Archive | Finance, economic

New Competition Bill invades business principles

 

Competition kill is not transformation, say critics

Due to an idealogical theme imposed by the Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, on the new Competition Amendment Bill, recently published for comment, South Africa can expect a highly charged series of hearings following the Bill’s recent tabling in Parliament. Competition Bill

 

Posted in BEE, Finance, economic, Labour, LinkedIn, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Gigaba pushes for control of border posts

Treasury, Home Affairs at odds on customs issues

Parliament will be debating in the new session in August the Border Management Authority Bill.   What the Bill proposes is a single state entity known as the Border Management Authority (BMA) to oversee all aspects of the movement in the import/export of goods and to control movement of all persons either leaving or entering the country.

The idea is that all border law enforcement functions along South Africa’s fragmented 5,000 kilometres of border will be the responsibility of the BMA.   Read More……    Border Management Bill July 2018 PDF

Posted in Agriculture, Finance, economic, Security, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Competition Commission gets to know LPG market

 DOE holds off on LPG regulatory changes…

Sent to clients 25 Oct….In a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Energy on the report by the Competition Commission (CC) into the Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) sector, acting Director General of the Department of Energy (DOE), Tseliso Maqubela, has again told Parliament that the long-standing LPG supply shortages are likely to continue for the present moment until new import infrastructure facilities come on line.

He was responding to the conclusions reached by the CC but reminded parliamentarians at the outset of the meeting that the Commission’s report was not an investigation into anti-competitive behaviour on the part of suppliers but an inquiry, the first ever conducted by the CC, into factors surrounding LPG market conditions.

Terms of reference

In their general comments, the Commissioner observed that the inquiry commenced August 2014 on the basis that as there were concerns that structural features in the market made it difficult for new entrants and the high switching costs for LPG gas distributors mitigated against change in the immediate future.

They worked on the basis that there are five major refineries operating in South Africa, these being ENREF in Durban, (Engen);

refinery

engen durban refinery

SAPREF in Durban, (Shell and BP); Sasol at Secunda; PetroSA at Mossel Bay; and CHEVREF in Cape Town (Chevron). There are four wholesalers, namely Afrox, Oryx, Easigas and Totalgaz.

Wholesalers different

As far the wholesalers are concerned, in the light of all being foreign controlled, CC also observed that transformation was poor, but this was not an issue on their task list, they said. They had assumed therefore that BEE legislation was difficult to enforce and that the issue had been reported to the Department of Economic Development, the portfolio committee was told.

Price regulation at the refineries and at retail level is supposedly determined by factors meant to protect consumers, the CC said, but their inquiry report noted no such regulations specifically at wholesale level. This fact was stated as being of concern to the CC in the light of known “massive profits in the LPG wholesaling sector”.

Structures

Commissioner Bonakele said, “We started the inquiry because of the worrying structures of the market but in benchmarking our market structures with other countries and we found LPG in SA was not only unusually expensive but was indeed in short supply. Why? When it is so badly needed, was the question, he said

The CC established from the industry that about 15% of LPG supplied is used by householders and the balance is for industrial use.   In general, they noted that there were regulatory gaps also in the refining industry but regulatory requirements were over-burdening they felt and contained many conflicts and anomalies.

The CC had also reported that the maximum refinery gate price (MRGP) to wholesalers and the maximum retail price (MRP) to consumers were not regulated sufficiently and far too infrequently by DOE.

Contentious

There needed to be one entity only regulating the entire industry from import to sale by small warehousing/retailers, they said. The CC suggested in their report that the regulatory body handling all aspects of licensing should be NERSA .

As far as gas cylinders were concerned, Commissioner Bonakele noted in their report that there are numerous problems but their criticism was that the system currently used was not designed to assist the small entrant. The “hybrid” system that had evolved seemed to work but there was a “one price for all” approach.

DOE replies

In response, DG Maqubela confirmed that the inquiry had been conducted with the full co-operation of DOE into an industry beset with supply and distribution problems, issues that were only likely to change when there were “adequate import and storage facilities which allowed for the import of economic parcels of LPG supplied to the SA marketplace.”

When asked why local refineries could not “up” their supply of LPG to meet demand, DG Maqubela explained that only 5% of every barrel of oil refined by the industry into petroleum products could be extracted in the form of LPG. Therefore, the increase in LPG gas supplied would be totally disproportionate to South Africa’s petrol and diesel requirements.

Going bigger

Tseliso Maqubela, previously DG of DOE’s Petroleum Products division, told the Committee that two import terminal facilities have recently been commissioned in Saldanha and two more are to be built, one at Coega (2019) and one at Richards Bay (2021). These facilities were geared to the importation of LPG on a large scale.

He said, in answer to questions on legislation on fuel supplies, that DOE were unlikely to carry out any amendments in the immediate future to the Petroleum Pipelines Act, since the whole industry was in flux with developments “down the road”.
It would be better to completely re-write the Act, he said, when the new factors were ready to be instituted.

Rules

On the regulatory environment, DG Maqubela pointed out that for a new refinery investor it would take at least four years to get through paper work through from design approval to when the first spade hit the soil. This had to change. The integration of the requirements of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Transnet, the Transnet Port Authority, DTI, Department of Labour, Cabinet and NERSA and associated interested entities into one process was essential, he said.

On licencing, whilst DOE would prefer it was not NERSA, since they should maintain their independence, in principle the DOE, Maqubela said, supported the view that all should start considering the de-regulation of LPG pricing. He agreed that DOE had to shortly prepare a paper in on gas cylinder pricing and deposits which reflected more possibilities for new starters.

MPs had had many questions to ask on the complicated issues surrounding the supply, manufacture, deposit arrangements, safety and application of cylinders. In the process of this discussion, it emerged, once again, that LPG was not the core business of the refinery industry and what was supplied was mainly for industrial use. The much smaller amount for domestic use met in the main by imported supplies for which coastal storage was underway over a five-year period.

Refining

DG Maqubela noted that on Long Term Agreements (LTAs) between refineries and suppliers, DOE in principle agreed with the Commission that LTAs between refiners and wholesalers could be reduced from 25 years to 10 years, to accommodate small players. Again, he said, this would take some time to be addressed, as was also an existing suggestion of a preferential access of 10% for smaller players.

All in all, DG Maqubela seemed to be saying that whilst many of the CC recommendations were valid, nobody should put “the cart before the horse” with too much implementation of major change in the LPG industry before current storage and supply projects were completed.

However, the current cylinder exchange practice must now be studied by DOE and answers found, Tseliso Maqubela re-confirmed.
Previous articles on category subject
Overall energy strategy still not there – ParlyReportSA
Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA
Competition Commission turns to LP gas market – ParlyReportSA

Posted in BEE, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Marine Spatial Bill targets ocean resources…

Bill to bring order to marine economy…

November 2017 ParlyReport…..

In the light of President Zuma’s emphasis in his recent speeches on oil and gas issues, it is important to couple this in terms of government policy with the tabling of the section 76 Marine Spatial Planning Bill (MSP Bill).  The proposals are targeted at business and industry  to establish “a marine spatial planning system” offshore over South African waters.

The Bill  also says it is aimed at “facilitating good ocean governance, giving effect to South Africa’s international obligations.”

A briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on their proposals is now awaited in Parliament. The Bill until recently was undergoing controversial hearings in the provinces as is demanded by its section 76 nature.

Water kingdom

The MSP Bill applies to activities within South Africa’s territorial waters known as Exclusive Economic Zones, which are mapped out areas with co-ordinates within South Africa’s continental shelf claim and inclusive of all territorial waters extending the Prince Edward Islands.

The Bill flows, government says, from its Operation Phakisa plan to develop South Africa’s sea resources, notably oil and gas.   The subject has recently been subject to hearings in SA provinces that have coastal activities. This importantly applies to South African and international marine interests operating from ports in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape but also  involves coastal communities and their activities.

International liaison

Equally as important as maritime governance, is the wish to assist in job creation by letting in work creators.  Accounted for also are international oceanic environmental obligations to preserve nature and life supporting conditions which DEA state can in no way can be ignored if maritime operations and industrial seabed development are to be considered.

South Africa is listed as a UNESCO participant, together with a lengthy list of other oceanic countries, agreements which, whilst not demanding total compliance on who does what, are in place to establish a common approach to be respected by oceanic activity, all to be agreed in the 2016/7 year.  South Africa is running late.

Invasion protection

Whilst the UNESCO discipline covers environmental aspects and commercial exploitation of maritime resources, the MSP Bill now before Parliament states that in acknowledging these international obligations, such must be balanced with the specific needs of communities, many of whom have no voice in an organised sense.

As Operation Phakisa has its sights set on the creation of more jobs from oceanic resources therefore, the MSP Bill becomes a balancing act for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Bill is attracting considerable interest as a result.

The hearings in the Eastern Cape have already exposed the obvious conundrum that exists between protecting small-time fishing interests and community income in the preservation of fishing waters and development of undersea resources.  What has already emerged that the whole question of the creation of future job creation possibilities from seabed-mining, oil and gas exploration and coastal sand mining is not necessarily understood, as has been heard from small communities.

The ever present dwindling supply of fish stocks is not also accepted in many quarters, with fishing quotas accordingly reduced.

Tug of war

All views must be considered nevertheless but from statements made at the political top in Parliament it becomes evident that the potential of developing geological resources far outweigh the needs of a shrinking fishing industry.  At the same time, politicians usually wish to consider votes and at parliamentary committee level, the feedback protestfrom the many localised hearings is being heard quite loudly.

As one traditional fishing person said at the hearings in the Eastern Cape, “The sea is our land but we can only fish in our area to sustain life. The law is stopping us fishing for profit.”

Local calls

The attendees at many hearings have said that the MSP Bill and similar regulations in force restrict families from earning from small local operations such as mining sand; allow only limited fishing licences and call for homes to be far from the sea denying communities the right to benefit from the sea and coastal strips for a living.

Hearings last went to the West Coast and were held with Saldanha Bay communities.

Big opportunities

Conversely, insofar as Operation Phakisa is concerned, President Zuma, as has been stated, said clearly in his latest State of Nation AddressZuma that government has an eye for much more investment into oil and gas exploration.   He has since announced that there are plans afoot to drill at least 30 deep-water oil and gas exploration wells within the next 10 years as part of Operation Phakisa.

Coupled to this is the more recent comment in Parliament that once viable oil and gas reserves are found, the country could possibly extract up to 370 000 barrels of fossil fuels each day within 20 years – the equivalent of 80% of current oil and gas imports.

According to the deadline set by the Operation Phakisa framework, the MSP Bill should have been taken to Parliament at the beginning of December 2016 for promulgation as an Act by the end of June 2017, making it appear that things are running late.

Environmental focus

As the legislation is environmentally driven, with commercial interests coming to the surface in a limited manner at this stage, the matter is being handled by the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs.    It is understood that later joint meetings will be held with the Trade and Industry Committee and with Energy Committee members.

Adding to the picture that is now beginning to emerge, is the fact that Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has signed a MOU with the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa.

Minister Pandor said at the time of signing, “The South African coastal and marine environment is one of our most important assets.   Currently South Africa is not really deriving much from the ocean’s economy. This is therefore why we want to build a viable gas industry and unlock the country’s vast marine resources.”

Moves afoot

OPASA is now to make more input with offshore oil and gas exploration facts and figures.   Energy publications are now bandying figures around that developments in this sphere will contribute “about R20bn to South Africa’s GDP over a five-year period.”   If this is the case, the Energy Minister might be compromised once again, as she was with renewables, on the future makeup of the planned energy mix.

Amongst the particularly worrying issues raised by opposition parliamentarians and various groupings in agricultural and fishing areas is that there is a proposal in the MSP Bill on circuit states that the Act will trump all other legislation when matters relate to marine spatial planning. DEA will have to answer this claim.

Opposition

Earthlife Africa have also stated at hearings in Richards Bay that in their opinion “Operation Phakisa has very little to do with poverty alleviation and everything to do with profits for corporates, most likely with the familiar kickbacks for well-connected ‘tenderpreneurs’ and their political allies.”

This is obviously no reasoned argument and just a statement but gives an indication of what is to be faced by DEA in the coming months.

Giants enter

With such diverse views being expressed on the Bill, President Zuma and past Minister  of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi cannot have missed the announcement that Italy’s Eni and US oil and gas giant, Anadarko, have signed agreements with the Mozambique government to develop gas fields and build two liquefied natural gas terminals on the coast to serve Southern African countries.

Eni says it is spending $8bn to develop the gas fields in Mozambique territorial waters and Anadarko is developing Mozambique’s first onshore LNG plant consisting of two initial LNG trains with a total capacity of 12-million tonnes per annum.  More than $30bn, it has been stated in a joint release by those companies, is expected to be invested in Mozambique’s natural gas sector in the near future.

Impetus gaining

In general, therefore, the importance of a MSP Bill is far greater than most have realized. The vast number of countries called upon to have their MSP legislation in place also indicates international pressure for the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs to move at speed.

This follows a worldwide shift to exploiting maritime resources, an issue not supported by most enviro NGOs and green movements without serious restrictions.  Most parliamentary comments indicate that the trail for oil and gas revenues needs following up and the need to create jobs in this sector is even greater.

Ground rules

Whilst the oil and gas industry and the proponents of Operation Phakisa also recognize that any form of MSP Bill should be approved to provide gateway rules for their operations and framework planning, the weight would seem to be behind the need for clarity in legislation and urgency in implementation of not only eco-friendly but labour creating legislation.

Operation Phakisa, as presented to Parliament particularly specified that the development of MSP legislation was necessary and Sean Lunn, chairperson of OPASA has said that the Bill will “add tangible value to South Africa’s marine infrastructure, protection services and ocean governance.”  He said it will go a long way in mitigating differences between the environmentalists and developers.

Not so nice

On seabed mining, the position with the MSP Bill is not so clear, it seems.    Saul Roux for the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) says that the Department of Mineral Resources granted a few years ago three rights to prospect for marine phosphates.

He also stated that the marine process “involves an extremely destructive form of mining where the top three metres of the seabed is dredged up and consequently destroys critical, delicate and insufficiently understood sea life in its wake.”   Phosphates are predominantly used for agricultural fertiliser.

“These three rights”, he said “extend over 150,000 km2 or 10% of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone.”

Something happening

One of CER’s objectives, Roux says, is to have in place a moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining in South Africa.   He complains that despite the three mining rights having been gazetted, he cannot get any response from Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, or any access to any documents on the subject.

He stated there were two South African companies involved in mining sea phosphates and one international group, these being Green Flash Trading 251, Green Flash Trading 257 and Diamond Fields International, a Canadian mining company. All appeared to be interested in seabed exploration for phosphates although not necessarily mining itself.

Roux called for the implementation of an MSP Bill which specifically disallowed this activity as is the case in New Zealand, he said.

Coming your way

The MSP Bill was tabled in April 2017 and once provincial hearings are complete it will come to Parliament. The results of these hearings will be debated and briefings commenced when announced shortly.

Previous articles on category subject

Operation Phakisa to develop merchant shipping – ParlyReportSA

Hide and seek over R14.5bn Ikhwezi loss – ParlyReportSA

Green Paper on nautical limits to make SA oceanic nation – ParlyReportSA

Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in cabinet, Energy, Enviro,Water, Finance, economic, Labour, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament thrashes out debt relief Bill

Credit Regulator calls for defined debt relief… 

From November 2017 ParlyReport…..

MacDonald Netshitenzhe, of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has told parliamentarians that his department in general endorses the call  by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) for the Minister of Trade and Industry to provide for debt relief provisions under the National Credit Act (NCA). The call will be answered by a Bill generated by Parliament because of its cross-cutting nature.

DTI’s input came after the portfolio committee last year held two meetings on the debt situation in South Africa, following a decision taken earlier in the year to gain input from the public and appropriate state entities on the possibility of debt forgiveness.

Parliamentary initiative

The parliamentary subcommittee, formed by Joan Fubbs (ANC), chair of the Trade and Industry Committee, was established last year to investigate possible debt relief systems for over-indebted households. The objective was to provide with consultation for as many parties as possible and to obtain a legal background to enable debt relief regulations to be drafted as an extension of the NCA.

It was tacitly accepted at the time that the result of the investigation would turn out to be a parliamentary committee Bill drafted on the subject to amend the anchor Bill after an initial policy review was carried out on indebtedness nationally. Documents before MPs showed that the World Bank had noted that South Africans currently owed R1.63-trillion to lenders and SA consumers were the most indebted in the world.

Basics

To draft the Bill, it was agreed that technical support would be given by DTI and that a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIAS) was to be undertaken when the Bill was agreed as a completed draft.

Meetings on debt relief have been held by the parliamentary subcommittee with South African Reserve Bank, the Financial Services Board, the National Credit Regulator (NCR) and the National Consumer Commission. Already implemented are revised cuts in interest and fees and the well publicised garnishee order changes for public servants.

National Treasury is also working on a draft Insolvency Bill with Department of Justice (DoJ) and input from DoJ has included the Debt Collectors Amendment Bill and the Courts of Law Amendment Bill both now before the PC on Trade and Industry, in separate meetings.

Debt relief per se

In recent meetings, Netshitenzhe who is Chief Director of Policy and Legislation at the DTI, when asked to contribute to the sub-committee’s work, outlined first whom he thought debt relief should apply to.    He replied that DTI recommended that such relief could be for retrenched consumers, victims of unlawful emolument attachment orders (EAOs), victims of unlawful social grant deductions and victims of reckless credit lending.

 

In answer to questions, it was explained that an EAO, more commonly known as a garnishee order, was a deduction by an employer from a wage as distinct from the more sophisticated administration order where an appointed administrator paid one or more creditors from an allocated sum for which a fee was charged.

Flexibility

In expanding on debt levels generally and in talking on counter measures, Netshitenzhe said the position on levels of debt that were currently being experienced would not always be the same and therefore, in allowing the Minister to provide debt relief measures in some form, DTI recommended that it be understood right from the start that the provisions could altered from time to time and the position should remain fluid.

It was DTI’s view that the Minister of Trade & Industry should consult carefully with the appropriate members of the credit industry before drafting the first such amendments in the form of the Bill and making any subsequent changes later. Naturally, he said, National Treasury had to be drawn into the debate immediately.

Domestic debt targeted

As well as providing remedies for household debt relief, strong counter measures also should be adopted, he said, in cases where indebtedness resulted from the behaviour of unscrupulous credit providers. This had become a major problem in SA.

Parliamentarians were told that over-indebtedness had worsened with the slowdown in economic growth and ever-increasing joblessness. Some 40% of the 24m credit card consumers had currently an “impaired record”, which was defined currently as three or more months in arrears or were listed with a credit bureau or who had been subject to a court judgement or administration order.

Causes

Consumer over-indebtedness resulting from prejudicial behaviour by unscrupulous credit providers, he said, was a further major problem, followed by borrowers borrowing more to redeem debt with no checks being carried out by lenders.

In outlining DTI plans, Netshitenzhe said that proposals may have to be provided to alleviate or support those in debt for reasons to be defined and the State therefore would no doubt need to establish a fund reserved for debt relief interventions to either partially or fully pay off the debt of qualifying consumers dependant on their circumstances.

Credit checks

Who qualified for relief of any kind and how to define the circumstances was the next big issue coming under debate. He added that it was DTI’s view that the possibility had to arise whereby credit providers should provide debt relief to over-indebted consumers who have already paid “a significant portion” of their debt. This whole concept had to be fleshed out, he inferred.

At that stage, Opposition members welcomed the propositions in general but were deeply concerned, as were many parties, that the very offer of forgiveness of debt might provide encouragement of reckless borrowing or spending. They wanted to see strong counter measures in the form of affordability assessments when credit was granted.

National Treasury

In a follow-up meeting led again by Chair Joan Fubbs with National Treasury (NT), MPs were told by Katherine Gibson, Senior Adviser for Market Conduct at Treasury (who also handles Twin Peaks regulatory measures) that in economic terms, further research was needed to determine the impact of possible debt relief packages which as an outcome, she said, could heavily impact on retailers and microlenders.

Treasury, she said, had previously introduced a debt amnesty to assist poor and indebted consumers and they also were considering many options including ‘extinguishing’ some or all of debt to help people get a fresh start. “However, the underlying principle that if a person can pay, he or she should pay is adopted at Treasury in all considerations”, she said.

Early days

Ms Gibson told MPs that such research was essential since the impact of any kind of debt relief packages was likely to affect retailers and microlenders which could have a knock-on effect of further inability for consumers to access credit. This would, in turn, cause further “worst case scenarios” pushing the more desperate creditor into the hands of illegal

operators. In all considerations, protecting the poor and focusing on the poor was paramount, she said.

In her briefing, she noted that whilst the new requirement that registration of credit providers applied to only those granting credit of over R500,000 or at least 100 agreements, reckless lending was playing a large role in the deterioration of household debt.

Overload

Ms Gibson said it also concerned Treasury that a great number of credit providers had provided credit to already totally over-indebted consumers and had failed to conduct affordability assessments. To this end government, through the Treasury, had appointed a service provider (consultant?) to investigate all EAOs issued to public sector employees.

The service provider had tested the EAOs against various parameters and the credit provider involved was asked to withdraw the arrangements if certain criteria could not be met.

Overhaul

The next phase, said Ms Gibson, was to check on the types and details on EOUs that were currently being applied. It had been noted in discussion with paymasters in government service that employees with the largest level of exposure had instalment values ranging between R1 200 and R6 500.

The state departments with the largest number of EOUs were the SA Police Service (SAPS), followed by the Department of Education, the Department of Health and then the Department of Correctional Services. SAPS also had the largest exposure of different types of credit providers, she said.

Ms Gibson commented, in answer to questions from MPs, that mostly credit providers had corrected their processes and credit arrangements voluntarily after an enquiry by the team investigating. Those not doing so were now subject to litigation in court. This was happening across the various state departments but in answer to a question, Ms Gibson said she was not referring to SOEs.

In need

She also identified many areas where Treasury agreed in principle with DTI as to who were the groups were most likely to receive relief in the final analysis.

These categories were those who had no money or assets; those who had low income and low assets but according to circumstances needed relief; those who had been defrauded and those who clearly had no basic understanding or capability to understand what they were signing because of lack of explanation, lack of understanding of a financial arrangement or lack of a needs assessment.

Any international precedents on the issue of whom should be assisted that had taken placed in developing countries should sought, said Ms Gibson. She said she understood this was in process at DTI.

Debt clearance

Treasury had stated that a procedure must be established, she said, whether the debt was to be written off completely; whether it should be restructured; whether write-off should apply to people who were poor and whether the credit should never have been given in the first place and therefore how it was granted followed up on.

Other cases could involve people who were only insolvent for the moment and therefore needed only a debt restructuring plan to tide over. MPs flagged that they saw problems ahead with instituting such processes in practice but would await a further briefing from DTI and take matters up with them.

OK so far

Ms Gibson concluded that Treasury had already found it had common ground with DTI about debt relief. She acknowledged that the tailoring of measures to meet the circumstances was going to be difficult but most important was to install simplistic check systems.

However, she said, it was also important to control better with strict applications any credit availability and to “change the behaviour of reckless borrowers.” She understood that education processes were to be organised by DTI for borrowers on the subject of borrowing without conscience or thought of the implications of debt.

Big stuff

Chair Joan Fubbs explained to members that the whole issue of mortgages, secured loans, various banking arrangements and pawning were not discussed at this stage, this being left to further final debate and parliamentary presentations after the parliamentary recess in August.

Many inputs have, however, have already been made by the banking industry, business entities and employee representatives during initial discussions but with no draft Bill as a consideration.

Finance Regulatory Bill

Ms Gibson added that much would change upon the implementation of the “Twin Peaks” banking and finance institutional programme where Treasury’s influence upon the banking industry and debt collectors in general would come into play.

Legislation is being concluded by DG Roy Havemann of Treasury, she said, and “Twin Peaks” would change the aspect that the Treasury did not have the power to monitor debt collectors and banks but would have so shortly.

She said the banks had been highly co-operative but had expressed deep concern over long term debt effects and its effects on banking costs, as distinct from immediate short-term relief most of which was in place already as far as consultation with their own clients was concerned

However, she said, the proposed impact assessment on debt relief to attempt to measure outcomes on the proposals for both the private sector and public service sectors was now essential.

Final mix

In conclusion, she said that there was a need for correlated action by all role players since there were many different players, consumer groupings and regulators involved and the views must be heard again of the various entities granting and dealing with credit when the Bill is in final stages of the Bill.

Consumer bodies dealing with debt relief should also be asked to comment, she said. Ms Gibson concluded by saying that there had to be a better understanding how debt was incurred by different South African groupings, why it was so easily incurred and to identify the most appropriate remedies and options that were available to various groups and cultures.

PMQ & A

Questioning from MPs was direct bearing in mind that the proposed Bill was to be a parliamentary submission for tabling. One MP noted that most debtors were litigating against creditor providers whereas it was the collector, such as a state department, that had wittingly or unwittingly entered an illegal garnishee and not necessarily the credit provider.

It was also suggested as not ideal that in some retail-to-consumer arrangements, the credit provider sold the debt to the debt collector in the first place. Then it was the debt collector who arranged the garnishee order and worked on a collection fee.

Ms Gibson responded that this kind of situation had to be accepted and, furthermore, it was not of consequence, providing the credit provider who granted the credit was registered and obeyed the rules and the arrangements fell inside of what was to be allowed in the Bill.

Dave Macpherson (DA) asked about the progress regarding the fraudulent EAOs and asked for a list of the deregistered credit providers who were still operating despite the restraint. Ms Gibson said she would supply such a list to the committee which would be confidential but such a list existed.

Debt collectors

Ms Nomsa Motshegare, Chief Executive Officer: National Credit Regulator (NRC), also said that the “policing” of credit providers could not be controlled with existing legislation but that on the sale of debt, debt collectors were required to register with the NCR to allow monitoring. NCR had a mandate to ensure that the purpose of pensions should not be to pay off debt but to cater for retirees’ welfare

Charmaine van der Merwe, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, entered the discussion to say that not everything that debt collectors did was illegal, by any means, but it was incumbent upon any regulated debt collection profession to reported shady arrangements in credit provision, especially if it involved a legal application.    Sadly, she said, reckless lending could not be reported because it was a matter of opinion and in most cases the facts were unavailable to governance authority.

Learning money

Chairperson, Joan Fubbs asked for the number of teachers involved in debt education in government service since there were many consumers who resigned from the workplace in order to cash in their pensions and pay off debts resulting in skills being lost to the country. Ms Gibson advised that this was a problem that existed throughout South Africa and in any country.

On the issue of rigged auctions, which subject had arisen in earlier meetings, Fubbs said, that although banks were proven to be complicit in some cases, consumer conduct needed also to be addressed in this area since consumer fraud and unmanageable debt had arisen. The committee said this would have to be once again investigated.

Around in circles

MPs warned that in providing for stricter conditions on loans, it might become more difficult for the poor to secure credit. Chairperson Joan Fubbs said that all were aware of this problem but she charged that the most serious issue facing her Committee were poor people losing their homes because they had become jobless, a poor economic climate and unavoidable debt with school fees added to food costs. Frivolous debt was not the issue under discussion, she said.

Department of Justice will now see through the associated Bills and the question of debt relief moves to a final wording with approval of Treasury and ending with hearings. Being a parliamentary Bill, the NEDLAC process will be short-circuited.
Previous articles on category subject
Treasury proposals on debt control approved – ParlyReportSA
Credit regulations to squeeze racketeers – ParlyReportSA

Posted in earlier editorials, Finance, economic, Labour, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Border Management Authority around the corner

SARS role at border posts being clarified ….

In adopting the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs agreed with a wording that at all future one-stop border posts, managed and administered by the envisaged agency and reporting to Department of Home Affairs (DHA), were to “facilitate” the collection of customs revenue and fines by SARS staff present.

However, on voting at the time of the meeting, Opposition members would not join in on the adoption of the Bill until the word “facilitate” was more clearly defined and the matter of how SARS would collect and staff a border post was resolved.

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Economic Development said that whilst they supported the Bill in general and its intentions, they also supported the view of National Treasury that the SARS value chain could not be put at risk until Treasury was satisfied on all points regarding their ability to collect duty on goods and how.

Keeping track

Most customs duty on goods arriving at border controls had already been paid in advance, parliamentarians were told; only 10% being physically collected at SA borders when goods were cleared.

However, with revenue targets very tight under current circumstances both SARS and Treasury have been adamant that it must be a SARS employee who collects any funds at border controls and the same to ensure that advance funds have indeed been paid into the SARS system.

The Bill, which enables the formation of the border authority itself, originally stated that it allowed for the “transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

Long road

It was the broad nature of transferring the responsibility customs of collection from SARS to the agency that caused Treasury to block any further progress of the Bill through Parliament, much to the frustration of past Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.   It has been two years since the Bill was first published for comment.

DHA have maintained throughout that their objective is to gain tighter control on immigration and improve trading and movement of goods internationally but Treasury has constantly insisted that customs monies and payments fall under their aegis. The relationships between custom duty paid on goods before arrival at a border to Reserve Bank and that which must be paid in passage, or from a bonded warehouse was not a typical DHA task, they said.

Breakthrough

It was eventually agreed by DHA that SARS officials must be taken aboard into the proposed structure and any duties or fines would go direct to SARS and not via the new agency to be created or DHA.

This was considered a major concession on the part of DHA in the light of their 5-year plan to create “one stop” border posts with common warehouses shared by any two countries at control points and run by one single agency. More efficient immigration and better policing at borders with improving passage of goods was their stated aim.

Already one pilot “one stop border post”, or OSBP, has been established by DHA at the main Mozambique border post by mixing SAPS, DHA and SARS functions, as previously reported.

To enable the current Bill, an MOU has been established with SAPS has allowed for the agency to run policing of SA borders in the future but Treasury subsequently baulked at the idea of a similar MOU with SARS regarding collection of customs dues and the ability to levy fines.
Bill adopted

At the last meeting of the relevant committee, Chairperson of the PC Committee on Home Affairs, Lemias Mashile (ANC) noted that in adopting the Bill by majority vote and not by total consensus, this meant the issue could be raised again in the National Council of Provinces when the Bill went for consensus by the NCOP.

Objectives

The Agency’s objectives stated in the Bill include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”

The Agency would also be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee, it was said.

Mozambique border

As far as the OSBP established at the Mozambique border was concerned, an original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries. Consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.

Parliament was told at the time that the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, both bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years but these had to be paid before the goods entered the market or were exported, MPs were told. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods.

State warehouses on the other hand, SARS said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared, seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

Slow process

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised. SARS said there were many ramifications at international law but added two discussions with Zimbabwe for the same idea had now taken place. It was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as lessons had been learnt with the Mozambican experience.

On evasion of and tax, SARS said in answer to a question that losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently it was difficult to provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid, as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified based on what had been seized.

The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern and through Botswana.

In general, it now seems that Home Affairs is to adopt an overall principle of what was referred to as having one set of common warehouses for one-stop declaration, search, VAT payment and vehicle movement with a SARS presence involving one common process for both countries subject to a final wording on the SARS issue before the Bill is submitted for signature.

Previous articles on category subject
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Mozambique One Stop Border Post almost there – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

FICA Bill could meet new task force deadline

OECD money task force waiting for SA  

….sent to clients Feb 7…. Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, Yunus Carrim, made it quite clear in terms of parliamentary rules that further debate on the FICA Bill aligning SA to global money laundering task force requirements are confined to the President’s reservations about the Bill’s constitutionality on the issue of warrantless searches. Nothing else was to be debated or considered despite attempts, he said.

After a “suspicious delay”, to quote the Democratic Alliance, of over five months during which the President unexpectedly failed to sign the Bill into law, it was suddenly returned to Parliament with the query a few days before closure for the Christmas recess.

Playing for time

It is suspected that the President’s office might have been making a pitch for more debating time on the Bill in 2017 and to allow the Bill to be re-scrutinised thereby causing further delay or even allowing for an ANC motion to reject the Bill.  This is according to one Opposition member on the Committee.

Following this, in a meeting hastily convened before Parliament closed, parliamentary orders were changed and Chair Carrim re-scheduled the Committee’s last meeting which was to be held on the Insurance Bill.  He instead scheduled an urgent meeting to debate the President’s move, calling for both legal opinion from the State Law Advisor and the attendance of National Treasury to learn of implications caused by the delay.

Next move

As of the result of this last-minute meeting, Parliament and Carrim have to some extent countered what seemed the purposeful delaying tactic.    The Committee agreed to call for written submissions only, preferably containing legal opinion, on only the constitutionality of Clause 32, section 45B (1C) on warrantless searches, saying only such will be allowed and no generalised observations on any other clauses or the rationale behind the Bill will be heard.

In the meeting, MPs expressed anger at the waste of public money and even Chair Carrim expressed his frustration of having to go back to the drawing board on a Bill that had already been passed. “I am getting too old for these kind of games”, he said.

Carrim concluded, “This Bill was approved by Parliament in its entirety and by a majority vote after many months of debate. Legal opinion was called for on many aspects and its signature into law was urgently required to meet international deadlines. In terms of the Joint Parliamentary Rules therefore, only the one aspect that the President has queried could be considered and the Bill was to be returned with the opinion of this Committeeafter a vote in the NA.

Advice sought

It was agreed by the Committee that legal counsel specifically would be sought on the constitutional aspects raised and this would be returned together with the Bill as it stood for signature in an attempt to convince the President not to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court and further delay implementation of a law approved by Parliament.

Adv. Jenkins, State Law Advisor, told Yunus Carrim that he could see no grounds for the contention that the circumstances of warrantless searches were not properly circumscribed in the Bill and were thus legal. It was established that FICA had already conducted some 380 warrantless searches.

Adv. Jenkins pointed out that in terms of the Constitution and Parliamentary rules the President could only return a Bill once to Parliament, whatever the specific subject or subjects.  Thus, this was the only issue that should be debated and considered by Parliament.

It would also be preferable, he said, to return also legal opinion based on supporting input from public hearings, but he advised that once again this should be confined to the subject matter, i.e. warrantless searches.

Country exposed

Meanwhile, President Zuma’s obviously purposeful delays have exposed South Africa to further detrimental opinion from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) who are holding a plenary meeting of the OECD in Paris in February, Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat told Chair Yunus Carrim.

South Africa could well be slapped with a warning letter or even a fine at taxpayer’s expense for failing to sign into law amendments to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, he said, and added that this would not be helpful at the time of a Standard and Poor financial rating exercise to be carried out in the New Year.

Local banks at risk

Even a mild rebuke from the Task Force could have significant consequences for SA, DG Momoniat said, since it would raise concern among foreign regulators and banks about SA’s commitment to vigilant financial regulation.     This in turn would have a ripple effect throughout the economy since correspondent relationships between the global network of banks are vital to effect payment for South Africa exports and imports.

Carrim responded that of the two bad options resulting from the President’s actions, the least damaging was to ignore OEDC opinion for the moment, take proper legal counsel on the issue and await the opening of a new session in late January/early February 2017 for a water-tight case to go back to the President’s office. DG Momoniat acknowledged that Treasury noted the course that was being adopted.

Jeremy Gauntlett S.C. was to be contacted and the question of warrantless searches be considered by him, the wording revised if necessary according to counsel given and the Bill returned to the National Assembly for adoption based on any revisions, if made.

Rules for submissions

The final position was therefore that all submissions to Parliament had to only deal with the constitutionality of section 45B (1C) dealing with warrantless searches in clause 32 of the Bill and those making submissions were requested to provide legal opinions for their arguments .

It was suspected that Black Business Forum and other groupings would make a determined effort widen the scope of the deliberations.

Any submissions on other provisions of the Bill, not the subject of the hearings, had to be made separately in more public hearings to be held on “Progress on Transformation of the Financial Sector”, tentatively set for 14 March 2017. Those additional hearings will be advertised separately, said Carrim’s parliamentary notice when published.

Previous articles on category subject

FICA Bill : Hearings on legal point – ParlyReportSA

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Credit regulations to squeeze racketeers

Debt relief and credit under microscope

… sent to clients 22 Dec 2016…. Further powers for the National Credit Regulator to regulate against reckless lending have been reaffirmed as necessary and the subject of debt relief for needy persons considered.

This conclusion was the result of a series of hearings conducted by Parliament and criteria are to be developed for the application of debt relief measures and how this could be achieved are now being studied.

Such criteria could include target groups of debtors who would be eligible for the relief; the period in which the measure would apply; the type of debt that would be covered and how the measure could be implemented.

An earlier study, commissioned by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) some months ago, concluded that there was a need for the National Credit Act to make provision for the introduction of some form of national debt relief but the NCR decided to consult Parliament and to involve public input.

Growing debt bubble

Whilst reckless lending and irresponsible borrowing which led to the disastrous housing bubble in the US, Joanna Fubbs, as chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, acknowledged that the situation regarding any retail debt bubble is not as bad in SA.   Nevertheless, she said that for some time she has been concerned that the National Credit Amendment Act is not working in the best interests of vulnerable groups.

On the issue of debt relief, whether from reckless lending or not, it was agreed some time ago by the Committee that it was important for stakeholders to be consulted to establish a better picture.  A parliamentary select committee, chaired by MP Eddie Makue of the same Committee, was formed to investigate whether debt relief would be an acceptable policy for SA and to organise parliamentary hearings focusing on banking input and debt control aspects.

The brief

The Portfolio Committee also recommended to this subcommittee that there needed to be a better understanding between the excesses of lending, the plight of borrowers and a view established on regulations which should refrain from fostering any culture of not paying debt in the hope that it might be written off.

Meanwhile, it has been proposed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to extend the powers of the National Credit Regulator to conduct proactive investigations into reckless lending . They would also be asked to impose administrative fines and to empower the Minister to provide debt relief mechanisms through further regulations, yet to be drafted.

Also, NCR submitted that it had already laid out its own proposals to tighten up existing regulations and penalties for perpetrators of reckless lending which the Regulator was currently entitled to enforce under the Act but the views of the Regulator were to be sought on debt relief by Makue’s Committee.

DTI view

DTI has since confirmed to this Select Committee that it was their view was that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, should be given the power to prescribe debt relief measures, the nature of which must be carefully thought through . At the time, DTI acknowledged that banks and credit providers had to make their views known preferably in a series of hearings now conducted.

NCR view

National Credit Regulator, Nomsa Motshegare, has confirmed to the Select Committee that in their view some form of debt relief is necessary given the reasons of the country’s slow economic growth; retrenchments that were taking place; and rising unemployment figures.

In general, she said, these factors had already diminished household income and led to difficulty for consumers to repay loans.   The NCR had found, they said, that there was a willingness in general amongst banks to find ways to relieve the financial burden of indebted clients, many of them stating that they did this already, but there was considerable doubt on whether this should or could be backed up by any enforcement measures and regulations.

 The banks

In this regard, during further public hearings, Cas Coovadia of the Banking Association of SA (BASA) emphasised that legislated debt relief for all would have negative consequences since this was far too prescriptive. He  called for “a customised debt relief approach that would suite various portfolios” as a better principle to follow.

At the outset of the discussions, Coovadia stated that BASA did not support the principle of debt forgiveness as an objective.  One of the banking system’s foundation principles, he said, was the need to efficiently and legally lend money to borrowers and to collect repayments from borrowers to settle the loans.

He told parliamentarians. “A confluence of pricing, regardless of individual consumer risk, will arise at a portfolio level to offset the inability to price for the risk.    This will mean that consumers who have a good repayment history will no longer be rewarded for such behaviour when they apply for further credit.”

He warned that blanket debt forgiveness would accelerate irresponsible borrowing and said all banks offered means to repay and gauged the circumstances when lending.   Any failure to perform on this principle would have severe consequences for the industry and economy; would increase risk to depositors/savers; would impose a cost on society; and would limit credit providers’ ability to extend credit, he said.

Making a plan

Nedbank said that the option of rehabilitation was always a preferred course rather than hard legal collections and the bank had recently adopted a philosophy in general banking terms that to become proactive in terms of debt relief solutions was the far better solution for those who had over-extended themselves.

They said the situation between credit provider and consumers should remain “mutually beneficial”, which principle bore in mind that the economy of the country was less affected.   Nedbank confirmed that a satisfactory low, in their view, of 4.6% of their clients could be classified as technically in total default without the any possibility of rescue, as at the end of 2015.

Too prescriptive

Individual banks, such as Standard Bank, Absa, First Rand, Capitec and African Bank generally supported BASA’s view that prescriptive laws or regulations regarding lending, collection and debt relief would remove the principle of case by case treatment which in turn, they said, would probably inhibit loans being granted or drive up their cost

Debt and labour

Chamber of Mines was blunter and took the view that employee over-indebtedness was a major problem in labour relations and “fed into unrealistic wage demand” scenarios.  Indebtedness, they said, was one of the major catalysts in recent mining unrest.

They were clear that education on family accounts and the implications of over borrowing had to be stepped up, rather than complicated prescriptive measures on relief that would favour one and not the other.  More important they said was that loan sharks should brought under control and whose malpractices were rife amongst the mine working community.

Ms Sue Fritz, speaking for the Chamber, said that any form of debt relief provisions must consider the danger of undermining the basic principle that with the ability to borrow came the understanding such debt had to be repaid or quality lending would cease and debt might increase.

Cosatu view

Cosatu’s Matthew Parks urged that some form of debt relief be provided to a defined base of categories, such as retrenched workers; those only on social grants; the poor; working-class and middle-class students with student loans and borrowers who had paid off a large part of a loan but fallen on hard times. He also appealed to parliamentarians that there was a need to crack down on loan sharks, formal and informal.

Paul Slot, speaking as president of the Debt Counsellors Association, said some form of debt relief was necessary to counter the current high level of household debt, noting that according to the association, 54% of those in financial trouble simply applied for more debt to extricate themselves.

Conclusions in process

The Select Committee has now made a call upon on the National Credit Regulator to tighten regulations further on loan sharks and the registration process.  Chairperson Eddie Makue has now reported back on the hearings to the Portfolio Committee but has noted in Parliament that he was deeply concerned that a large amount of vulnerable people remain exposed to unregulated credit and can become victims purely because of greed alone on the part of the lender.

On reckless lending, it was noted that often ridiculously high repayments from the poor were a weapon used to gain control of assets.    Makue said, “The NCR has to protect poor South Africans against such lending by unregistered and immoral micro-lenders.   In most rural and semi-urban areas people maintain their existence through borrowing and the interest they sometimes get charged is shocking, and interest rates should be capped by law”, Makue said.

State debt relief and debt relief regulations

The “jury is still out” therefore for 2016 on the issue of DTI tabling a Bill and the subject of debt relief generally.

Parliament closed 7 December and will resume this debate early in 2017

 Previous articles on category subject

National Credit Act Bill aims to help consumers – ParlyReport

Treasury proposals on debt control approved – ParlyReportSA

National Credit Amendment Bill changes – ParlyReportSA

 

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