The Committee met on a virtual platform to consider its third term programme, and to adopt its reports -- with observations and recommendations -- for the third and fourth quarters of the 2021/22 year.
During the discussion on oversight visits in the Committee's third term programme, a Member complained that travel arrangements often got delayed. Frustration was expressed, as the support staff member felt that the Committee Members did not understand the procedures involved, which were the root cause of these delays. The Chairperson acknowledged the fact that plenty of work went on behind the scenes as the Members prepared for public hearings. She gave an assurance that the arrangements for the next public hearings would be better.
The third and fourth quarter reports were adopted. Members' suggestions included the need for follow-ups, with timeframes, once the Committee's recommendations had been made to the Department. This would enable it to assess whether they had been implemented or not.
The Chairperson suggested that there needed to be a physical meeting with the provinces that the Committee had visited. This would provide an opportunity to ask questions about the matters raised during the public hearings. She emphasised that the public hearings were to hear the people's concerns. The government was for the people, so it was important for the government to be visible when issues were being raised. The Committee had a responsibility to deliberate on legislation with inputs from the people who would be affected, hence the public hearings. The provincial Members of Executive Councils (MECs) could have imbizos to listen to the people, and interact with their communities.
Third term Committee programme
The Committee Members adopted the meeting agenda, and the meeting moved to discuss the third term programme. The Committee Secretary, Ms Kholiswa Pasiya-Mndende, went through the schedule and mentioned that the request for a public hearing in the Northern Cape was still awaiting approval.
The Chairperson said some programmes were not performing very well, like the programme about title deeds. The Committee must develop a strategy to assist in unblocking the programme, which should be included during oversight visits scheduled for different provinces.
There was an invitation from the Department for the "Housing Indaba," scheduled for 4 and 5 September. That must be on the programme as well.
Ms E Powell (DA) appreciated the presentation of the programme, and said she had two matters she wanted to bring up. At the conclusion of the previous term, there had been a conversation that turned volatile. The conversation had been about her request for five minutes to be added to Committee meetings to allow room for discussing other matters that may arise during the term. Members frequently needed clarification on certain issues as the term progressed. There were a few administrative issues, unfinished reports, and things that the Members needed clarification on with the Committee.
The second matter involved her frustration and concern arising from the late bookings for their trips. There was a lack of clarity around their travel plans for public hearings. For instance, they were leaving to go to Limpopo tomorrow and she had been asking for details of hotels they were staying at because she wanted to see if she should hire a car. They still did not have those details. She had received two different SMSes, with two different sets of flight details. She mentioned the travel agency's name, Travel with Flair. The latest SMS showed that the flights had incorrectly been booked for Monday -- the return trip. She asked the Chairperson if she could intervene and ensure that the Committee Members had some advance notice on travel details for planning purposes.
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) raised a question about public hearings. What was the process for dealing with some of the issues that needed urgent attention that Members heard during public hearings?
The Chairperson responded that any issues arising from the minutes that the Committee had approved would be listed on the agenda of the meeting for discussion. Sometimes that was not possible because of the time taken during discussion. There must be a unanimous agreement among Members to limit time on discussions and reserve time for discussion of adopted minutes. The Committee Members had hectic schedules, making it impossible to have spontaneous meetings to discuss adopted minutes.
Regarding oversight visits, the Portfolio Committee was following the parliamentary programme. The Committee must instantly attend to issues raised by the community. While oversight visits were important as a national Committee, Members could not randomly do oversights, and the Committee had to ensure it adhered to the parliamentary programme.
Ms Powell inquired whether the Members' discussions would be limited to matters arising from the adopted minutes. What about other administrative and general requests to Committee Members if that was the case? She could not see how that was justified or in accordance with parliamentary rules. While raising the questions, she said she would not be following up and that if she still needed clarification, she would take the matter up with the Chair of Chairs. She reminded the Chairperson of her question about last-minute travel arrangements, and also mentioned that the invitation to the meeting had arrived at around 11:30 pm the day before.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) asked if it was not critical to conduct follow-ups on issues identified during oversights. In some cases, the Committee performed oversight and was assured by the provincial department that the issues raised would be addressed. However, once the Committee departed, the problems persisted with no intervention from the provincial department. She used Gauteng as an example, where there had been housing complaints. The Committee had been promised that the housing issues would be resolved, but nothing had been done. This was because the provincial departments knew there would be no follow-ups. She suggested that if the Committee noticed major issues during oversights, the schedule must be rearranged to allow time for follow-ups.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Mokgotho, and said that the Committee's Members debated and came to decisions together. Outside the Committee meetings, there were times when queries related to the Committee could be answered. The Chairperson and the Committee Secretary had to resolve any problems during public hearings. Parliament's schedule provided an opportunity for follow-up visits to previously visited provinces. The discussions would be based on the minutes that the Members had approved. Members of the Parliament could express their concerns to the Department, and even to Ministers, through a variety of channels. The programme had to be adopted, and the Members must follow the adopted programme for the term.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) said the Chairperson's response had addressed some of his concerns. Some issues were discovered during oversights that required further investigation. The Committee must decide how to handle these.
Dr N Khumalo (DA) proposed holding a meeting every two weeks to receive feedback from the Department. The Department must be involved in how the Committee handles issues raised during the public hearings. The Committee had not been to the Eastern Cape for a long time. For that reason, there should be some feedback and resolutions to some of the issues that have been identified.
The Chairperson responded that she would ask the Content Advisor, Mr Sabelo Mnguni, to circulate public hearing reports to the Members, particularly those for the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. At the next meeting, Members must agree on the best way to handle the matters in those reports. The provincial departments would then be summoned to give feedback. She asked if the Members were comfortable with her suggestion.
Ms Sihlwayi said that she was happy with the response.
Mr Tseki said that without opposing the suggestion by the Chairperson, all the provinces that had been visited must be considered when the reports were being circulated. There were similarities in all of the provinces visited.
Ms Nomuntu Nevese, Committee Assistant, responded to the question raised by Ms Powell on travel arrangements. She said that as a member of the Committee's support staff, her duties included providing guidance and certain logistics support, and offering administrative assistance equally to all the Members. She was guided by the internal processes in place. For example, when the Committee decided that there must be an oversight visit to Johannesburg, the Committee Secretary had to write a political application to the House Chair. The applications must include the number of Members attending that oversight, for how many days, and the relevant costs associated with that visit. The application, once submitted, could take up to a month to be approved. Even though the Committee had prepared a programme for its financial year, there were still internal processes that must be followed. The application letter would be sent to her and she would read it immediately, but it often stayed in other relevant offices for a month. There was nothing she could do when the application was pending approval.
Once it had been approved, she then obtained quotations through a contracted travel agency, and therefore could not go to Google and look for quotations. She writes an application via a memorandum, using the travel agencies contracted with Parliament. The memo must go via her internal management for processing, and it gets scrutinised to ensure that it is accurate and without grammatical errors. Paperwork of budgets was paramount, as it determined how much was being spent by Parliament. The application made via the memo was then signed by management. Depending on availability, this could take from a week to four weeks. Once approved and signed, she would contact the contracted agencies and get quotations. The travel agencies would not do anything without purchase orders, which get held up when the applications are pending approval. She intended to create a WhatsApp group with all the Members to provide live updates on the progress made with travel plans.
She elaborated on the fact that the applications were often the reason for delays. Some Members initially agreed to attend an oversight who would change their decision due to personal reasons or otherwise. For the public hearings to be perfect, she had to attend to that. As she was based in Cape Town, she received a list of recommended places for accommodation from a travelling agency and checked the places' conduciveness on Google. There were instances where the places look good and were highly recommended, but when Members arrived, they would find issues such as poor network signal. Then changes had to be made.
Whenever there was an oversight visit, Ms Powell said she would "communicate". Ms Novese said this became an issue as she could not be giving updates to the Members all the time about the logistics, as it was not part of their duties. Members should communicate what they want and leave it to her to make the arrangements. It was her duty to arrange conducive places for Members and ensure they were comfortable so they could visit the sites without any worries.
She said that she was beginning to have a problem with Ms Powell. As she was busy explaining, Ms Powell was writing to her.
The Chairperson intervened to halt Ms Novese, who sounded agitated, and asked her not to personalise the discussions of the Committee. Members had a right to ask why things were not done in a particular manner. She was requested to provide answers guided by described requirements and regulations. The first visits were often challenged regarding logistics, as there was insufficient preparation time. The Committee had not yet adopted the programme but had decided to meet and adopt the programme. The second one would be much smoother, as Ms Novese would make arrangements for the Limpopo visit while the Committee was in Mpumalanga. She and the support team would have sufficient time to organise travel arrangements. As the number of visits increased, the logistics would be much smoother. As regulated by Parliament, the required standards meant that Members could complain when the standard was subpar and change to better accommodation. Members could assist by finding better accommodation in their respective areas.
Dr Khumalo said that the Committee was a team, and as such, it should be able to take constructive criticism from one Member to another. This was constructive criticism and must not be seen as a personal attack. The preparations were not a one-person problem. There had been other challenges associated with poor planning regarding public hearings. These challenges went beyond flights and accommodation. It would be amiss for Members to be perceived as those who wanted five-star hotels. The aim was to make the Committee visits more valuable. If the Committee reflected, there would be maximum inputs on the Bill. There were blockages in the system that prevented these maximum inputs. The people must receive public awareness about the oversight visits, and this needs to be done at least two weeks prior to the visit. Poor preparation was not only about hotels and travelling. It could not be that only 10% of the people at public hearings had been informed about the Members' visits. This did not result in good value for money. Providing public awareness two or three days prior to a visit would not yield the desired results.
Ms Powell thanked the administrative staff. She understood their frustrations and how irritating it must be for them to have Members asking them questions about logistics when they did not have the answers because of delays that were not up to them. She thanked them for the work that they did and for their patience. However, she wanted to know which town the Members would stay in on Saturday night and Sunday. She added that she had noted that the administrative staff wanted to ensure that Members were comfortable.
She said that when the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) hearings took place, the advert went out approximately 24 hours beforehand. This was after she had enquired two days previously about public awareness.
(During this time, Ms Novese was heard in the background)
The Chairperson intervened and asked Ms Novese to mute herself.
Ms Powell, who had been interrupted, continued that she understood the frustration that Ms Novese was feeling. The frustration would be felt by anyone who was in her position. She echoed what Dr Khumalo had said about the need for public awareness. As an MP, she could not attend public hearings in her areas, as she was unaware of them. This was a question of democracy and the democratic process. If there could be, potentially, a note from the Chair's office engaged with the Chair of Chairs to ask that the managers and the people that needed to be signing these applications should do so in a space of a week or two, that would lead to robust engagements.
The Chairperson reiterated that plenty of work went on behind the scenes as the Members prepared for public hearings. She assured the Members that the next public hearings would be better. If Members had felt any frustrations during a public hearing, the Chair of Chairs would be notified through the Office of the Chair. The improvements would be visible. In one of the public hearings, there had been no branding, and the manager in charge of that said there was no funding left. She encouraged Members to notify her of any future obstacles surrounding the public hearings.
The third term programme was adopted with amendments, including the housing indaba, consideration of adopting minutes in time to deal with matters as they arose, time regulation during meetings, and reports circulated of visited provinces.
Ms Mokgotho asked that the Content Advisor submit reports in time so that the Members had ample time to engage.
Third and fourth quarter report
The Chairperson asked the Committee if the report would be read from "Observations and Recommendations" only, as Members had had it for some time.
Ms Mokgotho asked if Mr Sabelo Mguni, Committee Content Advisor, could go through the report.
Dr Khumalo did not understand why the report had to be read again. She had already read it twice and did not want another person to read it to her again.
Ms Mokgotho said that she had not seen it through her emails, and wanted it to be read again.
The Chairperson said it was unfair to ask the support staff to send emails on time when they would not be read. Mr Mnguni was asked to read the report.
The Committee Secretary said that Ms Mokgotho's mailbox was full, and the email could not be sent to her.
The Chairperson said that since the emails were publicised, people sent many emails. Members needed to clear their messages from time to time.
Mr Mnguni read the third and fourth term reports - see here Tabled Committee Reports
Committee observations and recommendations (third term)
The Portfolio Committee welcomed the fact that the Department was still verifying performance by provinces. However, the Minister must ensure the implementation of these recommendations by the Department:
The Committee was concerned about poor performance in the transformation targets, technical capacity, land acquisition and zoning for priority development areas. It acknowledged that poor performance was partly due to the verification of performance reported by provinces. However, there was a concern that poor performance in the mentioned areas seemed to be a recurring problem.
Fast-track the verification of performance by provinces, and develop turnaround strategies to improve performance in land acquisition for priority development areas (PDAs), transformation targets, and technical capacity.
The Committee was concerned about the payment of service providers within 30 days.
Ensure consequence management for poor performance in relation to the payment of service providers within 30 days. Furthermore, ensure that service providers provide accurate banking information to prevent unnecessary payment delays.
The Committee was concerned about the slow pace in the appointment of senior management in the Department.
Fast-track the appointment of senior management in the Department. Provide the Committee with clear timeframes on the recruitment.
The Housing Development Agency (HDA) was taking too long to identify, acquire, and release land for PDAs.
Capacitate the HDA for the acquisition of land for PDAs. Develop intergovernmental relations with relevant departments to fast-track the acquisition of land for PDAs.
Some provinces were utilising their grants poorly. This resulted in funds being reallocated to other provinces.
Recommendation: Provinces that were poorly utilising their grants should be summoned to the Committee to explain their challenges in this regard, within six months.
Committee observations and recommendations (fourth term)
The Portfolio Committee raised the following with the Department in respect of the fourth quarterly report for 2021/22. The Minister had to ensure the implementation of these recommendations by the Department:
The Committee was concerned about poor performance in delivery of Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses and serviced stands. However, the Committee acknowledged that the Department was still in the process of verifying provincial performance.
Fast-track the verification process of provincial performance. Develop strategies to improve performance in the delivery of BNG houses and service stands.
The Committee observed that the project readiness matrix was not implemented in eight provinces. Recommendation:
Assist provinces and municipalities to develop sound business plans. Ensure the implementation of a project readiness matrix in all provinces.
Informal settlements had not been upgraded to phase 3 for three years. The Committee was concerned that the Department was not intervening in time to assist metros to spend the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG).
Ensure close monitoring of the informal settlements upgrading programme. Put in place measures to deal with land invasions. Fast track the re-blocking of informal settlements. Conduct occupancy audits to determine whether people who live in informal settlements were South Africans. Assist metros to develop sound plans to spend the USDG.
The Committee noted with concern that a lot of employees were leaving the Department. This was happening despite the high rate of unemployment.
Develop strategies to retain employees and ensure their wellness. Provide the Committee with clear timeframes for recruiting new employees. This plan must be presented to the Committee within six months.
The Committee welcomes the budget allocated to entities owned by designated groups (30% for women, 10% for youth, 5% for people living with disabilities). However, more details were required by the Committee.
A detailed presentation of the budget allocated to entities owned by designated groups must be presented to the Committee within three months. This presentation must outline the level of involvement by designated groups.
The Chairperson asked the Members to indicate their interest in the deliberations by raising their hands.
Mr Tseki made an amendment to the recommendation regarding concern that many employees were leaving the Department. Could the Committee get more details, such as when the employees had resigned and their reasons for the resignations?
Ms Sihlwayi said that it was the Committee’s responsibility to monitor if the apartheid and colonial system had been eradicated, as there might be a connection to these resignations. It was important that the Committee was well informed on that. The entities had performed to a 100% of their targets. While this was to be appreciated, it did raise a question, as there had been numerous complaints about their poor performance. How had they managed to improve drastically? The title deeds report was a good report -- what was the Committee doing to ensure that the issue of title deed delays was stopped? The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) could be involved as a means of intervention to resolve these delays.
Dr Khumalo said that all recommendations must consist of follow-up reports, and with timeframes. That was how the Committee could assess if the departments were implementing the recommendations.
The Chairperson noted the inputs made by the Members, and asked if the Committee could proceed to adopt the reports.
Mr T Malatji (ANC) moved to adopt the reports with amendments and was seconded by Mr Tseki.
The Chairperson said that she had forgotten to indicate that there was a new Member -- Mr Chris Malematja (ANC).
She congratulated Ms C Seoposengwe for her appointment as South African High Commissioner to Lesotho.
She also proposed a physical meeting with the provinces. The meeting would discuss what must happen in the future. The meeting would take place in Parliament in the Committee Rooms. There would be no cameras. She asked if the Members agreed to a physical meeting in Cape Town.
Dr Khumalo and Ms Powell accepted the proposal.
Mr Tseki asked for clarity about the meeting. Would the provinces be provided with questions in advance so that they were aware of what would be asked? For example, where a province had lost money to another province due to under-spending, the province must provide a response to that and its consequence management plans.
The Chairperson said that the provinces would provide response to various matters, including the issue about the title deeds. The provinces must account for where they had spent the money and the mitigating strategies in place. She asked the Committee Secretary to draft a memo to the Department so that the lateness of communication would not be an excuse. The Members of Executive Councils (MECs) and Heads of Department (HODs) would be asked to attend the meeting, and they would be allowed to bring their support staff, provided there would be a use for them.
The matter of informal settlements and the illegal occupation of houses would also be discussed during the meeting.
Ms Mokgotho suggested that the provinces should produce a programme on how they were going to deal with the housing backlogs. In the Free State, some community members were promised house stands by municipalities. The programme of providing people with land to deal with the housing backlog must be produced.
Adv M Masutha (ANC), who had struggled with network challenges, said that there must be clarity on spending, especially on the grants. The Members may be doing oversight to discuss the Bill, but the purpose of the Bill was intended to dispel the concerns that people had been having. The oversights were meant to be an opportunity for people to engage with Parliament on how to resolve a “broken system.” The oversight visits must be seen in that light. Leadership at the provincial level was problematic, and the municipalities were failing to account. MECs and HODs would only tell the Committee what the Committee hoped to hear, but that would not align with what was coming from the public hearings.
The public hearings only lead to the Committee being accountable for service delivery. The Committee should consider writing to the Premiers of each province. The communication should say that they should account for the money provided by Parliament. He was not comfortable with the fact that the Premiers were not held accountable.
The Chairperson said it was important for the representatives of the provinces to be at the public hearings. However, the public hearings should not be confused with imbizos. There must be a programme of action from the Committee to make the representatives be accountable. When she suggested the attendees for the physical meeting, she had been trying to reduce the number of people attending. She would therefore appreciate the presence of the MECs and the HODs in order to avoid unnecessary attendees. The meeting would then have attendees who were going to contribute towards the discussions.
She asked if the Committee could proceed to the outstanding minutes.
The Committee Secretary said that she would like to respond to the matter about the public hearings. She said that when she writes the invitations for public hearings, the Premier, the MEC, the HOD, and the district as well as the local municipality, receive the invitations. Most of them acknowledge the invitation, but do not attend.
For the next public hearing, she asked if she could add the matter of the title deeds to the programme. What information was needed on the matter of informal settlements and the availability of sites?
The Chairperson provided clarity, and said the provinces must inform the Committee what the challenges were when it came to providing land to the people for housing. Secondly, what were the provinces doing to deal with the housing backlog? How were the provinces and local municipalities dealing with informal settlements? How were they auditing the informal settlements, as most were occupied by illegal immigrants? She commented that there must be a court process to remove the illegal occupants. Which challenges were they having when it came to implementing the recommendations?
Adv Masutha said he appreciated the contextualisation of the public hearings in relation to the planned physical meeting. He noted that the people understood the Bill, but the legal route had been taken before with no changes. Did the Bill have a greater impact than the previous Bills? The primary implementers of the Bill must be the ones who embrace it. There must be a different strategy to avoid failure. The implementers must be the central part of the process and the interface with the people the Bill was serving.
The Chairperson said that the oversight visits were interactions with the people. The public hearings were to hear what the people were concerned about. Government was for the people. Therefore, it was important for government to be visible when issues were being raised. The Committee had a responsibility to deliberate on the Bill with input from the people, hence the public hearings. The MECs could have imbizos to listen to the people and interact with their communities.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes dated 25 May 2022
The minutes, with amendments, were not adopted due to a lack of participation from Members. The minutes would be on the agenda of the next meeting.
Minutes dated 27 May 2022
The minutes, with amendments, were adopted.
Minutes dated 8 June 2022
The minutes were adopted.
The Committee Secretary was requested to ensure that attendees were correctly noted, as the Members were affected by being wrongly marked as absent when they were present in the meeting. This followed a complaint from Dr Khumalo that she had been wrongly marked absent in two of the meetings she had attended.
The meeting was adjourned.
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