The Department of Sport and Recreation was supposed to have presented its 2008/09 Budget and Strategy. Accordingly, the Minister was also not present. The Department claimed that they had received notification too late to make travel arrangements even though this had been sent on 25 February. The meeting to discuss the budget would need to be rescheduled urgently otherwise it would have an impact on Parliament’s programme. The planned workshop for 7 and 8 March would still go ahead.
Members were critical of the Department as this meeting was a fundamental tool in the budget process.
Another concern raised was the cancellation of planned events for school sports, and some felt this was an indication of internal problems. Members also raised the need for an urgent meeting with the Local Organising Committee for the 2010 World Cup, as they seemed to be making important decisions without consultation. A meeting was also needed with the South African Rugby Union, preferably before the upcoming Board elections.
Committee SADC Study Tour
The Chairperson said that a planned visit to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries would last for ten days during the April constituency period. In terms of representation, he said that there were no small political parties, and that all were equal. Some parties just had fewer members. In answer to Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) asking if the Members would need passports, the Chairperson replied that they would. The secretary was making all the logistical arrangements.
Workshop with the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA)
This had had to be rescheduled as previous dates had clashed with the visit by the French President. The main point of the workshop would be to have all the Committee’s questions answered, and to be briefed on SRSA’s plans. There were questions of human resources and the state of transformation in the administration which needed to be addressed. There was a range of issues to be discussed, including the way in which procurement policies could be used to transform the economy. He wanted to learn how far SRSA had progressed with various projects. The workshop would be based on issues. The venue was the Spier conference centre in Stellenbosch. Transport would be provided. The workshop would last one and a half days on 7 and 8 March.
All the Members of the Committee would attend. Also invited were the eight Chairpersons of the provincial select committees, and the eight Directors-General. The provincial departments received conditional grants under the Division of Revenue Act. There were issues on the Mass Participation Programme (MPP), which should be implemented in accordance with the Committee’s vision. Mr Lee had referred to MPP events being cancelled due to a lack of funds. These things could not be allowed to happen at the last minute. These must be budgeted. He wondered what had happened to these funds.
Cancellation of Agenda: Department of Sport and Recreation 2008/09 Budget and Strategy
Mr J Masango (DA) said that the Members were already in the room for this meeting when they had heard that SRSA would not be attending.
The Chairperson said that the postponement of the workshop had been discussed in three meetings. The original date had been 21 February, which had been postponed to 2 March. This could not happen then due to the French state visit. He was very disturbed that SRSA was not attending this meeting. The Director-General (DG) had only received the notice of the meeting when she had gone into her office during the evening of Saturday 1 March. The Chairperson had proof that the invitation was e-mailed to the Department on 25 February at 15h00. It had been sent both to the DG and the Parliamentary Liaison Officer on the same day, who had informed the Minister.
The Chairperson said that Minister Stofile would lead the SRSA delegation. As the political head, the Committee wished to engage with him on political issues. The Minister should not attend the Committee meeting if the DG was not present, as the DG was the Accounting Officer. The DG would also have the information on the progress of the Department’s various programmes.
He said that on 29 February, the Secretary had sent a fax of the letter of invitation to the DG’s office at about 12h00. Delivery of this fax message had been confirmed, but another copy had nevertheless been sent. However, the DG had only seen the invitation on Saturday.
The Chairperson said that the fact of the matter was that it would be wrong to get the Minister in alone when a deeper exploration of the budget issues was needed. SRSA was throwing the Committee’s programme out by missing this meeting. The Committee had a deadline to deal with the budget.
Mr D Lee (DA) agreed that the Committee’s programme was being thrown out. There were also other concerned parties, such as the organiser of the swimming event that had been cancelled. He had no reason to doubt the DG’s word, and she had been open on the issue of the swimming championship. He asked where the problem was. He was worried, as two things had now happened within three days. The sooner SRSA presented to the Committee the better.
Mr Dikgacwi said that he did not easily agree with Mr Lee, but did so on this occasion. Questions needed to be raised as things were loose in the Department. Coordination was a problem. Three fax messages had been sent, but it seemed the first one had not been received. SRSA owed the Committee an explanation. This was a sign of “business unusual”. The Department had to get its act right.
Ms Ntuli agreed with her colleagues. In a nutshell, SRSA’s actions were very unprofessional. The Department could not operate in this way. The Chairperson’s office should lodge the Committee’s concerns in writing.
Mr Masango agreed with Ms Ntuli. The Committee had to show SRSA that it was unhappy with the situation. He had seen the new DG at the last meeting. He was unsure if the Auditor General’s concerns were being attended to. The Department was not doing well.
The Chairperson said that the meeting scheduled that day would have reflected on these issues. It was up to the Committee to appropriate the funds, but they needed to understand the errors in the Department’s administration. In the case of Boxing South Africa, tremendous pressure had been put on the organisation and it had managed to come out clean. The Committee wanted to see things happening properly, and the issues would be raised with the DG and the Minister. They needed to interact in good time, and if possible could do so all day on the 11 February. There was time pressure on other days of the week.
Mr C Frolick (ANC) said that he had been bombarded with letters regarding school sport since the previous week. There had been a meeting with NACOC. The issue was directly related to SRSA’s budget. A circular 3/08 had been distributed confirming five major events to be held in March. Just twelve days later the DG had written to cancel all of these events. This raised serious concerns about the commitment of SRSA and the Department of Education to school sport. The circular, from the Chief Director on 16 February, had warned all organisers to be ready. Twelve days later everything had been reversed.
He said that he would not speculate on the validity of the reasons SRSA quoted for their failure to attend this Committee meeting, but it was imperative that SRSA come to the Committee to explain the situation. The budget was a long-term process, and answers were needed. The Committee would not let the issue slip. He feared a complete disbandment of school sport. If the money was in the budget, then SRSA needed the opportunity to explain and address the issue.
The Chairperson hoped that the Department would be able to explain. The person who was dealing with the matter at SRSA, Mr T Biyela, had taken indefinite leave. He was a Chief Director. He must have known that something was wrong. Either SRSA had not costed or budgeted for the events. The DG said that nothing could be done. He thought that a new person had gone to request authority for the transfer of funds for the events but found there was nothing in the budget. He would suspend his view until he had had the chance to meet with SRSA.
He wondered how this could happen in such a short time frame. The Committee would deal with the matter when a date was set. He would find a suitable date, but this would have to be as soon as possible. Parliament’s programme was urgent. He did not want to have to be the person to explain to the Chief Whip why the SRSA budget might be delayed. He would have to take the blame.
Mr Frolick said that the debate on the Sport and Recreation vote in the National Assembly could not yet be scheduled. The budget and strategic plan had to be presented to the Committee and interrogated. Furthermore, entities reporting to SRSA must have the opportunity to give an input. He wanted clarity on the authorisation of the cancelled events. He agreed with the Chairperson’s approach.
The Chairperson said that the meeting with SRSA must happen at the latest within one week. The latest date he would consider would be the following Tuesday, 11 March. The Department would have to go the extra mile. There would also have to be a programme of public hearings. The SRSA obviously did not understand the magnitude of the delay with the budget programme. He would also have to check on the availability of the Minister.
Mr Frolick asked what would happen at the workshop. If the Department could fail to attend such an important meeting, he wondered if they would not also fail to attend the workshop. This meeting was a fundamental tool in the budget process.
The Chairperson said that there were some uncertain lines of communication with SRSA. He would give the DG the benefit of the doubt. The workshop had already been postponed twice. They should not conflate the two issues.
Mr Lee suggested that if the issue was not discussed before the strategic meeting, it would make no sense. The Committee must see SRSA before going to the workshop.
The Chairperson said that the workshop would be a more informative and informal situation. It might be better to discuss the issue on a less formal basis at the workshop and follow up on these discussions at a more formal meeting later.
Mr Frolick suggested that the workshop should start with a brief budget discussion. The Department could perhaps make a one and a half hour presentation. There were a lot of idle hands at SRSA to prepare a presentation.
The Chairperson said he would try to arrange a meeting in the next two days. He did not agree with SRSA, nor did he condone their actions. They had not even apologised.
Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 2010 World Cup
Mr Frolick said that since the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 2010 World Cup had been put in place, the Committee had never had an opportunity to interact with them. Five ministers sat on the LOC, and held daily meetings at which important decisions were taken. On that day, a meeting was being held at Soccer City in Johannesburg to assign venues for the Confederation Cup. The LOC had to account to the Committee. Controversial issues were reported in the media, and the Members were reliant on gossip to find out what the true state of affairs was. He suggested that a meeting be held on a Wednesday. It should not be attended by only Danny Jordaan. He had never seen some of the people on the LOC, and yet they were making decisions on behalf of the people of South Africa.
He said that the Committee must prioritise visits to building sites, especially the new stadiums. There should be space for the public to see what was happening. There were official tours of the building sites in Durban and at Green Point. The Committee needed to make full assessments and should devise a checklist. Thick reports did not contain all the answers, but tended to brush over apparent weaknesses. He was asked questions in his constituency and by his colleagues in local and provincial government.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Frolick. Mr Bhoola and Mr Lee were picking up issues in their constituencies. The LOC issue was important, as there had been no interaction for two to three years. He thought that they had needed to get up and running, but there had been no contact for too long now. He felt that the Committee had made, and invitations to the LOC would be sent out that day. A full briefing would be requested. The invitation would be made clear that it was not just for Mr Jordaan.
Mr Lee said that there was a date on the Committee’s programme for May. He asked that this be brought forward. This should be done as soon as possible.
The Chairperson confirmed there was a meeting scheduled with the LOC. It did not matter if the dates on the programme were juggled a bit, as this could be done. This should be done as soon as the budget matter was finalised, and should happen before the April recess.
South African Rugby Union
Mr Dikgacwi said that there should also be an early meeting with rugby.
The Chairperson said it was scheduled. The Committee needed to start ticking off issues. The LOC meeting was more urgent than rugby.
Mr Frolick said that the rugby should be invited to the Committee before 20 March. The South African Rugby Union was holding elections at the end of March. It is likely that the Board would consist of new faces disowning recent history. He felt that this was the trend in rugby administration.
The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters.
Mr Lee asked if the suggestion of having an introduction to the budget on the agenda for the workshop on Friday had been accepted.
The Chairperson said that he would request a written presentation from SRSA so that the Members could read through it before the workshop.
The meeting was adjourned.
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