The Joint Committee convened on a virtual platform to adopt its report on the mid-year performance of Parliament for the 2020/21 financial year. Members felt the report should highlight the importance of the timeous processing of petitions by Parliament. There were still petitions dated 2019 which had not yet reached the committees they are to be considered by. Petitions are a vital tool by which the Parliament can directly hear the grievances of South Africans. Petitions should not be taking more than three months before they reached the relevant parliamentary committees.
Committee minuets dated 4 and 20 November 2020 were adopted.
Adoption of Acting Co-Chairperson
Since Co-Chairperson Mabe was experiencing some difficulty accessing the virtual platform, the Committee Secretary proposed Members either elect another Co-Chairperson or let Ms Mahlangu chair the meeting alone.
Ms Mahlangu nominated Mr B Radebe (ANC) to chair the meeting because she was having a situation.
Mr Radebe received majority support and assumed to duty to co-chair the meeting.
Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament on the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa’s 2020/21 Mid-Year Performance
Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe asked that the report to be displayed on the screen.
He remarked that the additional two lines should have been deleted under 2.3.2.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) highlighted the importance of including petitions in the tabled report. He drew Members’ attention to 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 of the report. He said that in his personal experience, some petitions dated November 2019 still had not reached the Committee. He believed petitions should not be taking more than three months before they reached the relevant parliamentary committees. Further, he reminded Members that a petition is an important oversight mechanism which draws Members’ attention to a particular problem experienced by residents in the country. He remarked that it was unacceptable for a petition to take over a year to reach its relevant committee. Members can go to their communities and constituencies to reassure people that petitions mean something. Unfortunately, so far, the proper function of petitions is neglected. Hence, he suggested inserting a clause in the report that emphasises the importance of petitions.
The Committee Secretary suggested that Mr Brauteseth’s suggestion could be included in the observation and recommendation part of the report.
Mr N Singh (IFP) endorsed Mr Brauteseth’s view on the importance of petitions. He commented that even the House Speaker had raised the concern over the severe delays and backlogs in processing petitions.
Mr J Julius (DA) pointed out that under point 1.5, the three parts should be changed to four parts.
Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe agreed with his colleagues’ view on the importance of petitions. He stressed that timeframes must be put in place. Members of Parliament have direct access to Ministers, but communities and most people in South Africa do not have the privilege. Hence, petitions are one of the key mechanisms for the people of South Africa to address their concerns and this should be handled in an appropriate time.
Mr Brauteseth reminded Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe that the rules of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces clearly state that communities cannot hand in a petition but a petition must be handed in by a Member of Parliament.
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) said although the Committee would still require clarity on what the rule states about the petition process, he agreed that the timeframes for the handling of petitions should be included in the report.
Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe asked the Secretary and Content Advisor for clarity on the process of petitions. He made reference to a personal experience that he had encountered in the past in which a South African expat residing in the Congo had directly presented a petition to the Speaker’s office. He suggested a sentence be inserted in the report indicating the Committee was of the firm view that a timeframe to process petitions is needed and that a petition must be concluded within three months in accordance with the due process of Parliament.
Mr Julius raised the point that in Part C observation 5.1.1, the report had an omission of the word ‘year’.
Mr Singh raised his doubt on whether 30 days was a reasonable timeframe. Since the report would only be adopted possibly next year, and other committees allow for more than 30 days, he did not think that 30 days are enough.
Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe responded to Mr Singh that the 30-day period only begins after the report is adopted by Parliament.
The Committee Secretary said that she could add in the report that the 30 days begins only after the report had been adopted by both Houses.
The report was adopted.
Mr Brauteseth asked the Committee Secretary to send Members the report at her earliest convenience.
Committee minutes dated 4 November 2020 and 20 November 2020
The minutes were adopted.
Acting Co-Chairperson Radebe expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the work that has been done by the Committee. He urged Members to be mindful of the increasing COVID-19 cases during summer and urged everyone to protect their communities and families.
Co-Chairperson Mabe thanked everyone for their support. She appreciated Parliament’s support staff for juggling through different committees as this Joint Committee was seen as a ‘by the way’ committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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