Strategic Defence Package Submissions: Tabling; Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC) 2009 Conference: progress report

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

04 February 2009
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Meeting Summary

Submissions from government departments and external parties on the Strategic Defence Package were tabled. The Committee agreed to meet on 10 February 2009 to consider them, by which time sufficient copies would be made to supply all Members so as to give them enough opportunity to read them. African National Congress Members deplored the apparent tendency of the Democratic Alliance to politicise the Committee’s proceedings, and to imply that the African National Congress was delaying or obstructing the matter.  There was concern that there would not be enough time before the dissolution of Parliament for the Committee to complete its consideration. While the present Committee could not commit the new Committee to a programme, it was understood that outstanding issues could be carried forward to the new Committee. The Chairperson ruled that the Democratic Alliance Member concerned had consistently violated a Committee protocol by ‘going public’ without consultation.

Those present included journalists from Rapport, Die Beeld, and KFM94.5, whom Mr E Trent (DA) had invited personally.


Meeting report

Apologies were received from Advocate M Stephens (DA) who had sustained a broken leg and from Mr H Bekker (IFP) who was absent on account of work for his party.

Mr E Trent (DA) introduced Mr M Shah (DA) who had been officially appointed as alternate for Advocate Stephens.

Ms S Vos (IFP) introduced herself as the officially appointed alternate for Mr Bekker.

The Chairperson asked if these appointments had been formalised through the Speaker’s office.

Mr Trent replied that the DA’s Whip had informed him that Mr Shah’s appointment had thus been made official.

Ms Vos replied that the IFP Whip had informed her similarly.

Adoption of Agenda
The agenda was adopted.

Mr Trent asked if there would be the chance to discuss the Strategic Arms Package Submissions.

The Chairperson ruled that the matter would be discussed according to the order of the agenda.

Committee Programme for 2009
The Chairperson reminded Members that only the current week and the next remained. He said that, after dealing with agenda items 1.5 and 1.6, the programme would be further discussed. He added that the Committee to be appointed after the elections would decide its own programme.

Mr Trent proposed reserving two days in the next week (09 to 13 February 2009) for consideration of the Strategic Arms Package.

Mr P-J Gerber (ANC) said that the Committee had exerted itself in preparation on its hearings; he asked if the Committee staff could inform Members how many hearings had resulted in resolutions.

Mr G Dixon, Committee Secretary, with the Chairperson’s permission, informed Members that four resolutions were outstanding, including resolutions on the Department of Home Affairs, and the Land Bank.

Mr Gerber said that it was only fair to ask for allocation of time in the National Assembly for the House to adopt these resolutions.

Mr Trent asked if the Committee could meet briefly the next day, Thursday, 05 February 2009, in order to ensure that the matter was put on the order paper for the week 09 to 13 February 2009.

Mr V Smith (ANC) said that Thursday, 05 February would be a day already full for the ANC Members, and there would be a special sitting of the National Assembly in honour of two deceased Members of Parliament. There would be no time for a meeting of the Committee.

The Chairperson asked when time could be found so that the Committee could agree on a special dispensation.

Mr Smith said that it was necessary for the cluster to sit and finalise the resolutions before the holding of the plenary. There must be at least two sittings before going to the House.

The Chairperson suggested that the clusters meet on Tuesday morning, 10 February 2009 to go through the resolutions.

Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC) issues concerning 2009 conference Mr Gerber reported on progress. Hotels reservations had been made. Some 500 delegates were expected. A letter from the Speaker was awaited.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would report accordingly to the Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC) executive.

Strategic Defence Package submissions: tabling
The Chairperson said that submissions had been received from the National Prosecuting Authority, Armscor, the National Treasury, the Department of Defence, and other parties.

The Chairperson said that he had asked the researcher if these submissions answered the Committee’s questions.

Some ANC Members reported that they had only just received their copies of the submissions, and incompletely so.

Mr Shah said that the matter was of vital importance in view of the current political landscape and the undermining of democracy. The fact that the present Parliament was soon to be dissolved did not absolve the Committee from its responsibility to pursue the matter vigorously, which, if necessary, could be taken forward by the next Committee.

The Chairperson said that it was important to have an informed discussion based on adequate opportunity for Members to read the complete submissions.

Mr Trent agreed.

Mr Smith emphasised the need for sufficient time to be allowed to study the submissions, especially in view of the two Members who were new to the Committee (Mr Shah and Ms Vos).

Mr Smith took grave offence to Mr Trent’s allegation, in his 03 February 2009 press release, that ANC Members sought to delay the matter. Mr Trent was suggesting that ANC Members were the cause of the problem. The ANC was not to blame for the delay. It was the same with his previous press release. He asked that Mr Trent desist from this behaviour and refrain from ‘clear, blatant politicising’ of the Committee’s deliberations. The Committee should meet the following week to deal with the matter in its customary manner and not on political lines.

The Chairperson proposed that on Tuesday, 10 February 2009 the Committee should consider the substance of the submissions.

Ms Vos said that very few Members were not well acquainted with the matter, but she had only just had a chance to peruse the submissions. These were very serious statements that must be investigated. Members had a duty to ensure that this Parliament did justice.

Mr Trent said that the public of South Africa would be the loser, not the DA or the ANC, if the matter were not discussed.

The Chairperson advised Mr Trent again that it had already been agreed that only the Chairperson should talk to the media about Committee work. Mr Trent had consistently violated that position. SCOPA sought to operate collectively. Pre-empting the Committee’s work by ‘going public’ on it violated that fundamental agreement.  Addressing Ms Vos and Mr Shah, he said that the matter had been in the hands of the Committee for a considerable time. The Committee had earlier taken a decision to look again at the Committee’s 2001 resolution.

The Chairperson said that allowing extra time would lighten the task of Members.

Mr Smith called for a cut-off date on submissions.

Mr Trent asked if the Committee could still meet after Parliament had risen.

The Chairperson replied that it was not possible.

Tabling of Department of Minerals and Energy’s progress report on the export and sale of diamonds
The Chairperson asked if there was any progress on the De Beers case; he noted observations that the document was undated, and asked the Committee Secretary to ascertain its date.

The meeting was adjourned.





2. PSC


4. DTI

5. Defence

6. National Treasury

7. National Prosecuting Authority

8. Economists Allied for Arms Reduction - Terry Crawford –Browne

9. Continuing the Arms Deal Investigation - Richard Young

10. Submission to SCOPA - Paul Holden

11. An Accounting Officer's Perspective - Pierre Steyn

12. Matters Pertaining to the Arms Deal - Andrew Feinstein

13. SCOPA Arms Deal Inquiry - The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town



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