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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.
LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE SELECT COMMITTEE
18 September 2001
ADOPTION OF REPORT ON HEARINGS IN MPUMALANGA AND NORTHERN PROVINCE
Chairperson: Mr S. Fenyane
Documents handed out:
Operations of Provincial Labour Centres and Adherence to Labour Acts: Report by the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises (Ms G. Abdullatief )
The Chairperson of the Select Committee brought up budgetary and finance issues as an in-house matter and the Members discussed the issue. The report on the public hearings conducted in Mpumalanga and Northern Province had been previously distributed to give Members a chance to go through it. It was suggested that the title of the report be changed to reflect the fact that only two provinces had been visited and the Select Committee adopted the report. The Committee then discussed the low attendance levels of Members at meetings and possible courses of action to rectify the situation were explored.
The Chairperson opened the meeting and stated that the agenda for the meeting was to examine and adopt the report on the visits to Mpumalanga and Northern Province. He proceeded to discuss in-house financial matters. He stated that the intention of the Select Committee had been to visit more provinces and present the report in the NCOP Chamber to debate the conclusions and recommendations. He added that they could not visit any more provinces because the Committee had insufficient funds and so the application to visit more provinces had been rejected. He stated that the finance department had given the Committee no breakdown of how the funds had been spent by the Committee and expressed his frustration with attempts to try and clarify the situation with this department. He also mentioned that National Assembly Committees were allocated budgets in excess of R300,000 per annum and added that he had raised the issue of budgetary inequalities. He stated that the priorities of the Committees were visiting the provinces. He stated that the report could not be presented in the NCOP Chamber and debated because the report comprised visits of only two provinces out of nine. He asked the Committee Members to explore ways in which the situation could be resolved.
Mr M. Bhengu (IFP) stated that if the Committee Secretary had been unsuccessful in obtaining an explanation of the Committee's finances from the finance department, the Committee should write a report to be discussed with this department.
Mr L. Lever (DP) stated that the groundwork had to be prepared first. He stated that the Committee should approach the Chair of NCOP with documentation of the Committee's correspondence with the finance department. He added that, according to him, that was the only viable course of action open to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked if there was consensus on this course of action and the Committee Members approved the suggestion.
The Committee Secretary, Gadija Abdullatief, stated that other NCOP committees had similar problems with finance department and added that clarification of the Committee's spending was not enough. She suggested that the Committee should motivate for an increase in their budget.
Ms C. Botha (DP) stated that the finance department was being unclear and felt that the Committee should obtain clarifications on the issue from this department.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee should ask for an increase in its budget as well as a breakdown of the Committee's spending. He proceeded to the issue for today.
Report on Public Hearings in Mpumalanga and Northern Province
The Chairperson stated that the report on the public hearing in Mpumalanga and Northern Province had been distributed to Committee Members via their emails and mail boxes on Thursday, 13 September 2001, in order to give them a chance to examine the report prior to the meeting. He suggested that the Committee should examine the report and adopt it.
Ms Botha asked why the report was being examined if the initiative had not been completed.
The Chairperson stated that the report was necessary as a process of accounting for how the Committee spent the funds. He stated that the writing and adopting of reports was standard procedure.
Mr Lever stated that the report was merely a representation of what transpired on the visits to the provinces and since the Committee was not making any recommendations based on the report, he moved that the report be adopted.
Ms Botha expressed her agreement with the contents of the report, but suggested that the title be changed to reflect the fact that the Committee visited only two provinces.
The Chairperson asked if there were any other amendments and suggestions. He stated that the report was neutral and reflected what actually transpired.
There were no further suggestions so the Chairperson accepted the adoption of the report.
Discussion of Poor Attendance of Select Committee Meetings
The Chairperson stated that there were no further items on the agenda and proceeded to discuss the poor attendance of Committee Members at meetings. He expressed his frustration with the issue and stated that he had written a report to the head of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to explain the problem and suggest how it could be solved. He stated that the head of the NCOP had tried to shift members between the committees to reduce the number of conflicts between meetings but this initiative had not made a difference as attendance continued to be poor. He stated that the current meeting had been especially scheduled to ensure that Members would not have conflicting obligations. He added that since there were only eight Members present, the conflicting obligations could not be the only cause of the problem.
Ms Botha stated that the current meeting did conflict with a Provincial and Local Government joint meeting that was not reflected in the Order Paper. She stated that she had to leave that meeting in order to come to the Select Committee meeting.
Ms M. Themba (ANC) suggested that the low level of attendance could be a result of the fact that restructuring of committee membership had not yet been completed.
Mr Lever stated that the problem was related to the fact that NCOP was seen as an appendage. He stated that when Portfolio Committees had to rush legislation through, planning and arrangement were no longer taken into account. He stated that conflicting obligations were a serious issue and added that the Select Committee should find out why attendance was so low. He stated that the informal arrangements might be part of the problem.
The Chairperson stated that the root of the problem was not in informal arrangements and added that informal arrangements were only scapegoats.
Ms Botha commended the Chairperson for carrying out his duties diligently and stated that the Chairperson was not responsible for the problem. She suggested that the Select Committee look to party leadership to address the issue of attendance. She stated that she had previously suggested that the joint meetings with Provincial and Local Government worked very well but her suggestion had been over-ruled as it would erode the identity of the Select Committee. She suggested that the Committee reconsider that proposal.
The Chairperson stated that he understood the sentiment.
Mr Z. Kolweni (ANC) stated that the informal arrangement for today showed the problem and stated that he hoped there would be improved attendance in the future.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee should not only hope but also strategise and actively seek solutions to the problem.
Mr Bhengu commended the work of the Chairperson and stated that the Committee needed to plan so that things did not continue along the present path.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their candid handling the difficult issue.
Ms Themba requested that the Chairperson write letters to the absentee Committee Members to ask them to answer for their absences.
The Chairperson stated that he had written a letter to the Chief Whip and asked that he follow up the matter. He stated that the courses of action open to him were limited and added that certain things were beyond his capacity as Chairperson.
Mr Kolweni stated that assigning of Committee Whips was part of restructuring of committees and he added that Committee Whips might help solve the problem.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee Members would be kept up to date on the communications with the finance department and the meeting was adjourned.
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