A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE Ms Njobe
24 February 2004
STUDY TOUR REPORTS, DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 2002-2003 ANNUAL REPORT, REVISED COMMITTEE MINUTES AND 2004-2005 BUDGET: ADOPTION
Documents handed out:
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Report of the Department of Science and Technology for 2002-2003
Revised Committee Budget for 2004-2005 (Awaited from clerk)
In this final meeting of the Parliamentary session, the study tour reports could not be presented as the consolidating researcher was away on sick leave. The Members therefore decided to conduct a "round robin conferral" via e-mail to comment on the reports and to ensure that they would be finalised as soon as possible.
The Committee considered the Report of the Department of Science and Technology and requested that the incomplete internal audits be finalised and that a full report on the loss of a warrant voucher for R1759 000, be furnished
The Committee discussed its 2004-2005 budget and agreed that a policy on funds for travel by Committees should be drafted. The Committee accepted the budget.
Mr S Dithebe (ANC) briefed the Committee on his attendance of the Parliamentary Conference on Multilingualism. He would collate the recommendations and materials for distribution to Members.
The Members adopted the minutes of their meetings of 26 November 2003 and 17 February 2004.
Ms Njobe said that at a prior meeting she had been mandated to consolidate the reports on the Committee's study tours. She said that this had not been done, as the Committee's researcher responsible for the consolidation was away on sick leave. Therefore, she asked the Committee for suggestions as it could not be carried over to Parliament's next term.
Mr Dithebe proposed holding a meeting on 11 March 2004 in Cape Town to finalise the report.
Mr Cassim (IFP) said that he doubted whether permission would be given to reconvene. He suggested a "round-robin conferral" that sent the report to each Member for comment, after which the secretary could process the comments and send the amended report to members to accept.
Ms Njobe asked Mr Cassim (ANC) whether it was possible to submit the report after 27 February 2004. Mr Cassim (ANC) said it was possible.
Mr Mohamed (ANC) said that he preferred Mr Cassim's suggestion but he asked if communications could be via e-mail.
Mr Dithebe (ANC) asked whether the Members would at least receive a hard copy of the finalised report. Mr Cassim (ANC) said that it was absolutely essential that Members received this copy as they needed to agree on its provisions.
Mr Dithebe (ANC) asked whether a teleconference would be preferable to e-mail. Ms Njobe did not feel a teleconference was necessary. She did not expect many changes except a fleshing out of the report on the Gauteng tour and the "contraction" of the reports on the tours of the Eastern and KwaZulu-Natal.
The Chairperson invited comments on the Annual Report of the Department of Science and Technology 2002-2003.
Mr Mohamed (ANC) highlighted the outstanding issues pertaining to the Auditor-General's opinions on the finances of the Department. He noted the difficulties in determining the end of the financial periods, which were encountered when the Department split up. Ms Njobe said that these concerns were noted on the last page of the report.
Mr Cassim (ANC) proposed adding the following words: "the Committee appreciates the inputs of the Auditor-General and wishes to ascertain from the Auditor-General whether in respect of the internal audits not undertaken, whether it could be indicated whether they have or whether they will be undertaken."
Mr Dithebe asked whether his contribution would supplant or augment the final paragraph of the report.
Mr Cassim (ANC) said it would augment it.
Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) said that she did not see where the Department had listed its challenges and the work that it had been doing.
Ms Njobe asked whether a comment should be made to this effect. Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin said it should.
Mr Mohamed said that these issues had already been dealt with comprehensively, but the Director-General had been unable to include them in the report due to time constraints. He was happy with Mr Cassim's statement but said the Committee should place their opinion after the paragraph written by the Auditor-General as the paragraph formed part of the Auditor-General's opinion.
Mr Dithebe agreed with Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin and said that her comment was the result of the failure of the Committee to formalise the structure and content of these Annual Reports. This needed to be addressed or people would always feel that certain issues had not received enough attention.
Ms Njobe suggested that the forthcoming Committee should deal with this. She had always felt uncertain about whether the Committee was required to provide a summary or a critique of the reports for Parliament.
Mr Cassim (ANC) said that he had drafted his proposed addition more accurately. He proposed the addition of the following words: "The Portfolio Committee on Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, having considered the Annual Report of the Department of Science and Technology, recommends its acceptance of the Report with the following provisions-
-that the Director-General be requested to reply in writing whether the failure in the Department to hold internal audits had been effectively remedied
-that the Director-General furnish the new Committee to be appointed after the election with a full report on the warrant voucher for R1759 000 lost during April 1999 and the steps taken to pursue the matter to the full extent of the law."
Ms Njobe asked whether the Committee agreed with the wording of Mr Cassim's addition. The Committee agreed. Ms Njobe said the piece would be added after the Auditor-General's Report.
Mr Dithebe said that that "respects" on page nine under the Auditor's Opinion had been spelt incorrectly and that the word "as" was missing from the Auditor's statement.
The Chairperson noted the typographical errors and she moved to formally adopt the report as amended. She asked the Committee to look at the Committee's Budget Summary for 2004-2005. She said the Committee had originally requested R850 000 as a budget but it has only received R393 496. She said this amount was to be spent as follows:R75 000 on visits to provinces, R44 000 on catering, R214 286 on public hearings, R40 000 on research and R20 000 on conferences. Initially an amount had not been allocated to "conferences" and therefore R20 000 had been taken from the research budget for this purpose. She asked whether the Committee could adopt this budget.
Mr Cassim (ANC) said that he was pleased that the Committees were given proper differentiated budgets. Committees had asked for R65 million but this amount was rejected as it was an election year and Committees were unlikely to spend as much as R65 million.
Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) said that this motivation was valid but that too little had been allocated to conferences . She asked why the Committee was restricted to visits to provinces when some of the Committee's work involved travel outside of South Africa.
Ms Njobe said that when the budget was drafted, it was borne in mind that a new Committee would be constituted this year. This Committee would need to get become acclimatised and would therefore only embark on more extensive travel after this year. She said most of the Committees had gone this route.
Mr Dithebe said he found this hard to digest as the Finance Committee had been allocated R460 000 for overseas travel alone. He saw the work of the Committee as an ongoing process and this small amount could never be justified. It indicated that the Committee was not really taken seriously and it demoralised Members.
Ms Njobe said the concerns raised were important to the entire Committee but she said she had decided not to become stressed about the amount. She had compared the position of the Committee, which oversaw both the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Arts and Culture, with the position of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs, which oversaw both the Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs and that had received a similar amount.
With regard to overseas travel, she said that those Committees travelling this year would be unable to travel in the following year. Space could therefore be made in the budget for this Committee to travel in the following year.
Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) repeated that travel was essential to the work of the Committee and that the Chairperson at least should be given funds for travel.
Mr Cassim (ANC) said that for two years, political parties had been trying to establish a policy on travel. He said each party had been sent a questionnaire on travel but that none of those questionnaires had been returned. Parties were unwilling to establish a policy. In 1994, a draft policy on travel had been drawn up allowing Committees to spend up to a certain amount on travel without seeking authority. This draft policy was never accepted and therefore the Committee was operating in a policy vacuum. Members returning to the Committee should bear this in mind. The Committee might find relief in the fact that the Finance Minister said that if Committees would be undertaking an oversight initiative in their new term, money would be allocated for this purpose.
Ms Njobe said that those Members returning to Parliament could look into a policy of this sort. She moved to adopt the budget.
Mr Mohamed (ANC) said that the amount allocated to visits to provinces should read R75 200 as opposed to R75 000.
Ms Njobe noted the correction and the Committee adopted the budget.
Ms Njobe asked Mr Dithebe to brief the Committee on his attendance of the Parliamentary Conference on Multilingualism that he attended on her behalf. She had been unable to attend due to a prior commitment.
Mr Dithebe said that that the keynote address was delivered by the Chairperson of the NCOP. A number of experts followed. Parliament would be spending an average of R73 million per annum over the next few years on multilingualism. The conference was lively and that he would collate and distribute the recommendations and materials for the Members.
Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin highlighted the need for a programme to introduce multilingualism at schools. Everyone agreed on the need for and long-term benefits of a multilingualism project and a further conference date.
Ms Njobe was pleased that another conference date had been proposed as the conference was originally scheduled to run for three days but it had had to be cut short.
Ms Njobe moved to adopt the minutes of the Committee's meetings on 26 November 2003 and 17 February 2004.
Mr Mohamed (ANC) said that his name was spelt incorrectly in both minutes.
Mr Ngcobo (ANC) said that he had been present at the meeting on 26 November despite being marked absent.
The minutes were adopted. The Chair thanked everyone for their hard work over the past five years and the meeting was adjourned.
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