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Marine Spatial Bill targets ocean resources…

Bill to bring order to marine economy…

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, Home Page Slider, Labour, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Fresh Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill tackles Internet fraud

…  Revised Bill criminalises cybercrimes …

posted 5 Aug… A new Bill designed to give powers to the State Security, Defence, Police and Telecommunications Ministers to intervene in many aspects of South Africa’s key economic, financial and labour environments and zeroing in on cybercrimes and related offences, is in debate.  It also calls upon the financial sector to assist in tracking down fraudsters.

Offences include the circulation of messages that aim at economic harm to persons or entities; that contain pornography or could cause mental or psychological stress; the Bill calls upon the private financial and communications sector and, more specifically, electronic service providers to assist with its objectives. The Bill will also change much in the way how government and SOEs go about their business to reflect the current call for electronic security.

The revised Bill is re-write of that originally tabled in 2015 and rejected as too convoluted and wide ranging on issues that could cause unintended consequences.

Badly needed

Despite placing considerable onus upon the private sector to assist, the IT industry seems to be guardedly welcoming the debate which is about to commence. The original and rejected Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill was tabled in Parliament last February.

The main comment circulating seems to be that this later version is more specific than its earlier counterpart, provides more clarity and has less weight placed upon tedious operational management factors in state structures designed to fight cybercrime.

The Bill is the product of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (DoJ) and from what has been said, Deputy Minister John Jeffreys seems to be the state official still running with the legislation. He said at a media briefing some months ago, “This Bill will give the State the tools to halt cybercrimes and trained teams to bring to book those who use data as a tool for their crime.”

Not meant

Originally, when the Bill was tabled in 2015 it caused a storm of controversy. Whilst its objectives to catch criminals and stop the growing invasion institutional attacks were understood, unintended consequences for the media were not foreseen. The new Bill acknowledges that journalists and whistle-blowers have protection under the Protected Disclosures Act.

However, the somewhat draconian powers of seizure of data granted to the authorities will still no doubt worry many service providers insofar as interlocking the proposals into the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) are concerned, it has been suggested in hearings.

However, the Minister and other ministerial portfolios concerned, appear to have weighted their decision upon the growing threat of international cybercrime and have continued to call for service providers to assist with the issue caused by a late start.

SA under limelight

Some IT forensic reports indicate that sub-Saharan Africa has the third highest exposure to incidents of cyber fraud in the world and according to those who published this fact, they also claim that incidences of cybercrimes and cybersecurity breaches are escalating globally at 64%, with more security incidents reported in 2015 than 2014 for South Africa.

South Africa is known to be a specific target for cybercrime involving unlawful acquisition of sensitive data relating to clients and/or business operations due to a very high reliance on internet connections by commerce. Large data storage packages proliferate in SA, it is suggested, ranging from the JSE to the banking sector.

ATMs, bank transfers

In the case again of South Africa as part of sub-Sahara Africa, wire transfer fraud accounts for 26 percent of cybercrimes, far ahead of the global average of 14 percent, South Africans being defrauded of more than R2.2bn each year it is estimated.

Banking and financial institutions in South Africa, it is noted in the preamble to the Bill, are particularly exposed, the Reserve Bank having stated back in 2016, “It would be remiss of us in our duty if we ignored the growing risks emerging from the financial services sector’s increasing reliance on cyberspace and the Internet.”

Definitions

The Bill now before Parliament criminalises unlawful and intentional conduct regarding data, data messages, computer systems and programs, networks and passwords and creates as crimes “cyber fraud, cyber forgery and cyber uttering”.

It criminalises malicious communications – namely messages that result in harm to person or property, such as revenge porn or cyber bullying. The police are given extensive investigation, search and seizure powers in the Bill and an array of penalties, including fines and imprisonment apply, including various prescribed in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.

No FICA-type warrants.

It is notable that cyber-crime powers of search and arrest remain with SAPS and not any specific structure or system set up by the new Bill to monitor instances of cybercrime or detect suspicious data attacks.

There remain, however, quite onerous obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions, not only to assist in investigations of cybercrimes but also to report instances of cybercrime. A “framework of mutual co-operation between foreign states” is established in respect international investigation and the prosecution of cybercrime.

Crime fighting structures

The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill also establishes a Computer Security Incident Response Team, as did its predecessor, to establish contact with the private sector alongside with the already functional Cyber Security Hub responsible to the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Service.

Finally, on structures, the Minister of Defence is to establish and operate a Cyber Command and appoint a General Officer Commanding.

The Bill also provides for the declaration of what is termed as “critical information infrastructure possessed” by financial institutions – for example databases upon which an attack could possibly represent a national threat.    Debate will no doubt flow around who and who not should report and upon what exactly.

The crimes defined

For the technically minded, the Bill In terms of the Bill, the following activities are criminalised: unlawful securing of access to data, a computer programme, a computer data storage medium or a computer system; unlawful acquisition of data; unlawful acts in respect of software or hardware tools; unlawful interference with data or a computer programme; unlawful interference with a computer data storage medium or computer system; unlawful acquisition, possession, provision, receipt or use of password, access codes or similar data or devices.

Also included are cyber fraud; cyber forgery and uttering; cyber extortion and certain aggravating offences; attempting, conspiring, aiding, abetting, inducing, inciting, instigating, instructing, commanding or procuring to commit an offence; theft of incorporeal properties; unlawful broadcast or distribution of data messages which incites damage to property or violence; unlawful broadcast or distribution of data messages which is harmful; unlawful broadcast or distribution of data messages of intimate image without consent.

The Bill imposes a list of penalties and allows for imprisonment for up to 15 years for cybercrimes and the maximum fine that may be levied for failing to timeously report an incident or failing to preserve information is now capped at R50,000, far less than the extraordinarily high penalties for non-disclosure levied in the initial version of the Bill.

Necessary actions

The search and seizure powers granted in terms of the new Bill “do not represent increasing the state’s surveillance powers”, Deputy Minister, John Jeffries said, “But if the State cannot seize evidential material to adduce as evidence, it will be impossible to prove the guilt of an accused person.”

Any hearings will obviously focus mainly upon the onuses and impositions imposed in the Bill upon electronic communications service providers and financial institutions, known by an acronym in the Bill as “ECSPs”. A date for further parliamentary briefings by DoJ has yet to be scheduled.
Previous articles on category subject
Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill invokes suspicion – ParlyReportSA
Draft Cybercrime Bill drafts industry – ParlyReportSA
Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in Communications, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Security,police,defence, 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, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Barnes prepares SAPO for SASSA

Modernising SAPO a culture change

….. sent to clients 27 February…. Stage by stage, Mark Barnes, Group Chief Executive Officer of South African Post Office (SAPO), appears to be reforming cultures and cleaning out “ten years of decay”, as he put it to the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services.

“The years 2017 and 2018 could be our years”, he said, “especially if the Cabinet smiles on a SASSA deal. We have the reserves to do this thing.”

Introduced by Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, on the utility’s presentation on its corporate progress report and prospects for the third quarter, CEO Mark Barnes claimed that SAPO is becoming profitable; is well capitalised and the long-awaited corporatisation process is back on track with many of its labour problems sorted out.

Up and away

When introducing him to new members of the committee, the Minister said that for the last few years SAPO had been facing many challenges, but CEO Barnes, with a new Group Chief Financial Officer, “had put SAPO on the road to recovery”.

Because of its struggles with old systems of the past, digging it out of financial mismanagement and the need to pay urgently its creditors, SAPO was given a cash injection from the State.   The Minister said this was a good decision.  In 2017 SAPO was starting to focus on new businesses, with part of the strategic planning focused on the internet. One of the key goals was corporatisation, the Minister concluded.

New world

Mark Barnes described the position when he took over the reins to save the utility from “self-inflicted suicide” was far worse than was originally thought. He described a process whereby he had to send specialised “swat” teams into each major sorting complex starting with the large Johannesburg complex and eventually to other major towns and cities.

It took months, he said, to “clean up the mess and try to establish order out of chaos”, a good deal of which had been caused by the extended postal strike but mainly poor systems and management disinterest.

The delays caused by basic simple clean-up housekeeping held the initial  financial assessment back whilst the physical clean-up operations, after years of neglect were undertaken, he said.   The “swat” teams eventually established what SAPO assets had and where they were located.

First audit

He said, “I hope this is the last time I refer to ‘the past’ but we are having a mock audit in late January 2017 to establish remaining areas of wasteful expenditure, something that was not even thinkable of last year.”   He said, “The main issue is that SAPO has established an air of confidence and that confidence has reached a point where the rest of the journey becomes a worthwhile investment.”

In answer to criticism from Shadow Minister Cameron MacKenzie (DA) who said that “this SAPO report is being prefaced by the same remarks as before” and who added that it “was the same story of promises made last year but re-hashed”, CEO Barnes made a rebuttal. He retorted that “It is a mistake to take just a superficial look from the outside. Internal organization is being achieved and we haven’t had time to wave flags.”  He gave a long list of what had been achieved.

Heavyweights in saving banking

On savings, Barnes noted that SAPO serviced some 6 million customers with 2,486 outlets and reached out where no established banking services existed. “Compliance is now in place on banking procedures with the SA Reserve Bank  and we are seeking approval to establish the promised SA Postbank Limited with CIPC,  applications being submitted before July 1 2017.”

Postbank’s depositor funds were now standing at R4.9bn, having increased by 128m. Postbank itself had invested R7.3bn, he said.  Payables, Barnes also said, were reduced by R531m and the group met liquidity and solvency standards. The Post Office is backed by a R4.2bn Treasury guarantee.

 An overdraft of R270m had been repaid and R17m had been realized from the sale of pointless property holdings. Rental from existing tenants had increased and a more suitable and less expensive head office was now being targeted. He said he was always trying to get officials out of their old mindset about SAPO and to realize they were in business.

Major cut backs

On the labour front, there were 18,000 less staff this year, Barnes said, “brought about by a process of natural attrition” and it was hoped to transfer a large portion of a “hopelessly overstaffed head office” to operational duties.

If operational revenue failed to provide the necessary improved results in the short term, he said, then a retrenchment programme may have to be negotiated. “It will be tough but that’s how it is. The unions are aware of the long-term planning processes that have been undertaken and the alternatives understood”, he said.

SASSA a target

CEO Barnes expanded on the possibility of SAPO handling all payments of SASSA grants in the light of the volumes of “points of presence which amounted”, he repeated, “to approximately 5,000 counter points  Postbank is also to make an application to government to both handle all government mail business and a submission to SASSA in the very near future as current hiatus evolves.

He said that they had been talking to National Treasury on the savings to the national fiscus that could be gained. It was agreed that it would take much to achieve this possibility but was highly “do-able”.

He said Postbank had sufficient funds of its own to capitalize such a venture with IT networks and training should the security of such a contract be awarded. He commented that ordinary mail had dropped to 50% of original volumes due to the advent of electronic mail.

“This sea change in the way that the world now communicates had found the original management of SAPO completely at a loss on what to do”, he said, “and the decision had  apparently been to do nothing.”

Diversification from snail mail

The plan was now to diversify into courier services probably with a partner and to focus on selling Postbank services at package rates to corporate business.  

So far, four offer attempts had been made to “buy in” as partners, CEO Barnes said, all four of which had been found totally unacceptable.  There had been an obvious attempt in all cases just to acquire Postbank’s extensive national footprint as if a possible merger of interests was a fire sale, in each case contenders having given no consideration to the idea of what “was in it” as a revenue source to Postbank.   All propositions were  rejected out of hand.

Barnes told Parliamentarians, with the Minister still present at the portfolio committee meeting, that e-commerce in the form of public hubs or malls to the SADC area as well as locally will become a major revenue base for SAPO especially in lower income groups.

Generally, on all fronts, 22 significant projects had been approved, CEO Barnes said, with a further 9 in the project stage; 4 projects were in the procurement stage and others in testing and feasibility stages.

Transport more agile

As far as the transport book was concerned, SAPO  had decreased its annual expenditure   by 30% by exercising rationality and purchasing new vehicles cutting down on maintenance and repairs to old vehicles, Savings were also achieved by boosting efficiency with “a more agile logistics mind-set.”

The overall corporate plan forecast is mixed, Barnes said, and whilst revenue has declined significantly on a net basis, which was expected and planned for whilst SAPO re-grouped and cut out unprofitable exercises, it will still meet its corporate plan targets and “looked headed to be back into the black by a small amount in 2016/7”, said Barnes.

When it came to the balance sheet, he remarked SAPO still has an extremely large amount of debt which needs to be paid. However, it was important to note that the entity was now solvent and could pay. It also had liquidity in cash of its own available for development.

The big plan

He told the Committee that the key to SAPO’s future was the corporatisation of the Post Bank, with approval to establish the bank being granted by the SA Reserve Bank in July 2016. Preparations were currently underway to submit for registration in February 2017 as a South African Postbank Limited entity with CIPC.

The Postbank staff, operations and balance sheet will transfer from the Postbank division to the new entity after the incorporation process. The Postbank will allow for broader financial inclusion for all South Africans and it has the capacity to do this, he said.

SAPO, he said, had a relatively sophisticated E-commerce infrastructure with a large footprint which allowed it to facilitate speedy connections and deliveries. This, combined with the ports, vehicles and the access SAPO has at airports could make SAPO the E-commerce hub for Africa.

Ms M Shinn (DA) asked whether anything had been done address the security of IT systems and whether SAPO had the money to recruit and retain cyber-security skills. Cameron MacKenzie asked for more information on the SASSA bid.

Biometrics needed

Outsourcing was now underway and tenders being called for on biometrics, CEO Barnes said, which was the only route to stop fraud, duplicated payments to persons claiming or withdrawing twice under different names; to follow world trends and to get SAPO into the future to serve the nation as it should. Such was necessary if they were to handle the SASSA account which would be a great achievement and was the correct thing to do.

He said that partnerships in the IT sector were very likely to be sought as well as outsourcing, as SAPO, given its size and history, was not going to be able to keep up with the latest developments in the IT sector, nor would SAPO wish to be that expert, he said. Their focus was to get into courier work and banking, not IT. So, partnerships were going to be needed on the right terms.
He said that there had been half-expected problems with the data centre and disaster recovery this year as new equipment was being added to old. Repairs had been undertaken and there were negotiations underway to outsource the work of the data centre.

CEO Barnes said motor vehicles licence renewal processing was up by about R7m transactions in the year but this figure was coming from a very low base.

Money, money, money

In response to the question of when was SAPO likely to return to profitability, he re-confirmed that SAPO expects to start trading profitably during the 2018 financial year.

On complaints from the DA that SAPO still needed help from Treasury, Barnes explained that it was the nature of a turnaround situation not use cash in hand for the wrong things. Working money was one thing but depositor’s funds and reserves were a completely different issue, he said, and these were the security needed for developmental issues to get SAPO off the starting block.

He said whilst corporates have replaced SAPO with other service providers, they are a lot more expensive to hire. “SAPO is a low-cost producer and the only reason people turned to the alternatives is because SAPO became a dysfunctional low cost producer.”
“This is changing”, he said, “and we have to change the corporate customer mindset to show that we can do things again”.
Previous articles on category subject

SAPO – one big bungle at taxpayer’s cost – ParlyReportSA

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Hate speech remains in Hate Crimes Bill

Obsession with Facebook slows draft 

….sent to clients 15 Jan…  The highly controversial draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has been published by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for comment. Submissions are now being considered.  The Bill has been in the making for almost ten years.

Whilst provisions to deal with proven instances of hate crimes were welcomed in general, the department has said, many expressed their doubts regarding the more recent inclusion of hate speech into the draft provisions, particularly in the light the effect that such provisions could have on freedom of speech. For this to be included is still the preferred route, the department said, but the implications are being carefully studied.

Testing the water

In November 2016, it was Cabinet’s decision to publish the Bill in the knowledge that many would object to the hate speech provisions and consequently the department has openly said the publication of the draft was very much to “test the water”.

Whilst activists have in general expressed in the media approval of the fact that a draft, after such a long wait, has finally appeared, lawyers have commented that if hate speech is to be included then “the bar on onus of proof must be set very high and intent to incite must also be proven beyond any doubt.”

Others have indicated concern that the inclusion of hate speech was so controversial that it could delay a much-needed piece of legislation by endless argument surrounding the curtailment of freedom of speech.

 

Overall aims

The Bill says it aims “to give effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in accordance with international law obligations; to provide for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech; and the prosecution of persons who commit those crimes [and] to provide for appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences”.

At the time of writing (12 Jan) no Bill has yet been tabled on the subject by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe.   However, speaking at a meeting of the working group dealing with the draft, his Deputy Minister, John Jeffery, said that racist remarks made on social media platforms by people such as Penny Sparrow indicated to the department a growing need to include hate speech provisions.

Unintended consequences

Sanja Bornman, the chairperson of the working group and managing attorney of Lawyers for Human Rights’ Gender Equality Project, said the inclusion of the hate speech provisions was “very bad news for victims of hate crime, which affects a wide range of people based on race, nationality, gender identity and many other grounds”.  She added that the group was “Nevertheless, very happy that the Bill was finally out for comment”.

According to media reports, she commented that contrary to the deputy minister comments, that the inclusion of hate speech provisions “were not at the behest of the working group” and that its members were “surprised” to hear that such had been included.

 Social media

This indicates, of course, that the move to include hate speech might have been politically motivated from the top but all the same Bornman has admitted that when work first started on the Bill some years ago, social media did not occupy such a prominent position it now has in society and this move may have come as a result.

The deputy minister said the working group would remain at the job of dealing with the input of submissions and a final draft may emerge in February 2017. The Penny Sparrow incident seems concluded but whether both Ministers are satisfied remains to be seen.

ends

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FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption

Bill originally approved by Cabinet

.….. sent to clients 20 Aug…..Going to the heart of the issues facing National Treasury on money launderingzuma9 and financial crime, or in this specific case the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill (FIC Bill), is the failure of President Zuma to give assent to the Bill and to sign it into law.

The delay in adding his signature gives yet another signal that there is lack of interface in constitutional terms between the Presidency, the Cabinet, National Treasury and Parliament and all of this adds more uncertainty in the economic sphere.

fic-logo-2The main objective of the FIC Bill is to conform with international pressure placed upon South Africa to update its governance ability to monitor international financial crime. During the passage of the Bill, however, it became quite evident to interested parties that the Bill could expose a lot more about South Africa’s own internal money laundering, inflows and outflows, than simply making a contribution to the global money laundering problem.

This, of course, was the original point made by international agencies when calling upon countries to agree to such legislation.    Countries have to clean up their own affairs in the process.

Crime busting

Africa MoneyThe Bill intends enhancing South Africa’s anti-money laundering (AML) processes to combat more effectively the crime of financing of terrorism to be achieved by amending the anchor Financial Intelligence Centre Act “so as to define certain expressions”.

However, in exposing monies destined for terrorism, a lot more than just terrorism could become evident in the category to be classed as “prominent persons”, a fact which has been endlessly debated in Parliament and why the Bill has come to the fore in the media.

More entrants

The fact that some in the Cabinet may not like the preamble to the Bill is evident, particularly expressed byzwane Minister Zwane in his ridiculous call for a judicial investigation to investigate the motives for calling the banking sector to report to Treasury on individual groupings and persons and for an investigation into the banks themselves for closing the accounts of certain “prominent persons”.

The target of Minister Zwane’s diatribe, the major banks, are a grouping simply preparing for the FIC Bill to become law since they know it was tabled by the Minister of Finance, having been approved by the Cabinet in the first place and having made considerable input to the parliamentary process. Also they must realize that the Bill in turn will make considerable demands upon them in terms of time and money and will be a test of integrity for all.

Split in the ranks

ramaphosaThe delay, even if for a moment, is one of many factors giving rise to the belief that the Cabinet is “at war with itself”, a fact which Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa admits. President Zuma attempted dismally at first to distance himself from Minister Zwane’s attack on the banks, then seemingly relented but suspiciously will not let the banks proceed with the FIC Bill by making it law to set up the paper trails.

Commentators say the President is effectively involved in a web of issues involving alleged “state capture” and perhaps therefore instructions to hold up the Bill maybe upon advice from elsewhere from parties involved in the bigger picture.

No stroke of the pen

However, the very act of signing or not will eventually show if it is the President is alone in this matter since a cabinet statement in 2015 stated that the Cabinet had approved for the Bill for tabling.Parliament awaits, holding its breath, for clarification from the Presidency.  President Zuma is now, of course, embroiled on issues over the Public Protector’s report on “stature capture” by the Gupta family and, like so many other important state issues, the FIC Bill has gone on to the back burner.

In the meanwhile others, including actors who would definitely be defined as “prominent persons” as defined by the new Bill, are now crowding the stage and expressing their views, so the FIC Bill must be touching a raw nerve somewhere.

The old argument

jimmy-manyiDespite the Bill being passed by State Law Advisors, now one Jimmy Manyi, previously a corporate public affairs head, a DG in the Department of Labour and previously a Cabinet spokesperson and recently President of the Progressive Professionals Forum – all in a short period of time – has lodged a constitutional challenge to the Bill, presumably on the basis of invasion of rights regarding pr1vacy. 

MPs have complained that the Bill in question has been debated at length over one year at portfolio committee level; hearings were conducted with public expression therefore being accounted for and finally the Bill was passed by a unanimous vote in the National Assembly.  Whether nefarious or not, one must assume that any delay by the President is for good financial reason and bearing in mind the call is in fact an international call to upgrade the SA money laundering watch, the stakes are high.

At this stage nothing is stated as fact and rumours abound.     An exasperated Minister of Finance Gordon Pravin stated in an interview run by E-NCA, “Well if I can’t get the Bill through then we must just try something else.” He added, “They had just better come and arrest me. What have I done?”, he asked.

The aim

pravingordhanIndeed, the parliamentary record shows quite clearly what Minister Pravin has done.    By introducing this Bill and having had it agreed to in the National Assembly, a paper trail  is to be established in conjunction with banks on any suspicious movement of money involving “prominent persons”.   Locked cupboards will be looked into therefore and it seems as if someone or a section in the Cabinet  has had second thoughts about the Bill.

Hopefully, the stall is only temporary and the Public Protector’s report is released

Aims of Bill

Treasury originally said in their briefing to Parliament that the four principal objects of the Bill were to align the country with international standards on AML and to counter terrorist bodies; to enhance customer due diligence within financial institutions; to provide for the implementation of the UN security council resolutions relating tomoney laundering the freezing of assets of persons suspected of financial crimes; and for the FIC to introduce a risk-based approach by financial entities to the current aspects international financial crime.

Treasury countered any argument that dis-investment would be encouraged by the Bill with the answer that a lack of compliance with international rules by South would be worse but now the silence on the FIC Bill seems to have taken a back seat in National Assembly questioning in the face of rows over state funding, “state capture” and individual financial investigative probes.

Prominent persons

yunus carrimMuch debate, took place at the time within the Standing Committee on Finance when the Bill was originally debated over the definition of “prominent persons both domestic and foreign”. These were the persons who were to be monitored as part of the Treasury’s appeal to banks “to know their clients better”. The meetings were chaired by the obdurate, diligent and politically respected Yunus Carrim (SACP) and finally recommended to the House.

Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat was at pains to state to Parliament at the time that “there was no implication or presumption that prominent persons being investigated were presumed to be involved in any financial crime.”

Getting to know you

Probably the provisions most likely to affect entities operating in South Africa are the clauses affecting due diligence. Those that are accountable in terms of the Act will be required to undertake ongoing customer due diligence overviews in order to establish the identity of “the beneficial owner” and a customer’s full identity and whereabouts.

This might be where the problem lies for Cabinet, not necessarily just about the “G people”, as referred to indavid maynier Parliament by David Maynier, Shadow Finance Minister (DA), but which might involve issues of party funding – the sources of which at the moment do not have to be declared to Parliament.

Objective views

As put by Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology, University of Johannesburg and quoted in précis form by Creamer Polity, “The ANC is appropriately anti-corruption in its official stance, and indeed has put in place important legislation and mechanisms to control malfeasance. Equally, however, it has proved reluctant to undertake enquiries which could prove embarrassing.” Parastatals still account for around 15% of GDP, Southhall notes.

Whilst Minister Lynne Brown said she was determined to overhaul all state entities, nobody its seems was ready for President Zuma to assume the chair of the new idea of a State Owned Enterprises Council, meaning that he is in charge of para-state strategy – the policy of which was announced many months ago in that government wants a greater slice of the R500m spend on goods and services to go to emergent suppliers.

President Zuma said in Parliament on that issue that the reason for the consolidation was to bring about cross-cutting coordination as a policy within state utilities.

Getting control

Southall continues in his article in similar vein, “The ANC continues to regard the parastatals as ‘sites of transformation’ with certain corporations distributing financial largesse to secure contracts and favour from government. However, their success in so doing is hard to prove given the secrecy of party funding. Secondly, ANC politicians at all levels of government have sought to influence the tender process in their favour.”

On the good side, the Department of Public Service and Administration has, for instance, a draft a Bill underway for Parliament that will require all government departments to put in place measures to prohibit employees and those in special consultancy positions from “directly or indirectly” doing business with government.

Furthermore, the Public Finance Management Act, signed by President Zuma, has proven to be a well-tuned tool to control misdirected state expenditure. The FIC Bill will be the anchor legislation needed to dig deeper into AML money movements.

Who blinks first

fic-bookWith the FIC Bill, the next move then must come from the Presidency, if he remains in  office, to give good reason to send the Bill back to the Parliament despite the agreement of the South African banking system to comply with Treasury requirements to report. This is a day-to-day developing issue.

Quite clearly, some banks have forestalled their problems by refusing to handle certain business banking accounts of “prominent persons”, perhaps pre-empting that the Bill would receive Presidential assent and thus earning the ire of Minister Zwane “in his personal capacity”.

Whether the FIC Bill might get further to the very roots of the party funding system is another matter but for the moment the focus was on “prominent persons” and the necessity to get the banks into action in terms of the law.

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry will continue to debate the “Twin Peaks” legislation which will again tighten up on banking and financial procedures on both regulatory and prudential aspects. But here again, there might be delays.

Previous articles on category subject
Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA
PIC comes under pressure to disclose – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, Home Page Slider, LinkedIn, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Anti Corruption Unit overwhelmed

Focus on top down elements of patronage 

….editorial….As Parliament went into short recess, the Anti-Corruptionhawks-2
Unit, the combined team made up of SARS, Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and Justice Department, divulged that some 400 cases of public service corruption have been “successfully prosecuted since 2014”.

Out of hand

To have that number of public service thieves arrested is no small number but there is a worrying afterthought.   One wonders how many Anti Corruption Unit cases have been dropped or unsuccessfully prosecuted, given the fact such icebergcases are difficult to prove and there is often poor performance of by investigation teams. Like an iceberg, probably only one seventh of corruption in the public service is apparent.

sars logoCases currently under investigation in both the public and private sectors were given as 77, now 78 since Tom Moyane, head of SARS and member of the Anti Corruption Unit itself, at the time admitted to the Committee that he had not spoken to the Hawks about his second in command, Jonas Makwakwa.

Laundry list

The question by MPs was about the mysterious R1,2m deposited into Makwakwa’s private banking account.  According to reports it appears Moyane has subsequently rectified the situation and reported the event.  So yet another enquiry must start, which will only exacerbate the relationship problem between Moyane and the Minister of Finance, Gordhan Pravin.

Added to these national events in Parliament is the fact that corruption investigation remains particularly problematic at provincial and local government levels where it can go on undetected. The story emerging from the Tshwane Municipality is a case in point. The National Council of Provinces has no part to play in such matters.

Top down problem

Over the last few weeks, events in the parliamentary precinct have dominated the domestic media and consequently there is no need to repeat what is patently obvious.  South Africa clearly faces a leadership problem as far as financial governance and policy initiatives are concerned.

hawks logo
Doubt has placed, in the media in main, on the leadership integrity of the Hawks, NPA and, to some extent, with the Anti Corruption Unit inasmuch as their relationship with the President is concerned. A weary public waits for the next story of public service patronage.

Public service heads appear at times uncomfortable when they are reporting to Parliament and seem to be looking over their shoulder at times to see if what they have done or said is politically correct. Troubling is the fact that regulatory bodies are at odds with the ministries that founded them.

Bottomless pits

Although progress has been made on the national level in developing legalmoyane frameworks with provisions and regulations to address theft of public funds, such as the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), the good guys are still behind in the race to catch the bad guys.   A sad conviction rate of 28% on cases brought before the court by the Assets Forfeiture Unit overall was quoted to the Standing Committee.

Poor leadership

On the same subject, the surprising failure by the President to sign into law the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill to fight money laundering in terms of international prudential agreements has represented a further setback. Hopefully this is only temporary since the country needs to join up the dots to encircle organised corrupt financial activity.

Worse, some government SOEs appear to conducting their own affairs without approval by Treasury. Cabinet members are involved. Witness the extraordinary offer made by the Central Energy Fund, reported in the media, to Chevron for its refinery in Cape Town and downstream activities in the form of 850 fuel outlets, presumably backed by the funds emanating from the sale of the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) reserves unauthorised by Treasury.

Upstream mayhem

Tesliso MaqubelaDDG Tseliso Maqubela of Department of Energy has now told the media that SFF sold the 10 million barrels of crude in storage in December at rock bottom price of $28 a barrel to a unit of Glencore, Vitol and a company called Taleveras. The condition of the sale was apparently, Maqubela said, “that the oil (will) not be exported and so the government considered it remaining as part of its strategic reserve stockpile.”

Shadow Minister of Energy, Pieter Van Dalen MP, citing Business Day, said the sale has been connected with Thebe Investment Corporation – “the ANC linked investment arm”, he added.   Vitol is the company that has allegedly bought the fuel stock and which owns Burgan Cape Terminals next to Chevron, the deal being linked by Van Dalen with Thebe for the building of its new storage tanks. Burger had just been awarded a 20-year lease by Transnet for land needed.

cape-town-harbourChevron brought to Parliament its case against Burger saying it was improper to build a new tank terminal next to its refinery for Burger to store oil for trading whilst they had no Transnet pipeline to Gauteng as did others from Durban but the chair of the portfolio committee accused Chevron of monopolistic behaviour. Subsequently the complaint was rejected. It was shortly after that Chevron announced its intention to sell its refinery.

Twisting path

Whether the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson knew all of this when she appeared before the Portfolio Committee of Committee on Energy,tina-joematt her attendance covered in this report, is a moot point.   If she did know something, she is culpable in that she withheld the information, both from Parliament and possibly Treasury.

Alternatively, if she didn’t know that an offer was made to buy Chevron and that SFF had sold the state’s oil fund’s reserves to Swiss giant Vitol, possibly involving Thebe Investments, she should resign immediately as an incompetent.  Where the R4.4bn odd involved in the sale by SFF has landed up is not clear and when the oil will leave SFF’s Saldanha terminal and move to Burger in Cape Town is also not clear.

Clearly, in our view, this has been a major transaction known about at Cabinet level and the DA has called for an urgent enquiry. This will presumably bring the Asset Forfeitures Unit’s number of cases under investigation up to 79.   And so it goes on.  Tegeta and Eskom included.

Nothing but the truth

One senses a continuing cover up by government departments in reporting to Parliament for fear of upsetting any Minister’s apple cart, whereas Parliament should be a refuge of openness, accountability and public oversight on state activities and act as an arbiter to represent the people of South Africa.

vincent-smithIn the darkness, we saw a flash of light and a refreshing change when ANC MP, Vincent Smith, in grilling the Hawks as part of the Anti Corruption Unit interview, reminded them fiercely “This Is Parliament. If you cannot speak the truth, then do not speak at all.”  Whilst that remark may encapsulate the current problem, it may be also the cause of some Ministers and government officials choosing not to speak at all.

Legal jungles

Concurrent with the number of judicial enquiries into strange contracts, bad senior appointments, misuse of privileges and a litany of unaccountable expenditure without proper approval, what also has increased is the statement used by many when speaking to Parliament, including ministers, that the full facts cannot be given “because the matter is sub-judice”.

The number of matters that are sub-judice would not be so great if powers were given back the Treasury to re-assume its proper place in the parliamentary process.  Expenditure, if not approved by Treasury, would never see the light of day.

In conclusion

parliament 6Bad governance and corruption is the fodder that feeds the right wing anger sweeping the world and creates the spectacle that we see almost daily in our National Assembly, the creation of which institution is supposed to be one of the three pillars supporting the Constitution.

Previous articles on category subject

 Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA

Parliament and the investment climate – ParlyReportSA

Anti-corruption law is watered down, say critics – ParlyReportSA

Nkandla vs NDP: the argument rages – ParlyReportSA

Parliament closes on sour note – ParlyReportSA

 

 

 

Posted in cabinet, Earlier Stories, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Government stirs on intellectual property plans

New approach to SA intellectual property 

……sent to clients Aug 1trademark logo6…. The Cabinet has agreed that a new intellectual property (IP) framework is needed and has asked that discussions commence with all stakeholders in order to set out a future IP policy for South Africa.

In 2013 the South African government released a draft IP policy which ran
into heavy weather because of ambiguities and anomalies at law. This previous attempt was rejected by Parliament.

dti-logo2Since that time, the private sector has complained of no movement from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the subject, or even the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Hidden agendas?

Suspicions existed that a lot more was written “between the lines” by DTI in the light of a feeling that government medical authorities, including the Minister of Health and a large number of public sector entities, were favouring the case for making it easier for generics to come on to the market in view of the wish to introduce national health insurance and cheaper medicines.

copyright graphicThe law courts, always sticklers in their respect for the international word of law, favoured, it seemed, external legal international precedent as the basis for a new approach.

Discussions with DTI surrounded their attitudes and their not so transparent views on the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS). However, that approach may have altered with DTI now more openly favouring Bi-lateral Trade Agreements (BITs).

Bad influence

In 2014, the whole question of IP policy became mired in controversy with a statement from a US-based lobby group based from Washington who surprised all by stating they were working with the local pharmaceutical
industry to influence the SA government and also the Department of Health (DOH) in particular in order to gain more ear to the international view. This was subsequently denied by the pharmaceutical world in SA (IPASA).

The whole matter appeared to inflame the incumbent Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who will no doubt be a key player in the new discussions.
After this the 2013 proposals seemed to fall away. Parliamentary hearings were at the time controversial, to say the least.

The major complaints boiled down to the fact that there were no time frames in the government proposals; no regulatory impact assessment had been done; and there was no appearance of a follow through of the effect of the Bill on international commercial ties.

Expert patent lawyers complained of ambiguity and lack of clarity at law.

Where it stood

After some heated debates at the time it appears that TRIPS, despite BITs copyright symboleven then being a new DTI “hobby horse”, has been respected by DTI and the generalised view accepted by most that there would be compulsory local patent registration based on a localised validity acceptance and acceptance by a localised body of all medicines dispensed. The query remained, however, on the skills available to undertake such a policy and time lags.

Whether the originally proposed patents tribunal will have final say in dispute or the High Court of SA will no doubt now be debated, as well as the critical issue of the length and duration of registered patents in a transparent manner with experts and a broad based body to represent the private sector.
As before, probably a “workshop” will be called for to air views.
Previous articles on category subject
Impasse on intellectual property rights – ParlyReportSA
Intellectual property law still in limbo – ParlyReportSA
Intellectual Property Laws Bill goes forward – ParlyReportSA
Medical and food intellectual property tackled – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Treasury goes with health pundits on sugar tax

Sugar tax threatens jobs say suppliers

With the publication by Treasury of the policy paper on a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages of 2.9 cents percanning gram of sugar, Treasury is set to raise some R3bn from fizzy or carbonated drinks and the possibly of a total R4.5bn from the food and beverage industry as a whole. Others in political circles estimate that revenue could exceed R11bn.

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, promised that such a tax would be forthcoming in last year’s budget speech. As this figure quoted by the Minister is minuscule in terms of the total country’s overall budget needs and the administration may outweigh the costs of actually collecting it the Minister has pointed out in mitigation that there are easier ways to garner tax revenue.

With that disclaimer, the release from Treasury also says the tax “flows from work undertaken by the health department on non-communicable diseases and obesity.”   They said, “The problem of obesity has grown over the past 30 years in South Africa resulting in the country being ranked the worst in sub-Saharan Africa”.

In the background

sars logoWhat Minister Gordhan says is usually the truth but most of the influence is more likely to be coming from the Ministry of Health.     At the most, Minister Gordhan says that the idea in Treasury is to “nudge consumers into better choices to fight obesity.”  Whether this move will in fact contribute to a cut in obesity deaths remains in the strange area of whether an increase in the price of whisky reduces the number of whisky drinkers.

Treasury is following the theory that by making the cost of cool drinks higher and thus less affordable, it will make sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) less appealing to consumers, a theory also which appeals to the Minister of Health whoaaron motsolaedi has been most vocal on the subject.    Such an idea also conforms to sugar-related food and beverages studies conducted by Wits University, they both say.

Not medically holistic?

Most objectors to the idea of a “sin” tax on SSBs say that if one wishes to really succeed in a fight against high obesity rates in SA, then only a whole package of measures will achieve the desired result.    In the UK apparently, where the argument also raged, it was stated that a sugar tax was an impractical answer without a tax on crisps and snacks, a whole range of harmful foodstuffs and, especially with children, other “goodies” sold to them from tuck shops and cafés.

In SA, many have said that to isolate SSBs, when they are sometimes more available than potable water in a number of rural areas, is counter-productive. There will be more “unintended consequences”, they say.

Who suffers most

From a political viewpoint, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Beverage Association of SA both echo the same sentiment that all the tax will do is “hurt the poor and will most likely fail in its objective to reduce obesity”. The debate will obviously become quite intense in this area alone.

The DA has already gone on record as saying “It is difficult to compel consumers to eat healthier foods by making unhealthy foods expensive. There are always cheaper, fizzier and sweeter alternatives on offer.” This does of course make that point that SSBs, in their view, are unhealthy.    The DA added it would reject Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s proposed sugar tax if its purpose was “simply to raise more revenue under the fig leaf of a public health benefit”.

The proposed date for the enforcement of such a sugar tax is April 1, 2017, and bottlers such as Coca Cola state thatcoke bottle sugar is in most food and drink and they ask how far this form of tax will go.  Already government has announced regulations restricting the amount of salt in most foods, including bread and processed foods, in an effort to reduce the cost to the State in respect of heart attacks.

Health objectives

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has set out the intentions of the Department of Health (DOH) to reduce obesity by ten percent in South Africa by 2020.

The DA have argued that by that date any sugar tax would have contributed as a major item in driving drive up food prices, whereas the answer they say lies in a “holistic healthy lifestyle campaign”. They have also said that they  would object to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s proposed sugar tax if its purpose was “simply to raise more sweet counterrevenue under the fig leaf of a public health benefit” but its difficult to see how they could stop the tax as most Bills on tax are incorporated in ‘money’ Bills.

The DOH paper on obesity points to a US report that “sugary” drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year globally and that South Africa was ranked second in the world. That seems a rather unsupported figure but is an example of the rather extraordinary claims being thrown around.

World view

Most bottlers seem to have unsweetened versions on the market it is noted, so technically the matter remains a consumer choice but marketing people say people don’t like switching.   Confirmed by Treasury is the fact that other countries such as Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico and Norway have all levied taxes on SSBs.

The DA point out that Mexico is the only case comparable with South Africa with such a large sector of poor and there the tax has failed to reduce obesity. Treasury disagrees and says “a tax on foods high in sugar is potentially a very cost effective strategy to address diet related diseases”.

Written comment on the proposals is invited until 22 August 2016.
Previous articles on category subject
Sugar tax possibilities – ParlyReportSA
SA health welfare starts in small way – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Health, Home Page Slider, Labour, LinkedIn, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Border Authority to get grip on immigration

Border controls for trade as well…..

A Bill enabling the formation of an overall border authority to be known as the Border Management Authority has reachedborder lebombo Parliament following its publication for comment last October by the Minister of Home Affairs. The legislation will “allow for the transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

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

Mozambique border

sa moz logoThree years ago, Kosie Louw, then chief legal officer at SARS, told Parliament that a “one stop border post” to handle customs and immigration was being established at the Mozambique border.

An original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries and consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.
Kosie Louw told the standing committee at the time that on finance 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, bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

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

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years, Louw said, but these had to be paid before the goods entered into the market or were exported. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods, which could be removed only after all the customs requirements had been met.

State warehouses on the other hand, Louw said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared,
detained,state warehouse 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.

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised which to them seemed an unduly long period. The SARS response was that that were many ramifications at international law but he added they had already had two discussions with Zimbabwe at that time.

Slow process

South Africa, he said, was looking at the establishment of more such posts and it was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as many lessons had been learnt through the Mozambique experience.

SARS, said losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently very difficult tosa border beit bridge 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 on the basis of what had been seized. The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe, where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern.

The overall principle of what was referred to then as an OSBP was for both countries to have one set of common warehouses for stop, declaration, search, VAT payments to South Africa. involving therefore vehicles going through only one process for both countries.

It seems that the new Bill is building on that experience but the whole process is taking an inordinate period of time put down to the fact that so many departments in two or three countries have to be consulted and consensus obtained.
Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas – ParlyReportSA
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA

 

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SAPO – one big bungle at taxpayer’s cost

Total management failure…..

The horror story of the uncontrolled mess in the South African Post Office (SAPO) and how this state entity,
without forSAPOmal management control to speak of and facing imminent danger of structural collapse, was reported upon in Parliament recently

The route to near bankruptcy was recounted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) by current SAPO board chairperson, Mr Simo Lushaba, who had been summoned to explain the crisis at SAPO, accompanied by the new CEO of the Post Office, recently appointed Mark Barnes.  Comments were added by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Siyabonga Cwele.

Previously Mark Barnes had tried to respond to the call by SCOPA to report but the meeting had to be abandoned, incurring the ire of the Committee, since it is the chairman of the board of the state entity in question, in this case Simo Lushaba, who can only respond to a SCOPA call as the nominated person in terms of parliamentary procedure was unavailable.

Rulings are clear on this, as is the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA) in the case of SOEs.

Poor management

Immediately, it became evident in the meeting that whilst the worst period of poor management in SAPO had occurred in the last two years culminating in four strikes in 2015, although not necessarily connected issues, the common factor was a collapsing management hierarchy over a number of years beforehand.

Senior officials, it appears, throughout the organisation were totally out of touch with employees and no overarchingSimo Lushaba managerial directives were passed according to any form of plan. The disastrous current situation was a culmination of “systemic mismanagement over a long period of time”, said Lushaba.

The SAPO board chairperson said SAPO did not have the cash available to continue with legal disciplinary proceedings against the former CEO and CFO, both persons having received a total of R5.7m in salaries whilst suspended for a year, during which it was alleged that they were responsible for the chaos when in control of SAPO.

The SAPO board had decided to cut its losses and halt the legal proceedings with regard to the legal case. “It was not an ideal outcome but unfortunately it was just taking too long, plus we did not have the money to follow the case through”, said Lushaba.

Ship with no rudder

When asked for sum up comments by MPs of the SCOPA committee towards the end of the meeting, new CEO Barnes said that SAPO, as an entity, was currently suffering a loss of about R125m a month. He told sapo queuesparliamentarians that twenty-five post offices had been closed down, some of them because of rent arrears.

Despite a further allocation of R650m in terms of the last Budget allocation, “this came nowhere near to eliminating the mountain of debt which amounted to more than R800m by March 2016”, he said.

With a balance sheet such as this, he said, “a government guarantee was no longer sufficient to persuade banks to lend SAPO money, despite Treasury agreeing to extend on its repayment loan date.” An immediate cash injection was the only route, he said, and that was on its way as agreed to by the Minister of Finance and Treasury. “This means that SAPO can pay its some of its creditors within the next few days”, he said.

Compromising with creditors

“The very existence of SAPO under threat on a daily basis is evident as creditors understandably want simple proof of future income which is extraordinary for a state entity”, Barnes said.

“Every month the delay in paying creditors has made it increasingly difficult to continue operations and negotiate commercial contracts on favourable terms since there is a total lack of trust on the part of suppliers.”

CEO Barnes said there was now a plan in place to turn around the organisation, with an estimated loss of R1.5bnsapo3 expected for the current year, adding to the R1.2bn loss for R2014/5. By the end of 2017/8 there could be a small gain reflected on the balance sheets. But the plan still hangs in the balance awaiting decisions from banks, he said at the time.

He also said he was “disturbed by the fact the banking sector did not automatically accept government guarantees”. This fact was slowing the downturn around and the plan was losing momentum. He suggested that the state should take another view on their relationships with the banks and enormous sums of cash they receive from the state to pay public servants.

SAPO was already three months behind in its strategy to achieve future successful financial outcomes whilst the banks made up their minds and Treasury despatched the cash on a painfully slow basis, he noted.

Oligarchy over

He stated that never again should SAPO ever be “a one man one show business.” It could indeed be rescued, he said, and made profitable in the next three years but no sooner and it could become a valuable asset in five years.”

This could be achieved by doing vigorous work to identify every source of loss, he said. The memory of the postal strike was also very evident with all speakers, still not resolved in entirety.

Mark Barnes“The Public Finance Management Act is the challenge”, CEO Barnes noted. “The competitors of SAPO make decisions in three to six minutes whilst SAPO made decisions in three to six months.” It was clear he included Treasury in this remark.

He stressed that PostBank was unaffected by SAPO’s trading deficit since it was an entirely separate enterprise holding some R7.3bn in cash in the form of savings. In this area lay the future, CEO Barnes said, adding that SAPO had to turn from a postal operation to a faster and cheaper package/courier service for the citizens of South Africa.

Minister weighs in

Minister Cwele added to this comment when he noted that reckless trading decisions had been made when globally mail volumes were going down. There were far too many post offices in unprofitable areas paying enormous rentals to developers all resulting from the days when it was “the hype to have a post office in every major shopping centre.” This was bad management and bad thinking at the time, the Minister said.

cweleHe pointed out that Parliament had passed the Post Bank Act and the PostBank could eventually work as a limited savings banker and bank operator in post offices, especially in unreachable areas where the private sector did not wish to venture, if not in small towns as well.

The Minister said that at some stage strategic decisions needed to be taken on such issues and also such matters as government officials being paid through PostBank. The Minister echoed the view that post offices should become competitive, low cost, courier service providers as well as handling smaller volumes of mail now being experienced and be run individually on a profit basis.

Where the money is

A recent survey had been conducted of post offices running at a loss and those most profitable, the Minister said. The most profitable were in the old Transkei area in the Eastern Cape and the one post office running at the biggest loss was the Sandton Post Office, he concluded.

Chairman Lushaba explained that the service called PostBank was a division of the post office. There was a risk osapo7f talking of the organization as a whole. For example, the disaster recovery IT programme of PostBank had worked well but the IT problems of post offices itself were still causing high risk. For example, he said, the entire post office backup system was on its own system and there was no separate system to switch to. He wondered how such elementary mistakes had been made.

Bad record

During the debate on a litany of irresponsible financial decisions, absent financial systems and even the lack of a working asset register, it emerged after a full day of reporting and cross questioning by MPs that a call had to besapo5 made for upgrading of IT and general management skills, Treasury officials present took a dim view on the future unless this was done, they said.   The question of basic training was also seen as an impediment as was the lack of broadband facilities to improve the IT position.

SCOPA demanded, as a committee, that the previous CFO and CEO be brought to book since, besides matters involving the rejection of the auditor general to undertake an audit; the inability to produce a balance sheet and ignorance of the Public Finance Management Act in all matters of procurement, criminal charges should be investigated as a matter of course and with speed.

Previous articles on category subject

Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA

The big SA cabinet crunch – ParlyReportSA

Broadband allocation on its way – ParlyReportSA

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