internal candidates; Dr Dumisani Jantjies, Dr Seeraj Mohamed and Dr Leila Orlandi. Adv Tau pointed out that the response was included in his slide presentation. He confirmed that after the whistle blowing in the PBO, a forensic investigation was conducted and the outcome of the investigation did not find any wrongdoing by the internal candidates.

Submission from Mr Sean Muller

Mr Muller submitted his concerns to the Presiding Officers (POs), namely the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairperson of the NCOP. He was concerned that the internal candidates do not meet the fit and proper requirement as well as the manner in which internal candidates were questioned about the alleged investigation and the candidates’ responses.

Communication from one of the unsuccessful candidates

Dr Siziwe Zuma sent a number of communications about the shortlisting of candidates and asked for reasons why she was not shortlisted or appointed. Apart from Dr Zuma, there was no other communication received.

With this point, Adv Tau concluded his presentation.

Legislature Watch Email

The Chairperson asked for the Committee to deal with the letter sent by Legislature Watch.

Mr Joseph asked for clarity on the Table of Contents. He asked whether the word shortlisted should not be included in the table of contents.

Ms D Peters (ANC) said that the word shortlisted should not be included, but rather it should read as ‘unsuccessful applicants’ since the applicant in question was not shortlisted.

The Committee Secretary read the email from Legislature Watch.

The anonymous writer from Legislature Watch requested that the Committee re-advertise the post.

Adv Frank Jenkins, Parliamentary Legal Services, said that the fit and proper requirement was put into the Act a few years ago and Mr Muller had actually made a submission requesting that the requirement be put into the Act. The issue is whether a person will not act unethically in that position. In the Constitutional Court case of 2012, DA v The President, the court said it is a value judgment involving a character screening. Although there may be differences in opinions, there must be an ability to come into an agreement about whether there is evidence of being reliable or unreliable. However, this is the submission he was asked to make to the Committee from Legal Services.

Adv Jenkins recalled considering when the changes to the Act were made, what differences might or would exist, for instance, in the appointment to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). It may be applied differently depending on whether or not a candidate was fit and proper for the particular position being applied for.

The Chairperson opened for discussion saying that it had heard everything from the support staff.


Mr Joseph thanked the presenters and the support staff for their report. He felt that the Committee was doing its work with the utmost openness and transparency. In response to the correspondence received and the questions raised regarding the previous Director of the PBO and the implicated staff; he felt it was clear to him that the investigations conducted show that the applicants were found to have been cleared. On the fit and proper requirement, which the Committee had previously discussed in detail; in the context of this vacancy and in light of Adv Jenkin’s additional comments, Mr Joseph was confident that the Committee’s process fell within its mandate which was that it was open and transparent.

Ms Peters supported Mr Joseph. She thanked the support staff for conducting qualification verifications, vetting results, attending to correspondence from an unsuccessful candidate and now the letter from Legislature Watch. In any process, it will not be the case that every person will be satisfied. She did not think that this needs to be engaged on further and recommended that the Committee finalise processes and continue with its recommendation. She recognised the issue raised from Legislature Watch, saying it was along the lines of the concerns from the Minister of Finance tabled two days prior, regarding the concern that the candidates may not have the requisite experience. She insisted, however, since it was dealing with an anonymous person, that there would be times where the Committee would need to know the name of the complainant as it was difficult to tell who is being dealt with or even whether they were in the room presently. People should not hide behind anonymity so that when issues are dealt with, they can be addressed with accountability. She noted the concerns raised along with the letter from the Acting Secretary to Parliament and thanked the Committee Secretariat for its work.

Ms P Abraham (ANC) commended the hard work of the support staff, Chairperson and the Advocates. She requested that it rule out the issue of complaints by candidates. By this she meant that this should not stop the Committee from doing its job as it cannot expect the candidates who did not make it to be happy about it. She emphasised that the Committee is not a decision maker and it is merely making recommendations to the authorities of Parliament. Its recommendations are objective. It is good that it has a letter from the Acting Secretary which will cover its back in the future.

Candidates have been cleared by the intelligence of the country. This is one of the reasons the Committee was delayed, because it wanted to be sure that candidates had security clearance. Ms Abraham felt that there was a contradiction in talking about taxpayers’ money and then criticise a process which was conducted thoroughly and with success. The letters written were also written to the Presiding Officers. She agreed with Members and felt the Committee should forge ahead and recommend to Parliament who the best candidates for the job are.

Mr E Njadu (ANC, Western Cape) requested that the Sub-Committee note all the matters that rose. Secondly, he said that the process of the Sub-Committee covered all of the requirements in terms of: credibility, transparency, and full compliance in accommodating everyone throughout the process. He fully supported the move to make recommendations to Parliament.

Mr M Moletsane (EFF, Free State) began by addressing the letter complaining about the three candidates and said that the Acting Secretary has clarified the matter and their innocence has been proven.  With regards to the anonymous email, he expressed concern about what the anonymous sender intended to achieve by sending the complaint at the 11th hour, as there was ample time for the anonymous person to email the Committee. It would be different if the Committee knew who the person was; however, the Committee is now entertaining an anonymous person. Mr Moletsane said that he supports to move with tabling the Committee’s recommendations.

Mr Hill-Lewis asked whether the meeting would be open to the public when Members discuss the individual merits of the candidates. His own view on the matter, which differed from the rest of the Members was that thus far he is not opposed to the idea of recommending to the full Committee that the post be re-advertised.

Mr Joseph asked for clarity as to whether the Committee was discussing the merits at this point, as he did not want to go into the merits at this point as the Committee was still discussing the correspondence and shortlisting of candidates.

The Chairperson said that the merits were not being discussed at this point. He then asked if Mr Hill-Lewis still needed clarity as to the public nature of the meeting or whether he was happy to go on.

Mr Hill-Lewis said he was happy to continue. The loss of Prof Daniel Plaatjies, in his personal opinion, was a great loss. He was a candidate of superb merit and calibre and was definitely his favourite candidate. Without going into the merits or demerits of the other candidates, he would leave it at that. His loss was not just a deeply personal tragedy for his family, but also puts him in a difficult position in this process since Prof Plaatjies was the person who came out on top in his scoring process. Therefore, based on his own assessment of the candidates and not on the correspondence, he is not opposed to recommending to Parliament that the post be re-advertised.

The Chairperson asked if anyone wanted to amend their view. When no-one responded, he said it was clear from those present that the Committee would proceed with its recommendation.

The Committee Secretary said that this was not the first letter from Legislature Watch and said that the others had been sent to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that all the other emails had been considered.

Candidate assessment

Mr Hill-Lewis said that the scoring and his own personal assessment of who would be best for the job were the two decision-making frameworks in his mind. The highest scorer for him was Prof Plaatjies, who is unfortunately recently departed. This was followed by Dr Mostert, from the Limpopo provincial government and lastly Dr Jantjies from the PBO. The difference between Dr Mostert and Dr Jantjies however, is just one point.

In his view, the only reason that he can only recommend two names is because the kind of person required for this role needs to be extremely technically proficient at statistical modelling ability, data analysis and econometrics. Of the candidates that were interviewed, only three candidates could demonstrate sufficient experience in those fields and those are the three names he mentioned. Also in his opinion, Mr Hill-Lewis said that the person in this role cannot simply be a discursive economist who is not able to empower the PBO with serious and substantive statistical ability and technical analysis.

Secondly, this person needs to be a natural leader who can establish the PBO as a serious force to be reckoned with in the field of economic analysis in South Africa. Ultimately, in the next few years, the PBO should become of a similar stature to the Bureau of Economic Research at the University of Stellenbosch or the Independent Budget Office in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom and the Houses of Congress in the United States.These institutions can stand on their own two feet, are not pushed around by any political winds, they are evidence based, have rigorous credible technical analytical abilities and produce research of the highest global standard on their own. The PBO that exists presently is not that. Someone should be appointed who over time can turn it into that kind of institution. Mr Hill-Lewis was uncertain that the remaining two candidates would be able to do this.

Ms Abraham said she wants to come close to Mr Hill-Lewis and said that Prof Plaatjies would have been a good candidate, however, with respect to his family, there were things written about him in Legislature Watch. For her, the next candidate was Dr Jantjies and his approach seems to be focussed on district and province. Dr Jantjies is followed by a woman, Dr Orlandi. The skills, knowledge and experience in his case are real, therefore the Committee can recommend him.

Ms Peters said she had the same feeling with Mr Hill-Lewis regarding Prof Plaatjies. On the 29th when the Committee left Gauteng, she knew him to be her candidate. Now that the forces of nature have denied it the possibility of his service, she then recommends Dr Jantjies followed by Dr Orlandi. Although she had no issue with Dr Mostert, she feels it is important for the person appointed to have National and International experience. She was of the view that Dr Jantjies would be able to match up to similar offices globally in representing the PBO.  Her third recommendation would be Dr Mohamed.

Mr Njadu said that from a very practical point of view and considering the independency of the PBO,he considered: the academic qualifications, experience,legislative expertise, administration, management and conflict-resolution skills of the candidates. These were his main points of focus when candidates were presenting. His top candidate was Dr Jantjies followed by Dr Orlandi.

The Chairperson asked if anyone else wanted to contribute.

Mr Joseph said that his scores on the day of the interview were such that Dr Jantjies outscored the other candidates by one point and of the other candidate’s one had one point less. Because of this he only wanted to recommend Dr Jantjies.

Mr Moletsane said that he shared the same sentiments as some of the other members. His first choice was Prof Plaatjies. That being said, his recommendation is now Dr Jantjies as he really demonstrated an understanding of the mandate of the PBO and was able to reflect on the adherence to the provisions as set out in the Money Bill Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act 9 of 2009. Now that Prof Plaatjies cannot fulfil the role, Dr Jantjies is his only recommendation.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and said that their top candidate seems to be Dr Jantjies followed by Dr Orlandi but he asked for clarity as to the third candidate as they were required to recommend a third candidate. The candidates have interacted with the Committees and Parliament before and therefore they understand the national footprint. Candidates have been acting under the Money Bills Act and understand it thoroughly and did not have to go and study it for the purposes of the interviews.

Ms Peters said her third candidate is Dr Mohamed.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could proceed on that basis.

Mr Hill-Lewis disagreed and said that his first candidate is Dr Mostert by one point. However, hearing that other members wanted Dr Plaatjies to be their top recommendation, he asked that it be written on the record that he would prefer for the post to be re-advertised.

Mr Njadu said his third choice would be Dr Mohamed.

The Chairperson said that the majority view he hears is Dr Jantjies, Dr Orlandi and Dr Mohamed and said that Mr Hill-Lewis’comment would be noted and taken to the joint sitting of the Committee. He said these are the names they would be putting forward and that there was very little separating them.

Consideration of draft minutes of previous meetings

4 September 2020

The minutes were adopted

17 September 2020

The minutes were adopted

29 September 2020

The minutes were adopted

Ms Peters asked whether it was correct for a Member to leave an interview whilst a candidate was still sitting in the chair.

Mr Joseph asked if this was in the minutes.

Ms Peters said it was not in the minutes and she was only asking.

Mr Njadu said that Ms Peters are listed as a Member of the NCOP in the minutes and asked this to be corrected.

Mr Joseph moved for adoption

The Chairperson clarified that before adoption, Ms Peters wanted to know if it should be reflected in the minutes that a Member left before the conclusion of the meeting.

Mr Joseph said that Ms Peters concern would only be an issue if it affected the quorum as it would matter for the value of the interviews themselves, that it was quorate.

Ms Peters said the panel was constituted well and should have ended well. She thought it was an anomaly as she had never seen a panellist leave whilst a panel was constituted and whilst a person was being interviewed. She asked that the Chairperson note this for the future. She moved to second the adoption of the minutes.

The minutes were adopted

The Chairperson asked what was next on the agenda.

The Committee Secretary said that a way forward needs to be decided on, as on Tuesday, there is a joint meeting with the PBO and the FFC.

The Chairperson said that The PBO and FFC were coming to brief the Joint Committees about the MTBPS on Tuesday. He thought the Committee should use that meeting to table its proposal to the joint sitting. He asked if Members thought this was possible.

Mr Joseph asked whether it would be able to meet half an hour earlier on Tuesday in order to adopt the draft report if need be as a Sub-Committee.

The Chairperson clarified what Mr Joseph was proposing saying that what the suggestions was saying is that when the Committee goes to the joint sitting, the final report should be adopted and that there should be a meeting at 08:30 on Tuesday morning in order to ensure this. He asked the Committee Secretary when the next joint sitting is apart from Tuesday.

Ms Grunewald said that that the meeting on Tuesday would be the last joint meeting for the MTBPS and each Committee has to report separately. The process followed will be contained in the draft report which each of the four Committees will need to adopt individually. This Committee’s report would not be a lengthy report, however, it will be one summarising the process.

The Chairperson asked for proposed changes to be sent to the secretariat so that the draft report is ready to be voted on, on Tuesday. He asked if the Committee was in agreement and Members agreed.

The Committee Secretary said that it could have the report ready within an hour.

The Chairperson said that the sooner the better, however, the next afternoon was also fine.

Adv Tau said that the Standing Committee on Appropriations and the Standing Committee on Finance can have a joint report which is so titled since they deal with the same matter. Likewise, the Select Committees on Appropriations and Finance can also do the same on the election of the PBO Director. There is no harm in doing this so long as the Committees are from the same house.

The Chairperson thanked Adv Tau and said that the Sub-Committee will meet at 08:30 on Tuesday to adopt the report before the joint meeting. Since members were in agreement, he began to adjourn the meeting.

Ms Peters interjected saying that before the meeting adjourned, she would like to thank the Chairperson for what he has done on the Committee’s behalf and ensuring that the Committee has a report to present including qualification checks. These processes are not easy and the Committee managed to sail through them owing to his leadership.

The Chairperson thanked the Office of the Speaker on behalf of the Sub-Committee for helping the Committee fast-track the state security checks. He also thanked the Minister of Security who got involved in trying to fast-track the process. He recognised that state security deals with many things as there are many appointments taking place however, the Committee was able to get results in light of COVID-19 being a factor.  He thanked the Members and adjourned the meeting.


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