In a virtual meeting, the Committee met to consider its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DHSWS).
Some Members were displeased with the report, as it failed to include various important matters such as the irregular expenditure of R14 million during the 2018/19financial year. They also raised their concerns over the reported success of the Department’s interventions within municipalities which they were evidently failing to assist. It was suggested that these references either be removed, or that evidence be provided to justify these claims. It was also said the report was narrative-heavy and included too many references to what the Department planned to do in the future instead of focusing on the financial year under review. Members felt the report should make reference to the acting Directors-General in the Department during the year under review but its inclusion was contested. Other matters discussed were the backlog on title deeds, grants and legislation.
The BRRR was adopted, but the EFF rejected the report and the DA reserved its rights.
The meeting was acrimonious as Members argued amongst each other regarding how long Members were allowed to speak for and the that it seemed the Chairperson was censoring opposition Members by removing them from the platform without hearing the points they wanted to raise
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation
Mr Sabelo Mnguni, Committee Content Advisor, took Members through the BRRR which covered the performance of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DHSWS) for the 2019/20 financial year.
The Chairperson called on Members to raise comments on the report or move for its adoption. She implemented a three-minute ruling per comment.
Ms E Powell (DA) was displeased by the three-minute ruling, and argued that the meeting was scheduled to run till 21:00, and it was only 19:10. She asked what the purpose of the three-minute limitation was.
The Chairperson stated that some Members had been in the House the entire day.
Ms Powell said that it did not matter how long they were seated in the House - there was still work that needed to be done, and the Committee was scheduled to run until 21:00pm.
The Chairperson clarified that Members would all be given three minutes to begin with, and if there was a need to continue with follow-up issues, it would be granted once all Members had had an opportunity to raise their issues.
Ms Powell agreed with this, but argued that the Chairperson had not included this fact at the start of the ruling. She said that the report was relatively comprehensive, but raised concern over the Money Bills Act, as the report needed to complement the financial year under review. She also expressed her concern for the large amount of narrative evident in the report regarding what the Department intended to do in the future. She contended that there was no legislative space for this report to speak on the Department’s intentions, and that it needed to be scrutinising only the year currently under review.
Referring to page 8 of the report, which discussed the interventions and assistance the DHSWS had given to various municipalities such as eThekwini, as well as the success and positive impact it had had, she asked the drafter to provide the Committee with proof of the improved outcomes. For example, despite the interventions from the National Department in eThekwini, the municipality had failed to spend its emergency flood relief grant allocated in 2019. Even within the second supplementary budget of this financial year, Nelson Mandela Bay was still unable to spend the grants which had been allocated. There was evidence of a roll-over during the outer years of more than R300 million. The Director-General (DG) had spoken to the Committee last week and highlighted that the situation in Nelson Mandela Bay was serious and required administration and legislative assistance. She argued that it would be a material misstatement for the Committee to send a report to Parliament which noted that the Department’s interventions in these municipalities had rendered positive impact, because they had not.
Referring to page 9, specifically the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority, she said that the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), as it stood was self-funded, and asserted that it was a misstatement to report that the state was investing into this sector.
Referring to the Executive Management Team and the restructuring process on page 14, she commented that the Committee had repeatedly asked the Minister when a DG would be appointed. However, the deadlines had been moved repeatedly. She suggested that it would be valid to include that during the current financial year, the Department did not have a permanent DG, and rather had a rotation of two acting DGs.
The Chairperson interjected and said that Ms Powell’s three minutes were up and that they would come back to her later. She said that Mr Mbulelo Tshangana had been appointed as the DG of Human Settlements.
Ms Powell interjected, and argued that he had in fact been the acting DG for the financial year that was currently under review.
The Chairperson dismissed the argument raised by Ms Powell, and called on other Members for comment.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) did not agree with the report tabled, as it had failed to include important matters such as the irregular expenditure of R14 million during the 2018/19financial year. Additionally, the report had left out the Auditor-General’s (AG’s) recommendation which noted that there had been no investigation or consequence management implemented to assist with this matter. There was evidence of fruitless and wasteful expenditure by the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) during the 2018/19 financial year which had also not been included in the report.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said that she was uncomfortable with the recommendation brought forward regarding the issue of title deeds. As the Portfolio Committee, it was important to place pressure on the Department to fast-track the reduction of the backlog. Regarding the implementation of the District Development Model (DDM), the Committee had been consistent with this matter. Concerning the issue of grants, although there were provinces which were not spending these grants, the Department did have a policy in place to allow additional funds from the budget to be awarded to provinces that performed well. She asked if a timeframe could be included with regard to fast tracking the Human Settlements Development Bill. Lastly, she agreed with the Chairperson that Mr Tshangana was the DG of the Department.
Ms Tseke moved for the adoption of the report, and believed it to be a true reflection of the Committee’s deliberations.
Ms Mokgotho interjected and said that the EFF did not support the adoption of the report, and rejected it entirely.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) agreed with the sentiments raised by Ms Powell regarding the success of the Department’s interventions within municipalities, and argued that it should be removed. She sought clarity on how the DHSWS had assisted these municipalities, as it was clear that they were failing. If this was to be included within the report, then it was important to ensure that it was justified with examples and a detailed description. She supported Ms Mokgotho in rejecting the report that had been tabled.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) argued that the report was in fact a true reflection of the issues the Committee had discussed and resolved. However, she agreed with the arguments raised regarding the interventions within municipalities.
Ms Sihlwayi seconded the adoption of the report.
The Chairperson handed the floor back to Ms Powell.
Ms Powell continued to comment on the material misstatements, and recommended that the Committee focus only on the year under review and not address the Department’s future plans, which would ensure its compliance with the Money Bills Act. She added that there were other misstatements that were not deliberate, but rather narrative-based, which needed to be removed. Under the entities’ performance, she commented that the AG and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation’s (DPME’s) findings were not reflected under this heading, but rather further down the report. Lastly, she said would be reserving her right as to whether the DA would support or reject the report until she had consulted with her caucus.
The Chairperson said that she wanted to emphasise the issue of the DG that had been raised by Ms Powell, and argued that the matter had been resolved by the Committee and the Minister when the budget was passed. Additionally, concerning the support provided to municipalities, she reminded Members of the briefing the Committee had received from the DG, who had spoken at great length on this matter.
Ms Powell asked if she could briefly respond to the Chairperson’s statements.
The Chairperson denied her request, and continued by noting that there was a mover and a seconder for the adoption of the report. She asked if there were any objections, besides those of the EFF.
The Chairperson and Ms Powell argued over one another.
The Chairperson repeated that there had been a motion for the adoption of the report by the ANC. The EFF had rejected the report, and the DA had reserved its right. She said that during previous meetings, the Committee had agreed that the recommendations made by the AG must be included in the report.
Mr L Basson (DA) commented that he supported Ms Powell, and that the DA reserved its right until they had consulted with the caucus.
The Chairperson said that two Members had moved the adoption of the report, thus in line with the quorum of the Committee, the report was adopted.
Ms Powell asked to be recognised.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) interjected, and asserted that Ms Powell must wait to be acknowledged by the Chairperson.
Ms Powell replied that she was asking to be recognised.
The Chairperson ignored her request and proceeded with the second item on the agenda.
Ms Powell said that she had a question regarding the rules of the National Assembly, and questioned why the Chairperson was refusing to recognise her.
The Chairperson continued to ignore Ms Powell, and asserted that she refused to recognise her.
Ms Powell asked the Chairperson to state on what basis she was refusing to recognise her.
The entire Committee began to argue over each other.
The Chairperson shouted that Ms Powell should exit the meeting if she was going to continue to refuse to listen to her ruling.
Ms Powell stated that she was trying to ask a question that was unrelated to the BRRR, and asked if she could be recognised once they had completed the meeting agenda.
All Members of the Committee begin to argue.
The Chairperson demanded that Ms Powell be removed from the meeting.
Mr Basson said that the Chairperson and Ms Powell were not listening to each other, and explained that Ms Powell was seeking clarity on a matter which could be answered after the agenda had been dealt with. He pleaded with the Chairperson to continue with the tabled agenda, and to allow Ms Powell to ask her question at the end of the meeting.
Ms Mohlala called for a point of order, and expressed her disappointment at the behaviour of Members. Ms Powell was merely seeking clarity on a specific matter, and the Committee was scheduled to meet for three hours. She questioned why the Committee was rushing through the agenda and not allowing Members to engage on issues.
Mr Mashego attempted to interject.
The Chairperson called a point of order, asking Members to allow Ms Mohlala to continue.
Ms Mohlala asserted that the Chairperson needed to call to order those Members who continuously interjected when Members were trying to speak, such as Mr Tseki and Mr Mashego, as they were causing the meeting to become ungovernable.
Ms Tseke argued that Ms Powell was attempting to raise a matter unrelated to the BRRR or the tabled agenda, and said that she was arrogant and trying to delay the meeting further.
Mr Mashego apologised for interjecting whilst Members were speaking. However, he contended that Ms Powell was purposefully obstructing furthering the meeting agenda, and asked that Members respect the Chairperson.
Committee First Term Programme 2021
The Chairperson called for the meeting to continue with the tabled agenda, and took Members through the draft programme for the Portfolio Committee’s first term in 2021.
Ms Sihlwayi observed that there was a visit to the Eastern Cape scheduled, and asked if they could include Butterworth, as there were no dams in the province and the Committee needed to attend to the matter.
Mr Basson expressed his concern over Ms Powell being removed from the meeting, as the Chairperson had agreed to answer her question once the agenda had been dealt with, and asked that she be allowed to return to the platform.
Ms Mohlala agreed with Mr Basson, and argued that this was the worst form of censorship as Members were continuously removed from meetings even after being told to be silent. The Chairperson had normalised such behaviour in meetings, which could not be allowed.
The Chairperson and Ms Mohlala began to argue over the ruling, and the Chairperson said that she would no longer engage on this matter.
Mr Basson pleaded with the Chairperson to instil a sense of unity within in the Committee, and asked her to reconsider her position on the ruling in order for the meeting to be concluded. It was an unnecessary misunderstanding which did not need to result in hostility.
Ms Mokgotho suggested that when the Committee conducted its oversight in the Eastern Cape, it should be aware that millions of Rands had previously been budgeted to assist with work on the dam in Emalahleni Municipality. As nothing had transpired from the project, she asked that the Committee intervene to investigate the matter.
Mr Mashego agreed with the previous Members’ statements, and pleaded with the Chairperson to allow Ms Powell to return to the meeting.
The Chairperson said that it would be unfair to allow her to return, as Members who had been removed from previous meetings had not been offered the opportunity to return. As such, she asked Members to move the adoption of the programme.
Ms Mohlala argued that the manner in which the Chairperson continued to treat the Committee was unfair, as she did not allow for any debate from the opposition to take place during meetings. She proposed that the Committee conduct oversight in Limpopo as well as other areas where there were citizens living without water, in order to understand why this had happened.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would not be able to conduct oversight in the areas proposed due to the limitations of the allocated budget. However, they could be invited to address the Committee on these matters.
One of the DHSWS officials stated that she had heard Members speak about constituency -specific challenges, and asked that they submit all these issues within their constituencies. She said she would work on a consolidated report as part of future oversight visits, as well as the Committee’s five year strategic plan.
Mr Mashego moved the adoption of the programme, seconded by Mr Basson.
Consideration and adoption of minutes
Referring to the minutes 17 November 2020, Ms Mohlala indicated that they did not include the concerns raised by the opposition on the DPME, and asked that these be noted.
The Chairperson explained that the minutes were a summary of the meeting which had taken place, and suggested that the section under “resolution” be removed, as no resolution had been reached.
Ms Mohlala argued that the minutes were not a true reflection of what had taken place in the Committee, as the EFF had raised various issues of concern that had not been included, which implied that the Committee Members were all in agreement on the matter.
The Chairperson said that the concerns could not be included as they were not part of the tabled agenda, and reiterated that the minutes were a summary of the meeting’s events.
The minutes of 17 November 2020 were adopted.
The Committee proceeded to argue over the adoption of the BRRR.
The minutes of the meetings on 24 and 26 November 2020 were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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