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PRIVATE MEMBERS’ LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS AND SPECIAL PETITIONS STANDING COMMITTEE
05 September 2006
KELLERMAN PETITION: PENSION BENEFITS, REDRAFTING OF PROGRAMME, DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Ms M Mentor (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Letter from National Treasury dated 22 August 2006
Draft Programme Term 4
Draft Annual Report
The Chairperson reported back on a workshop she had recently attended, where comments made indicated that the role of this Committee was perhaps misunderstood. She had explained the role and achievements of the Committee. It was clear that only a small sector of the public knew their rights in regard to petitioning parliament, and therefore education was needed. However, many MPs also failed to acknowledge that it was their responsibility to sponsor petitions and to assist members of the public to exhaust all remedies to redress issues.
The Committee considered a letter from National Treasury relating to the calcuation of pension benefits to Mrs Kellerman, which the Committee had recommended and which was adopted by the National Assembly. National Treasury had suggested three options for the calculation. After discussion, it was agreed that Mrs Kellerman should receive the same benefits as if there had been no break in service by her deceased husband, Advocate Kellerman. The annuity and gratuity were therefore to be recalculated retroactively to the date of Adv. Kellermans’ death.
The Committee attended to other business. The programme for Term 4 was redrafted and submitted. Minutes of the meeting of 15 August 2006 were adopted. The Annual Report of the Standing Committee on Private Members Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions was adopted, subject to minor changes, and to the addition of an addendum on the non-availability of members for quorums.
The Chairperson wished to raise a matter to do with the Committee’s functions and role. A workshop was held for political parties, Whips and Chairs repositioning Parliament and redefining its role constitutionally. It appeared that the role of this Committee was perhaps misunderstood as the impression was that it never approved petitions. Mr D Gibson had defended the committee, explaining that the decisions could not always be made since the cases were not clear cut, and the Committee needed to look at a host of issues. She had explained the role of the committee and what it had achieved so far. She lamented the fact that the public thought they could petition Parliament only on service benefits, such as pensions. It appeared that only a particular group of historically advantaged people knew their rights and exercised them; it was essential also to educate those who were not so fortunate in knowing of their rights, and the fact that petitions could be made on any mattes. Many MPs failed to acknowledge their responsibility to sponsor petitions and were not helping members of the public to exhaust all remedies in order to get issues redressed. Therefore, whilst there was a broader need to educate the public about their constitutional rights, MPs must also assume responsibility.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) commended the chairperson on her input, which was of a very high standard. The workshop had been very informative. One of the major issues was how best to take parliament to the people in all nine provinces, rather than merely sitting in Cape Town.
Ms Mentor was proud that members took both this Committee and other Parliamentary work very seriously.
Kellerman Petition: Nature and Extent of Pension Benefits
The Chairperson reminded Members of the background to this petition. Mr Gibson had sponsored the petition by Advocate Kellerman’s widow. Advocate Kellerman had worked for the state for many years, then broke service to study further, but had worked for nobody else. The position was now that his widow’s pension was much smaller simply because he broke service in order to study for his Masters degree. His widow was now suffering as a result. The Committee had been sympathetic to the request. However, National Treasury had now advised the committee that money could only be withdrawn from the National Treasury Fund by way of an Act of Parliament, and therefore it would be necessary to promulgate legislation in order to authorise payment of the additional pension benefits to Mrs Kellerman. In order to finalise the matter Treasury requested the committee to advise the precise nature and extent of the pension benefits and submitted that three options were possible.
The first option would be to recalculate the annuity and grant retroactively to the date of death, so that an additional gratuity and arrear pension would be paid. The second would be to recalculate the annuity only from the date of death, and grant an arrear monthly pension. The third option would be to recalculate the annuity only and pay it from 2 June 2006, when the National Assembly had accepted the petition.
Ms Mentor asked members to consider the excellent service Advocate Kellerman had rendered to the State. According to the records of the State he never lost a case he handled. If he had not broken service to study for a few months his widow would be receiving the full amount. There was a young child, and there had been considerable stress caused to Mrs Kellerman over a long period in trying to sort out the benefits.
Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) agreed that there were mitigating circumstances and the additional gratuity and arear pension amounts mentioned in the first option would have accrued if Adv. Kellerman had not interrupted his service.
Ms M Maine (ANC) felt that the study period should not be regarded as broken service since it was akin to further training.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) emphasised that Advocate Kellerman had, after studying, returned to the same employer. She believed he was entitled to the full benefits.
The Chairperson added that Adv. Kellerman would not have been re-employed if he had not given good service. To her mind, the benefits were due in law, not as a special favour.
Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) proposed that the Committee accept the first option, as these amounts would have been received had there been no interruption in service, based on the seniority and qualifications of Adv Kellerman.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Committee must try to create a good balance for the future, and have due regard to Parliament’s aim to build a caring State.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) was of the opinion that it was normal to weigh options in favour of the beneficiary, not the State.
After considerable discussion Members agreed to treat this case as if the service had not been broken at all. Therefore, they resolved to approve and apply the first option suggested by National Treasury. This would mean that the annuity and gratuity be recalculated retroactively to the date of Advocate Kellerman’s death. Mrs Kellerman would receive an additional gratuity amount of approximately R495 693,43; an arrear monthly pension in the amount of R134 663,67; and an increase of R2 210,11 per month on her monthly pension.
Adoption of Minutes 15 August
The Minutes of the meeting held on 15 August 2006 were adopted.
The chairperson announced that the ATC report on the Magistrate’s Court Amendment Bill had been concluded, and signed.
Programme for Term 4
The programme was redrafted and submitted.
The Annual Report 2005 was adopted, subject to minor corrections and the addition of an addendum relating to the non-availability of members for quorums. The Chairperson commented that it was disappointing that many issues remained outstanding since some ANC members had often failed to attend so that there was a quorum. It was heartening that the situation was improving.
The meeting was adjourned.
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