Bathabile bunks Parly meetings

2017-05-07 06:59
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

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The spectre of the social grants controversy looms large over Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who has been missing more often than not from Parliament’s committee meetings this year – in sharp contrast to her relatively better attendance record last year.

Since the reopening of Parliament in January, Dlamini and her deputy, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, have attended three meetings between the two of them of the nine they are expected to attend in Parliament this year.

The social grants payment debacle involving the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) burst into the open in January with questions over the validity of a contract to disburse grants to the country’s 17 million beneficiaries.

This week, Dlamini missed two meetings on two consecutive days where her department’s plans for the 2017/18 financial year and budget were to be discussed.

On Tuesday, the select committee on social services – a National Council of Provinces oversight committee – cancelled its meeting to protest the no-shows by Dlamini and her deputy.

It was not the first time the two had skipped this engagement. They were also absent for last year’s annual performance plan and budget meeting.

This week, ANC committee chairperson Landulile Dlamini sent a message to the minister, saying: “We will not proceed until she attends.”

The next day, Dlamini and Bogopane-Zulu again failed to attend the portfolio committee of the National Assembly for the same annual plan and budget presentations.

Dlamini was attending a Cabinet meeting, and there was no clarity on her deputy’s whereabouts.

President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet meets every second Wednesday, and Cabinet committee meetings take place on the Wednesdays in-between the full Cabinet meetings.

Social development committee MPs were having none of it.

They, too, had come under criticism for being lenient on the executive and even complicit in the grants payment crisis, which was averted by the courts.

“The issue we are going to discuss considering the last six months’ history [is critical]. The minister is accountable for this department, yet she is never here to answer questions,” said the DA’s Lindy Wilson.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Liezl van der Merwe suggested the committee meet on weekends, if that meant the relevant people would attend.

Committee chairperson Zoleka Capa said the dates for the oversight meeting were known well in advance and an apology could have been sent beforehand, adding that Dlamini knew that the committee was expecting to get a full report from her on the outstanding Sassa issues.

Gaile Fullard, executive director of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, said ministers’ attendance at portfolio committees, though not compulsory, should occur at least four times a year.

The People’s Assembly website, run by her group, has a new tool to monitor ministers’ attendance at parliamentary committee meetings. Their 2016 list shows that Dlamini was among the best attendees. Her attendance waned this year as Parliament finally demanded answers on the social grants saga.

Public accounts committee chairperson Themba Godi told City Press that they had written to Dlamini, inviting her, Sassa and her department to brief them on May 16 about their plans subsequent to the court ruling.

“They have less than a year to appoint a new company to distribute grants. We want to know what they have done up to now and how far the procurement process is. There will be a phase-in process, so they have to move fast to allow such a process to take place,” said Godi.

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  parliament 2017

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