The Committee was scheduled to meet with Home Affairs provincial managers but the managers were not given the go-ahead by the Director General to appear, and therefore could not attend the meeting. The Committee viewed the matter very seriously as it went against the constitutional responsibility of Parliament to scrutinise and oversee executive action. The Committee decided to meet with the Minister, as the political head, so that she could account for the absence of the provincial managers and the actions of the Director General. The Committee was supposed to meet with and approve the Department’s budget before its 4 June budget vote. However given the actions of the Director General, the Committee had decided to postpone that meeting until these issues had been resolved. The Committee also adopted its report to the Speaker on the Director General’s allegations about the committee members colluding with suspended department officials. Also raised again was the R2 billion contract for the Department’s “Who Am I Online” project that aimed to change the department manual processes to a paperless environment where all transactions would be completed online and in real time.
The Chairperson asked the committee secretary to read out aloud a letter from one of the provincial managers to the Committee. The letter informed the Committee that the provincial managers had not been given the go-ahead by the Director General, and therefore could not attend. The Chairperson said that it was very unfortunate that the managers could not appear and he viewed the matter very seriously. The Director General had informed the Committee during a previous engagement that the executive had decided that the provincial managers should not appear before the Committee. Perhaps the Director General as a civil servant was implementing a decision that had been taken by the executive; however it was clear that when it came to oversight and accountability, the decision worked against the work of Parliament. He asked members to comment on the situation.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) said that it was unfortunate to have this type of situation as the Committee had scheduled two days for dealing with the provincial managers. Parliament had been given the constitutional right to scrutinize and oversee executive action. It was therefore important to proceed with the interaction and establish the reason for the absenteeism of the provincial managers. In his 8 January 8th statement to members of the African National Congress, Jacob Zuma asked Members of Parliament to make sure that government performed and the executive were held accountable. The absence of provincial managers was a major problem, not to the Portfolio Committee but to Parliament. One could not allow a situation where a parliamentary committee was not given the necessary respect by civil servants.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) added that in terms of the Constitution, Parliament does not need permission from the Director General or the Minister on how to perform its duties. The minister as the political head should come in and explain herself. The Committee was not going to allow anyone to take away the power that was vested in the Committee by the Constitution. When the minister appears all the issues relating to the Director General would be raised. The matter should also be taken to the National Assembly.
Ms I Maars (IFP) agreed with Mr Morwamoche and said that the Minister should be called to account for her actions. The power was vested in the Committee to hold the Director General and the Minister accountable, and nowhere did it state that there were discretionary powers vested in others to decide who appeared before the Committee and who did not.
Ms H Webber (DA) asked whether the Director General was aware of what his rights and responsibilities were. The Minister should have explained to the Director General what his position and responsibility was. There seemed to be some sort of a vacuum in that regard.
Ms N Mathibela (ANC) said that the problem was not for Home Affairs alone, it was a problem for the entire country. There were many problems that faced the Department and it had been clear that provincial managers were not performing. The Minister should therefore be called into account. It was a waste of the Committee’s time for a situation like this to occur.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC) added that the role of Parliament was clearly spelt out in the Constitution, and the Committee had the right to summon anyone to appear before them. Therefore it was the Committee’s right to summon the provincial managers. The Committee should therefore ask the Minister to comment on what should be done.
The Chairperson agreed to call the political head to account for the absence of the provincial managers and the behaviour of the Director General. The behaviour of the Director General has been continually unacceptable, as he had continually defied Parliament. The Committee was supposed to have dealt with the Department’s budget on 3 May, however given the behaviour of the Director General, the Committee had decided to postpone the meeting until such time as the various issues had been resolved. It was a deliberate attempt by the Department to prevent the Committee from performing its oversight work. Given the problems that are faced in the Department, the 13 May meeting would be set aside for a meeting with the Minister. These issues needed to be resolved urgently, and the Committee would not be held responsible for missing the deadline for passing the Department’s budget. The Committee had not resorted to summoning people and if nothing was resolved on the 13 May, then the Committee would begin to summon individuals.
Mr Morwamoche made the point that the Department failure to report to the meeting, did not mean that the Committee forfeited the request for information on issues pertaining to the “Who am I Online” contract. The Director General still needed to inform the Committee on what the contract was all about.
The Chairperson noted that at some point the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) would be invited to provide information on the Who am I Online contract, especially due to the fact that it was a R2 billion project that the Home Affairs Department was running and was headed by a company which employed former officials of the Home Affairs Department. During the previous meeting, they had asked the Director General to substantiate allegations he had made to the press. It was clear that the Director General could not provide any evidence and the Committee had agreed to compile a report with recommendations, which would be forwarded to the Speaker. The Committee viewed the matter very seriously and members should look at the report that had been compiled and later make recommendations and adopt the document.
The meeting was briefly adjourned to allow members to caucus.
After caucusing, members unanimously adopted the Committee’s report to the Speaker about the allegations made by the Director General.
The meeting was adjourned.
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