Finance Bill: briefing

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Finance Standing Committee

22 August 2000
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Meeting report

FINANCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 August 2000
FINANCE BILL: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms B Hogan

SUMMARY
Representatives from the National Treasury briefed the committee on the object of the Finance Bill which is to pass certain cases of past unauthorised expenditure and to close the accounts of the former TBVC and self-governing states. Members queried individual items in the Bill and discrepancies were also queried. The Bill was unanimously passed.

The public hearing on the Banks Amendment Bill has been postponed until 25 August.

MINUTES
The Chairperson, Ms B Hogan, said that before the committee could begin dealing with the Finance Bill, and while the clerk was determining whether or not there was a quorum, the committee would have to decide whether or not it wished to consider the Bill. It was agreed that the Committee would consider the Bill.

Mr Du Plessis, the Chief Director of Planning: National Treasury, took the committee through the bill, saying that the object of the Bill was to pass certain instances of unauthorised expenditure and to close the accounts of the former TBVC and self-governing states, declaring the remaining balances as unauthorised expenditure. This Bill represented the follow-up to a long process dealing with unauthorised expenditure. Clause 3 of the Bill dealt with the former TBVC states and self-governing territories and the clearing of their accounts as unauthorised expenditure.

Discussion
Mr A Feinstein (ANC) said that the committee had dealt with the issue of the TBVC states some time back and the large amounts of money which were involved, were indicative of what a mess it was. With respect to Schedule One of the Bill, could it be confirmed that in each case, the funds were actually paid across to each of the relevant departments? With respect to Schedule Two, why did each of the departments not pay the amounts referred to and what penalties would apply in future under the new Public Finance Management Act (PFMA)?

Mr du Plessis replied that it was on record that each of the Schedule One payments had already been made. With respect to the Schedule Two payments, these were only identified after the books had been closed in each case and were therefore unpaid. Under the PFMA, there was a new method for identifying unauthorised expenditure. Previously, the Auditor General would have to identify unauthorised expenditure, but now it was possible for the accounting officer of each department to immediately report unauthorised expenditure, resulting in a much faster overall process.

Mr K Andrew (DP) asked what the amount of approximately R100 000 listed under Schedule One for the Department of Arts, Science, Culture and Technology was for? Mr Marais replied that there was actually an amount of R227 000, which was unauthorised there, but that there had been an application for approval of R109 000 of that. The balance was for unauthorised travel expenses of the Minister.

Dr G Koornhof (UDM) asked whether or not the amount under Schedule One for the National Defence Force was due to be refunded to the Treasury? Mr Marais replied that, yes, it was due to be refunded.

Dr G Woods (IFP) said that the amount of R4.162bn listed in the Bill differed from the amount that had previously been reported. What was the explanation for this discrepancy? Mr du Plessis said that in the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to Parliament, the amount had been listed as R4.139bn.

The Chairperson added that if there was a discrepancy between what was in the resolution before Parliament and what SCOPA had recommended on, then that needed to be investigated further. She remarked that the members of this committee were monitoring the process with an eagle eye and needed to be congratulated on this.

An ANC Member asked whether amounts contained in this Bill were being forwarded to the Office for Serious Economic Offences? Mr Du Plessis replied that he did not have any information on the status of the investigation concerned. The Chairperson said that it would be useful to the committee if they could have the status of this investigation.

The Chairperson then informed the committee that there was indeed a quorum present so the committee could formally adopt the bill. The Bill was unanimously passed.

The Chairperson apologised that the meeting was so short. This was due to the fact that certain stakeholders had not been able to attend this meeting and so public hearings on the Banking Bill had been postponed until 25 August. She asked if there were any further suggestions for other people who the committee could invite to make submissions on the Banking Bill?

Mr K Andrew (DP) replied that perhaps it would be possible to have someone from the forensic department of the Auditor-General's Office speak to the committee on whether or not, from their point of view, proposals in the Bill would help prevent fraud. The Chairperson said that, that was a good suggestion and she asked Mr Andrew to approach the relevant people in order that they could make a submission.

The meeting was adjourned.

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