The Committee did not follow the agenda but engaged in informal discussions concerning administrative issues relating to the functioning of the Committee. The adoption of the Reports was postponed to the following week.
The Chairperson informed Members that Committee Reports that were tabled last year were only seen in Parliament the previous week. Even though Committee Reports were already adopted last year, the public was only being made aware of them now. This was not fair.
The Chair also commented on the work of the Committee researchers. Their work was always punctual and of good quality and felt that they did not receive enough credit.
Many events had taken place during the Parliamentary recess but Members of Parliament had not been properly informed of them. Events were not properly communicated, as there was no coordination. A request had been made for a report on the communication process..
The Chair raised the issue of the Committee’s 2007 Annual Report and its Report on the 2006/7 Annual Report of the Department of Defence. He informed Members that they would have to meet again to discuss the Reports. He noted that he had not received any comments on the Reports from Members, apart from Dr G Koornhof (ANC). He requested that Members submit amendments by the following Friday so that the final drafts of both reports could be presented the following week.
Other Committee business
The Chairperson raised an issue regarding the capacity of the Committee Section. He queried why a dedicated portion of the Committee’s budget was not allocated for researchers. A research unit would have to be created with its own budget, as researchers were an integral part of the system.
Dr Koornhof concurred but thought that researchers and Committee Secretaries needed to be more proactive. He also suggested that a checklist be provided showing the Committee issues that were and were not dealt with.
The Chairperson requested that researchers circulate provisions. He approved of Mr Koornhof’s suggestion and added that secretaries and researchers could assist by informing them of outstanding issues that needed to be dealt with. A report from the researchers on this issue was needed.
Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) agreed that outstanding matters needed to be addressed. The institutional memory was non-existent. Also, there was no entity which checked whether instructions or recommendations given by the Committee to organisations over which it exercises oversight were actually implemented.
The Chair stated that this should be emphasised in the report that they would receive from the researchers.
Mr M Moatshe (ANC) suggested that Members should find out about certain activities, as it appeared that the public were better informed at times than the Members of Parliament.
Ms Van Wyk agreed that better communication and reporting was needed. The Public did not have a good perception of the government and those problems enhanced those impressions. In her opinion the major problem was the Committee Section, as that ould lead to problems in Parliament in general. She agreed that the researchers provided a good quality of information. However, she suggested that a daily briefing concerning defence-related issues be made available to Members by the researchers, as it would be useful and would benefit the Committee.
Dr Koornhof agreed that members wanted to be seen as involved and hands-on. It was important to retain the Committee researchers because they provided excellent work.
With regard to communication about events, Ms Van Wyk suggested that a calendar be marked with important activities and distributed to Members.
The Chairperson agreed and said that it would help if Members noted key issues or events to be involved in.
The Chair informed the Committee that they would need to decide on a date for the Defence workshop as the agreed upon date was not feasible. The workshop was important, as the Committee had identified problems in quite a few Annual Reports of defence entities. It was a question of changing the mentality of those organisations and correcting the problems. The Auditor-General would point out flaws but there was no commitment from those organisations to address the issue. This reflected negatively on the Committee, as it seemed as though Members were not performing Parliament’s oversight function. A closed meeting with the Minister about issues such as deployment was needed.
Dr S Pheko (PAC) stated that there was too much dependence on South African troops. Stability and unity of the continent could not depend on one country alone. The policy should be revised or
The Chairperson announced that the Commitee would also look at the Defence update as an issue.
He also asked Members to take note of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) issue as it kept coming up. The Committee tried to arrange a meeting last year but was unsuccessful. The NCACC had not tabled an annual report. This would be mentioned in the Committee’s Annual Report.
Mr Koornhof said that the Committee had written a letter to the Speaker but there was no formal acknowledgement of it. The NCACC was obligated to report to Parliament but it had not complied. The letter informed them that the Committee had tried to solicit an Annual Report. This issue was of concern to Members as it reflected on the Committee and Parliament.
Ms Van Wyk agreed and added that it was difficult when the defence entities did not support the Committee. This was a serious matter, as the Committee was not being assisted.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would contact the Speaker and that would be the last attempt to get the NCACC Annual Report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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