Fire Brigade Services Amendment Bill: discussion

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

08 February 2000
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


8 February 2000

Documents handed out:
Fire Brigade Services Amendment Bill

The draft committee programme was discussed. The department presented a history and overview of the Fire Brigade Services Amendment Bill and addressed the reasons for the amendments. The Bill was discussed and it was agreed that the definition of 'administrator' would remain; further, an alternative draft adding another member to the Board and revising the Memorandum would be formulated. The report of the committee would suggest that the principal Act be substantially revised.

General matters
The Chair, Mr Y Carrim (ANC), welcomed the committee by noting that the coming year would be a challenging one. The committee will be required to monitor the local government election process and is already monitoring the demarcation process.

The Chair requested that the members rise to observe a moment's silence in remembrance of Mr Naidoo, the former CEO of SALGA, who had passed a way a number of weeks previously.

The Chair continued his introduction by welcoming the Department (of Provincial and Local Government) and the new committee secretary, Llewelyn Brown. He drew the members' attention to the programme for the rest of the year. The programme should be finalised within the coming fortnight. He hoped that the Bill under discussion would be finalised by the following week. He noted that there would be other Bills that would come to the committee at the end of April and in June. This legislation would include the Cross Boundary Municipal Demarcation Bill and other election legislation. He remarked that the bills could come to the committee earlier or later than anticipated.

The Chair observed that it was usual for the committee to meet with the Department and Minister at the beginning of each year. He remarked that an attempt was being made to arrange this meeting for the current month.

Mr J Selfe (DP) requested clarity on the days the committee would meet. The Chair responded that for the current and subsequent week, Tuesday and Wednesday should be set aside for meetings. He proposed that in future the Committee should meet on Tuesdays between 9h00 and 13h00 and on Wednesdays only when necessary. He stated that if all goes well the Bill under discussion would be finished by the following day and that it would not be necessary to meet the following Wednesday. He remarked that it might be necessary to meet on Fridays but that this was open for negotiation.

The Chair announced the budget review dates - the 7, 14 and possibly 15 March. He remarked that the Gender Advocacy Programme had requested a meeting to address the committee and had invited the committee to attend its workshops. He extended a welcome to journalists and other observers.

The Chair noted that the finance workshop had been very successful and called for a follow-up workshop. He returned to the demarcation issue which is being carefully monitored. He proposed that someone who is permanently present in the committee be involved.

The Co-Chair, Mr Baba, stated that although the NCOP members would be in their provinces the following week, arrangements were being finalised for the committee meeting the following Tuesday to be broadcast live to the provincial meetings. Provision was to be made for this to be interactive with the opportunity for e-mail communication during the meeting.

The Chair drew attention to a suggestion that a sub-committee be established to deal with the flood disasters in Mpumalanga. This was motivated by Mr F Beukman (NNP). The Chair proposed that the suggestion be endorsed. He requested that the parties submit the names of proposed candidates by the following morning and that the sub-committee be established and hold its first meeting by the following week. He requested information regarding the extent of the situation in Mpumalanga, beyond that which had been reported in the press. The Co-Chair responded by noting that there were severe access problems in Nelspruit and White River and that evacuations were underway.

The Fire Brigade Services Amendment Bill
Mr Kilian from the Department remarked that this was one of the easier Bills that the Committee had dealt with. He noted that the current Fire Brigade Board is composed of 20 members and that the Board had established 4 committees including finance, legal and standards committees. He noted that the Board had last met in March 1997 to deal with an urgent matter but had since become dormant.

The task team established to investigate the continued existence of the board had recommended that it should continue to exist. The reasons for its continued existence were the need for common standards to be approved by the Board in respect of training, vehicles and equipment and safety procedures.

The task team had recommended that the number of members of the board be reduced to 16 and that it should comprise political members only to give it more clout. Other institutions and officials on the committees established by the Board would give the Board necessary technical advice.

Mr Kilian concluded that the Amendment needed to be considered against the backdrop of a dormant Board and that there were decisions which the Board needed to take.

Dr P Bouwer, also from the Department, noted that Bill had been drafted in 1999 and that the name of the Department had since changed. The Bill should therefore be modified to reflect this. He further proposed an amendment to the definition of 'Minister' in the principal Act. It should refer to the Minister of Provincial and local Government.

Mr Selfe remarked that while the proposition was that Board comprise political members, section 1(e) of the Bill provides for representatives from organised labour and business. He noted that these were not political members and that if these members were to be included there was no reason not to include representatives from other bodies such as the South African Emergency Services Institute. He drew attention to the Memorandum; it refers to the process of consultation but there was no mention of consultation with the Institute.

Ms G Borman (DP) remarked that previously there had been four technical members included on the Board and that this should be provided for in the Bill. Mr C Mulder (FF) supported the suggestion that technical members be included. It was questioned what was meant by political members - MPs, politicians or political appointees.

The Co-Chair proposed amending and updating the definition of 'administrator' in the principal Act to provide for more certainty. He drew attention to potential constitutional difficulties with section 8(2) of the principal Act. The section provides that members of the fire services may order members of the public to assist in the carrying out of their duties.

Following a suggestion by the Chair it was agreed, in respect of the definition of the Minister, that it should merely refer to 'the Minister responsible for Local and Provincial Government' without using his/her official title. The Department should be treated similarly.

Regarding the definition of 'administrator' in the principal Act, Mr Bouwer noted that sections 2 & 15 of the principal Act were areas of national legislative competence and could therefore be amended by the NA. However, the definition of 'administrator' arises in the area of provincial legislative competence and could therefore not be amended by the NA. He suggested that the definition remain as it is phrased and emphasised that the main purpose of the Bill was to get the Board up and running.

Mr Kilian acknowledged that there have been requests for the entire principal Act to be revised, especially regarding what has been assigned to the provinces. Mr Selfe remarked that he understood the difficulty of amending the principal Act where it would impinge on matters of provincial competence. However, he questioned why it should not be possible to amend parts of the Act which are manifestly out of date.

The Chair stated that he understood the point but repeated that the primary objective was to get the Board up and running. He acknowledged the problems with the principal Act and suggested that these be mentioned in the report.

Mr Bouwer noted that it was desirable to amend the definition of 'local government' and that this was possible as it is not a matter of provincial legislative competence.

It was agreed that the report should suggest a substantial review of the Act and that the definition of 'administrator' would not be altered. The Chair returned to whether the political members of the Board were to be party members or political appointees.

Mr Kilian remarked that in order to give the board more clout the members should be political office-bearers. The Chair questioned whether the Board needed to be so political and whether technical members should not sit together with political members. He remarked that the Emergency Services Institute should surely be represented.

Mr Bouwer responded that in practice the Board would draw in technical advise when necessary. Mr F Beukman (NNP) remarked that if technical members were included, a 'new animal' would be created. The Chair noted that there is already provision for non-political members and that the question was whether to provide for more. Ms Borman repeated the call for the Emergency Services Institute to be represented given the purpose of the Board.

Mr Kilian remarked that it was perhaps an oversight to have stated outright that the Board would comprise political members. He repeated the Chair's observation that there are non-political members included. He made the point that the Services Institute had been consulted and that it had indicated that it was satisfied with being involved in the technical committees.

The Chair raised the question of costs and suggested that having a technical committee would be more expensive. He proposed that a decision be made the following day on the basis of the suggestions to include a representative from the Services Institute or one more person.

The Chair drew the members' attention to the Memorandum. He stated that the first paragraph does not provide sufficient justification for reconstituting the Board. He questioned in what way the Board was not representative and found the final sentence of the first paragraph exceedingly amusing. He suggested that this paragraph be expanded and requested the department to come back with a new formulation.

The Chair summarised what had been decided - the definition of 'administrator' would remain, the phrase 'Minister (or Department) responsible for Local and Provincial Government' would be adopted and an alternative draft adding another member to the Board and revising the Memorandum should be formulated.

Mr Selfe requested that the draft report be made available to members ahead of time. He remarked that the Board should have ministerial input regarding standards and policy but that ideally the Board should come to Parliament.

The Chair adjourned the meeting at 10h30 noting that it would meet the following day.


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