A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
Meeting reportPROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 October 2007
POLICY REVIEW ON PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT; LOCAL GOVERNMENT LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: FINALISATION
Chairperson: Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Local Government Laws Amendment Bill[B 28B-2007] Portfolio Committee Amendments Incorporated into Bill
Local Government Laws Amendment Bill[B 28A-2007] Portfolio Committee Amendments
Local Government Laws Amendment Bill [B28-2007]
Proposed Amendments (as voted on)
DPLG Presentation: Policy Process on the System of Provincial and Local Government
Policy process on system of Provincial and Local Government: Policy questions, process and participation
The 65 questions for public comment
Remarks by Director General on White Paper Process as of 31 July 2007
Policy Process Powerpoint Presentation by DPLG Director-General as of 31 July 2007
The Committee finalised the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill after much discussion about the addition of Clause 7(5)(d) on the allocation of funding to ward committees. Concerns were also raised about the accountability of ward committee spending. The Committee adopted the Bill as amended with the Democratic Alliance abstaining from voting.
The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) briefed the Committee on the policy review of the system of Provincial and Local Government as mandated by a January 2007 Cabinet Lekgotla. The review process was characterised by two elements: comprehensive empirical research and extensive public engagement. In late July 2007, 65 questions had been published for public comment. It was anticipated that a Green Paper on Provincial Government and a Discussion Document on Local Government would be ready by December 2007. The White Paper on Provinces together with an Review report on Local Government was planned to be ready by mid 2008. In response, Members were concerned about the tight timeframes of this “crucial” process.
Local Government Laws Amendment Bill
The Department delegation comprised of Mr Elroy Africa (Deputy Director-General: Systems and Capacity Building), Ms Veronica Mafolo (Senior Manager: Equitable Share & Physical Transfers), Mr Myron Peters (Executive Manager: Local Governmental Institutions & Administrative Systems), Mr Mzilikazi Manyike (Chief Director: Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations) and Ms V Zini (Legal Services). Mr M Ncolo represented the Office of the State Law Advisor.
At the outset of the meeting, Mr W Doman (DA) pointed out that the Department had not addressed the concerns that had been raised in the submissions of AgriSA, Mandela Bay Municipality and the concerns of trade unions over Clause 20.
The Chair said that the Committee would nevertheless proceed with the Bill as it was scheduled for debate in the House on Thursday 18 October 2007.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) agreed that the Bill should be dealt with as speedily as possible.
Mr Manyike responded that AgriSA had not raised new issues in response to the Bill. The same policy issues had been raised when the principal act had been processed. He also noted that some of the issues of Mandela Bay Municipality had already been addressed.
Mr Peters referred to the concerns of the trade unions over Clause 20 and stated that municipalities would not be exempted in every instance. It only applied to a specific situation. He said that the clause was forward looking and removed legal impediments to the process.
Mr Doman noted that Parliament in Clause 20 was giving the Minister the power to exempt municipalities on policies that Parliament itself had prescribed to municipalities. He asked if it was constitutional.
Mr Peters said that there was a difference between exemptions and supervision. He reserved further comment and said that the legal team would comment further on the issue.
Mr Doman wanted it to be placed on record that he disagreed with the Bill being placed on the Order Paper for debate in the House prior to the Committee’s work on the Bill being completed. The House should wait on the Committee to finish its work on the Bill before setting a date for plenary debate.
The Chair said that the Committee agreed that the House should debate a Bill only after a committee had finalised it. Present circumstances however required the Bill to be finalised by the Committee before the scheduled debate in the House as it had to be considered by both the National Assembly and the NCOP.
The Chair also noted that the Department had not drafted a subclause (5)(d) for Clause 7 as had been requested by the Committee in the previous meeting.
Mr M Likotsi (APC) asked why the financial year-end of municipalities was not aligned with the national financial year-end.
Mr Manyike said that the municipal financial year ends 31 March and national financial year ends 30 June. The reason for the difference in timing relate to issues of planning. If the two financial years were to be aligned, it could worsen the problems already experienced by municipalities.
The State Law Advisers together with the Department had in the meantime drafted two possibilities for consideration on the proposed addition of a Clause 7(5)(d).
Mr Ncolo read out the two possibilities. The Committee took a ten-minute break to discuss the formulations.
When the meeting reconvened Ms Vini spoke on what had been contained in the Independent Electoral Commission’s submission. She said that the submission did not relate to the participation of staff members of municipalities in elections as was outlined in Clause 14. The submission spoke to the eligibility of candidacy and nomination of delegates. It was not the issue that addresses what the Bill seeks to achieve.
The Chair proposed that the Committee go through the proposed amendments as suggested by the Department.
It was agreed that Clause 6 would be rejected.
The Chair asked if there were any comments on the two formulations for the proposed addition of a Clause 7(5)(d).
Mr Mshudulu said that the ANC supported the first option as the second was too verbose.
Mr Likotsi said that the APC supported the first option as well.
Mr Doman said that the DA preferred Clause 7 to remain as it was without (5)(d). He felt the new amendments to be illogical and that the way Clause 7 was currently drafted was the way in which a bill ought to be written. Clause 7(5)(d) was unnecessary but if the Committee wanted it, the first option was the better of the two.
Mr Doman asked why Clause 7(a)(1) was being retained as it was only needed because of the existence of Clause 6. Now that Clause 6 had been rejected, what was the reason for hanging onto Clause 7(a)(1)?
The Chair said that Clause 7(a)(1) provides for an option. It was not obligatory. He referred to Clause 7 and said that administrative arrangements were not necessarily the allocation of funds.
The Chair said that he was not convinced that the options for the new Clause 7(5)(d) were in fact addressing the issue of ward committee funding.
The Chair asked the drafters to tweak the formulation a bit so that it would be to the satisfaction of the Committee.
Mr Mshudulu referred to Clause 20 and said that the ANC felt that the clause should be rejected. He noted that areas of consultation were areas of dispute. He emphasised that exemptions should be the outcome of negotiations rather than legislation.
Mr Doman supported the rejection of Clause 20.
Mr Ncolo once again read out a newly drafted formulation for Clause 7(5)(d). The Chair still remained unconvinced and proposed a formulation himself.
Mr Elroy Africa (DPLG) referred to the two options for subsection (5)(d) that had been drafted earlier in the meeting. He stated that Option 1 referred to resources and funds. Option 2 had to be in line with Integrated Development Plan (IDP) priorities of municipalities. Mr Africa explained that in current legislation, ward committees had an advisory function and did not make executive decisions. Any developmental work by ward committees would be done within this framework.
The Chair said that conceptually IDPs must be made up of ward committee plans. He felt that the formulation for Clause 7(5)(d) should therefore be correctly phrased.
A formulation taking into consideration all inputs that had been made during the meeting was read out by the Chair and it was provisionally accepted by the Committee.
Mr Doman was concerned about the accountability of ward committee spending.
Ms Mafolo noted that there were pieces of legislation that provided for accountability. There was however per se no legislative framework that addressed the issue of accountability of resources used by ward committees. Municipalities would be held accountable for resources used by ward committees.
The Chair said that Parliament could not be prescriptive to municipalities. It could only provide a broad framework for activities that municipalities were already engaged in.
Mr Ncolo added that when a ward committee was allocated funds by a municipality, the municipality would monitor the use of such funds by the ward committee.
Mr Manyike was concerned that variances were being made between the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and the Bill in terms of accountability of resources. He noted that the new Clause 7(5)(d) did not change the accountability issue. Things remained as they were. A mechanism needed to be found for the accountability of ward committees in the use of funds. He noted that that there was no conflict with the MFMA.
Mr Njikelana (ANC) said that municipal officials should keep a check on the accountability of ward committees in terms of the use of funds.
Mr Doman stated that the link with the IDP should be remembered.
Mr Africa said that there was a clear policy imperative to set aside resources in Clause 16 (1)(a) of the Municipal Systems Act. He also made reference to Clause 22 of the Municipal Systems Act. On the issue of accountability, the MFMA was not specific on how the allocation of funds took place within a municipality. It was the responsibility of municipalities themselves.
Mr Africa said that municipalities had to design their own accountability mechanisms for ward committees. He was also concerned with the current wording of the formulation that had earlier been provisionally accepted by the Committee in Clause 7(5)(d).
The Chair said that the Committee would leave it in the hands of the drafters to sort out the wording and the Committee would move on with the rest of the Bill.
Voting on the Bill
The Chair took the Committee through the Bill clause by clause. Most of the clauses were accepted without amendments. Clauses 6 and 20 were rejected. Clauses 7, 13, 15 and 23 were accepted as amended.
The entire committee with the exception of the DA accepted and adopted the Bill as amended. The DA abstained from voting on the Bill.
Policy process on the system of Provincial and Local Government: briefing
Mr Derek Powell, Deputy Director General: Governance, Policy and Research, and Mr Themba Fosi, Chief Director (Executive Manager): Intergovernmental Relations gave the briefing on the rationale for a review to assess current provincial and local government arrangements.
Mr Powell explained that in January 2007 an extended Cabinet Lekgotla had mandated DPLG to undertake two major governance policy review processes:
- To draft a White Paper on Provincial Government; and
- To undertake a Review of the White Paper on Local Government.
The process itself draws on the lessons of thirteen years of democratic governance practice, wide public consultation and comprehensive research, geared towards making policy proposals. Mr Powell stated that 65 questions had been released for public discussion. The deadline for responses from the public was 31 October 2007.
Mr Fosi gave a brief background to the process and a breakdown of service delivery successes from 1994 to 2007. The review process was launched on the 31 July 2007 when 65 questions were gazetted and published. The policy questions looked at local, provincial and national government, powers and functions, planning and monitoring and evaluation. The review process was characterised by two elements: Comprehensive empirical research and extensive public engagement.
It was anticipated that a Green Paper on provincial government, which will provide policy options, and a Discussion Document on Local Government would be ready by December 2007. The White Paper together with an assessment report was planned to be ready by mid 2008.
The Chair felt the process was crucial but that the tight timeframes would undermine public participation.
Mr D Montsisi (ANC), Chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, shared the Mr Tsenoli’s concerns over the tight timeframes. He felt strongly that communities should be given adequate opportunity to comment on issues that affect them. The Department’s deadlines seemed not to take the process further.
Mr Mshudulu was concerned about whether communities at grassroots level would understand what was being asked in the questionnaires, given that questionnaires were often very academic. He asked what was being done to make the questionnaires palatable to the ordinary person in order for them to make meaningful comment.
Mr Swathe (DA) stated that communities often complain about district municipalities. Communities were concerned that if the role of provinces in service delivery were to be removed, how would district municipalities be able to cope with service delivery? He asked if the policy review process would shed light on the issue.
Mr Njikelana commented that the policy review process focused on provincial and local government even though some reference was made to national. He asked whether there was not a need to review the policy on national government. He added that engagement with communities should be done in an empowering manner.
Mr Mshudulu felt that given the time constraints, the Department should together with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) come up with programs that were workable.
The Chair said that some of the issues raised by members should be answered by members themselves.
Mr Powell responded that the process was intended to be a participatory one. The Department was working hand in had with SALGA. He also pointed out that even though the deadline for comments was the 31 October 2007, it did not mean that consultation would also come to an end. Consultations would continue.
Mr Powell stated that the policy process was supposed to act as a catalyst. He noted the concerns over timeframes but said that the Department was bound by Cabinet mandates. There were many issues of content that had been raised by members which the Department did not wish to respond to.
The Chair noted that the policy review processes affected other parliamentary committees as well and that it would be discussed internally within Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.