Research on Chapter 9 Institutions: briefing by Research Institutes

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Meeting report

Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of State Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy and the Public Service Commission

25 October 2006

Chairperson: Prof A Asmal (ANC)

Relevant documents:
HSRC presentation on Evaluation of Chapter Nine Institutions
Corder Report

Final Report by Ad Hoc Committee on Oversight and Accountability

Three organisations, Human Sciences Research Council, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa and the University of Cape Town briefed the Committee on their investigations into the performance of Chapter Nine Institutions. HSRC and IDASA gave brief presentations on where their work would focus and when they intended to deliver final reports. UCT was already into its investigation and reported back on a few of its findings so far.

Human Sciences Research Council presentation

Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana, Senior Research Specialist, explained that the HSRC would focus on the Office of the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality. They were looking at the relationship between civil society and Chapter Nine institutions, working from a premise that widespread engagement with civil society was necessary. He said that they hoped to have their final draft out by mid-December (see document).
Ms C Johnson asked if the HSRC would touch on operational issues, such as the human resources department and the budget of these Chapter Nine institutions or just deal with client relationships.

Dr Ndletyana replied that in general they would not focus on operational issues. However, if it did have some significant impact, then of course they would.

Chairperson Asmal noted the HSRC premise that Chapter Nine institutions needed to engage with civil society and asked what was the legal or constitutional basis for this premise. Ms M Smuts seconded the question and also asked if the mandate necessitated that relationship. This was the central question. Was it necessary for Chapter Nine Institutions to take questions from the public?

The Chair spoke about the need to include looking at the legislative obligation to engage with civil society. Would the engagement with the public include not only organised civil society, but also the public in general?

Dr Ndletyana replied that the HSRC believed that it was only logical that there should be a need for civil society to join in. He said that they would be able to contribute more and may create increased accountability. Different aspects of public engagement meant both the public in general and organised civil society.

Ms S Rajbally asked where the Chapter Nine Institutions were based and were they close to the community. The Chair replied that this question would be answered in the Committee’s closed session.

IDASA presentation
Ms Shameela Seedat, a Senior Researcher, noted that IDASA was at a very preliminary stage of their work so far. Their intended focus topics would include the interaction between the Chapter Nine Institutions and Parliament and the interaction between the Institutions and the Executive branch of the South African government. They hoped that their research would strengthen the complementary oversight role of Parliament and Chapter Nine Institutions. IDASA also noted that the Chapter Nine Institutions were not operating at their optimal level. IDASA hoped to produce a report by the end of January 2007.

Ms Smuts said that it appeared that IDASA "had got it spot on". She asked what Commissions would they be examining specifically.

Ms Seedat replied that they intended to research the ones that had been most problematic, which might include all or most of the Chapter Nine Institutions.

UCT Law Faculty presentation
Ms Yoni Hoffman-Wanderer, a researcher, said that they were working on identifying the challenges that the Chapter Nine Institutions face. Their work would focus on budgetary matters and annual reports and investigate the relationship between Parliament and the Chapter Nine Institutions. They would thus include an overview of the work of the Chapter Nine Institutions and identify where they are going wrong. UCT outlined three important areas in their work: transformation, accountability and challenges. Ms Hoffman-Wanderer gave examples of their work so far which included government language/communication policy and ICASA’s closing of a transmitter which effectively limited the freedom of the media.

Ms Hoffman-Wanderer said that several Chapter Nine Institutions had reported to government departments and other institutions about problems that they had identified but there was no follow-through and nothing happened to their reports and recommendations. There was thus an obvious problem with their reporting and feedback mechanism. She said that it also appeared that the institutions in question lack authority and expertise. Their mandates appeared to be well created but perhaps not understood properly. They should also operate completely independently. Their accessibility should be improved considering that South Africa is a large country and has many rural areas. They had examined from where the institutions got their funding and it had shown that heavy reliance on donor funding affected the availability of their services and also narrowed their agenda.

Parliamentary Research Unit presentation
Dr Leon Gabriel, Head of the Parliamentary Research Unit, briefed the Committee and the groups present on Parliament's work on this subject. He mentioned the Corder Report, the 2002 Final Report of the Joint Rules Committee's Ad Hoc Joint Sub-Committee on Oversight and Accountability and the work of the Task Team on Oversight that had been created to carry out the recommendations of that report. They would need to check on the research work commissioned by the Task Team on Oversight.

Dr Gabriel encouraged the research organisations present that it would be in order to go beyond the eight Chapter Nine Institutions, as Parliament was doing, and look at statutory bodies doing similar work to the Chapter Nine Institutions.

The meeting was adjourned.


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