Issue No. 53
Legislation currently before NA Committees
18 October 1999
The Open Democracy Bill (Bill 67 – 98)
The provisions of the Bill are quite simple – that all government bodies set up a system of providing access to records of the department. It includes specific provision for public access to information held by the state:
- to assist the public in understanding the functions of governmental bodies, their functioning and the criteria on which they base their decisions
- access by persons to information about themselves held by private bodies, the correction of personal information held by the state or private persons as well as the regulation of the use and disclosure of such personal information.
- the protection of persons disclosing evidence of contraventions of the law, serious mal-administration or corruption in governmental bodies
The controversial aspects of the bill are in the exemptions to the disclosure of information. There are also financial implications of the implementation of the requirements of the Bill.
The Nuclear Energy Bill & the National Nuclear Regulator Bill (Bills 10 & 11- 99)
The objective of both of these Bills is to establish the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (the Nuclear Energy Bill) and to establish the National Nuclear Regulator (the National Nuclear Regulator Bill). The Bills seek to separate the functions of nuclear safety from those of development and application of nuclear technology, and to provide for more transparent and accountable governance of safety in the South African nuclear industry.
The Nuclear Energy Bill was written in order to:
- reformulate the management of the Atomic Energy Corporation to make it more accountable and transparent
- to reorganise the mandate of the AEC’s management and governing structures, so that matters of a sensitive and national nature are placed under the control of the Minister of Minerals and Energy – for example the international transfer of nuclear technology, the import and export of nuclear materials, radioactive waste management etc
- to separate the legislation that governs the AEC and the Council for Nuclear Safety
The National Nuclear Regulator Bill was drafted in order to:
- reformulate the management of the CNS to become more transparent and accountable
- define the role and mandate of the CNS s there is no role confusion
- separate the CNS and the AEC
- exclude the regulatory responsibility of radioactivity in the mining industry which will in future be regulated in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act
The Intelligence Services Control Bill (Bill 46- 99)
This Bill, which the committee will begin considering next week, will align the conditions of employment of the Inspector-General, with those of the Public Protector. This is in accordance with the recommendations contained in the report to Parliament by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence in 1998.
The Bill also aligns the procedure for the appointment of the Inspector General of Intelligence with the procedure stipulated in the Constitution.
The Amendment also deals with the problem of every party in Parliament being represented on the Joint Standing Committee.
Bills before Education Committee
Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bill 44-99)
This Bill amends the South African Certification Council Act of 1986, the National Education Policy Act of 1996, the South African Schools Act 1996, The Employment of Educators Act of 1998. These amendments deal in the main with technical and procedural matters.
National Student Financial Aid Scheme Bill (Bill 48-99)
This Bill deals with the establishment of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, for the management, governance and administration of the NSFAS. The purpose of NSFAS is to provide loans and bursaries to eligible students at public higher education institutions. The Bill deals with the administration of these loans and bursaries, and for the repayment of these loans.
Higher Education Amendment Bill (Bill 45 – 99)
This Bill seeks to amend various aspects of the Higher Education Act of 1997. Most are minor but one significant amendment is to section 53 of the Act to ensure that private higher education institutions doe not abuse the terms “university”, ” technikon” or “higher education college”.
A general assessment of the new Parliament
This period has been the foundation phase, putting in place all the institutional arrangements that we will need for the next five years. The setting up of the committees has been a major task, requiring huge input from the Whips and MPs.
The opening of new constituency offices, the assessment of members’ individual skills and talents so that they can be best deployed, the institutional arrangements for the multiplicity of parties have taken a great deal of thought and planning, perhaps sometimes to the exclusion of backbenchers, but these arrangements are of critical importance for the successful fulfilment of the legislative and oversight programme.
The session has been characterised by lively party motions and debates. The DP, the largest minority party, is attempting to create an impression that there is little work being done here. Perhaps they are doing this because they have failed to carve out for themselves a meaningful role as the official opposition.
There has been significant cooperation between all other parties, and we can expect a very productive five years.
Hopefully we will be able to spend more energy on the oversight role, as a busy Parliament has more to do than passing laws. At some point we will arrive at a saturation point and the number of Bills passing through Parliament will slow down.
For government to deliver we need a strong and informed Parliament, attuned to both the legislative priorities of government and the needs of the people.
The focus of government remains speedy delivery to the many, not just the few.
Parliament must ensure that quality transformatory laws are delivered to the people with speed.