Members of the Committee presented the final mandates of the provinces on the National Railway Safety Regulator Amendment Bill to the meeting. Six provinces presented their final mandates in support of the Bill, although the mandate from the
The Department of Public Works briefed the Committee on the Built Environment Professions Bill. The shortcomings of the present legislative framework controlling the Built Environment professions was outlined, in particular that the current situation had arisen through fragmented planning and implementation of policy; autonomy in activities and planning which had an impact on delivery; a low level of registration; the lack of accountability and governance failures and barriers to access to the professions. The new Bill sought to appoint an overarching body, the South African Council for the Built Environment, which would have representation from each of the six professional councils, four government representatives, two persons from the Department of Higher Education and six community representatives. A professional Board would include bodies that would replace the current professional councils and would be responsible for self-regulation of the professions. The Minister of Public Works would take responsibility for the activities of the Council. There would be six professional groupings under that authority, but they would have some degree of autonomy. Their activities would be coordinated by the Council to try to promote and regulate inter-professional liaison, to determine strategic policy and ensure consistency in the application of government policy. Regulations would underpin the Bill, and there would be right of recourse to those who felt that they were being adversely affected by the professional bodies.
It was noted that prior to the Bill being tabled, and during the public hearings, some issues had been raised, including the question of the international accords, the extensive powers of Ministers, possible infringement of the Department of Education mandate, insufficient consultation, the system of peer review, fears about the lowering of standards, the exemption of individuals from registration and the emigration of skills. He noted that the Department had sought to address all these queries. The Department was adamant that the Bill would not result in the lowering of industry standards, and reiterated that transformation was not only imperative but would also benefit the country. The difference between this Bill and the National Qualification Framework Bill was outlined, and the transitional arrangements for the changeover from the old legislation to the new were outlined.
Members raised questions as to why the Bill resided with the Department of Public Works rather than the Department of Education, the regulations governing the industry, and the composition of the South African Council for the Built Environment. Members queried whether consultation on the Bill had been adequate, and what had been done to address the queries raised in correspondence from the Ministers of Finance and Education to the Minister of Public Works. Whilst Members agreed that the legislation could be critical to bring about transformation in the industry, they nonetheless wished to have time to deliberate the various issues and to see the correspondence addressed to the Committee, and would regard this briefing as the first stage in the process, which would continue with further deliberations.
National Railway Safety Regulator Amendment Bill [B32B-2008] (the Bill): Final mandates
The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming Ms Dikeledi Tsotetsi (ANC Gauteng) who replaced Mr S Shiceka (ANC Gauteng), who had recently been appointed Minister of Local Government. He also welcomed the special delegates from
He noted that a total of six provinces had presented their final mandates while
The Chairperson noted that the
Mr D Worth (DA,
Mr M Mzizi (IFP Gauteng) explained to the Committee that many issues had been raised in discussions on the negotiating mandate that had not been resolved, and that
Ms M Oliphant (ANC KwaZulu-Natal) said that her province had agreed to mandate its delegation to support the Bill.
In the absence of
Rev P Moatshe (ANC,
Mr N Mack (ANC Western Cape) said that the
The Chairperson said that it was clear that there was agreement among Members of the Committee, and six provinces so far had supported the Bill. He pointed out that at the negotiating stage, certain amendments had been proposed and the
He said that he had noted that
Mr V Windvoel (ANC,
The Chairperson then said that since five out of nine provinces had supported the Bill, he would propose a motion of desirability on the Bill, without any further amendments. Members voted for the adoption of the Bill.
Built Environment Professions Bill (the Bill): Department of Public Works (DPW) briefing
Mr Manye Moroka, Director General, Department of Public Works, indicated that there were a number of documents that he wished to table to the Committee. These were:
1) A letter dated 16 September 2008 from Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel, raising certain concerns about the Bill;
2) A letter from the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, dated 22 August 2008;
3) Another letter from the Minister of Education dated 11 October 2008;
4) A template to make it clear to Members of the Committee that the Department of Public Works (DPW) had responded to the issues raised.
He said that the letters of 16 September and 22 August had been received by the Minister of Public Works before she had presented the Bill to the National Assembly on 22 August. Therefore, these issues were already on the table at that time. There was nothing to suggest that former Minister Didiza was intending to withdraw the Bill before appearing before the National Assembly. The Bill was then passed by the National Assembly and referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
He noted that the bodies likely to be affected by the amendments were those who were calling on the Department and Parliament to preserve the current situation. However, the Bill had introduced the transformation processes to ensure that the profession became more helpful and beneficial to society at large.
Mr Moroka then tabled his slide presentation. He noted that the built environment professions had historically always been registered, and the regulation of the engineering profession dated back to the Professional Engineers’ Act of 1968. The primary reason for regulation was to protect the safety of the public and to set minimum competency and training standards. He pointed out that only six of the 20 academic institutions currently registered in
The current regulatory framework included over-arching bodies, which consolidated professional activities, transformation, the implementation of government policy and the protection of the public. The framework also dealt with self regulation, registration, accreditation of institutions, identification of work and a code of conduct for the profession and the upholding of professional standards. He presented a diagram of the old structure, which had since been changed.
Mr Tebogo Malatji, Chief Drafter of Legislation, DPW, told the Committee that the Bill sought to address certain shortcomings in the regulation of the Built Environment profession. These included fragmented planning and implementation of policy, autonomy in activities and planning that had an impact on delivery, low levels of registration, the lack of accountability and governance failures and barriers to access to the professions, especially by previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs).
The new dispensation aimed to address these shortcomings. It would appoint the overarching body of the South African Council for the Built Environment (SACBE), which would have representation from each of the six professional councils, four government representatives, two persons from the Department of Higher Education and six community representatives, who brought a public interest element to the body. A professional Board would include bodies which would replace the current professional councils, would consist of members of the profession and would be responsible for self-regulation of the professions. The maximum number on the boards had been increased from 20 to 30 to increase representation of the various professions in engineering, as well as the interest of the public and education.
The new structure envisaged the Minister of Public Works taking responsibility for the activities of the SACBE, under whose authority fell a further six professional groupings representing the professions of engineering, architecture, landscape design, project management, property valuation and quantity surveying. The Bill gave these professional bodies autonomy.
He noted that Chapter One provided for the SACBE to co-ordinate the activities of these professions as a whole, to promote and regulate inter-professional liaison, to determine strategic policy in line with national Public Works policy and to ensure consistency in the application of government policy. He said that regulations that would underpin the Bill would be similar to those existing at present, but would be promulgated by the Minister, so that the majority of all persons wishing to enter the profession would know what the requirements for registration were, thus ensuring transparency. Those wanting to enter the profession would also have recourse if they felt that the professional bodies concerned did not adhere to the regulations. The regulations would govern the standards of education and training, conditions of practice, names and titles, nomination of members onto professional boards and the process of bringing complaints against a registered professional.
Mr Malatji said that the policy was gazetted on 7 March, 2008, and public sector consultation took place on 2 April 2008. The time allowed for written comments was extended from 28 March 2008 to 11 April 2008. One hundred written comments were received. The Memorandum on the Objects and the Bill was tabled on 30 May 2008 and public hearings took place in the National Assembly over three days between 12 and 14 August. The comments made had been taken into account and had resulted in the Bill in its present form.
Mr Malatji said that a number of issues had been raised over this time. These included the impact on international accords, the extensive powers of Ministers granted in the Bill, the possibility of infringement of the Department of Education’s mandate, complaints of insufficient consultation, issues around peer review, fears about the lowering of standards that would affect the ability of engineers and other members of the professions to have their qualifications internationally recognised, the exemption of individuals from registration, and the likely impact on the emigration of skills.
Mr Malatji then highlighted points from the Memorandum on the objects of the National Qualification Framework Bill (NQFB) so as to distinguish these from the objects of the present Bill. The former Bill did not interfere with responsibilities of autonomous professional bodies to members of the public. The NQFB acknowledged that a professional body such as the SACBE had a responsibility to set minimum standards for education and training within a specific profession. Therefore, he believed that there was no conflict between the two pieces of legislation.
Ms Lydia Bici, Deputy Director-General: Policy, DPW, said that as soon as the Bill was assented to, a task team consisting of the representatives of the various professions would meet to establish regulations and would report to the Minister within six months of the Bill being assented to. The Minister would then appoint the Council to promulgate the regulations within three months. During the six month transition, the old Council for the Built Environment would continue to operate according to the old dispensation so as to avoid a vacuum. It would be dissolved as soon as the SACBE held its first meeting. It was envisaged that the new dispensation would be in place within 12 months of the Bill being assented to.
Mr Moroka said his Department had “gone out of its way” to ensure that all issues had been addressed. He assured the Committee that there would be no lowering of standards and re-iterated that transformation was not only imperative, but would also benefit the country.
Mr Mzizi (IFP Gauteng) asked why the Bill had been presented to this Committee, as it seemed that most of the issues were of an academic nature and remained within the educational sphere. He pointed out that the Department of Education had raised various queries on the Bill and he therefore wondered whether it in fact had anything to do with Public Works.
Mr Moroka replied that DPW had responded to all the requests for clarification by the Department of Education, before the Minister of Public Works made a presentation to the National Assembly on 23 August.
He noted that in fact these issues resided with the DPW and not the Department of Education, because DPW had a mandate to oversee the construction of buildings. The concerns raised by Department of Education about certain sections of the Bill were about issues which bordered on that Department’s competence. The amendments that it had requested in this regard had duly been made, and the DPW had responded to each and every issue raised.
Ms Bici added that the built environment had always been regulated by the Department of Public Works. She noted that once a student had graduated, he or she would then become the responsibility of the department that regulated and oversaw that particular industry. That was why anyone wanting to practise in the Built Environment professions would fall under the authority of the Department of Public Works. This department had a duty to protect the public by maintaining standards and ensuring that professionals had the necessary expertise and complied with the code of conduct. It also had to ensure that academic institutions which conferred degrees were suitably accredited.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC Free State) asked who had sought to withdraw the Bill.
Mr Moroka said that several people, including the Minister of Finance, had approached the former Minister of Public Works, Ms Didiza, who had apparently agreed to withdraw the Bill. However when the new Minister had taken over the reins, despite this request, she had gone ahead and presented the Bill to the National Assembly. He said that the amendments should have been done at Cabinet level. The DPW would welcome the Departments of Finance or Education coming to raise their concerns and would listen to these.
Mr van Rooyen asked who had raised the shortcomings mentioned, including the lack of accountability and the governance failures. He had a problem with the explanations given with regard to autonomy and activities and also felt that there were also serious problems with the composition and management of the Council. He asked what the rationale was of having one representative from each Board and four from Government.
Mr Moroka responded that when regulating the profession, the SACBE had to look to two interests; namely the public interest and the self-regulation of the profession. Six persons were from the profession, while those representatives from Government needed to be qualified professionals themselves. Thus, out of a total of 18, 11 members of the Council would come from the Built Environment profession while seven would come from outside, of whom one would be from the sphere of education, and the other six would be experts in other fields.
Mr van Rooyen questioned the consultation process, saying that a period of seven months was far too short for consultation on such serious issues.
Mr Moroka noted that at a large meeting with professional bodies in March, a consultation period of three weeks had been agreed to and a list of those who had participated was available for scrutiny.
Mr van Rooyen said the issues raised by the Minister of Finance were valid and the explanations given to the Committee failed to address these adequately.
Mr Windvoel accused the Department of arrogance, in that they had not sought to explain the various acronyms used in the presentation. He also said that the Committee had been overloaded with a number of documents and needed time to go through all of them and have a proper opportunity to respond.
Mr Windvoel said that there had been questions around the consultative process and he wanted to ascertain whether it was adequate. The issues raised by the Departments of Finance and Education were very critical ones that could not simply be shelved, but the Committee needed time to be considered. He also suggested that there was a need for further engagement to see which stakeholders had made submissions to the Select Committee, and what the responses had been. In addition to this, the regulations required further clarification.
Mr Watson said the Department had devoted time during the presentation to telling the Committee how everyone else had been wrong, instead of promoting the Bill itself. He commented that if the consultation process had been so good, then this raised the question of why these professional bodies had made these submissions to this Committee. He felt that the Committee and the professional bodies were perhaps being misled. He proposed that the Committee give other stakeholders and departments time to present their problems, and perhaps even hold public hearings, before reaching a conclusion.
Mr Moroka stressed that the letter from the Minister of Finance predated the presentation by the Minister of Public Works to the National Assembly. He noted that the DPW would have no objection in principle if the amendments being proposed were not made, but this would create a problem for society at large. He further noted that the DPW would be happy to participate in public hearings on the Bill.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentation. He said that Members of the Committee seemed to agree on the need for change and he said that the legislation before the Committee was critically important so as to bring about transformation in this discipline. However, having said that, the Committee needed time to satisfy itself that this Bill was in fact doing the right thing. This Committee’s responsibility was not to reconcile the differences between different departments but rather, as public representatives, to ensure that the interests of the public were safeguarded. He said that he had also received written submissions which Members of the Committee had a right to see.
The Chairperson said that most Members seemed to agree that the Committee should not conclude anything at this stage but that this briefing by the Department should be seen as the first step in the process. He therefore thanked the Department for the presentation, and said that the Committee still needed to decide how it should proceed. Many issues still needed to be clarified and other departments needed to be consulted and, if necessary, invited to appear before the Committee and to participate in public hearings. This was consistent with the Select Committee’s constant endeavour to provide members of the public with quality legislation.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Letter from Ms N Pandor MP, Minister of Education to Ms T Didiza MP, Minister of Public Works, dated 22 August 2008
- Letter from Mr T Manuel MP, Minister of Finance, to Ms T Didiza MP, Minister of Public Works, dated 16 September 2008
- Letter from Ms N Pandor MP, Minister of Education, to Mr J Doidge MP, Minister of Public Works, dated 11 October 2008
- Public Works summary of concerns raised by Department of Education & National Treasury to Built Environment Professions Bill [Part 2]
- Public Works summary of concerns raised by Department of Education & National Treasury to Built Environment Professions Bill [Part 1]
- Department of Public Works: Built Environment Professions Bill presentation
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