The Portfolio Committee on National Assembly Rules met on a virtual platform to discuss the establishment of committees, the clustering of Ministers for questions, and the report compiled by the NA Rules Subcommittee.
In terms of the establishment of committees and the clustering of ministries, the Committee decided that a portfolio committee focused on the Ministry of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation needed to be established. In terms of the Ministry of Electricity, the Committee stated as reported by the National Assembly table this Ministry was not a portfolio but a programme and had no budget or department therefore, it did not need a dedicated oversight committee. The Committee also noted there was a National Electricity Crisis Team within the Presidency that supported the work of the Ministry of Electricity and therefore this Ministry received resources from the Presidency.
In respect of the Clustering of Ministers for questions, it was agreed that the Ministry of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation would fall under Cluster 3 whereas the Ministry of Electricity falls under Cluster 4.
In terms of the report compiled by the Subcommittee on the Review of National Assembly Rules. The Committee discussed and decided on recommendations emanating from the State Capture Commission Report. These recommendations pertained to house resolutions emanating from oversight activities and responses thereto, executive reports and submissions to Parliament, executive attendance, the selection of office-bearers in state institutions, the establishment of an oversight committee over the Presidency, and the appointment of committee chairpersons.
The Committee highlighted that the tracking of parliamentary resolutions for ministers and improved executive attendance is already happening.
In addition, the Committee was satisfied that there is no need for legislative intervention when it comes to the appointment of office-bearers in public institutions as there were existing best practices with respect to transparency and public involvement.
The Committee dismissed the Commission’s recommendation for opposition members to chair some parliamentary committees. They asserted that the Commission’s proposal was misdirected and noted that the current practice, where SCOPA is chaired by an opposition member, is a convention rather than a rule.
There was an extended debate about the establishment of a committee to oversee the Presidency. It was agreed that the Parliamentary Budget Office would do additional research on this and Members would undertake a study tour to learn from other jurisdictions.
Apologies and Agenda
The Chairperson welcomed everyone in attendance. She noted that copies of the agenda had been circulated and asked if there were any apologies.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) submitted an apology from Ms Majodina, who was attending to Pan-African Parliament business in Japan.
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary of the National Assembly, submitted an apology from Mr Tsenoli. He also noted that he had been sent other apologies that he would notify the Chairperson once he had access to his device.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) informed the Committee about apologies from Ms Gwarube and Mr Horn.
Ms Dlakude asked if the Chairperson was still on the platform.
Mr Xaso said he would check.
Mr N Singh (IFP) asked if there was anyone on the platform.
Ms Dlakude said there were people on the platform, but the Chairperson was experiencing technical issues which were being attended to.
Mr Xaso said the Chairperson was now connected and would be with the Committee shortly.
The Chairperson apologised for her technical issues and asked if she was audible. She explained that she had load shedding but was using solar which seemed to be unstable. She noted the apologies received and asked Dr Lotriet to repeat her apologies.
Dr Lotriet repeated that Ms Gwarube and Mr Horn had sent apologies.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to proceed to the adoption of the meeting’s agenda.
Mr Singh greeted the Committee and apologised in advance that at some point in the meeting, he would be disconnected but would rejoin the meeting using another device.
Mr Xaso clarified that item 5 of the agenda would also deal with the implications of the changes in the cabinet on portfolio committees.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso and asked for a motion to adopt the agenda.
Mr Singh motioned for the adoption of the agenda as clarified by Mr Xaso.
Ms Dlakude seconded the motion, and the agenda was adopted.
Committee Minutes & Matters Arising
The Chairperson asked the Committee to consider the draft minutes of the 23rd of November 2022. She noted that minutes had been circulated and the Committee could follow on the screen. She asked if the minutes were a true reflection of the meeting.
Mr Singh said he was not present in the meeting but had apologised for his absence. He also pointed to an error made with the initials of Ms Majozi.
The Chairperson asked with the correction made by Mr Singh if the minutes were a true reflection of the minutes. She also asked for a motion of adoption of the minutes.
Ms Dlakude motioned to adopt and Ms R Lesoma seconded. The draft minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson said the Committee would now proceed to the consideration of matters arising from the minutes. She asked Mr Xaso to take the Committee through these matters.
Mr Xaso noted that the minutes dealt with various matters, but he would focus on three. The first was the State Capture Report recommendations which were referred to portfolio committees. An update had been given to the Programming Committee the previous week. Some of the matters were referred to the Rules Subcommittee. The administrative matters would be dealt with by the administration and the joint matters would be dealt with by the Joint Rules Committee.
The second matter concerned the incident that occurred on 30 August 2022 in the House. This matter was with the Powers and Privileges Committee.
The third matter was about the discussion around the questions process and the amendment of certain rules such as the issue of placards which were given effect to the Amendment.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso. She noted that one of the matters Mr Xaso raised was item six of the meeting's agenda. She asked the Committee to proceed to item 5 of the agenda. This item concerned portfolio committees, the clustering of ministers and the considerations of new ministers.
Consideration of Matters Pertaining to Portfolio Committees and Clustering of Ministers for Questions
Mr Xaso highlighted a circulated proposal document on how the changes could be handled in the National Assembly (NA). He said the first part of the document was on the impact of the appointment of new ministers on portfolio committees. It cited an applicable rule that stated that the Speaker in concurrence with the Rules Committee had to establish a range of portfolio committees. The document also highlighted changes that were made on the 6th of March 2023. The document further dealt with adjustments around the Presidency.
In terms of the Minister of Electricity, the Minister did not have a specific budget but drew from the budget of Vote 1. The Minister’s responsibilities formed a dedicated programme which is located in the Presidency. He said members were aware that the issue of the powers of this Minister was still under consideration. No proposal was made in this document on whether there should be a committee established as this was for Rules Committee to deliberate on.
On the Minster for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation they proposed that a portfolio committee be established. This would allow for expanded accountability by the Presidency to Parliament regarding this portfolio’s mandate and function.
He said the other ministries were not mentioned in this document such as the Ministry of Women, Youth and Disabilities because their matters fell under existing committees. The issues of Government Communication, Information Systems (GCIS) and state security had a committee. The issue of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) belonged to the Communications Committee.
Mr Xaso proceeded to the clustering of Ministries for question purposes. In terms of Rule 138 questions for an oral reply by Ministers had to be dealt with following the clustered system of government portfolios as determined by the Rules Committee from time to time.
The Sixth Parliament was coming to a close and substantive changes to the clustering of Ministers may not be feasible. For this reason, it is proposed that Ministers in the Presidency be allocated as follows:
- Cluster 1 (Peace and Security = State Security)
- Cluster 3 (Governance = PME, GCIS, and MDDA)
- Cluster 4 (Economics = Electricity) as a stand-alone Minister
He went through a table in the document that illustrated what each cluster would now look like.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso.
Mr Singh said that the IFP was in support of the establishment of a committee on planning, monitoring, and evaluation. He said when the Committee considers the Rules Subcommittee’s Report this document needed to be considered too. He added that the Parliamentary Budget Office’s (PBO) report behoved them to have oversight over all departments and their budgets. In light of this, the IFP supported the establishment of the Vote 1 Committee to ensure all areas were addressed.
He reiterated support for the establishment of a Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Committee and a Vote 1 Committee so that there was oversight over the entire Executive.
Mr R Dyantyi (ANC) welcomed the report and supported the establishment of the Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Portfolio Committee. This committee should have been established already. In terms of the Minister of Electricity, it was in essence as reported by the NA Table a programme and had no budget or department. Therefore, it did not need a portfolio committee. He supported the portfolio being under Vote 1. In terms of the impact and clustering of questions, they were in support of it. He asked if Mr Xaso would explain if the Electricity Portfolio would be in the same cluster as Public Enterprises, and Minerals and Energy due to the overlapping nature of these portfolios. They were in support of the NA Table’s recommendations. He added that the issues concerning Vote 1 were for item 6 of the agenda and would be discussed later.
Ms Lesoma said she was in support of the establishment of the Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Committee and for it to fall under Cluster 3 and for the Minister of Electricity to fall under Cluster 4.
Ms Dlakude supported the views expressed by Mr Lesoma and Mr Dyantyi.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee and said this brought them to the end of the matter of the clustering of ministries. The Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Committee would be established and fall under cluster 3. She asked if the Committee agreed.
Mr Xaso clarified that clusters 4 and 5 were both economic clusters and the Ministry of Electricity fell under cluster 4. This cluster included Public Enterprises, and Minerals and Energy.
Mr Singh agreed with the Chairperson and Committee’s proposal with the caveat that Vote 1 would be discussed in the next item.
The Chairperson said it was her understanding that there was no indication that the Ministry of Electricity would receive resources from the Presidency. She said that the Minister of Electricity would b working with Public Enterprises, Minerals, and Energy Ministries and therefore it did not make sense for it to fall under Vote 1 which was the Presidency. She asked the Committee if her understanding was correct.
Mr H Papo (ANC) said that there was a National Electricity Crisis Committee within the Presidency established last year which the Minister of Electricity was working with. Therefore, the Ministry was receiving resources from the Presidency, and this was the probable basis for Mr Singh’s suggestion that a committee focused on electricity needed to be established. The team in the Presidency was not ministry but worked with the Ministry of Electricity.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Papo for the correction. She said the Committee would be proceeding to item 6 which deal with the Rules Subcommittee’s report and Ms Dlakude would lead this process.
Report of the Subcommittee on Review of Assembly Rules
Ms Dlakude thanked the Chairperson and requested that Mr Xaso present the report. She said that the subcommittee deliberated in the past week and was presenting the report before the Rules Committee because the Rules Subcommittee did not make decisions. She added that corrections would be made to the report as it did not reflect the ANC’s decision in the Rules Subcommittee.
Mr Xaso said the report had been circulated and asked for it to be flighted. He referred the Committee to item C of the report which dealt with the State Capture recommendations.
Item C: Recommendations of the State Capture Commission
The Commission opined that weaknesses in Parliamentary oversight and Executive accountability had, over time, contributed to corruption and maladministration and therefore recommended that Parliament consider reforms to improve its procedures. These included procedures concerned with–
- House resolutions emanating from oversight activities and responses thereto
- Executive reports and submissions to Parliament
- Executive attendance
- The selection of office-bearers in state institutions
- The establishment of an oversight committee over the Presidency; and
- The appointment of committee chairpersons
The Commission suggested that a number of issues could/should be provided for in law, and/or Parliament’s rules. Research was then undertaken on international practices and specifically whether other countries had comparable laws. The research found that, of the twelve countries surveyed, none had statutes that dealt with all the subjects identified. The paper nonetheless concluded that, in many countries, there was a growing demand for an improvement in parliamentary oversight The Subcommittee agreed that, as a general point, the legislation would not necessarily serve to address all the challenges identified by the Commission. Moreover, as oversight was the responsibility of both Houses, the option of legislative change would finally belong to the Joint Rules Committee. At the same time, rule amendments could, where appropriate, be developed.
The Subcommittee recommends that Rules Committee note the question of legal reform of the kind advocated by the Commission and that, while this was not desirable at the moment, it be considered as a legacy matter. The Subcommittee also recommends that the Rules Committee directs it to develop Rules and/or guidelines in relation to the matters described hereunder.
Item D: House Resolutions and Executive Reports
It was recommended that the Rules Committee agree that the rules and/or guidelines should address the following –
- Recommendations emanating from committee activities, insofar as they should be substantiated and specific (e.g. include time-frames) and relate to a matter within the purview of the Assembly;
- The Speaker to maintain a record of resolutions and, in the event of a delay, liaise with the Leader of Government Business (LOGB); and
- The Speaker to report to the Rules Committee once a year on the status of responses.
In the case of Executive reporting –
- The Executive to report to Parliament on measures emanating from resolutions within the timeframes prescribed in the resolution or, in the event no timeframes have been given, it could be 60 days.
- In the event of a delay, a Minister to inform the Speaker of the reasons, and provide a reasonable timeframe within which a full report can be provided; and
- The LOGB to submit an annual report to the Speaker on the status of Executive compliance with resolutions, for inclusion in the Speaker’s report to the Rules Committee.
Item E: Executive Attendance
It was recommended that the Rules Committee acknowledge that the Sixth Parliament had taken steps to facilitate cooperation between Parliament and the Executive. Notwithstanding these, additional procedures could in due course, and if deemed necessary, be developed.
Item F: The Appointment of Office-Bearers in State Entities
The Subcommittee noted that the option of legislative review fell outside the immediate scope of the Subcommittee and may not, in any event, resolve the challenges alluded to by the Commission. Moreover, there were already laws concerning the selection of certain office-bearers. In terms of procedure, members pointed out that instances of best practices had emerged. While this was accepted, there was a contention that the rules should, as part of the criteria for the selection of candidates, prohibit those with political affiliations from being appointed. While the Subcommittee could not reach a consensus in this respect, members stressed that all appointments must be based on merit.
It recommended that the Rules Committee agree that there is no need for legislative intervention on this matter at this time, but endorse emerging best practices, especially the promotion of transparency and public involvement. If necessary, in due course further procedures could be considered insofar as these could support conformity.
Item G: Oversight over Vote 1
The Commission recommended that the Assembly consider establishing a committee to oversee those aspects of Vote 1 which were not overseen by existing structures. The Subcommittee also received correspondence from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) (which predated the Commission) the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African Transformation Movement (ATM) to this effect. In light of these submissions, the Subcommittee requested the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to analyse Vote 1 to determine which aspects of the Vote were currently not subjected to scrutiny.
The PBO analysed the respective functions incorporated under Vote 1 and concluded that Parliament should strengthen its oversight over the Presidency but that further research would be beneficial. Pursuant to the research and subsequent discussions, parties proposed different approaches –
Option 1: On the basis of the submission from the PBO, further research was necessary for the Subcommittee to determine the desirability of a Committee on Vote 1, and what its mandate would encompass.
Option 2: The Rules Committee establish a committee on Vote 1 forthwith; and
Option 3: The Rules Committee endorse the principle that all Executive activities must be subject to examination, including those falling under Vote 1. This endorsement would then precipitate further analysis to ensure that, in respect of Vote 1, any lacunae were closed.
Item H: Appointment of Committee Chairpersons
Having deliberated, some members felt that the work of committees, and the appointment of chairpersons given their functions, were unrelated. In addition, the appointment of chairpersons was necessarily a political prerogative. Other members suggested that prevailing weaknesses necessitated a rethink about the way Parliament functioned and that there was merit to the Commission’s proposition. Based on these views, the following was put forward –
Option 1: The Rules Committee does not accede to the Commission’s proposal as the appointment of chairpersons was a political function; and
Option 2: The Rules Committee notes the recommendation, bearing in mind the dynamic nature of politics, and allows further deliberations thereon.
Item I: Summary of Recommendations
By way of a summary, the Subcommittee recommends that the Rules Committee –
- Note the question of legal reform of the kind advocated by the Commission and that, while this is not desirable at the moment, it could be considered as a legacy matter for the Joint Rules Committee.
- Direct the Subcommittee to develop Rules and/or guidelines in respect of the following:
- House resolutions emanating from oversight activities and responses thereto.
- Executive reports and submissions to Parliament; and
- Executive attendance.
3. Decide whether it is desirable, on the basis of the views raised in this report, for the Assembly to review the rules associated with –
- The selection of office-bearers in state institutions.
- The establishment of an oversight committee over the Presidency; and
- The appointment of committee chairpersons.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Xaso and the team as part of the Rules Committee. She said a lot of good work had been done and it was now time for the Committee to discuss the recommendations presented. The Chairperson said each item would be dealt with individually to avoid confusion.
The first item for discussion would concern the house resolutions and executive report.
Mr Singh said he was glad that Chairperson wanted to deal with the report in a structured manner but noted that the Chairperson had omitted item C which came before item D. He added that there were recommendations under C that the IFP would support.
The Chairperson was correct and the Committee should start with the recommendations on the house resolutions and executive reports.
Mr Singh said the recommendations made under item C of the report were supported by the IFP. He wanted to note that the recommendation of an oversight committee was discussed by the Committee long before the State Capture Report was received.
Mr Dyantyi supported the recommendations of the NA table which assisted them in ensuring that recommendations were substantiated and were within the NA’s purview. He said the recommendations in the event of delay in executive reporting, the Speaker would liaise with the Leader of Government Business (LOGB), and on an annual basis, the Speaker would table a status report on the matter. He mentioned the corrections that Ms Dlakude spoke about and that those would be addressed later.
Dr Lotriet supported the specific recommendation and thought it was wise that legal reform was not visited yet. She said it was important to note that in the next term, this legacy was taken up and not left by the wayside.
The Chairperson said they would now deal with recommendations from the State Capture Commission.
Mr Singh said that the Chairperson had perhaps been given the wrong document as item C which had been dealt with already spoke to the State Capture Commission’s report. They were now meant to deal with item D which was on house resolutions and executive reports.
The Chairperson noted the error and agreed with Mr Singh.
Mr Singh proposed that the Speaker report to the Rule Committee twice a year instead of once on the status of response so that the Committee could assist in Parliament operating better. He said that Ministers were not answering questions with some having about 30 questions outstanding. This was his suggestion but otherwise he supported the recommendation.
Dr Lotriet supported Mr Singh’s proposal for twice a year.
The Chairperson asked if there were contrary opinions.
Mr Papo said that this was not a contrary view, but the Speaker of the National Assembly stated that people who failed to answer a lot of questions could not be compared to those who had not answered one or two questions. He said that there was a tendency to lump everyone together which distorted matters.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Papo and asked if he agreed in principle that the Speaker presents a report on responses twice a year instead of once.
Mr Papo said yes he was in support of this.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee agreed with the recommendation that the LOGB should submit an annual report to the Speaker on the status of Executive compliance with resolutions, for inclusion in the Speaker’s report to the Rules Committee.
Ms Lesoma said there were no qualms with this recommendation.
Mr Singh that he was not sure if Mr Xaso wanted to tie in this recommendation with that of the Speaker submitting a report twice a year. He suggested perhaps to be consistent that the LOGB also be required to submit a report twice a year instead of once a year.
Mr Dyantyi said he would not treat the two the same because the principle was that of an annual report. The annual could incorporate both what would have been done six months prior. Otherwise, they’d be the only person that reported twice in an annual report and even departments did that. He recommended that the LOGB’s report be annual.
Mr Papo said that Mr Dyantyi was correct. The report should be annual.
The Chairperson said the Committee agreed The recording of some issues concerning questions would be tabled before the Rules Committee twice a year. She asked if the Committee agreed and if so, they would proceed to the next item.
The Chairperson proceeded to item E which dealt with Executive attendance. She asked if the Committee had anything to do regarding this matter. She noted that Mr Singh was very active in the meeting.
Mr Singh said he was worried about his load shedding. He said he supported the recommendation.
Mr Dyantyi said that the Speaker was ahead of the Commission as this issue had been addressed with the LOGB and a process was put in place. He thanked the Commission for the recommendation and noted the Committee had already addressed the issue.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Dyantyi for his recognition of the Speaker’s work. She proceeded to the next matter which dealt with the appointment of office-bearers in State Owned Entities (SOEs)
Ms Lesoma said there was an existing established practice in many committees. If you borrowed from the Fifth Parliament and the appointment of the Public Protector those would be considered best practices. In terms of this Parliament and appointments done by the Justice Committee, those were also best practices. She said it depended on what the legal act stated and some acts in terms of appointment of office-bearers were explicit and others necessitated that a committee or subcommittee deal with it. She made an example concerning being fit and proper and other related matters. The Commission’s recommendation reflected the Rules of Parliament rather than the exception. She noted that challenges would arise, but the spirit of the recommendation was what already existed. That was why it was found with some appointments before the house there were no objections from all political parties as committees would have been satisfied that a participatory and inclusive process was followed internally.
Ms Lesoma said they were not in agreement with further legislation on this matter. The amendments of rules on procedural matters could be undertaken at the point where specific gaps had been identified. Public participation after people were shortlisted for appointments was a practice that was already done.
Ms M Boroto (ANC) noted that there was agreement that legislation was not needed to deal with this matter as there were established tools to work with.
The Chairperson said that Parliament was ahead on this matter and that when it is necessary this matter would be considered. She added that the Committee would now deal with Item G which was on the oversight over Vote 1.
Dr Lotriet said this was a matter that had been proposed by members of the Committee for quite some time even before the State Capture Inquiry. She said option one referred to the PBO’s analysis that said further research would be beneficial but it did not state it would be critical. Therefore, option one was not the right choice. Option three stated that the Committee endorsed the principle which was all executive activities must be subject to examination but did not propose the establishment of a Committee on Vote 1. Her choice would be option two however, she understood the specifics of the committee needed to be ironed out. Research or compiling of a frame of reference of how the committee would be established was needed. Her concern was that options one and three were kicking the can down the road. Although she strongly suggested option two, she said option three could also be looked at. If option three was taken it would have to be specifically stated that the Rules Committee endorsed the principle that a Committee on Vote 1 be established. This endorsement would precipitate further analysis to ensure that in respect of that one, any lacunae were closed. This suggestion was a combination of options two and three.
Mr Papo said option one was best because the PBO had requested more time. The PBO’s report was a preliminary report therefore more in-depth analysis was needed to convince the Committee of the issues at hand and whether the jurisdictions referred to had similar constitutional principles to South Africa. He said the question of a Vote 1 portfolio was not a matter of yes or no they simply wanted to give the PBO more time for further research. The investigation of other jurisdictions was important as South Africa was not an island and the country’s constitution had borrowed from various parts of the world.
Mr Papo said the proposals that the Committee considered also needed to reflect what was happening in the country’s provinces. As there were differences, Premiers were members of the Legislature whereas the President was not. These were important considerations that would allow for a decision to be made. He said if things did not work, they could always be changed. He concluded that the option of giving the PBO more time was the most acceptable proposal.
Ms Lesoma aligned herself with points made by Mr Papo. It was not a question of yes or no unless there was a predetermined conclusion on the matter. If that were the case, what would have been the reason to request a report from the PBO so that their decision could be guided by evidence?
She added that borrowing from the practices of the provinces was not an option as the President was not a member of the Legislature. She said the PBO needed to be allowed to finish their work, this process needed to be respected unless this was just thought of as a public relations exercise.
Ms Lesoma asked that a physical or desktop study tour be embarked upon by the Subcommittee. She said other countries that shared similarities with South Africa needed to be visited so that we can learn from them. She appreciated that the Sixth Parliament, under the leadership of the Speaker, was paying close attention to this matter. She noted that other political parties had written letters that were similar to what the Chief Whip of the IFP had raised as his project. She urged the Chief Whip of the IFP to bear with them because they wanted to make an informed decision that was not just for the ANC but for future Parliaments.
Mr Singh said he had a different view. The Committee did not require any authority higher than South Africa’s Constitution and if they were to go overseas it would be to observe the implementation of certain mechanisms. They did not need to look at foreign legislation in the place of our legislation as the Constitution was clear, Parliament had to set up oversight mechanisms over all departments and votes where budgets had been allocated by the National Treasury or Parliament. This was a constitutional principle.
Mr Singh said the argument that the President was not a member of the Legislature did not hold water because he was the head of the Executive. This discussion was not about members of Parliament accounting but rather the Executive accounting.
He said the PBO’s report was clear in its conclusion and appealed for the consideration of this matter. Parliament would have to decide on the objectives of a committee focused on Vote 1: Presidency. He suggested that if it were to be established that the word Presidency be excluded in favour of Vote 1. The committee could be essential to the system of checks and balances in South Africa and should enable Parliament and the South African public to hold Vote 1 accountable for the impact made in the name of accomplishing their strategic and programme objectives.
He said the PBO was not asking for more time but rather that when this committee was established, they needed to ensure the administrative body that would support the committee was well-resourced.
He said they did not need to hang their coats on what the PBO has said. Unless he understood the report incorrectly which he did not think was the case. He said the Committee shouldn’t kick the can down the road. Parliament needed to hold the Executive accountable for all allocated budgets. As seen by the Secretariat’s presented report, there were funds that were going to be used by the Ministry of Electricity that fell under Vote 1. There were other funds under Vote. 1 that had grey areas.
He emphasised that they did not want to hold President Cyril Ramaphosa accountable but the accounting officer who was accountable for all budget allocations. All accounting officers were held accountable in this manner and the Presidency should not be different. Ministers and members of the Executive were held accountable when they appeared in budget vote debates and when there were political debates. He did not want the President to be put in an awkward situation when his vote came up and he is asked questions relating to a particular line item. He said serious consideration was needed. Next year there could be a new president, and this did not mean that the accounting officer shouldn’t account to Parliament.
Mr Singh said the IFP’s preferred option was that option two, but they could live with option three. This was that the Rules Committee needed to decide that yes, the committee would be established and the mechanics of it would be worked. He said this was not unreasonable and it was consistent with democracy.
He said they objected to option one and their preferred option was option two, but they were willing to accept option three.
Mr G Koornhof (ANC) said option one was the wise and sensible option based on the PBO’s submission which referred to the obtaining of further substantial information for discussion. He said the submission also referred to further international studies and under the guidance of the Chairperson she could authorise such visits to other countries. The PBO report stated that further research was necessary for a potential subcommittee.
There was a difference between oversight and accountability. This spoke of the oversight of Parliament. Currently, there was substantial accountability from the Presidency which included a comprehensive debate on Vote 1, and quarterly questions to the President which were more substantial than those allocated to Ministers. There was the State of the Nation Address debate and reply. There were departments (in the Presidency) indicated in the previous discussion that had to account to Parliament. The Ministry of Electricity was added with this programme. You have the LOGB accounting to Parliament. There were also ministerial statements. There was a lot of accounting happening and option one was the best.
Ms Dlakude agreed with her ANC colleagues and noted that they shouldn’t pick and choose what to read in the PBO’s report. The PBO was rushed in producing this report and it was a preliminary document. The PBO needed more time and resources to conduct comprehensive research and analysis on this matter. This was something that couldn't be ignored.
She said Parliament had embarked on many study tours abroad to learn best practices from countries with similar systems to ours. There was nothing wrong with this.
Ms Dlakude said it was important to note there were accountability measures already in place as the discussions were making it seem as if there were no measures in place to account for Vote 1. There were portfolio committees and another one being proposed which all accounted to Parliament. The President also accounted to Parliament.
She proposed that the PBO be allowed more time and resources to complete their work as requested by the Committee.
Ms Dlakude supported option one.
The Chairperson said there were three options before them and it seemed the Committee was not in agreement on which option was best. This issue had been under discussion for some time. She had a proposal and wanted Members to comment on it. She had an opportunity to think through these issues and consider the PBO’s options and request for more time which was fair as they were not given enough time. She was aware that a number of the members of the Committee were most likely chief whips of political parties and she wanted to present a proposal from her side. This matter emanated from the State Capture Commission as if there was no work currently being done by Parliament. Unfortunately, the legislature did not challenge this and allowed for the report to present a narrative that the President is not accountable to Parliament This was untrue as the Presidency did account through Q&A sessions and vote debates.
Parliament could not have an issue lingering from the fifth Parliament to the seventh Parliament. She proposed a compromise be reached and a small team compromising of the chief whips sitting on the Committee be formed. She had approved a study tour for the whippery to Ireland and Kenya and was tempted to say that a leg of the study tour should be to visit the United Kingdom, which is a model followed by this Parliament, and to explore the liaison committee where the Prime Minister had to report to whenever it was necessary. This had to be done twice a year if her memory was correct.
There was another option in India where there was a general overarching oversight committee that looked at a whole lot of issues relating to oversight in Parliament.
It could be argued that South Africa did not have a Prime Minister and therefore the UK option did not apply but it could assist South Africa. She said she did not want a desktop analysis but a physical analysis and there was an opportunity for a visit to the UK to explore more options and how accountability worked with regards to the Prime Minster or as South Africa would refer to it Presidency. It could be that the President could mandate the LOGB to appear before the liaison committee twice a year.
The Chairperson proposed that because this issue had been going on for so long and the Committee seemed stuck on their different positions further research was needed. It was needed to lay a solid foundation for the Seventh Parliament. She proposed that the chief whips embark on this tour as one had already been approved for Ireland and Kenya. The added leg of the tour to the UK would allow them to do further research. She said oversight practices in India could also be looked at.
The Chairperson said time would be given to the Committee to decide on which option was best. She said the Committee needed to not let their disagreement on issues get to the point where no progress was being made. The Chairperson asked that the Committee be open to compromise to find the best option.
She said consideration needed to be given to what could be used from other jurisdictions to South Africa’s advantage. The only way this could happen was if more exploration was done to come to a solid recommendation for the Seventh Parliament.
The Chairperson said this was a proposal and not an attempt to overrule people. She noted they were politicians and therefore divergent views were expected, however, this proposal was for the sake of harmony. She repeated that this issue was one that they did not challenge and now they had to decide on how best to consider it.
Mr Papo agreed with the proposal that further research was needed. He was not in agreement that harmony was needed in the face of disagreement as the notion that the President was not accountable was incorrect. He said the Chief Whip of the DA insisted on the notion that there was no accountability in the Presidency and the Executive despite the strengthening of measures by Parliament through various debates and reprimanding relating to questions. The State Capture Report made the mistake of overreaching as the internal arrangements of Parliament could not be dictated by another arm of the State. The Constitutional Court had ruled in several judgments to this effect and opportunities were given to Parliament to correct their laws. He agreed that the three options presented needed to be considered but where the still wasn’t an agreement the Rules Committee needed to decide based on the best option. Members should not feel bad for having differing opinions on decisions as this was also the case with posters, but a view prevailed. He said that the study tour for the whippery had a different mandate which was to strengthen the whippery and adding this issue to it would create problems a separate tour was needed. It had to be people from the Rules Committee as the whippery consisted of chief whips that did not sit in this Committee. The team shouldn’t be comprised of chief whips as it would dilute the purpose. It needed a team of people from the Rules Committee so a physical and desktop study could be done.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Papo but her understanding was that most Chief Whips sat on the Rules Committee. She asked if she was wrong in thinking this.
Mr Papo said there are specific membership and it was raised who sat in the Rules Committee and who had voting powers because not everyone had that.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Papo and said that she understood his point that the whippery study tour had a different mandate and that she needed to look at the Rules Committee itself to see who could form part of this delegation because it was something she felt strongly about because it could assist in the resolution of this issue. She was not overruling the Committee but suggesting something practical they could do to assist the Committee to make a decision.
The Chairperson said in terms of the word harmony it was vocabulary, but she believed that although they had differing political views, they always needed to seek to find each other on issues such as this. She said if it was necessary, she would in her capacity as Speaker initiate that Ms Dlakude leads a team to do this work and the presiding officers would facilitate to ensure it is done as quickly as possible as there was a year before the end of this term.
Mr Dyantyi said he would be brief as Mr Papo and the Speaker had covered his points. He pointed out Mr Xaso had read from the report that the Commission recommended that a committee focused on the Presidency on Vote 1 be established. The report also stated that the focus should be on areas not overseen by existing structures. In the Subcommittee meeting, it was then said the PBO be requested to do work, distill and ascertain what gaps there are. The PBO returned and highlighted certain areas. However, it indicated that its report is inconclusive and it would want to do further work in this regard. It, therefore, did not make sense to then want to jump to establish a committee from this. In his view, option 1 was already a comprise as it was not conclusive. It said that on the basis of the submission from the PBO, further research was necessary for the Subcommittee to determine the desirability of a committee on vote 1, and what its mandate would encompass.
He endorsed the Chairperson’s intervention of allowing the PBO to do further research and the Committee to embark on a study tour. The Rules Subcommittee as a matter of urgency needed to attend to this matter and it could happen before the Seventh Parliament.
This intervention was spot on because a committee cannot be established first and the work starts afterward. He said they wouldn’t lose anything by undertaking a physical and desktop study tour where they learn from similar countries.
He mentioned the Subcommittee Report corrections that were needed and noted how the discussion was framed made it difficult for the Chairperson to understand the Subcommittee’s decision-making process.
Mr Singh said the Chairperson’s leadership and wisdom in trying to resolve this matter was welcomed and what was expected of a Speaker of the Parliament who is independent, did not carry the flag of a particular party and looked to what Parliament needed to do in the bigger scheme of things as one of the arms of the state.
Mr Singh said the matter at hand was if the oversight mechanisms in place for holding accounting officers accountable for expenditure, performance indicators etc were adequate or not. The report said these mechanisms were not adequate and page 11 noted what the Auditor-General (AG) said in this regard. As an independent body, the AG comments were important. It further said it was unclear as to whether the performance information on Vote 1 required further interaction between the accounting officer and oversight mechanisms. Everything pointed to the desirability of establishing a committee.
The proposal that the Chairperson made that further work was needed should be taken seriously. He said if it was not the chief whips the Chairperson as the Speaker could mandate a committee of people to go on a study tour.
He urged that this matter and other recommendations were not voted on and that the resolution of the Committee be recorded as a work in progress that had to be finalised by a certain time. The Chairperson should choose the committee and country. Her administration team should advise her on what needed to be looked at and where they should go. They needed to be guided by the supreme law of the country, the Constitution. This was not a question of politics because today you're in power and tomorrow you're not. He urged that governance mechanisms be put in place that would stand the test of time for any person who is in vote 1 or any accounting officer that's there. The matter should be a work in progress and the Chairperson’s leadership would guide them on how it was dealt with. As far as the IFP was concerned, the desirability of this Committee had been established “more than 100%”.
Ms Lesoma said when you listened to Mr Singh it could be assumed that they agreed but the crux of the matter was the modality in which he engaged some issues.
Ms Lesoma appreciated Mr Singh’s stance that he has progressed to. She agreed with the recommendation that the Chairperson would identify a team within the Rules Committee to embark on a study tour and report back to the Committee so that the Committee could engage on their findings.
Ms Dlakude appreciated the Chairperson’s leadership and said the ANC had no intention of voting on anything but rather supported the report that requested more time, research, and resources to deal with this matter.
She appealed to her colleagues that there is a need for a study tour to learn the best practices from other countries with the same system as ours. This was to ensure that whatever decision is taken is correct.
Ms Dlakude said they looked forward to hearing from the Chairperson.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for their positive engagement on this matter. She believed they will find each other and that was why she was asking for more time. She thanked Ms Dlakude for emphasising the point of more time, research, and resources. More time did not mean that this would take place in November or December. Members could be requested to travel during the June/July recess for this Committee to go and do the work before the summer holidays in Europe. She said they would facilitate this and believed they all stood to benefit from this. They would come back with a clearer understanding of what needs to be done.
The Chairperson said they could come back saying that an oversight instrument was not needed or that there was a good monitoring mechanism that could be designed and established in a certain manner. This was dependent on the Committee. She was glad for the correction that not all chief whips who were a part of the Rules Committee.
She said this process would be done quickly and there would be liaising with Mr Xaso and Ms Dlakude who was in charge of the Rules Subcommittee. This was to ensure that this matter was addressed quickly. Building blocks would be put in place so there was a solid foundation set up for the next Parliament.
The Chairperson said they would try their best and the item dealing with parliamentary oversight was now concluded.
The meeting proceeded to the last item, this dealt with the appointment of committee chairpersons.
Mr Dyantyi said this item should be much quicker. Addressing the chairperson of the Rules Subcommittee and the NA table, he said it was important that when the Subcommittee was sent out to do work and when it comes to the Rules Committee, it can not present a stalemate that did not exist in the discussion. This Committee was about decision making not the Committee repeating what was done in the Subcommittee. It was important for them to make a summary of each item to assist the NA table. This was because the discussion on this matter should not be presented with options as there would have been a consensus decision taken.
For example, it could be argued that his contribution was strong and hard whereas Mr Singh introduced a softer tone but there was nothing different from the issues. They were clear on this item that the Commission’s recommendations were welcome but there was overreach with the matter. The Commission had no basis for this kind of recommendation, and it was misdirected. This view was not opposed. The Constitution was also consulted, and section 57 was clear that NA may determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings, and procedures. It also could make rules and orders concerning its business with due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency, and public involvement. Section 57 2(a) concluded that the rules and orders of the National Assembly must provide for the establishment composition of powers, functions, procedures, and duration of its committees. Not even a court could determine for them let alone a Commission. The Commission had not helped by doing this and it was the prerogative of the National Assembly to do all of these kinds of issues and if the Commission’s issue was robust oversight that was something that should never be seen through who chairs what committee. In the NA and many legislatures, SCOPA was chaired by the opposition. This was not a rule but a practice or convention. There were also examples of the Western Cape.
From his perspective, the recommendation should have indicated that the Subcommittee had reached a consensus on this issue, and having welcomed the Commission’s recommendation, it declined to implement what was proposed because the Commission was out of bounds, and this was supported by the Constitution.
Mr Dyanti was not happy that two options were being presented as if there were no differing views on this issue except with the tone in the Subcommittee meeting.
Ms Lesoma said there is no evidence which suggested that if a person from the opposition chaired a committee there would be better oversight and accountability of the Executive. It was unfair and unfortunate that the perception is made, which seeks to silently suggest a coalition of a special type. The recommendation was not desirable as what was in place still worked and respected the principle of proportional representation and worked throughout all the provinces.
Mr Singh said it was important to take note of what the Commission said on the matter although it did not have to agree to what the Commission says on every matter. He agreed that it was not a function of the Rules Committee to state in the rules that chairpersons should come from different parties. This was a subject of political discussions as one moves forward after the election. He did not think it would be a legalised function of the Rules Committee to predetermine the composition of committees in terms of who chaired what committee. To this extent, he agreed that the Committee does not consider this recommendation.
The Chairperson said there was agreement that this matter should not have been raised for the Rules Committee to deal with as the agreement as to whether a member of the opposition party chaired a committee is something that is negotiated and does not involve the rules. There is a common understanding and is something that does not even arise.
The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters related to this item that needed to be discussed.
Ms Dlakude said that they took note of what Mr Dyantyi had raised concerning the subcommittee reports: that they should reflect on what was discussed in the subcommittee meeting and not add other things. This will be corrected.
The Chairperson said she would like to close the meeting as there was a Joint Rules Committee meeting they had to attend. She said if there were no issues relevant to the last item then she wanted to adjourn the meeting.
Mr Papo asked if the Joint Rule Committee would be on the same platform.
Mr Xaso said it was not the same platform.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee and said there was a comment she needed to make on record. She observed that some parties did not attend the Rules Committee, yet the Committee was the one of most important and critical committees of Parliament. It was important in the same way members attended the NA Programming Committee. When there are challenges, people will not be able to make reference to the issues discussed at the Rules meeting. She requested that everyone who was a member should attend meetings so there was an appreciation of how decisions were reached. She made an appeal that when the chief whips meet they needed to emphasise the point so that members of the Rules Committee had to attend meetings because they were going to be taken back by people who did not attend the Committee’s meetings as they would ask questions concerning how decisions were made at these meetings. She thanked the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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