Meeting SummaryThe Committee discussed arguments about the two reports that had not gone through the process of Announcements Tablings Committees (ATC), and were being withheld by the Committee Section until the requested changes had been made. The Committee took issue with the Manager of the Committee Section who had concerns about the contents of the reports. It was indicated that the changes requested were of a semantic nature and were not germane to the content of the reports. The Committee added a section to the Annual Report to reflect the resultant conflict and made recommendations to address the problem.
The Committee read the Annual Report and made grammatical and substantive changes to it. Considerations on the draft regulations for the Older Persons Act 2006 and the Social Assistance Act 2004 were added to urge the Department of Social Development to operationalise these regulations.
The Annual Report also alerted the Department to the finalisation of the regulations on the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill, to facilitate implementation as soon it was assented to by the President.
The Committee highlighted the problems with the administration in Parliament through the addition of a paragraph in the ‘Recommendations Made by the Committee’ section of the report. This addition emphasised that the decisions of Committees on legislation, reporting, planning, budgeting and execution should be affirmed rather than undermined through the articulation of proper systems and procedures.
The Chairperson reported on a meeting held with the manager of the Committee Section about two reports from this Committee which were not being released for circulation. The Manager had said that the reports were flawed and could not be released. These reports had also not gone through the Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC) process.
Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) asserted that according to the rules of Parliament, when the Committee passed a report, Parliamentary staff did not have a right to amend such a report, they were only allowed to make grammatical changes without in any way tampering with the content of the report.
Ms Bogopane-Zulu asked if the Committee secretary kept all the original reports in the office of this Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee was not allowed to make decisions, only the House was allowed to do so. He asserted that in doing its work, the Committee tried at all times to remain within the three Constitutional parameters of Government; namely the legislature, judiciary and the executive.
Political management had the responsibility of ensuring that material for the House was in order, and Parliament was yet to refine the parameters for the role of the Committee, and the role of the Committee Section, prior to the work being adopted by the House.
The Chairperson said that when he had looked at the report he found that the errors referred to by the manager of the Committee Section had been of a semantic nature, and therefore recommended their approval by the Committee Section.
The Chairperson had insisted to the manager of the Committee section that the reports be ‘ATCed’ as soon as was possible, so that the Department and other stakeholders could do whatever was necesssary for implementation. When the progress of the reports was checked, they had not yet been ATCed, and the secretary of the Committee and the manager of the Committee section had not as yet resolved their conflict.
The manager of the Committee section had made a commitment to the Chairperson that the report would be ATCed that day and copies could be obtained.
The Chairperson emphasised that what was important, was that the substance and essence of the Committee’s work was communicated through the report and found its way into the House.
Ms I Direko (ANC) raised concerns about whether the reports would reach their intended destination if conflicts such as those mentioned, continued.
The Chairperson noted that it was his responsibility to ensure that further follow-ups were made and he would go to the Speaker’s office for intervention if the need arose.
Ms Direko offered to accompany the Chairperson to the Speaker’s office if such a visit was required.
Ms Gumedi (ANC) said that if the manager of the Committee section was unhappy with the Committee’s reports then she should meet with the Committee to discuss the matter.
The Chairperson said that the manager of the Committee section and the secretary of the Committee were blaming each other. The Chairperson had instructed the manager of the Committee section to deal with the Committee secretary as a manager, to try to sort out the problem.
Ms Bogopane-Zulu noted that the main problem related to the Administration in Parliament controlling the resources and finances, and recommended that Members of Parliament should control the budget of Parliament.
The Chairperson raised two outstanding matters of concern. The one issue dealt with the report of the Committee on the consideration of the reports of the National Development Agency and the South African Social Security Agency. This report had not been finalised as yet, and the Committee hoped to find an opportunity to approve the report, so as to be able to account to Parliament on its findings and recommendations.
The other matter was that of a meeting with the Minister, which had as yet not taken place. The Minister was very willing to meet but an appropriate time had to be found which was convenient for all Members.
Committee Annual Report briefing
The Committee secretary read the report and changes were made through this process.
The section on ‘Mission and Mandate of the Committee’ was changed to:
‘ The Committee will also through its oversight function, ensure that the social development services, policies and programmes, implemented by government, are focused on comprehensive protection against vulnerability and on strengthening the social fabric.
In the first paragraph of the section on ‘The Chairperson’s Overview’, ‘bill rights’ was changed to ‘Bill of Rights’.
In ‘The Chairperson’s Overview’ the following sentence was added after the first sentence in paragraph two:
‘This includes hearings conducted on the Annual Report of the Department and entities, to evaluate their work and make recommendations for improvements in their performance with the Department and on their Annual report ’
The first sentence in paragraph three of the same section was changed to:
‘….to learn from the successful interventions made in that country to address some of its social challenges, especially with regard to substance abuse’.
The following paragraph was added as the new paragraph four:
‘The Committee also considered draft regulations under the Social Assistance Act 2004, which were subsequently promulgated on the 14th August 2008, which provide a detailed comprehensive legal framework for payment of social grants. The Committee further considered draft regulations on the Older Persons Act 2006, which are as yet to be promulgated, in order to bring the Act into operation. The Committee has continued to urge the Department of Social Development to operationalise outstanding new legislation to promulgate the relevant regulations thereunder, including the regulations under the Childrens’ Act 2005. The Committee also anticipates that the Department finalises regulations under the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill as soon as the Bill is assented to by the President’.
The last sentence in paragraph five now ends without the word ‘on’, as ‘follow ups’.
Ms Bogopane-Zulu raised a concern about the closing down of four special schools in the Eastern Cape.
The Chairperson asked Ms Bogopane-Zulu to assist the Committee secretary to draft a letter to the Minister of Education about this, for delivery on that day. A copy of the letter to the Minister of Education, on the issue of admission fees at tertiary Institutions being paid from social grants, should also be made available for delivery to the Minister that day.
Ms J Semple (DA) felt that it was a disservice to the Committee that the Annual Report stated that it had only held 14 meetings.
Ms Zola Vice (Committee Secretary) said that she was advised that certain matters, like the Substance Abuse Bill had separate reports.
The Chairperson said that the Committee Section should be asked if the full number of meetings could be reflected in the Annual Report.
Ms Bogopane-Zulu said that the format of the Report made it difficult to really engage with the report.
Ms Semple said that the Committee should object to the format especially where it referred to ‘Resolutions Taken’, as in terms of the rules of Parliament, the Committee only made recommendations and not resolutions.
The words ‘Resolutions taken’ were replaced with ‘Recommendations made’ throughout the report.
In the section ‘Meetings – 14 ’, item 4, the following sentence was added: ‘to monitor allocation of resources for effective implementation of national policies and legislation’ to point four in the column ‘Recommendations made’.
Mr L Sehlare (ANC) asked if it was possible to add a column headed ‘Responses to Recommendations made’, to ensure that feedback on all the recommendations made were in the report.
Ms Bogopane-Zulu said that this would not be possible as the Committee Section would not allow it.
‘regulations under’ was added to both points 1 and 2 of Meeting 3 in the table under the item ‘Agenda’.
In meeting 11 item 2, ‘…alleged incidences of bribery’, and ‘referred to ‘law enforcement agencies’ were added.
It was noted that 13 meetings had taken place and not 14.
The section titled ‘Remarks of the Committee’, was changed to ‘Recommendations of the Committee’
The Committee added the following paragraph to the section on ‘Recommendations of the Committee’ :
‘The yet to be resolved contradiction between the supportive role of Parliament’s administration and the Constitututional Mandate of the members and Committees they serve in, needs to be further clarified and articulated in the institutional arrangements of Parliament. This will minimise the continuing misundertandings and tensions between the two spheres of Parliament as an institution. More specifically, a system needs to be developed, for the finalisation of processes and decisions of Committees relating to legislation, reporting, planning, budgeting and the execution of programmes, that affirms rather than undermines Constitutional Mandates of Committees’.
Ms Semple said that only three sets of minutes had been approved, and if these minutes had been made available on a regular basis, then the Committee would be able to keep a track of the processes involved. She asked who was going to approve all those minutes, and what was going to happen to them.
In Section 5 on the ‘….Budget Allocations…’, it should be made known what the costs were for the Study Tours, and the balance should also be reported on in the Annual Report.
The Chairperson said that the budget was dealt with centrally in Parliament, hence technically speaking the Committee had no funds, unless it was stated to the contrary.
Ms Semple said that the Committee had also dealt with the Social Assistance Amendment Bill 2008 and this should be added to section 3 under ‘Legislation Considered by the Committee.
The Chairperson asked if the report could be approved.
The Members said they would not approve the Annual Report until they had seen the final text with the amendments before the ATC process.
The Chairperson said that when the Committee met next week, all the documents including the Annual Report could be approved.
Mr Sean White, Parliamentary Law Advisor, Office of the Deputy Minister, asked if the issue of funding from an external donor for the trip to Brazil, could be included in the Annual Report.
The Chairperson responded that it would be inserted in the beginning of the report with an expression of gratitude to the funders.
Ms Semple asked if the new draft of the Annual Report could be distributed before the end of the week.
Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) raised, as a matter of concern that on her oversight visit, she found that pensioners were being forced to purchase goods to the value of R200 before their money was released.
The Chairperson asked Ms Rajbally to meet with the Committee Secretary to formulate a letter to the Minister about this issue.
The meeting was adjourned.
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