Seaton’s Legislative Proposal to Amend Remunerations of Public Office Bearers Act 20 of 1998

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

19 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms P Mentor (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson and Committee vehemently condemned the xenophobia attacks that were happening in the country.

The Chairperson was adamant that this Committee was being referred to incorrectly. It was not a standing Committee, and she would prefer that the media be correct in their references.

Ms S Seaton MP had submitted a legislative proposal that sought to address the inadequacies of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act 20 of 1998. She had proposed various amendments to the legislation that would have the effect of allowing payment of gratuities and pensions to public office bearers under certain circumstances, and using more appropriate calculations. Ms Seaton made a presentation but noted that there were still matters to be incorporated. The Committee pointed out that it was unable to consider anything that was not included in the proposal placed before the Speaker, and similar attempts to amend another proposal recently had been rejected. The Chairperson regarded the issues as important and would not insist upon withdrawal.

Meeting report

Recent Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa
The Chairperson referred to the issue of the xenophobic attacks that were happening in the country, and, on behalf of Members, vehemently condemned such attacks and raised concerns about trends that indicated that these barbaric acts were probably spreading. A widespread call had been made for everyone to do all in their power to stop the attacks and she suggested that Members, as public executives, in their public engagements should ensure that they contributed to the cessation of such violence.

Mr H Bekker (IFP), speaking both for himself as Member and on behalf of his party, fully supported the Chairperson’s comments and noted that his party condemned xenophobia in the strongest terms and distanced themselves from it.

Committee Matters: Correct terminology
The Chairperson stated that the NA Table was confusing to the public and the media, as evidenced by what had been said the previous day in a mini media-conference. The media had referred to issues placed before this Committee as “bills”. In fact the Constitution made it clear that any Member of Parliament could propose legislation, and what this Committee considered would be a “legislative proposal”, not “a bill”, even if it was  drafted in the format of a bill.  She asked Members to communicate this to their caucuses. Only if this Committee had resolved that it was desirable that a legislative proposal proceed, would the matter then proceed, via the Speaker, to the House, and only then would the Member place what was now termed “a Bill” before the relevant Portfolio Committee. 

The second concern was that this Committee was not a Standing Committee, although the media were referring to it as such. This Committee was in a similar position to the Committee on Public Accounts.

Adv P Swart (DA) referred to the Special Petition of Mrs Kellerman and would like a report back on what the Committee was doing vis a vis the Speaker on this matter.

Seatons’ Legislative Proposal to Amend the Public Office Bearers Amendment Act
Opening Remarks
The Chairperson indicated that the Office of the Presidency had been invited but did not attend, as the Director General had indicated that someone from the Commission would be sent. Mr P Makapan,  Remuneration Specialist: Independent Commission, was present as an observer. She thought that the Minister of Finance must be invited to the next meeting.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) made some comments on engagement, noting that the Committee would be interrogating some important issues, and would not like junior officials to be sent. He suggested that the Chairperson spell out the procedures the Committee would be following, and stress that it would be dealing with issues of trust; comprehension and integrity. The Committee would wish to consult with persons who were able to take decisions, not those without a mandate or responsibility.

The Chairperson explained that this was done as a matter of course. She indicated that this was likely to be the only open meeting on the issue.

The Chairperson introduced the new Committee Secretary, Mr Disang Mocumi, and requested him to write to the Director General of the Presidency, advising that the Committee was disappointed at the absence, and repeating the invitation to the Director General or immediate subordinate to the next meeting.

She also said that if the Committee decided to invite representatives of the Moseneke Commission they would do so, although she pointed out that they had the right to attend in any event. She agreed that the Office of the Presidency and National Treasury would be key role players and senior staff were expected.

Briefing on Proposal
Ms S Seaton (MP) presented her proposal and motivation. She noted that the legislative proposal sought to address the inadequacies of the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Amendment Act 20 of 1998. She had proposed various amendments to the legislation that would have the effect of allowing payment of gratuities and pensions to public office bearers under certain circumstances, and using more appropriate calculations.

The full text of the proposed amendments was set out in a presentation (see attached presentation). MS Seaton read through the document.

In essence it was proposed that new sections 8A(1) to 8E be inserted into the Act. This would include gratuities in the payouts against the pension fund.

Ms Seaton noted that the proposal sought to substitute Section 8(1), insert Section 8A (which, basically, repeated the proposal that Members of Parliament had made to the Moseneke Commission), and insert a new Section 8A(1) in relation to gratuities. Here she stressed the gratuities would be paid after retirement or removal from office because of infirmity. They would serve as a supplement to the pension. In order to qualify, the member concerned would need to have a minimum period of five years of pensionable service. She then detailed the formula. She noted that she would have to revert on the definitions of pensions and salaries. 
 
In relation to the determination of gratuity, Ms Seaton noted that the illustrations being used were based on the original salaries prior to the 7.5% increase, and would be adjusted according to the existing salary scale.

Section 8A(2) stated that the total amount of the gratuity would not exceed three times the highest salary earned by the member during pensionable service. Section 8A(3) again referred to a five year period of service having to have been completed. Section 8A(4) had provisions relating to the rounding off to the end of the month of resignation.

 
The proposed insertion of Section 8B dealt with Pensions and their calculation. Section 8B(2) stated that a member completing five years of pensionable service would be entitled to one third of the salary as pension. One completing ten years of pensionable service would be entitled to two thirds, and after fifteen years of pensionable service would be entitled to one hundred percent of the salary. Section 8B(3) set out the position on death. and Section 8B(4)  dealt with severance. Section 8B(5) would be inserted to give the Minister the power to make pension payouts from revenue. 

The new proposed Section 8C dealt with suspension of pension payouts if the member were to be re-appointed into office.

A proposed new Section 8D (1) dealt with pensions payable to widows or widowers. There was a new Section 8D(2) to deal with the time periods for payment of these.  Section 8E would deal with gratuities payable to widow or widower, and set out the conditions. She reminded the Committee that the beginning of the presentation had also indicated what would also be payable to the widow or widower in addition to the pension.

Ms Seaton reminded the Committee that there were still matters that needed to be incorporated into the proposal.

Discussion
Adv Swart had some concerns about the mandate. He noted that there were to be further matters still incorporated. However, the proposal now before the Committee had come to the Committee in this form. Therefore it could not be changed by the proposer. This principle had been discussed with a previous legislative proposal. When the Committee was finished with the proposal, it would then go to the Speaker, and, if passed, would then proceed to the Portfolio Committee, who would be able to amend it in whatever way they deemed appropriate, placing these amendments before the house. If there were serious matters that Ms Seaton wished to change that could not be done while this Committee was dealing with the matter.

Mr P Gerber (ANC) agreed, saying that it was basically for the Committee to decide on the desirability of the proposal. Any technical changes to that would come out in the process.

Mr A Ainslie (ANC) pointed out that the government had set up an independent Commission to deal with the question of MP’s salaries and pensions. Proposals were duly made to that Moseneke Commission. The Commission, after investigating the matter, had rejected the proposals. They had after thorough investigations, rejected the proposals. He pointed out that the very same proposals were now being put to the Committee and he wondered how, if this Committee were to agree that they were desirable, the Chairperson of the Committee would explain the position to the President. He feared that this procedure could be seen as undermining the Moseneke Commission.

Adv Swart said that Ms Seaton, as a Member of Parliament in her own right, was entitled to put a proposal before the Committee. The Committee was entitled to look at it and were intending to call in the Office of the Presidency and the National Treasury to discuss the matter.

The Chairperson agreed that the points were very valid but premature, as they were effectively pre-empting the decision of this Committee.

The Chairperson ruled that the issue was important and the Committee would not be withdrawing it at this stage. She further noted that Ms Seaton would not be permitted to insert anything further. If there were further points that were not contained in the legislative proposal then she would have to extract them, but the Rules of Parliament did not allow the Committee to entertain anything not put before the Speaker. This document became part of the records of the Committee.

The Chairperson asked that Adv Swart and Mr Ainslie should investigate the part of the Constitution that gave rise to the appointment of the Moseneke Commission, and what the roles were in the process, and make this available to the Committee prior to the questions being addressed.

The Chairperson pointed out that the Preamble to the Constitution referred to people consenting to being governed. Any Member of Parliament had the right to table any legislation. In addition, Members of Parliament should also have a say in matters that affected them.

Ms Seaton responded that she had put this proposal before the committee on the basis of what the Constitution said. She noted that legal opinion had been obtained by the Committee that had been dealing with the Moseneke Commission. In terms of the Constitution, the Moseneke Commission and the Department set the upper limit of the contribution, but did not have to spell out what pensions should or should not be. The previous proposals, to her mind, were not considered. Parliament needed to do something to sort out its membership; legal opinion had suggested that there were rights, and this should be the responsibility of the Commission.

The Chairperson said the Commission was actually supposed to deal with the upper limit, and perhaps consideration should be given to whether there had been too much space given.

The Chairperson summarised that she would invite the Chair of the Commission, and that Committee Members should consider whether there should be a closed session. She asked Ms Seaton to copy her proposal to Mr Doidge.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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