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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 February 2004
COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT AND BUDGET 2004: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee
Documents handed out:
Recommended Committee Expenditure: Financial year ending 31 March, 2005 (Awaited)
Committee Annual Report 2003
The Committee adopted the Annual Report for 2003 with the inclusion of alterations. Members felt that even though their budget allocation was the highest of all committees, there was insufficient funds for public hearings and research, areas vital to the role of the Department. It was decided that a future meeting with the Department of Finance was needed. They also considered it was necessary to have at least one researcher assigned to it on a full-time basis.
Budget Allocation for 2004/2005
Ms G Borman (DA) queried whether the significant increase in the budget was for any specific reason.
Dr E Jassat (ANC) mentioned that for many years the Committee had not gone on international visits. Perhaps this was being compensated in the increase.
Prof Mbadi (UDM) raised the issue of reimbursement for travelling expenses on national Committee visits and events. Thus far he had disbursed a considerable sum of money without knowing if and when he would be refunded.
The Chairperson noted that the R170 000 allocated for public hearings was very little considering the cost of publicity for these events. There was a need for the Committee to put a case for more money for public hearings.
Mrs T Tshivase (ANC) mentioned that at public hearings, people of all language groups were not being catered for, and there was a danger that those who most needed to understand the proceedings, were unable to do so.
Mr Saloojee concurred that this problem needed to be addressed. Perhaps in future it would be possible to transport people from the rural areas to attend public hearings.
The budget allowed a sum of R60 000 for the Committee's research. This amount was deemed inadequate. Mr Saloojee pointed out that proper research facilities and support greatly enhanced the work of the Committee in the formulation of legislation.
Mr M Masutha (ANC) said the Committee needed a full-time, dedicated researcher in order to assist its work and to empower the Committee itself to initiate issues, without outside prompting.
Mr E Jassat (ANC) suggested the Committee look for sponsorship from corporate and international organisations to assist with the funding of research and public hearings.
The Chairperson recalled that on visits abroad, six to eight researchers were attached to Portfolio Committees, and this greatly assisted them. While party researchers were available to assist the Committee, it was necessary for the Committee have at least one researcher assigned to it on a full-time basis.
The Chairperson said that, given the socio-economic conditions of the country, it was necessary for the Committee to visit communities in order to appreciate their situation. The R289 00 allocated for this purpose needed to be increased. These specific financial needs of the Committee would be put to the Department of Finance at a future meeting.
Annual Report 2003
The duration of terms of some Members were erroneously reported, so this would be rectified.
Members were surprised to see that neither the Minister nor the Deputy Minister of Social Development had attended Portfolio Committee meetings in 2003.
Mr Saloojee agreed that this was regrettable. As the Committee Chairperson, he had often tried to have the Minister present, and although the Minister had been more than willing to do so, had been unable to. He had on many occasions interacted with the Minister on Committee issues.
Ms Lara Petersen, the Parliamentary Liaison Officer, stated it was difficult for the Minister to attend Committee meetings as the Committee and Cabinet meetings occurred on the same day of the week. Still, the Minister followed the work of the Committee very closely.
Ms G Borman commented that the Minister's attendance would not have to be regular, but a workshop or similar interaction would be to the advantage of the Committee.
The Chairperson remarked it was critical that the Minister periodically brief the Committee.
Ms O Kasienyane (ANC) referred to the similar absence of the Deputy Minister, and was informed that this position had become redundant, and was not likely to be filled in the future. Members felt that it would thus be appropriate to insert mention of "no deputy" into the Annual Report.
The Annual Report for 2003 was accepted by the Committee with the proposed alterations.
The meeting was adjourned.