In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services met to consider the programme for the National Youth Development Agency board appointment. This was after the Committee had decided to restart the process from scratch
The Committee deliberated at length on whether all CVs received should be published or just the candidates on the shortlist. Members asked about when discussions on the criteria for shortlisting will be done so as to ensure that the process was transparent. The Committee’s resolved that only the shortlisted CVs will be published and the Secretariat would upload all CVs received, but would remove all personal and very confidential information. It was decided that all the CVs will be published for reasons of transparency and to avoid any allegations of issues of distrust from the public. The Committees adopted the programme.
Members were concerned about the criteria of age for applicants and consulted the legal team. Also a particular applicant had complained that he was excluded from the process on the basis of his age. There was agreement that it should be stated in the advertisement that ‘preference will be given to persons under the age of 35. This will ensure that no one is initially excluded in line with the Act, but the final selection can still be done in line with the capacity building of youths, and preference given to those who fall within the definition of youths’. The Committee was advised by the legal team that it ‘is in the context and spirit of the NYDA that the advertisement states that preference will be given to persons below 35 years, but it does not exclude persons above the age of 35’. The advertisement was adopted. In the meantime, advertisements would have to be prepared and sent out; the Committee confirmed that the Secretariat would handle the advertisement and ensure that it reached local newspapers prepared in the various official languages.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone. The agenda for the meeting was read and adopted. The Committee Secretary outlined the draft programme:
- 9 March: Adoption of the criteria of the advertisement and revised Committee Programme;
- 12 March: Consideration of criteria for shortlisting;
- 15 to 19 March: Preparation of advertisement, translation of advertisement into the various languages and obtaining approvals;
- 20 March to 2nd April: Advertising in print media (calling for nominations for filing of vacancies in the NYDA);
- 12 to 23 April: Uploading of CVs and civil society comments onto the parliamentary website and uploading to Uvimba;
- 26 April to 21 May: Summary of CVs;
- 25 May: Shortlisting of candidates;
- 26 May to 15 June: Vetting of applicants;
- 22 to 25 June: Interviewing candidates;
- 29 June: Deliberations on candidates; and
- 30 June: Consideration and adoption of draft reports on the filing of vacancies in the NYDA (SC on Health and Social services and PC on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities).
The Chairperson noted that the meeting for the criteria on 12 March was not open to the public, and shortlisting on Tuesday, 25 May 2021 will not be conducted virtually but in Parliament.
Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) wanted to know if CVs would be forwarded to Members instead of being available online at Uvimba.
The Chairperson replied that C’s will be sent to the emails of all Members of the subcommittee and will also be uploaded onto Uvimba. Members will also be updated regularly on the process. She noted that another issue for consideration was whether all CVs received will be published or only shortlisted CVs. There will not be hard copies because of the volume of applications. She observed that the process was easier during the earlier selection exercise because it was done electronically.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) suggested that the initial CVs received should be published together with the shortlist so that the process is seen as transparent and everybody was able to view the process from the beginning to the end. An email was received from one of the candidates querying that his confidential information was made available to the public when the CVs were published. A clause should therefore be included in the advertisement notifying the public that the CVs and all personal information contained therein will be made public.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) remarked that the system previously used for advertising was convenient and easy because it allowed Members to have easy access to the CVs. She did not think it will be effective for Members to receive hard copies because it would result in a lot of paper work.
She stated further that during the previous shortlisting process, the issue of uploading CVs for public comment was raised by Dr Herman Tembe, Legal Officer: Office of Institutions Supporting Democracy, but he was not specific on whether publishing will be done before or after shortlisting. The Committee will need to be guided by him because the uploading of CVs is very tedious and time consuming. She agreed to the contribution made by Mr Mphithi for there to be transparency, but suggested that only names of candidates should be included in the publication.
The Chairperson replied that for the first publishing run, CVs will be published as received, however, only the names of those that are shortlisted will be provided when the second publishing run was done. The Secretariat will prepare an abridged version of the CVs of shortlisted candidates and resend to Members. She also said that the identification numbers of candidates should not be published, but the process and meetings should remain transparent and open for everyone to see.
Ms A Maleka (ANC, Mpumalanga) referred to the agenda item 12 March 2021 on consideration of criteria for shortlisting. She asked if vetting will be conducted before the advertisement and if the meeting will be virtual.
Ms Masiko asked about the practicality of discussing the criteria that will be used to shortlist long before the actual shortlisting process. She suggested that the criteria for shortlisting should be discussed closer to the time when the actual shortlisting process would commence. This will limit any risk attached to the process.
Both Chairpersons agreed that the criteria cannot be discussed long before the commencement of shortlisting. The agenda programme for 12 March 2021 was moved to the morning of 24 May 2021 and it would be a closed meeting in Parliament.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) apologised for joining the meeting late due to network problems. He wanted to know if all CVs will be published, or if only the shortlisted ones will be published.
The Committee Secretary observed that drawing from previous selection processes, the decision to upload CVs on the parliamentary website will depend on whether the Committee intends to advertise all CVs received. If the Committee decides to advertise CVs, a record of all CVs will also be uploaded on Uvimba.
She noted that it would be preferable to publish only the CVs of shortlisted candidates rather than publish all the CVs. CVs will however be available on Uvimba for any Member who would like to access the CVs. She advised against publishing large volumes of CVs if the Committee had no plan on what to do with the CVs, however CVs of shortlisted candidates can be published and can also be used by the panel.
The Chairperson replied that it is the Committee’s resolution that only the shortlisted CVs will be published and the Secretariat would upload all CVs received on Uvimba, but would remove all personal and very confidential information.
The Committee Secretary wanted to know if the meeting on the discussion of the selection criteria will be a closed or an open meeting.
Ms Ntlangwini said that the Committee needs to carefully examine the previous occurrences around the selection of the board so as to avoid repeating the selection process again. She noted that there is no problem with publishing every CV that is received and uploading them on the Uvimba system while the ones that are selected should also be published. This will provide a level of transparency to the public and will help the Committee move forward and allay the various misconceptions around how the NYDA board is selected. The process should be as transparent and as cost effective as possible.
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) proposed that only the CVs of the shortlisted candidates should be published, and if there are issues in terms of the CVs, then the Committee can refer to the full details of all applicants uploaded on Uvimba.
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KZN) said she does not think the Committee will lose anything by uploading all the CVs received. The process should be transparent, and the public should see that it is transparent and that there are no hidden lists.
The Chairperson concluded that all the CVs will be published for reasons of transparency and to avoid any allegations of issues of distrust from the public.
Mr Nchabeleng stated that Members have the responsibility of taking decisions related to the advertisement. He noted that when dealing with advertising issues, there will be unqualified people who will always apply or unrelated applications which will be received. He wanted to know if all of those CVs will be published.
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) wanted to know if only Members of the Committee will have access to Uvimba or everyone who sent their CV.
Ms Ngiba replied that only Members would have access to Uvimba. Once CVs are uploaded, a link will be sent to all Members to access it.
Mr Bara wanted confirmation that all CVs will be uploaded irrespective of whether the person did not meet the requirements. He expressed concern that this approach will raise the concern of the public about the ability of the Committee to adequately handle the process. It was felt that transparency was key and should be maintained as the Committee should not be seen to be incompetent.
The Chairperson confirmed that all CVs will be publicised for reasons of transparency. She appealed to Members to agree that all CVs will be published.
Ms Masiko stated that while she would take guidance from the leadership of the meeting, she believed that even though publication of CVs was good, the Committee needed to address some of the issues raised. The Committee should be guided by the National Youth Development Act in Section 9, subsection 3(a) which provided that for the appointment and conditions of service of the board, “a shortlist of candidates for appointment should be published”. She expressed her agreement if the Committee felt that everything should still be published.
The Chairperson stated that during the last selection process, all the names of shortlisted candidates were published. She warned that the Committee should not fall into the trap of wanting to account for individuals who have applied that did not meet the criteria. The first publishing should be for every CV received; so that people and even organisations can verify that their CVs, or CVs of persons nominated, were captured. The Committee will also be able to confirm and respond when there are complaints about submissions. While it is the responsibility of applicants to ensure that their applications comply with the advertisement, for transparency reasons, everything received must be published.
The Chairperson proposed that the Committee adopt the programme.
The programme was adopted.
The Chairperson stated that she received a message from Ms A Hlongo (ANC) about an allegation received that the Committee was planning to conduct the selection process irregularly. She noted that it is important that when dealing with this process, focus must be maintained, and the Committee should avoid a situation where the public is not confident in the process. It will be better if most meetings dealing with the selection process were held in Parliament. The public cannot be stopped from expressing their views, but efforts must be made to efficiently manage the process.
Consideration of the advertisement
Mr Siviwe Njikela, Senior Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said that the advertisement circulated by the Secretariat was reviewed by the legal team and a concern that arose during the last process was related to the age criteria. A particular applicant complained that he was excluded from the process on the basis of his age. The Committee had taken a decision that it would only shortlist people who are under the age of 35 - people who fell within the definition of ‘youth’ in terms of the Act. There was a debate on whether the age preference should be included in the advertisement.
He noted that Section 10 of the Act, which sets out grounds for disqualification, did not mention the issue of age. Although the preamble of the Act speaks about participation of youths and the development of the capacity of the youth, there is no specific provision for the disqualification of persons that are above 35 years of age.
It was agreed with Dr Tembe that a note should be included in the advertisement that stated that preference will be given to persons under the age of 35. This will ensure that no one is initially excluded in line with the Act, but the final selection can still be done in line with the capacity building of youths, and preference given to those who fall within the definition of youths.
He explained that such clauses are necessary in cases of persons with disabilities, women, and where there is the need to empower a particular category of people. Instead of including an exclusion clause that will invite many challenges, everybody qualifies to apply, while the Committee will be entitled to set a criterion that will disqualify people.
The Chairperson presented the advertisement to the Members of the Committee and called for their comments.
Mr Mphithi said that the Committee needed to be very specific on the requirements of the candidates. In previous advertisements, the requirements were not clear as to who could apply and what criteria will be used to consider candidates at the interview. It is important to specifically state requirements, as it will help the Committee to avoid matters around whether successful candidates have met the requisite criteria stated in the advertisement. The advertisement must therefore be very clear on the criteria including the sections of the NYDA Act that are mentioned, so that the Committee is not challenged on issues around criteria that link back to the advertisement and open up ground for critics.
The Chairperson wanted to know what needs to be clear in the requirements, because the requirements are currently in accordance with the Act. Anything outside the Act or the Constitution of the country cannot be included. The advertisement is clear on requirements and applicants must carefully read these criteria and familiarise themselves with the Act before applying. Because the Act is clear and does not specify a specific age group, the advertisement will clearly state that preference will be given to persons below the age of 35.
Mr Bara wanted to know why it is stated that applicants must not be older than 35. He said his understanding of the clause was that even though someone is above 35, she/he could still be considered.
Ms Masiko suggested that because the Act does not provide guidance in relation to the consideration of persons above the age of 35, when the Committee is sitting to consider the selection criteria, preference can be given to young people who will be able to serve on the board for and on behalf of other young people in South Africa. She however noted that it was still possible that the process will be challenged because the clause is not included in the Act of the NYDA.
Ms Masiko requested that Mr Mphithi provide guidance on the additional criteria that he stated should be added to the advertisement. She expressed concern about inserting criteria that had not been discussed earlier and agreed upon in an advertisement that was supposed to be published in a couple of days.
Ms Ntlangwini was of the opinion that the Act was quite clear on who can apply and who was qualified to sit on the board of NYDA. The advertisement in its current form can therefore be used. Even though the Act is silent, the Committee is aware of the age and who gets to qualify under the bracket of ‘youths’. The Committee can therefore exercise its discretion in a closed session to disqualify an applicant on grounds of age.
Mr Mphithi said that the comments from other Members on the advertisement seemed sufficient. He explained that his comment on the advertisement was in relation to Section 9(4) of the Act, and suggested that the provisions of the Act should be seen to be incorporated in the advertisement.
Dr Tembe said that Section 10 is almost similar to what is contained in Section 69(8) of the Companies Act. Those selected are going to sit on a board and must qualify to be appointed as a director. Shortlisting criteria should be separated from the advertisement.
The Chairperson thanked the legal team for their advice and guidance.
Dr Tembe explained further that it is in the context and spirit of the NYDA that the advertisement states that preference will be given to persons below 35 years, but it does not exclude persons above the age of 35.
The advertisement was adopted.
The Committee Secretariat stated that the next Committee meeting was Monday, 24 May when the Committee would be discussing the selection criteria.
The Chairperson said that in the meantime, advertisements will have to be prepared and sent out. The Committee confirmed that the Secretariat will handle the advertisement and ensure the advertisements reach local newspapers and should be prepared in the various official languages.
Ms Masiko added that it was previously agreed that that the advertisement should also be accessible on the noticeboard of the NYDA offices because it is not all youths that have access to the internet and to newspapers.
The Committee Secretariat confirmed that all official languages will be covered in the advertisement, the advertisement will be made in at least one or two national newspapers and in regional and local newspapers. There will also be radio advertisements and the request to advertise on NYDA noticeboard has also been noted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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