Committee’s Role in Department Budget hearings; Committee Programme

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Labour

05 March 2007
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Meeting report

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
06 March 2007
COMMITTEE’S ROLE IN DEPARTMENT BUDGET HEARINGS; COMMITTEE PROGRAMME


Chairperson:
Ms O R Kasienyane (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Budget Vote 16: Labour

Audio recording of the meeting

SUMMARY
The Department would present its 2007/08 Budget to the Committee on 27 March. Members were asked to prepare for this meeting. This led to a discussion on the role and function of the Committee in the Budget Vote Hearings. Some Members were concerned that this appeared to be a “rubber-stamping” exercise since the decisions on the budget was already taken. Others believed that the Committee should be involved at a much earlier stage and could guide the budgetary process by focusing the Department on certain priorities. This was a problem common to many portfolio committees. It was proposed that perhaps this Committee should take the matter further as a general debate.

It was announced that Umsobomvu Youth Fund had invited the Committee to attend a programme on the following day. Many Members already had other Committee commitments and meetings and were unable to attend. A representative of Umsobomvu was present and indicated that the date could be changed. Although this would involve cancellation and some extra costs, Members agreed that it was important to attend, as there had been criticism that Umsobomvu’s programmes were not visible, and as this matter should be addressed before the meeting with the Department. It was agreed that the programme be rescheduled for half a day on 16 March.

The revised Committee programme for March was tabled.

MINUTES
Committee programme
The Chairperson informed members that the agenda for this morning’s meeting had changed. Neither the Parliamentary Research Officers nor the Department of Labour would attend, as the Director General had asked for more time to prepare. A new date was set for 27 March.

The Chairperson stated that the Umsobomvu Youth Fund had invited the committee to their programme in Cape Town the following day.

The Chairperson summarised the new dates as follows:
Friday 9 March: Consideration of the amendment of the Constitution of the ILO. This was a priority matter. The meeting would commence at 09:30.
13 March: attendance by Department of Labour, and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund
14 March: attendance by Unemployment Insurance and Compensation Fund
20 March – attendance by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and NEDLAC
23 March – attendance by National Productivity Institute
27 March – attendance by Department and Researchers

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked whether the committee would be dealing with the document on Vote 16.

The chairperson responded that this would not be dealt with in detail, as the Researchers were not present. Members would rather discuss their approach.

Ms Rajbally referred to the changes in the Parliamentary sitting time, stating that the Committee’s programme would be tighter because of the constituency period from 19 March.

The Chairperson said the Chair of Chairs was aware of the committee’s programmes and even if there were changes the Committee would find time to discuss the budget.

Ms H Weber (DA) drew attention to the 27 March planning with the Department of Labour. She noted that there was a sitting scheduled on the installation of the emblem and asked if the Committee could be excused. She agreed with Ms Rajbally that the constituency week from 19 March would clash with some meetings and wondered if they would be rescheduled or if the Committee should come back for the two meetings.

The Chairperson noted Ms Weber’s comments. The programme had been approved. If members felt it should be changed, that would be arranged with the office of Mr Doige.

The Chairperson stated that this meeting would prepare for the budget hearing. She asked members to prepare themselves on the four separate programmes of the department, and that they ask the Parliamentary Researchers to assist them.

Mr O Mogale (ANC) proposed that individual parties should be permitted to deal with particular matters. It would be unfair to discuss it at this meeting.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) endorsed the proposal.

Discussion on Umsobomvu Youth Programme
The Chairperson stated that the Umsobomvu programme would start on Wednesday 7 March at 09h30. She asked which Members would be available, as it would be useful for them to be observers. 

Mr Mkongi agreed that Members should support the programme because it would give them insight into youth unemployment and the Umsobomvu fund’s programmes.

Mr Mogale agreed that issues around Umsobomvu were in the interests of all Members. However, information on this important oversight was only received today and many Members had other commitments already.

The Chairperson responded that the invitation had only been received after last week’s meeting.

Ms Rajbally conceded that many members had to attend other meetings, but encouraged those who were not involved to make themselves available. She tendered her own apologies.

Mr Mogale informed the Chairperson that a representative from Umsobomvu was in the meeting, and that the date had apparently been changed.

Mr Jabu Mvusi (Umsobomvu) informed the Chairperson that if some Members would not be available, it was possible to postpone the matter.

Mr S Siboza (ANC) added that Umsobomvu should in fact discuss suitable dates. He suggested that the dates be set after discussion with the Committee Secretary and the Chairperson.

The Chairperson asked Mr Mvusi in future to introduce himself to the Chair when entering the meeting. She noted that longer notice was needed to allow the Committee to prepare itself. She was appreciative of the invitation but noted that copies of the programme had already been made. She explained that the time of the Committee was already stretched.

Mr Siboza reflected that Members had shown interest and would benefit from the insight into Umsobomvu activities. Since there was a general criticism that Umsobomvu’s projects were not visible or known, Members should take the opportunity to attend, at a suitable date.

Mr Mzondeki assumed Members would not be having Committee work on the next day, but regrettably, due to lack of notice, only the ANC members would be able to attend.

The Chairperson was also concerned with that about that and suggested that Umsobomvu could be accommodated on Friday 16 March, so that Umsobomvu’s information would be available before the Department met with the Committee.

Mr Mzondeki noted that members had flights to catch to their constituencies on 16 March.

Members agreed that a half-day visit with Umsobomvu be arranged for 16 March.

Budget Vote 16: Preparation for Discussion
Mr E Mtshali (ANC) expressed his concern that the Department of Labour was to meet with the Committee to discuss this budget vote. The decisions on the Budget had already been taken, and the Committee could not change it. He asked what the purpose of the discussion would be.

The Chairperson responded that the Committee needed to check whether matters were attended to properly,  how funds were allocated to each and every programme, and give its views on the budget.

Mr Mtshali stated that this could only rubber-stamp the decisions already made.

The Chairperson responded that when the Committee engaged with the Department it would be asking how the last budget was implemented, so that the Department’s statements about allocations could be interrogated. The Committee would also engage on the Auditor General’s qualified report.

Mr Mkongi stated that he had a different view. The question asked was very strategic and went to the core of how Parliament dealt with the Departments. It was necessary to consider how the Committee could influence he Department in use of the budget and to look at the role of Members and their oversight. The Committee’s strategic planning process must consider how it would engage with the Department on prioritisation of the Department’s budget programmes, so that next year the Committee could check up on those issues and be in a stronger position. A strategic planning workshop would be one form of dealing with the matter.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) agreed. This was a matter currently being discussed by other structures in Parliament.  The budget process commenced a year before it was discussed and the Committee needed to consider how Members could participate. Members were not comfortable with the “rubber’stamp” approach and should be involved now in the budget process for the next year.

The Chairperson agreed. The strategic plan would talk about all the structures dealing with that.

Mr Siboza felt that the current budget process was an exercise in futility. He was critical about the fact that the Department seemed to simply be applying for support, and mentioned that this was a common problem across all committees. A real solution must be found.

Mr T Anthony (ANC) summarised that Members were questioning whether it was correct that they be taken through something that was already prepared and whether the Committee had the power to make changes in order to be fully participatory..

The Chairperson responded that the Committee was mandated to approve what the Department was saying.

Mt Mtshali felt that was not good enough. He felt that Committees should not be expected to be rubber-stamping. An effective process must start somewhere.

The Chairperson agreed that this was a concern of all portfolio committees, and perhaps this Committee should start the ball rolling. There were two days of strategic planning about changes of Parliament, and she suggested that perhaps political parties could meet and be guided and informed about these changes.

Ms Rajbally elaborated on the constituency week beginning on 19 March. In this week, because of the public holiday on Human Rights Day it had been decided to hold a constituency week.  Committee meetings would continue but there would not be any plenary sittings. It was likely that there might be problems in getting quorums, but Chairpersons would have to deal with this.

Mr Mzondeki said that this programme might change. 

The Chairperson added that according to the programme of Parliament the first reading on the Appropriation Bill was set to run from 20 to 23 March.

The Chairperson stated that the position would be clearer by Friday and she asked Members to try to attend that meeting. 

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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