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LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
17 March 2000
INDEPENDENT COMMUICATIONS AUTHORITY OF SOUTH AFRICA BILL
After being briefed on the Bill last week, Mr Fenyane (Chairperson) stated the committee was ready to formally consider the Bill.
The DP argued that there should be a "cooling off" period stipulated in 6(2)(d) between when a person would be appointed as a councillor and when they were no longer subject to the disqualifications that were listed. Specific reference was made to members of Parliament, provincial legislatures, and members of municipal councils. It was thought that members of political parties who left office to work for the Authority would be seen as influencing the Authority along party lines.
Mr Tshongweni, legal advisor for the Department of Communications, said that they had had extensive discussions with the respective authorities, and interested parties and it was concluded that a cooling off period was not necessary. He doubted the possibility that a member of Parliament would resign from office to serve on the Council, adding that every person was influenced by the political process, not just politicians. The ANC agreed with the Department.
The DP questioned why the role of removing a councillor from office was subject to adoption by the National Assembly, and not Parliament. The same concern was raised as to the extension of councillors terms when appointed to fill a vacancy within the Council. The DP preferred "Parliament" as it was inclusive of both Houses. The ANC argued that the National Assembly's role in these matters was that of oversight, and thus not inclusive of the NCOP. The DP were not in agreement with the ANC's interpretation of the clause.
Finally, the DP asked for clarity on two issues. First, why the annual report would be submitted to the Minister, and secondly, why financing of the Authority and its financial statements were subject to the Public Finance Management Act. (PFMA)
Mr Tshongweni responded that the reports had to be submitted to the Minister because the Authority would be financed from money appropriated by Parliament. As such, the Minister's Department would be responsible and accountable for that money. The DP replied that if the reports were submitted to the Minister, the public would view it as interfering with the Authority's independence. Mr Tshongweni stated the involvement of the Minister was necessary since the money would be included in their Department's budget, but added that the Minister would not be able to influence how the money would be spent.
On the Public Finance Management Act, Mr Tshongweni stated that the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) was a schedule three entity, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was a schedule one entity in terms of the PFMA. It had been decided that the new Authority would be established as a constitutional entity under schedule one, and that its financial statements would be reported in line with other constitutional entities. The DP asked if they had attained the permission of the Minister for this Bill to "exceed" the PFMA. Mr Tshongweni said that the PFMA was applicable to this Bill. The DP refuted his claim, arguing that this Bill would amend the PFMA since it was not listed in the schedules. Mr Tshongweni said that if the Minister's permission was required the Department must have already attained it.
All members agreed to pass the Bill as is.
The meeting was adjourned.