The Committee’s major recommendation was that the Minister of Labour should come before the Committee at least twice a year. This, the Committee remarked, would not put too much of a strain on the Minister’s busy schedule as it would amount to only four hours out of his time per year. The Committee commended the fact that Trevor Manuel was always liaising with the Finance Portfolio Committee and thought the good example should be followed.
The other major issue they wanted resolved quickly was that of vacancies. The Committee was of the opinion that the posts should be filled expeditiously and in most cases they were not impressed by the constant change of Directors General, who raised the same issues time and time again but did not stay long enough to offer solutions. The Committee was of the opinion that the presence of vacant posts was also a major contribution to the underperformance of the Department.
The Committee showed its disapproval of the Department’s qualified audit report and suggested that there be quarterly report updates beginning the next parliamentary term.
The Chair remarked that this was the Committee’s last meeting and the main item on the agenda was the deliberations on the report of the Department. She informed the Committee that they had to read through the Analysis of the Department’s Annual Report and the draft minutes of 4 February 2009, and thereafter make findings and recommendations.
Department of Labour Annual Report 2007-2008: deliberations
Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) recommended that there be quarterly reports from the Department of Labour, as waiting till the end of the year for a report was not the best possible approach. Secondly, he suggested the speedy filling of vacancies in the Department and also recommended that the Committee check on whether the National Treasury interrogated the reasons given for virements requests. This was because there was a report on a virement request which was approved but was later under spent.
Mr L Labuschagne (DA) disagreed with Mr Mzondeki on his last recommendation. This was because he felt that checking up on whether the Treasury had interrogated and verified the reasons given for virements request, was tantamount to asking whether the Treasury was doing its job. This he felt, was out of their mandate but he suggested that they interrogate the Department as to why they needed to ask Treasury for virements instead.
The Chair remarked that none of the Members had raised the issue of the qualified reports.
Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) commented that four years with a qualified audit report was very bad indeed and a cause for concern. She also raised concern over the poor executive political accountability because she had noticed that ever since she had become a member of the Committee the Minister had not even once come before the Committee. She emphasized the need for a more permanent Director General. There was a need for more accuracy when it came to the matter of fixed assets. She urged that this process needed to be verified and completed as they had been dealing with the issue for a while now. The need to fill the vacancies could not be emphasized enough, as the situation aided to the underperformance of the Department.
The Chair agreed with Dr Roopnarain and emphasized the need for the Committee to interact with the Minister. She added that since she became Chair of the Labour Committee, the Minister had never come before the Committee. Not even after they had discussed the issue with the Minister, had she been graced with his presence.
Mr Labuschagne was in agreement and he added that they were aware that the Minister had a busy schedule, however out of the whole year he could manage to present himself before the Committee at least twice. Twice a year was not much to ask as this amounted to a total of four hours out of his schedule and they would even offer him lunch. He added that Trevor Manuel was constantly before his Committee and he did not see the reason why the Minister should not also be in constant touch with his Committee.
Mr T Anthony (ANC) commented that it was unfortunate that this was their last meeting but what they needed to discuss was how they were going to assist the incoming Committee. This was because during his term there had been no unqualified reports. To make matters worse, these qualified reports constantly dealt with the same issues that had been raised by the various Director Generals, who were constantly changing due to the fact that they were all acting and not permanent.
The Chair asked how the Members felt about internal control of finance, in particular the issue of virements.
Mr Labuschagne replied that the Committee should make a distinction between principled virements and the reasons the Department gave for virements. They should not be suspicious of virements, since these were a long standing tradition, moreover most Departmental budgets were done 18 months in advance and the budget certainly did not cover unforeseen crises like the credit crunch or high inflation, which would then be absorbed by the virements. Moreover, he mentioned that the Committee should not be that worried about virements, as it was money being moved from one program to the other in the same Department, as opposed to the Department requesting more money.
Mr Labuschagne asked whether the handover to the incoming Committee would be formal. If not, he suggested that they recommend strongly that the Committee secretary deliver to the incoming Chair the recommendations and suggestions made by the Committee.
The Chair replied that the handing over was not formal, but since secretaries were more permanent it was up to the secretary to hand over the recommendations to the incoming Chairperson.
Ms M Twala (ANC) recommended looking into Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) because there were problems with some of them. She gave an example of the construction SETA where she said there had been reports of buildings falling down.
The Chair asked the Committee how they felt about labour brokers.
Mr T Anthony replied that the Committee had once raised the issue of labour brokers and he was aware of the fact that the Department was in the process of compiling a report on them. Among other things the report would focus on whether Labour brokers were beneficial and if they added any value to the economy or whether one could do without them.
Committee minutes - discussion and adoption
Mr L Labuschagne (DA) referred to the minutes dated 4 February 2009 and noted some grammatical errors in the first few sentences of the second paragraph on page 5.
Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) agreed with Mr Labuschagne and pointed out typing errors.
The Committee adopted the minutes with amendments.
The Committee also adopted the minutes for the meetings of 27 August 2008, 21 October 2008, 18 November 2008, 20 January 2009 and 21 January 2009.
The Chair thanked the Committee for their co-operation and their marvelous disposition which made it easier on the Chair to head the Committee. The Committee members shared the same sentiments and said that they were sad to say their goodbyes. Two Committee members informed the Committee that they would not be coming back. Dr Roopnarain said that she was leaving Parliament to become a full time mum and Mr Labuschagne said that he was not coming back out of choice but that he was going to join his province’s legislature.
The meeting was adjourned.
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