The Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) 2021 was presented to the Portfolio Committee for consideration. There were 24 recommendations that needed to be discussed by the Members.
Members of the Committee felt as though recommendation 1 needed to make provision for investigations into previous Ministers, Directors- General and Chief Financial Officers, as the BRRR had revealed that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) was regressing since its previous review in 2009. Historical issues dating as far back as 2017 were still posing problems for the Department today.
Another Member recommended that the Committee should investigate all reported, unwanted, fruitless and irregular expenditure from 2017 and 2018. Members agreed that it was necessary to hold previous political leaders accountable for any misconduct by implementing investigations with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. However, there was disagreement about whether these recommendations should be included within the BRRR. Eventually, it was decided that the Chairperson,would need to take time to research the history of the Department before the Committee could continue to pursue investigations. This research was to be completed before the end of the year so that the Committee would have time to present their findings to Parliament and implement consequence management.
Recommendation 12 was amended to provide for negotiations with Home Affairs, since the service level agreements between Home Affairs and DIRCO had been evidently inefficient to provide all foreign visitors with timeous documentation. Recommendation 14 was amended to ensure that all staff posted abroad under the Foreign Services Act be required to submit a skills audit to determine their competency. Those who were incompetent should be subject to remedial action or a recall. It was noted that the Foreign Services Act needed to be regulated and enforced more rigorously.
Recommendation 21 was elaborated on deeply. There was a lack of communication between the Committee, the Executive, the Minister and other related committees. The Committee had been excluded from events such as the Intra-African Trade Fair despite its duty to perform oversight on all foreign affairs events. According to the supporting administrative staff, there were long-standing participation issues with the Committee when it came to foreign affairs events. The Committee felt that they should be more active within foreign affairs, rather than being reduced to simply safeguarding the Department.
This brought up further frustration with the existing parliamentary oversight model, as it did not allow for the Portfolio Committee to carry out multiple international oversight missions without creating formal proposals and requests to the Chairperson of the House. The Committee had only done one oversight trip over the last three years. The Committee felt that it was their duty to take oversight trips, as this was the only way to properly perform their obligations and liaise with international parliaments and political players effectively.
The Committee resolved to become more engaged with the Parliamentary Group on International Relations, as well as the friendship groups that intended to foster communication between select committees, portfolio committees, departments, international parliaments and ministries. The Committee’s relationships with other relevant groups in the international relations sector needed to be restructured to make room for formal communications and collaboration.
The Chairpersonwelcomed Members and began the meeting by noting the Committee’s duty to deal with injustice. The Constitution informed the Committee’s approach and placed responsibility with them. The Committee had a responsibility to deal with South Africa’s history of injustices, such as colonialism and apartheid, under the guidance of the Constitution. The meeting was important as the Committee was going to deal with matters related to their accountability to the legislature and to Parliament. The Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) was a mandate which emanated from the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Included within the PFMA are rules stipulating how the Committee should operate.
There was an event taking place in Durban, the Intra-African Trade Fair, which began on15 November. It was concerned with international trade within Africa. As the Portfolio Committee, they should find a way to participate in these kinds of events. When Africans came together to discuss economic situations and African policy, the Committee should be there to share concerns and experiences, and discuss budgets, development, growth and economic impediments. Starting from 2022, the Chairperson hoped that the Committee could do more of this.
There were unpleasant developments occurring on the African continent. The Committee needed to find time to discuss some of these developments and their causes and effects. The Committee needed to consider how to work with other Parliaments in order to attend to these challenges. There were institutions and structures in place thanks to the African Union (AU), as well as parliamentary collaboration within the South African Development Community (SADC), and other African blocs that were made to deal with such developments and parliamentary matters. As a Portfolio Committee, they could not simply wait for those existing AU and parliamentary structures to initiate a response before they engaged and made contributions.
The Chairperson handed over to Ms L Mosala, the Content Advisor, to present the BRRR for 2021. The Committee needed to focus on the recommendations so that they could adopt them one by one. This was their parliamentary responsibility. There would be a succinct summary done on the overviews, but more attention would be placed on the formal adoption of recommendations.
The Chairperson asked if Members agreed.
Mr T Mpanza (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Mpanza. He noted that Mr Mpanza was also the Acting President of the South African National Civic Organisation. There were developments every hour in SANCO. The Chairperson wished Mr Mpanza good luck.
Mr M Chetty (DA) said that he might need to leave around 11:00 or 11:15 for a similar meeting. He reminded the Chairperson that the Committee had agreed to have a discussion about a Facebook post. Hopefully it could get done during or after the session, as the Committee had run out of time to discuss the topic in their previous session. There was also the issue of South Africans in Cuba and those who had been assaulted. The Chairperson said that there was an investigation, but were there any updates on this?
Finally, it was a gross negligence that the Committee was not a part of the Inter-African Trade Fair at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in KwaZulu-Natal in 2021.
The Chairperson confirmed that they had previously agreed to deal with those issues. However, it was suggested that the issue of the Facebook post and the South Africans in Cuba be postponed until the next Committee meeting. The current meeting was supposed to be focused on the BRRR. As far as the South Africans in Cuba were concerned, there had not been an official update yet. The available reports were sketchy, and the Committee would not be able to make good use of them. As soon as there were verified reports, these would be sent to the members and dealt with.
The Chairperson called on Ms Mosala, the Content Advisor, to give the presentation.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report 2021
Ms Mosala said the BRRR was compiled after having discussed the 2020/21 annual performance of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The same format applied for all BRRRs in Parliament. The report was presented.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Mosala for her succinct presentation. The Committee had to discuss the recommendations one-by-one. Recommendation 1 was regarding matters that arose from the audit, which was compiled by the Auditor-General.
Mr D Bergman (DA) said that he had a slight problem with the approach to the recommendations. The Committee started the 2021 BRRR from scratch. If 2009’s BRRR was compared to 2021’s, then the difference would be similar to that of a Russian athlete and a preschool athlete in the amateur leagues. The first recommendation should be to call on the Ministers, the Directors- General (DGs) and the Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) responsible from 2014 to 2021. These people should be put under investigation in order to find out how DIRCO got to their current position. The Committee should not be afraid to use the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to carry out these investigations.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Bergman and asked for other comments on the first recommendation.
Ms T Msane (EFF) concurred with Mr Bergman’s statement. Most of the recommendations made by the Committee in 2019 seemed to have dissolved without implementation. As the Committee dug deeper into these issues during their oversight missions, they found that the crises were not coming from 2019 but rather from prior years, when previous DGs and Ministers had been involved in shenanigans. These mishaps had brought DIRCO to its current state. The BRRR did not reflect the issues of 2019 and 2020. Misconduct from prior years necessitated investigations by SCOPA. The previous accounting officers needed to account for those previous years. Perhaps this was the resolution that would prevent DIRCO from having to go to SCOPA.
Mr Mpanza thanked the Chairperson for his opening remarks, which reminded the Committee of their constitutional obligations and mandates within Parliament. The issue raised by Mr Bergman and Ms Msane was raised in a number of meetings amongst the Committee. There was no problem, but since the Chairperson had raised the point of needing to fulfil the prescripts of the Constitution and the relevant government legislation, then there should be legal advice offered on the issue before he could support this recommendation made by Mr Bergman and Ms Msane. The issue was worrying, but before the Committee went forward, they needed to determine their scope of power. The Committee should not act beyond their mandate. He did not want to make recommendations that contradicted Parliament’s standard functions.
The Chairperson lost connection.
Ms Msane said that Mr W Faber (DA) could continue with his comments.
Mr Faber asked whether they should wait for the Chairperson.
Ms Msane said they should wait for the Chairperson.
Mr Mpanza agreed that they should wait for the Chairperson.
Mr Faber said that it would be quite weird to continue without the Chairperson present.
Mr Chetty joked that there were many Deputy Chairpersons present suddenly.
Ms Msane said that you cannot leave power hanging.
Mr Chetty said that the Members should behave themselves. There was a decorum that the Committee had to uphold. He joked that the Chairperson had asked him to speak in his absence.
Mr Bergman joked that Ms Msane was actually the Chairperson.
Mr Chetty joked that the negotiations for the coalition government were already happening in their Portfolio Committee meeting.
Mr Mpanza laughed and said that he liked the idea of being a part of the coalition committee.
Mr Mpanza said that the Chairperson had contacted him to say that he was having connection issues, and that Mr Mpanza should act in his absence for the interim period. He handed over to Mr Faber.
Mr Faber agreed with the Members of the Committee. Mr Faber had been on the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the Select Committee for International Relations for almost eight years before joining the Portfolio Committee for International Relations. Mr Bergman was quite correct, he said. If you looked at recommendation 6, it said, “Investigate all reported, unwanted expenditure, irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the following financial years from 2017.” If you look at point 2 of the Report’s findings, you will see that it says there were unexplained transactions totaling R73 million.
These issues came from predecessors. The DGs got away with these crimes for some reason. Mr Faber believed that there should be accountability. As Mr Bergman said, every new year and term the Committee looked at these same issues. The Committee was trying to turn over a new page, but you cannot turn over a new page if the book is filthy from the start. The Committee needed to have SCOPA look over these matters so that the Committee could start a new book. Mr Faber fully agreed with Mr Bergman’s recommendation. There should be a full investigation into the previous DIRCO leaders.
The Acting Chairperson, Mr Mpanza, thanked Mr Faber.
Mr D Moela (ANC) thanked the Acting Chairperson for the opportunity to speak. The point raised by Mr Bergman was valid. The matter had been raised many times before. However, Mr Moela did not agree on his approach. The current meeting was meant to focus on the 2020 and 2021 BRRR. Mr Moela suggested that the Committee dealt with the current recommendations, and that Mr Bergman’s recommendation be attended to at a later stage. He supported the Acting Chairperson’s suggestion that the Committee check their scope of powers before they overstep their parliamentary duties and responsibility.
When the Committee was working to approve the budget in the previous financial year, the issue was raised then too. In that meeting, they said that the issue should be considered in the Committee so that the political players involved could be held accountable.
The Acting Chairperson said that he wished the Chairperson was back to express his views on the matter. He suggested that the Committee return to this topic when the Chairperson returned, as the Committee should hear his input.
Ms Msane agreed.
The Acting Chairperson said that despite Mr Bergman’s proposal to add a new recommendation, the Committee still needed to discuss the original recommendations in the report. Did members agree with recommendation 1?
Mr Moela agreed with recommendation 1.
The Acting Chairperson asked for the members’ views on recommendation 2. As there was no response, he took the silence as agreement. He asked for feedback on recommendation 3.
Mr Moela agreed with recommendation 3.
The Acting Chairperson asked for opinions on recommendation 4.
Mr Bergman said that he had a problem with recommendation 4, which sought to implement another audit plan. He brought up the example of the DIRCO ambassador to Cameroon, Ms Zanele Makina, who had been absent without leave and who had spent state funds to go to Buenos Aires. How did a person like Ms Makina, who had been investigated for drama in the past, get another post in the Department? Hopefully the Department could answer that question. If there were already auditing standards in place, then surely people in the political service would need to justify their positions in the Department to the Committee.
When the National Youth Development Agency appointed new commissioners, those commissioners went through a committee. Maybe it was time that the DIRCO Portfolio Committee had a say in who their ambassadors were. For some reason, the South African government was not embarrassed about who they sent out into the world on their behalf. Perhaps there should be an audit plan whereby the Committee chooses who their ambassadors will be. After the President appoints someone, then that appointee should come through the Committee for a stamp of approval.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr Bergman for his comment. The challenge was that in the meeting, there were no departmental members present. There were only Committee members and supporting staff present. The matter he had raised should be discussed when the departmental personnel were present, as there was nobody who could currently answer his questions. He asked whether Mr Bergman had a problem with recommendation 4.
Mr Bergman said no.
The Acting Chairperson thanked him. He asked for comments on recommendation 5.
Mr Moela agreed.
The Acting Chairperson asked for feedback on recommendation 6.
Mr Faber said that the Committee should investigate all reported, unwanted, fruitless and irregular expenditure from 2017 and 2018. This brought him back to Mr Bergman’s original recommendation that there needed to be investigations into irregular expenditure and the leadership responsible for it.
Ms Msane said that she wanted to say the same thing. The reason why Mr Bergman raised his initial point was because the Committee’s recommendations did make reference to 2017 and 2018. The recommendations should possibly include a final line about the need to implement consequence management. When there were investigations, the findings often ended up lying around for 30 years.
Mr Bergman added that if DIRCO kept dancing around the Committee and ignoring their requests to go to SCOPA with the New York reports, then Mr Chetty, who had been handling the issue, should go to lay charges with the police.
The Acting Chairperson said that everyone had the right to do what they wanted to do in terms of law enforcement. As far as the recommendations were concerned, Ms Mosala would note the amendment suggested by Ms Msane.
Recommendation 7 was raised for comment. The silence was taken as agreement.
Recommendation 8 was agreed to as there were no comments.
Recommendation 9 was posed. Mr Moela agreed to recommendation 9.
Recommendation 10 and 11 were posed and agreed to.
Recommendation 12 was posed. Mr Moela agreed to recommendation 12.
Mr Bergman commented on recommendation 12. One of DIRCO’s main service providers was the Department of Home Affairs. DIRCO was having major problems with Home Affairs. Besides having to pay for Home Affairs, their service levels were very problematic. There were delays when sending diplomatic bags and passports to consulates and missions all over the world. Home Affairs was causing delays. There were citizens all over the world who wanted to come to South Africa. These people went to Home Affairs to apply for passports and birth certificates, and then abused DIRCO staff members because they became frustrated by long waiting periods after applications. This was not the fault of DIRCO, but rather the fault of Home Affairs. The service-levels agreements between Home Affairs and DIRCO were inefficient.
Somewhere along the line, some clever people decided that Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs should be separate departments. The Committee needed to work out a system where service-levels agreements could be tightened and renegotiated. Otherwise, Home Affairs would need to be responsible for the diplomatic bags. Either way, there needed to be joint meetings to ensure service levels were improved. Everybody needed to be one the same page to ensure that passports, birth certificates and everything else was working through the embassy properly.
The Acting Chairperson asked Ms Mosala to capture Mr Bergman’s comments. He asked for more input from the members. There were no further comments.
Recommendation 13 was agreed to. Recommendation 14 was raised.
Ms Msane said that recommendation 14’s phrasing was fine. But what would happen to the incompetent people who were posted in positions abroad? The recommendation should be rephrased. It should state that those who were currently posted abroad but were incompetent to work should return home. This would allow competent people to fulfill these posts. Positions were being fulfilled by incompetent people, while competent people remained without work. Incompetent people should be sent home.
The Acting Chairperson said that he also wanted to cover that aspect, but Ms Msane had covered it very well already.
Mr Bergman broadened this recommendation by saying that all skill levels should be investigated. There should be a skills audit on all levels, and if anyone was found to be incompetent or inadequate then they could be subject to remedial actions or a recall.
The Acting Chairperson asked what Mr Bergman meant when he said ‘all’, as this recommendation only dealt with the posting of administrative officials abroad.
Mr Bergman said that he was referring to all posted staff within the Foreign Services Bill.
The Acting Chairperson thanked him.
Ms Mosala responded to what Ms Msane was saying about corporate service managers (CSMs). Recommendation 9 spoke about assessment skills audits for all of the finance-related personnel, both for the missions and in headquarters.
The Acting Chairperson clarified that recommendation 9 catered to Mr Bergman’s suggestion that all posted staff within the Foreign Services Bill undergo skills audits.
Ms Mosala said that recommendation 9 asked for skills audits for only finance-related personnel.
The Acting Chairperson said that Mr Bergman was recommending that the same skills audits discussed in recommendation 9 should also be implemented for posted staff and administrative officials abroad.
Mr Bergman said that his recommendation was broadened. To reiterate what Ms Msane had also said, there should also be a remedy or a recalling process that followed these skills audits. In recommendation 14, there should be skills audits for CSMs as well as posted staff members abroad under the Foreign Services Bill.
Ms Msane said that she believed that Ms Mosala was trying to clump recommendation 9 and 14 together. The Committee was simply trying to ensure that these recommendations extended to all personnel, not only to those in finance and to CSMs. The recommendation should also state that if personnel were found as incompetent, they should be returned home. If Ms Mosala wanted to combine those two recommendations, that would not be a problem. However, the recommendation had to apply to all posted staff abroad and it had to include the consequence of these audit skills.
Ms Mosala said that she had captured these comments.
The Acting Chairperson moved to recommendation 15. There was agreement.
Recommendation 16 was posed. The Acting Chairperson recalled that the Committee had already concluded the matters relating to recommendation 16’s procurement process when they had met with the Minister of DIRCO, Ms N Pandor (ANC). Was the procurement process completed?
Ms Mosala said that the procurement process was still ongoing. DIRCO was delayed because deliveries were late since service providers were not working under COVID restrictions. Other matters under Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) did not only include the procurement of laptops, but also other items. The Committee should recall that the Department had mentioned that they would be modernising. The laptops were only a short-term goal for them. However, the recommendations related to the procurement of other related items, besides laptops, that would allow the system to run better.
The Acting Chairperson asked if the Members agreed with Ms Mosala’s explanation. Without any response, it was assumed that the Committee was in agreement.
Recommendations 17, 18 and 19 were agreed upon.
Mr Faber commented on recommendation 20, which said that all outstanding reports due to the Committee should be finalised and presented within 60 days. At the top of the BRRR it said, “In order to further assist the Department to enhance its performance, the Committee recommends that the Minister ensures that the Department implements the following report to the Committee three months after the adoption of the report by the National Assembly.” Mr Faber said that he wanted to add this point in the report to recommendation 20.
The Acting Chairperson said that made sense.
The Acting Chairperson posed recommendation 21, which was aimed at the National Assembly. Chairperson Mahumapelo had preempted this recommendation in his opening remarks about generating accountability in the face of injustice. The Committee needed to respect separation of powers when it came to attending some of the political events. It was unlawful that Members of the Committee accompanied the executive to these events.
Social matters should not permeate the delegation of duties, especially when members needed to represent South Africa at international events. He had recently observed the climate change discussion at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow. Minister Barbara Creecy was with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Faith Muthambi, at the event. This did not seem acceptable.
The recommendation was supported.
The Acting Chairperson said that even the Intra-African Trade Fair summit taking place in Durban was in DIRCO’s scope. Yet, the Committee was excluded. How could the Committee do their oversight work properly if they were excluded from events and activities that were related to international relations and cooperation?
Ms Msane said Mr Bergman could attest to the issue of the Parliamentary Group on International Relations (PGIR), which worked in isolation from the Portfolio Committee for International Relations. A lot of what the PGIR discussed directly impacted their committee. Perhaps the Committee should look at restructuring their frameworks, because they had been rendered to simply do departmental oversight, although they were competent enough to do more than that.
For example, when there was an inter-parliamentary union, a Pan-African Parliament sitting, or a SADC meeting that focused on building foreign policy, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations should be present. Yet, the Committee’s functions had been minimised to simply safeguarding DIRCO. However, issues like Miss South Africa’s continuation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict required a conjunction of committees that related to international relations, including the Committee. At the end of the day, the Committee was responsible for rebuilding international relations that were broken down by other departments. Sometimes the Committee would need to fulfill functions outside of overseeing DIRCO because there was a lot happening outside of it.
Mr Faber fully agreed with Ms Msane. He used to serve in PGIR with Ms G Boroto. In fact, he served two terms on the PGIR for the NCOP. During that time, there were friendship groups with international ambassadors and parliaments. This should have been extended to the National Assembly and the NCOP, but that never happened. Every term, these action plans got lost somehow, and that was concerning. Mr Faber had been a member of the friendship group with the Polish community and their Ministry, and they contacted him two months ago. From there, Mr Faber handed the communications over to Mr C Frolick. He said that the Portfolio Committee should take part in these international friendship groups.
Mr Bergman said that Ms Msane was correct; the Committee should be fulfilling their oversight functions better. The following week in Parliament, there would be a whole host of Portfolio Committees reporting back on their oversight, but this Committee would have nothing to say. During Covid, there were embassies that did and embassies that did not. At the time, Parliament was going through a rough patch where they were forced to close down embassies. As a Committee, members were talking blindly about these closures. The Committee only saw videos to demonstrate which embassies were being closed down.
Committee oversight was done through videos, but videos only revealed half of the bigger picture. For example, they had confronted reality properly when they travelled to Namibia. Mr Bergman often referred to it as ‘The Namibian Horror Show’. The Committee had only done one oversight trip in three years. These trips were the only way to see what the Committee needed to look after. The Committee was supposed to do more oversight trips, especially since Parliament was going into an oversight period. The Committee should not worry about PGIR, although they should be in that group in order to participate in foreign affairs. The Committee should prioritise oversight and their own productivity, because BRRR had shown them that the Committee was in trouble and regressing. In the Committee’s first meeting in 2019, they had at least stabilised DIRCO over the previous 5 years. Since then, DIRCO has worsened. The Committee could not carry on as they were.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Members. However, he said that the Committee needed to focus on the recommendations on hand. The issues being brought up should be discussed further when the Executive and the Department was present. These issues were raised before, and it was problematic that the Committee was not involved in some foreign affairs and treaties. To do mission oversights in the past the Committee had to write a report and present their recommendations and proposed oversight models to Parliament before they could physically go on oversight missions.
When the Portfolio Committee began, there was only a desktop model, but the Committee needed to visit places physically. The Acting Chairperson reminded Mr Bergman that they had been to New York, but after that Covid forced the Committee to perform virtual oversight missions. Whenever the Portfolio Committee went to Parliament, they needed to recommend an oversight model. For the Committee to go to New York, they had to request it and have it approved by Parliament. Would they need to propose another oversight model? How many times would the Committee need to submit proposals for oversight models? Since the Foreign Services Bill had become an Act, the Committee was going to use it as their guide.
Ms Mosala said that Parliament had not yet reviewed their existing oversight model. The model allowed for oversight visits to provinces, but this failed to make concessions for the kind of international trips that were necessary for the Portfolio Committee on International Relations. It was advisable that the Portfolio Committee kept their recommendations, because the parliamentary policy cited that oversight missions overseas could only happen once in five years or once in one term. As members had said, there were many other incidents to which the Committee needed to attend.
Ms Msane’s comment about PGIR, and Mr Faber’s comment about friendship groups, were very important. The staff members had made several presentations to management urging them to reconsider the Committee’s roles. The PGIR was not formally linked to the Portfolio Committee, yet the Committee was meant to report to Parliament. PGIR did not report in the Parliament. The PGIR should work together with the Committee. Any sector-related issues that went to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), or the South African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) had to be discussed and informed by the Committee. The Committee should be involved in all foreign affairs.
Regarding the friendship groups, there was a Legacy Report sent to management at the beginning of the term to say that the friendship groups should be in consultation with the Committee and its members since it was a part of its oversight functions. If there was a crew from Parliament visiting Ghana, Nigeria or the United States, the Committee needed to be involved in all of these movements so that they could oversee bilateral agreements with international counterparts. These issues were important to discuss, and the supporting staff would share the papers that they were submitting to management with the Committee. Participation by the Committee depended on public participation officers (PPOs), or the House Chairperson.
The House Chairperson was responsible for responding to requests made by the Committee, especially when concerning conferences in South Africa. But in the past, the House Chairperson often responded that only one or two members could travel. And yet, other committees often travelled in numbers to perform observations and oversight functions. The Committee mandate required more than one oversight trip. There were challenges with the oversight model, and it needed to be reviewed so that the Committee could function better.
The Acting Chairperson said that this was very important. The oversight model dealt with the life and breath of the Committee. He suggested that the issues raised should be included in the recommendations, such as the need to collaborate with international friendship groups and the PGIR. However, there was still the need to consider separation of powers. Was the Portfolio Committee overstepping their mandate by pursuing collaboration between the PGIR and the friendship groups? Ms Mosala should further discuss the matter with the Chairperson, who could sort out the issue on behalf of the Committee.
Mr Bergman said that the American visit was an investigation and an oversight trip that yielded results. The Committee could use this trip as an example of the value that an oversight trip offers the Committee. The Committee had a study tour coming up, and there were still proposals to make regarding more trips. About the PGIR, the Committee should not wait any longer to make changes happen. Besides adding a recommendation in the BRRR, something should be done immediately. The Committee was running out of time, and they could not wait until the BRRR was finalised. The Committee needed to consider which places they could go to in order to observe an example of good foreign services and relations. Apparently Rwanda was a good example. These conversations were long overdue.
The Acting Chairperson said that another issue to be incorporated into the recommendations was the implementation of the Foreign Services Act. There was an issue with the regulations. The Committee was not using the Act, and that was a problem.
Mr Faber fully agreed with the Acting Chairperson. The friendship groups were operated through the PGIR. The senate of Parliaments used to come to South Africa’s Parliament to speak about bilateral agreements with the NCOP. In those cases, the Senate was considered to be the upper House of Parliament. This was a matter of contestation between the two houses. At that stage, Mr Faber was on the PGIR, and he discussed with the PGIR that there should be a combined group between the Portfolio Committee, the PGIR and the Select Committee on International Relations. This suggestion should be included in the recommendations, as the Committee was never involved with those friendship groups. There should also be friendship groups made between the Committee and other international parliaments.
Ms Msane said that her political party, the EFF, had deployed her to participate in the PGIR. However, she could not officially take reports to DIRCO or the Committee for further discussion. She recommended that whatever happened in the PGIR had to be officially dispatched to the Committee. The reports that were tabled in the PGIR from the Pan-African Parliament delegation had been highlighting PAP housing as a critical foreign relations issue for years. Yet, when it came to the Committee on International Relations the issue was minimised to a matter of rental space. But the issue that PAP brought to the PGIR encompassed broader international relations and issues. The Portfolio Committee needed to be involved in these resolutions.
PGIR handled issues that affected the Committee every day. Ms Msane recommended that the Committee propose formal communications between PGIR and the Portfolio Committee. Secondly, international relations’ oversight visits could not be considered as study tours. These trips were oversight missions, which were clearly differentiated from study tours. Although they would go to look at how coalitions function in other countries, oversight missions required different action to study tours, which could only happen once a year.
Chairperson Mahumapelo rejoined the meeting. He said that he was still struggling with connection problems. He handed over to Mr Mpanza to chair the rest of the meeting.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr Mahumapelo for the opportunity. He called on Ms Mosala to speak about separation of powers, and asked her to inform the recommendations.
Ms Mosala said that there were issues about international agreements. The Constitution clearly stated that the executive was responsible for signing off on international agreements, and Parliament was responsible for ratification of agreements. This was a clear separation of powers. The Committee asked that when these agreements were being negotiated, then Parliament should be allowed to offer a political view and share considerations. Parliament was directly linked to the constituency and citizens on-the-ground, who were impacted by foreign affairs. The existing oversight model of Parliament failed to consider how international decisions impact people on the ground. Amendments to the oversight model should enable members to speak on behalf of the constituency and represent the citizens’ interests.
When Members wanted to partake in events focused on foreign affairs, the Committee would not function in parallel with the Executive. Instead, it would assess the impacts and outcomes of executive decisions on South African citizens. There was clear separation of powers in this regard, and the Portfolio Committee would not be breaching the principles outlined by the notion of separation of powers.
At times, there were certain things that the executive could not publicly say because it affected diplomacy. However, a Member of Parliament could discuss these issues openly and even assist the Executive with their diplomatic relations. Friendship groups by nature were supposed to include input from the Committee. Parliament needed to offer their political views on these matters. It was not to say that the Committee was trying to overreach their functions, instead they were just trying to assess the impacts of foreign policy implementation. It was good that the Committee raised these issues, because the supporting staff had been communicating with management about the role of the Committee and the relationships it should have with PGIR, friendship groups and others.
In the past, the Committee attended departmental functions. Since the beginning of the term, the Department was not inviting the Committee. There was never an issue with the Committee participating in the past, as it was an important part of their oversight obligations. The Committee might need to renegotiate with Minister Pandor and request to be involved with all departmental functions.
The Acting Chairperson said that it would be problematic if the Committee had to wait for the Minister to invite them to functions. The Committee should be able to attend all functions without having to wait for an invitation.
Mr David Madlala, Committee Researcher, said that in the past, previous Committees had also struggled with including Members in departmental events. Members in previous terms expressed dismay about their exclusion from foreign affairs events. The Committee would find out about events after they had taken place, and they were often unable to engage in these relations or observe the events. When Mr T Nxesi was the Chairperson, there was the 17th session of the Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was held in South Africa. The Committee conducted an oversight for this, and assessed the readiness of the country to host the event, as it was a part of South Africa’s foreign policy and thus included within the purview of the Committee’s oversight functions. The Committee conducted a visit to the Durban ICC to see if everything was prepared and up to scratch for the visiting delegates.
When Ms M Nkoana-Mashabane was the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Members wanted to engage with conferences and other engagements that involved the heads of international missions. Members were of the view that these issues were a part of the Committee’s oversight work. The Committee eventually came to an understanding that there would be a regular invitation extended to them for events of this nature.
With regard to PGIR, in the past there were joint workshops and discussions about creating a synergy between the two streams of work. There needed to be synergy between parliaments but also between committees. There was an understanding that the Portfolio Committee could establish a friendship group with the same committee in another country. This was not unusual. In Mr Madlala’s last ten years in Parliament, these topics were always reappearing. There needed to be a chance to figure out a solution going forward.
The Acting Chairperson asked whether these topics were raised with the previous Ministers.
Mr Madlala said that the Members raised the issue many times with the previous Ministers. Eventually there was an informal understanding where the Committee would know that when foreign affairs events happened, the Committee would be notified in advance and they would then liaise with the administrative and supporting staff. These liaisons would result in a request to conduct oversight missions. However, this did not happen consistently. Changes in the Department and its staff affected the regulations and consistency of implementation of the oversight model. There were numerous engagements about this in the past, but he could not recall whether there was a formal solution.
The Acting Chairperson said that it was evident that the oversight model was a sticky situation. The recommendations and their amendments would tend to this.
Mr Faber said that the points raised should be included in recommendation 21.
The Acting Chairperson requested that Ms Mosala factor in the Committee’s inputs into the recommendations and their amendments. At the end of the meeting, the supporting staff could share what they captured, and also changes to ensure that the Committee agreed.
Recommendations 22, 23 and 24 were agreed upon.
Mr Moela voiced support for recommendation 23 and 24.
The Acting Chairperson told Mr Mahumapelo that, in his absence, there was a recommendation made by Mr Bergman that was supported by Ms Msane. Mr Bergman suggested that recommendation 1 was replaced with a recommendation to put the Ministers, DGs and CFOs from 2014 to 2021 under investigation through SCOPA. The Acting Chairperson and Mr Moela had agreed with Mr Bergman’s point. However, they felt as though his recommendation should be dealt with in another meeting once they had attained more legal advice.
The current meeting was meant to focus on the existing recommendations. The Committee did not want to overstep their mandate by pursuing legal and investigative action into issues from prior terms. Although, when discussing recommendation 6, members pointed out that there were a number of times when the BRRR recommendations referred to issues from the previous terms and financial years. The Acting Chairperson asked Mr Mahumapelo for guidance and input.
Chairperson Mahumapelo thanked Members for their work. He apologised for his connection issues. In principle, there was no problem with going back to deal with issues from previous financial terms. It would be acceptable to gain legal advice in this case, as was suggested by the Acting Chairperson. It was also reasonable for Mr Moela to suggest that the Committee prioritised the recommendations at hand before they dealt with past problems. Clearly some members were uncomfortable with the outcomes of the audit processes from the Auditor-General, and its impact on DIRCO’s productivity. The Committee was obviously not receiving satisfactory answers about the Department’s strategy to deal with these particular issues. It appeared that the Committee was not on the same page with the Ministry.
The accounting officer was the Director- General of the Department. In prior years, the Director-General was the last line of defense for administrations and accounting. As part of pursuing the accounting officer, the executive authority should have been implementing the Committee’s requests. Yet, the Committee did not have updated information about these problems at their disposal. Mr Mahumapelo suggested that the matter be returned to once members had had time to look over the historical decisions made on the matter. Mr Mahumapelo would check how the Department responded to these matters over previous years, with particular focus on the commitments made by the past ministers and executive authorities.
The Committee needed to do research before assuming that DIRCO’s current financial position was caused by executive and ministerial negligence. Research had to be done before pursuing legal action. The Committee should also look to Parliament to see whether they approved the recommendations from the Committee, and if these issues were followed up on by Parliament.
There needed to be a comprehensive investigation done so that the issue could be confronted with facts and research. If the research was deemed sufficient to pursue legal action, then the Committee could consult legal advisors and continue with action. If the research outcomes revealed that the status quo should be left as is, then those decisions would at least be justified by supporting evidence.
The Acting Chairperson said that the supporting staff would assist Mr Mahumapelo with his research, and they would provide the legacy reports from previous committees.
Ms Msane said that it was unacceptable that a simple change of Chairperson would result in delays in consequence management. The Committee would expect that the Chairperson, prior to his first meeting, went through the previous Committee’s legacy reports in order to understand existing problems that were highlighted by the audit reports. The Chairperson should have done that first, before even having called the first Committee meeting, in order to gauge the crises which needed to be dealt with initially.
How long would the Chairperson need to research DIRCO’s situation? The Committee was not on the same wavelength as the ministry, and they were not satisfied with the reports they received from the Department. The Committee had previously decided that DIRCO should be taken to SCOPA. The Committee should not act as though they had a brain disorder and pretend to forget the action plans they had resolved to implement. They needed to consider wasteful expenditure from the past and the present.
The Committee would now need to stall consequence management again in order to make time for the Chairperson to do his research and check the legacy reports. Some members were not even present in 2017, but they had already taken the time to check these issues and findings. Ms Msane guaranteed that Mr Mahumapelo would be equally frustrated once he had done his research. He should not only rely on legacy reports but also on court investigations into the previous accounting and financial officers. For example, he should look into the person who was found to have stolen money from the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) and who was then deployed to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). However, since the Chairperson had asked nicely, the Committee should grant him time to do deep research.
Mr Bergman said he was initially impressed with Mr Mahumapelo, the new Chairperson. For once, he thought that the media got it wrong. But once again, he agreed with “his sister,” Ms Msane. He thought that the change of the Chairmanship was related to the ministerial relationship with the previous Chairperson, but perhaps it was about covering up and stalling consequence management again.
Why would a simple recommendation take so long? Anyone could conclude an investigation by simply looking at the last 5 years of tenders awarded, the last few ambassadors deployed and the last few insinuations made by the Committee. It was not necessary to take the Committee’s word for it. There were independent reports provided by ministers since 2008, which were commissioned by taxpayers’ hard-earned money. These reports had never seen the light of day, but there were likely four or five existing reports to check. Former Minister Sisulu had an independent report, and so did “the Minister with the hole in their head”. Each Minister had independent reports which could have saved DIRCO.
The Acting Chairperson said that Mr Bergman should not refer to any Minister as “the Minister with the hole in their head”.
Mr Bergman said that the Minister referred to herself as this name. These Ministers had created costly reports with consultants, but for some reason these reports did not come to the Committee. If Mr Mahumapelo really wanted to save the Committee time and energy, then he should bring those independent ministerial reports, and evidence of past tender commitments, to the Committee. The Committee would have enough to work with using those documents alone.
However, the Committee should not be scared to include these threats in the BRRR. In every meeting, the Committee had threatened to take DIRCO to SCOPA. The Minister had promised in the past that the Facebook post issue and the New York Report would be brought to the Committee, but these things never happened. The Committee should be bold this time and make their threats to investigate past Ministers and accounting officers under SCOPA as recommendation 1 of the BRRR. The taxpayers should not be put through any more hardship than what they were already going through, and DIRCO should not be brought to its knees. It was legally sound to say in recommendation 1, “The Committee was going to legally investigate the independent reports which were served to DIRCO since 2008. The Committee was going to investigate all tenders awarded in line with recommendations. The Committee would refer all Ministers, DGs and CFOs to SCOPA if need be.” This was not illegal. This was simply a recommendation.
Mr Faber concurred with Mr Bergman. This recommendation should be the first recommendation listed, otherwise there would never be accountability. If the recommendation was not placed first in the current report, then it would only be considered in the following term with a new committee, and the same issue would recur. If you looked at Committee findings, irregular expenditure and dates from 2017, then it was clear that there was a need for further investigation. If you were going to start a book, you needed to start on a clear page. You cannot start a book with a filthy first page.
The Acting Chairperson reminded the Members that Mr Mahumapelo asked for time to do research. Reiterating Ms Msane’s question, he asked what time frame the Chairperson needed to do his research. Earlier, Mr Moela said that the issue being raised was not dealt with in the report and the existing recommendations, so it should be dealt with in another meeting. The Chairperson had also said that there was not enough foundation or time to deal with the issue in the current meeting. Nobody was saying that the issue was insignificant, they were just saying that it needed to be dealt with in another meeting. The time frame for the Chairperson to do research needed to be short. Once this was done, there could be a new meeting scheduled to discuss the recommendation.
Chairperson Mahumapelo said that he appreciated what Members were saying, and their frustration with this historical lack of progress. However, the Committee had to be methodical in their approach. Mr Mahumapelo accepted the criticism that members offered. Before closing Parliament for Christmas, the Committee would apply for a special meeting to discuss Mr Bergman’s recommendation and other matters, such as the Facebook post, the New York report and the issue of the South Africans in Cuba.
The Acting Chairperson said that Mr Mahumapelo was proposing that the issue be discussed again before the close of 2021.
Ms Msane asked when the Committee would have time to get approval from Parliament on the findings of Mr Mahumapelo’s research. The Committee was hoping that the recommendation could be approved by Parliament with the BRRR. If the Committee came to agreement on the recommendation at the end of December, when would they get to table it, get approval and implement it?
Mr Mahumapelo said that by the time he went to speak to the presidium of Parliament, all of the Committee’s ducks would be in a row. The Committee would indicate the strategy to the presidium. For instance, if the Committee decided that they needed to engage with SCOPA, Mr Mahumapelo would have made sure that he engaged with them by that point. Members could rest assured that he would use the necessary energy to put pressure on the presidium at Parliament so that the matter could be resolved as quickly as possible. It would be done within a reasonable time frame and executed quickly.
The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee would leave Mr Mahumapelo to do this work before continuing with further action.
Ms Mosala said that she would submit the recommendations and their amendments to the Chairperson so that the Committee could check them at a later stage.
Mr Moela said that Ms Mosala always delivered.
The Acting Chairperson said that he trusted Ms Mosala to capture Members’ input correctly. He handed over to Mr Mahumapelo to close the meeting.
Chairperson Mahumapelo thanked the Members for a robust and productive meeting. Their work intended to execute precise oversight of the Executive. This was appreciated. He thanked the supporting staff who helped the Committee to prepare the BRRR. The timelines raised would be executed. He thanked Mr Mpanza for acting as the Chairperson for the interim period when he lost connection.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.