Reports on Joint Subcommittee proceedings: discussion

Joint Rules

15 February 1999
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Meeting report

JOINT RULES COMMITTEE

JOINT RULES COMMITTEE

16 February 1999

REPORTS ON JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS: DISCUSSION

Documents handed out:

- Joint Subcommittee on the Review of the Joint Rules; Report to the Joint Rules Committee: Tuesday 16 February 1999.

- Joint Subcommittee on Powers and Privileges of Parliament; Report to the Joint Rules Committee: Tuesday 16 February 1999.

- Progress Report of the Subcommittee on Delegated Legislation to the Joint Rules Committee

- Final Summary of Budget Allocation – 1999/2000

- Budget Cuts

SUMMARY

Members discussed the following matters which included reports on joint subcommittee proceedings: car travel reimbursement, recipients for donated computers from Netherlands, airport parking, EU tender for computers, travel tickets for 1999, art pieces in Parliament, parliamentary monitoring groups, financial advisors and other consultants, delegated legislation, training and the preparation of manuals for new MPs.

MINUTES

Madame Speaker Ginwala called the meeting to order and commented how the tardiness of several MPs was causing disruption within the chamber. The discussion began with matters arising from the minutes of the most recent Joint Rules Committee meeting. The first issue concerned a disagreement about car travel reimbursement and the accuracy of the minutes’ reflection of this committee’s last discussion on this matter. Ms Seaton (IFP) explained that a recommendation concerning the reimbursement of driving personal cars to Parliament contained two parts. The first recommendation was that MPs should be reimbursed for driving their car at the beginning and end of each year. The second recommendation, proposed by the ANC, was that MPs should be reimbursed for car travel to every session. Ms Grace Pandor, Whip of the ANC, responded that the minutes from the last meeting are very clear and the correct view, decided by this committee during the last meeting, was that MPs should be reimbursed for car travel to every session. Ms Seaton disagreed with the minutes and said that if she had to, in order to ensure accuracy, she would bring a tape recorder herself to these meetings. Speaker Ginwala asked if any other MPs had views on this matter so as to expand the dialogue beyond the two MPs. After no response, Speaker Ginwala then asked the members with views on this option to draft their recommendations concerning car travel reimbursement and submit comments to the committee.

The next issue concerned who should be the recipient of donated money for computers from the Netherlands. Speaker Ginwala asked the committee if the Member Support Committee had made a decision on who should receive the computers. One MP commented that if the money were to be used for purchasing computers for MPs, the donor may view this as corruption. He continued that forwarding the money to schools is a reasonable request. Speaker Ginwala stated that she does not want to reopen the debate of where the money should go, but rather just wanted to clarify that the minutes from the previous meeting were correct. Ms Pandor said that the minutes were correct but Ms Seaton asked if a recording of the previous meeting was not available so as to resolve these disagreements. Speaker Ginwala agreed that a tape recording of the previous meeting is available and that it will be reviewed for clarification.

Speaker Ginwala asked if the committee had reached approval of the minutes yet, but the MPs responded in the negative. Ms. Seaton raised the issue contained within the minutes regarding trips allowed per year to each MP. Ms Pandor responded that the minutes are clear and correct. Speaker Ginwala asked if the committee had any specific corrections to make to the minutes because this committee does not have the time to debate every issue again. Ms Seaton stated, however, that she is very concerned with the accuracy of the minutes.

Continuing on to the issue of airport parking, an MP said that because of the budgetary implications of agreeing to allowances for travel and parking, additional budgetary information needs to be provided to the committee. Speaker Ginwala asked the Secretary if this budget information was available and the Secretary responded that he did not have the information yet. Speaker Ginwala emphasized that requested information needs to be provided after each meeting and the Secretary must act upon the recommendations of the committee for more information. Ms Seaton agreed that more budgetary information was needed and because of the lack of information available, even after the committee had requested it during the previous meeting, this committee would be unable to resolve the issue. Speaker Ginwala asked if then, because the requested information was not available, to stop this discussion and continue with the matters of the meeting.

The MPs then returned to the topic of computer ownership. Speaker Ginwala said that the Netherlands has agreed that Parliament can do whatever it wanted with the donated money because it was given directly to Parliament. Speaker Ginwala has discussed this issue more than once with the Netherlands and the computers can be made available to MPs. In fact, computers have already been made available to some MPs. Ms Barbara Hogan of the ANC said that she does not see much purpose in all the MPs discussing this issue now. She recommended that this committee should refer the matter to the Member Support Committee for discussion. However, Speaker Ginwala asked MPs to come forward with suggestions of how to rectify the advantage given to MPs who already have computers over MPs who still do not have a computer. Ms Hogan repeated that she thinks that this is an issue for the Member Support Committee to decide. Ms Seaton said that the problem of distribution lies within the individual parties because some MPs have computers while others do not. Another MP said that having a computer now is not necessarily an advantage since some MPs purchased their own computers. Mr Johnny De Lange of the ANC said that this issue of who has a computer and who does not is already a conflict within Parliament and should be decided within each respective party. Another member added that there is also the issue of MPs who have spent money of repairing computers.

Regarding the EU tender for the purchase of computers, Speaker Ginwala explained that the Evaluation Committee made a response on the tender after being asked to determine the three least expensive options. However, the Evaluation Committee did not take into account the cost of warranties. Therefore, its determination of the three least expensive companies was not accurate. Speaker Ginwala emphasized that computers from this tender will not be available in the lifetime of this Parliament but that in regards to the new Parliament, obtaining computers from other aid agencies has been discussed. A member stated that in light of the fruitless negotiations with the EU, this committee needs to follow the Member Support Committee’s recommendation that Parliament needs to equip MPs with computers. Mr Gerhardus Oosthuizen, Whip of the NP, made the comment that the computers belong to the parties and not the individual MPs. Speaker Ginwala corrected Mr Oosthuizen by clarifying that the computers do not belong to parties but rather belong to Parliament. She emphasized once again to not reopen the minutes for discussion. Ms Hogan added that this is an issue for the Member Support Committee to decide. Dr. Jean Benjamin of the ANC said that the principle has already been decided that Parliament needs to provide MPs with computers as part of a basic working environment and therefore, Parliament should no longer rely on the arrival of donor funds. Speaker Ginwala asked the committee for a specific directive on what to do next in regards to the computer issue. Ms Seaton responded that because MPs are in such desperate need of equipment, of course donor funds should be pursued as an option.

On the issue of computer insurance, Speaker Ginwala said that she does not want to debate that issue in this committee but will include it with further computer discussions.

Moving to the issuance of travel tickets for 1999, Speaker Ginwala clarified that MPs only receive tickets when travelling on official business. The same travel rules apply to presiding officers as they do to the executive officers. Dr. Kisten Rajoo of the IFP explained that many trips are taken by IFP MPs living outside the Western Cape area and problems are subsequently arising where MPs are not aware of changes in travel rules. In some cases, IFP MPs have had to pay for tickets themselves, with some tickets costing over R1000. Ms Hogan said that the Member Support Committee needs to calculate the precise number of tickets allotted per MP. Ms Seaton responded that 60 tickets need to be issued to each MP because that was what was decided previously by this committee. Mr Oosthuizen said that, at the minimum, MPs should be provided weekly return tickets and emphasised the importance of a MP’s freedom of travel. An ANC MP commented that this discussion seems to be going in circles and asked if anyone could propose a manner of handling the allocation of tickets. Ms Hogan explained the process of issuing tickets on a five month period. Twenty-eight (28) tickets would be allocated every five months.

Speaker Ginwala commented how she found it "strange" that the entire debate regarding tickets was redundant of previous discussions. When asked by the Speaker if any problems of issuing tickets were foreseeable, the Secretary responded in the negative and also added that two weeks would be needed to print the tickets.

Final comments regarding the ticket issue included Mr Oosthuizen’s concern that by not allowing the rollover of unused tickets into the next five month period, MPs who conserve tickets are being penalized. Mr De Lange added that the question of a quota must be decided upon by the Member Support Committee. Ms Seaton said that taking into consideration that this committee had previously decided upon 60 tickets as adequate for MPs to perform their jobs, whomever made the decision to cut the quota back to 56 tickets per year needs to find another place to cut the budget. Speaker Ginwala concluded the discussion by stating that 28 tickets per MP are available until March and that the details will be worked out in the Member Support Committee.

Moving on to the topic of MP training and the preparation of manuals for new MPs, Speaker Ginwala said that these should be finalised by the party whips as soon as possible. No one had any comment regarding this issue.

The report from the Joint Subcommittee on Internal Arrangements discussed the retrieval of art pieces in Parliament. A policy needs to be established to decide what to do with the art pieces and the procedures for lending such pieces to requestors. Also, many of the art pieces on the wall are temporary. The caucuses have been asked to deliberate on this issue and return to this subcommittee with concrete proposals fairly soon.

The report continued to recommend that parliamentary monitoring groups receive no special privileges. All parties to the Internal Arrangements Committee agreed on this and when Speaker Ginwala asked this committee, MPs agreed as well.

Regarding catering in Parliament, since 1996, this has been a serious budget issue. The cost of catering now is too high and unaffordable to Parliament. A report has been prepared that inspects the need for five course meals when guests are visiting, individual bars for MPs, and the choice of three meals of the menu. After much chuckling about the importance of individual bars for MPs, this committee agreed to table the report and take the issue of catering to the caucuses.

Speaker Ginwala gladly announced that the meeting had reached the conclusion of matters arising under the minutes from the last meeting and asked to move on to the agenda. Ms Hogan began the discussion of the budget. She explained that the Committee for the Budget had agreed upon R381 million for 1999-2000. However, this figure exceeds the Department of State Expenditure’s figures and in late November, the Department of State Expenditure issued a revised guideline reducing the budget to R341 million. Included in the administrative budget cuts, 54 vacant posts have been eliminated, computer equipment for the committee sector has been cut, and R6.243 million has been cut in the administration budget.

Mr De Lange said that regarding the budget, there really are no options to discuss since the cuts need to be made. Therefore, this should be the full extent of the discussion unless a MP can show another place to cut in its place. Ms Hogan said that the Minister is not sure if Parliament will sit less or work more because of the pending elections. If any increase in spending is necessary, adjustment estimates will be needed. However, the Budget Committee has not yet approved this budget and further information is being looked at by the committee.

The report from the Member Support Committee reopened the discussion on the tender for the computers and the issuance of tickets. Because Speaker Ginwala had already closed this discussion, the report did not expand on the issue. The report did mention that booklets have been sent to the printers for the new MPs arriving after this year’s election. More information on these booklets will be available soon.

Another MP raised the issue for future consideration that the Member Support Committee seems to conduct work that is also done elsewhere. She raised the question for future discussion of whether this committee is even needed.

The report from the Subcommittee on Powers and Privileges of Parliament discussed the use of funds to hire consultants to produce a fairly substantial document that was provided to this committee. Speaker Ginwala appealed to all MPs to look at the report and the issues raised in order to provide political input. After review by MPs, this committee will decide if a debate is needed.

The report on Delegated Legislation discussed the hiring of a consultant to advise on what forms of delegated legislation should be handled by this committee. Questions posed included whether a central register showing delegated legislation should be made available to the public. A review of the delegation of legislation in other countries, such as the United States, Kenya, Australia, and the United Kingdom, was also included in the substantive interim report released on 3 February 1999. The conclusion of this report said that further research is needed in this area. A final report is expected by the end of February. This committee will discuss the findings in March.

Speaker Ginwala next discussed the third major study on the delegation of the financial commission. Consultants were hired to look at the Constitution and determine accountability of bodies that spend public money. A report on the concept of oversight was completed and circulated this week to members of this committee. Financial advisors were also hired for the next nine month period to advise MPs on how to manage their financial affairs. MPs were encouraged by Speaker Ginwala to discuss personal finance issues with these advisors. Advisors will also be creating training for the new MPs regarding issues such as state allowances and other financial matters.

After three hours of deliberations, Speaker Ginwala concluded her comments and adjourned the meeting.

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