In a virtual meeting, the Committee considered and adopted its programme for the first term of 2021. Members suggested amendments to the programme to allow for the provision of a strategic planning session for the Sixth Parliament and for a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Tourism to engage with potential beneficiaries of the R200 million COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund in 2020 who were unable to access this. Members felt strongly that the Minister of Tourism must explain to the Committee and the beneficiaries why there were problems accessing the Relief Fund and why the majority of beneficiaries were white businesses. Further recommendations included a follow-up discussion with the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) on why there was such a low uptake of the Covid-19 R200bn bank loan scheme for small businesses.
The Chairperson welcomed Members to the first Committee meeting of the year. She noted that the Committee was saddened by the loss of life due to the pandemic. She believed the Committee could complete their core oversight function effectively during the current term.
The Chairperson acknowledged Mr De Villiers as a new Committee member.
Mr J De Villiers (DA) thanked the Chairperson for his introduction. He expressed his excitement to contribute to, and work with, the Committee.
The Committee Secretary presented the draft programme for the first term of 2021 to Members. The first meeting was moved from 26 January to 10 February due to a notice from the Office of the House Chairperson that there was training for Members of the National Assembly between 26 January and 9 February.
Key items on the programme are the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 11 February and the Budget Speech on 24 February. This Committee's meeting slot is Wednesdays but the Committee cannot meet on 17 February as that day is set aside for debates on SONA. The President will respond to these debates on 18 February. Hence the Committee will not meet on these days but will meet again on 3 March to receive a briefing on the Department's 2020/21 Quarter 2 performance report. The programme allows for conducting oversight, in addition to receiving the quarterly reports from the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). On 10 March, the Committee will receive the Quarter 2 performance report from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA). On 17 March, the Committee will be briefed on the 2020/21 Quarter 3 performance of the Department and its entities.
Mr H Kruger (DA) asked about the Committee’s strategic plan. It is essential to have a strategic plan. When will the Committee draw up a strategic plan? After this quarter, the Committee will have been in Parliament for two years, thus it is necessary to provide for a date to make a strategic plan.
Mr F Jacobs (ANC) said that small business is everyone’s business, and it is big business for those who are marginalised. Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the informal economy. He supported the programme with three proposed alterations.
First, he agreed with Mr Kruger that the Committee must make a strategic plan. Provision for strategic planning must be made in the programme. Some of the items in the programme could be combined to allow for a workshop on strategic planning.
Second, the Minister of Tourism announced a COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund for small, medium, and micro enterprises in the tourism industry. The Committee should look to have a joint sitting with the Portfolio Committee on Tourism so the Minister of Tourism can share the Fund's logistics. This will allow for proper engagement and is an initiative that must be supported. The Committee should find a suitable time for this joint meeting. The Quarter 2 performance briefings by DSBD and its entities could be done on 3 March. The Quarter 3 performance briefings and consideration could be done on 10 March.
Third, the Committee should attempt to engage with beneficiaries of the Relief Fund. This would be in line with what the Committee planned in 2020. There must be engagement with and oversight of random Covid-19 Relief Fund beneficiaries.
Ms K Tlhomelang (ANC) agreed with Mr Jacobs’ proposal to combine items in the programme. The Chairperson should allow for special meetings of items not in the programme to be held in the case of pressing matters. She supported the programme with these additions.
Mr J De Villiers (DA) supported the proposal of engaging with Relief Fund beneficiaries. He sought to amend the suggestion by highlighting that the Auditor General had noted that a large amount of the fund was not accessed. The Committee should meet with the Minister and the Director General to understand why so many businesses that applied have not been granted the money? What are the most common reasons for this? How can we make it easier for small businesses to access the money?
Mr H April (ANC) agreed with the additional proposals by Mr Jacobs and Mr De Villiers. The majority of beneficiaries of the Relief Fund are white businesses. The Committee should not shy away from addressing this major issue. There must be a discussion on who received the majority of the money, who did not, and why this is the case.
Mr D Mthenjane (EFF) noted that everyone agreed that the beneficiaries of the Relief Fund should be allowed to disclose the problems they faced in trying to obtain their money. The Tourism Minister and Director General must explain to the Committee and the beneficiaries what happened with the Relief Fund. A special sitting should have been called previously for the Minister to account for this problem.
The Chairperson acknowledged all questions and comments. This is clearly an accountability and oversight matter. She supported what Members said. The Committee must first identify beneficiaries of the Relief Fund and obtain findings before meeting with the Minister to discuss this. A strategic plan must also be drawn up. The Committee must get concrete evidence of what the obstacles to obtaining money from the fund are and put forth recommendations to the Minister.
Mr Sibusiso Gumede , Committee Content Advisor, said that the strategic plan is in the pipeline. Annual performance plans (APPs) and performance reports from the Department and its entities must first be received. A plan could be made to implement the recommendation that Quarter 2 reports of DSBD, SEDA and SEFA should be done in one day like the Quarter 3 reports.
The Content Advisor suggested there should be a special sitting on 4 or 5 March with the Department and the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) to follow up on the discussion in 2020 on why there was such a low uptake of the Covid-19 R200bn bank loan scheme for small businesses.
Committee Secretary, Mr King Kunene, responded about the matter of the beneficiaries, saying there was supposed to be virtual oversight of this but this could not happen due to the changes in the parliamentary programme. He suggested it would be more effective to have that oversight for the whole day rather than a morning-only meeting as there would be about 12 to 13 beneficiaries from different provinces. This proposal is in the pipeline.
He pointed out that the quarterly performance reports will indicate what the Department and entities did with the Relief Fund as Quarter 2 was when the pandemic had already started. These reports will give information on what DSBD did during the pandemic, based on that evidence the Committee find the reasons whether it did not operate effectively, and why.
The Secretary said that the Committee will attempt to pursue a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Tourism on the Tourism Relief Fund. That Committee will be meeting with the Minister of Tourism on 16 February. Going forward, a slot can be created to accommodate a joint meeting. Let's get the DSBD performance. The meeting with BASA could then be on 17 March.
The Chairperson said the essence of discussing the performance reports is for the Committee to check the Department and its entities’ targets and interrogate the success of their plans. An invitation must be sent to BASA. The Committee must continue doing oversight on DSBD. It is critical to engage with the Relief Fund beneficiaries. She requested the adoption of the amended programme.
The Committee Programme was adopted with amendments.
The Committee adopted the minutes of the meetings of 18 and 25 November 2020.
The Chairperson closed the meeting by thanking the Members for their participation.
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