Tag Archive | parliament

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 Earlier Stories, Energy, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill invokes suspicion

Cybercrime Bill stated as invasive

…sent to clients 28 Jan…   A new law to assist in enforcing South Africa’s fight against cybercrime, hacking and unlawful interception of data is about to be tabled in Parliament. As expected, the proposals are not without considerable misgivings in the private sector and involve claims that the state may have designs upon the control of free speech and/or are intent upon the control or manipulation of cyberspace.

The draft Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill (C&C Bill) has now been approved by Cabinet, the draft having been published for comment as far back as September 2015.  Industry players are deeply involved and the next platform for their involvement moves to the actual wording of the document that will form the basis for regulations.

Agents for the state

The legislation states that the proposals are designed to give powers to the State Security, Defence, Police and Telecommunications Ministers, which powers will not only extend into many aspects of South Africa’s key economic, financial and labour environments but will impose responsibilities on service providers.

The Bill clearly states it will call upon the private sector for compliance into order to meet its objectives and will also change the way the public service goes about its business to reflect the call for security.  Cross hairs are to zero in on the criminalisation of cyber-facilitated offenses including circulation of messages aimed at economic harm, contain pornography or could cause mental or psychological harm.

Parliamentary stage

The next stage of public sector involvement will be extensive parliamentary hearings, no doubt involving joint portfolio committees, to cover the many aspects involved.  Also to allow for further submissions on deep concerns in the private sector regarding compliance and intrusion of free speech rights.

The long and quite complicated process of drafting such legislation has been undertaken by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.  It is stated that the proposals are of an umbrella approach towards legislation already in the ambit of the new Bill, the objective of which is to extend any new regulations over a wide range of business endeavours and activities “in the public interest”.

Long history

The process started at a point in the cybercrime history log which seems a century ago.  A government gazette articulated what was necessary. “I, Mbangiseni David Mahlobo, Minister of State Security, hereby publish the National Cybersecurity Policy Framework as approved by Cabinet in March 2012 for public information.”

The long journey has finally resulted in a 130-page draft which firstly creates offences, prescribes penalties and regulates for powers to investigate, gain access, search and seize items. It gives such powers to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the State Security Agency (SSA).

Future structures

The Bill then proposes that structurally the Minister of Police establish both a National Cybercrime Centre and appoint a director in charge – a person currently serving with the SSA – and similarly appoint such a director in charge for a “point of contact centre” for cybercrime activity, outreach and contact.

Monitoring all structures will be a Cyber Response Committee (CRC) made up of 13 experienced persons chaired by the DG, Dept. of State Security.

Any interventions at this level will be, by nature of the vastly changing business environment and the global challenge of the subject matter of the Bill, “which will form the critical point of balance between the forces of state control and public endeavour”.

Ground troops

Initially, the Minister of State Security is to appoint a director in charge of a proposed Cyber Security Centre, such person also serving with SSA and for the Minister to establish Government Security Incident Response teams, also appointing a person from the State Security Agency as the head of each specialised investigating team.

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

Furthermore, provision in the Bill is made for the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services to establish and operate a Cyber Security Hub and appoint a director of same. It is in this area that assumedly the main interface between private and public sectors will take place.

Key points

An example of a database to be protected is given in the Bill as the Home Affairs database and the mandate for dealing with cybercrime clearly includes the fact that foreign states and South Africa will be co-operating to investigate possible offences.

Also, powers are granted to the President who may enter agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity. The proposals make it quite clear that international crime fighting and the local protection of cyberspace are to be woven together. This will involve changes to the anchor Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, particularly where the Act deals with attempts to deal with abuse of information systems.

The nitty gritty

Where the C&C Bill ventures into the private sector there will no doubt be, and certainly has been to date, plenty of debate.  The Bill as proposed, broadly and perhaps too grandly, allows for the imposition of obligations on electronic communications service providers (ECSPs) and financial institutions in respect of aspects “which may impact on cybersecurity”.

The difference between obligations and compliance seems a fine line but already the Dept. of Telecommunications has set up a website on https://www.cybersecurityhub.gov.za/ to try and clarify issues.

At what point?

The general obligations of ECSPs are a set out in the draft bill but an obligation is proposed that as soon as a ECSP “becomes aware of an offence being committed on its network”, the matter must be declared to the National Cybercrime Centre.

The offences are enumerated in the Bill but it is possible that clarity is required, according to stakeholders who have voiced opinions so far, as to who decides at and at what level the retention of a suspicion becomes an offence or to restate the problem, at what point does a suspicion become a reportable fact.

Proposed offences include unlawful interception of data; unlawful access, personal information and financial information-related offences; unlawful acts in respect of software or hardware tools; unlawful acts in respect of malware; unlawful acquisition, possession, provision, receipt or use of passwords, access codes or similar data or devices; computer-related fraud and computer-related extortion.

Extensive powers

Most focus on the fact that the Bill’s clause 58 gives the State Security Minister powers to determine what should be included in a “national critical information infrastructure”.

The Bill goes on to state that should it “appear” to the Minister that any information presented is of such “strategic nature” that any interferences, loss, damage, immobilisation or disruption which may result in prejudice to the “security, defence, law enforcement or international relations of South Africa; or prejudice the health and safety of the public; interfere or disrupt any essential service’, then the Minister may implement the powers granted by the Bill.

The “Apple” problem

Broadly speaking, also included is any malevolent act which “causes any major economic loss, destabilises the economy of South Africa or creates any form of public emergency’’ with the proviso that the organisation must “at its own cost take steps to the satisfaction of the Cabinet minister” to comply with a state request.

Any “affected organisation may be given the right to be afforded an opportunity to make representation” but, to repeat, players in the industry note that a great amount of responsibility has been delegated without clear definitions of what is reportable.

The background

The seriousness of the Bill and the recognition that cybercrime must be dealt with firmly is measured by the background given to the Bill.    It is estimated that cyber-related offences currently exceed a value of more than R1bn annually. This is escalating at speed, the Department of Justice states.

In general terms, one of the tasks of the Cybercrime Centre is stated in the revised draft as informing all of cybercrime trends and creating an environment which enables parties to report cybercrime without being suspected of whistle-blowing with the accompanying commercial disadvantages.

In other words, the fear with the original draft expressed by the Right2Know campaign that the draconian powers of seizure worried many in the IT industry and that lack of protection for whistle blowers was out of kilter with free speech requirements, may have to some extent been responded to.

Heavy hand of the law

Still, fines of up to R10m and/or 10 years’ imprisonment are involved following a guilty verdict for unlawfully accessing or intercepting “a national critical information infrastructure” involving “critical data”, which makes for a tricky scenario for ECSPs handling traffic and journalists handling information.

This is in the light that an ECSP could be liable on conviction to a fine of R10 000 for each day on which such failure to comply with disclosure requirements continues, it was noted.    To be specific, some fifty offences are detailed in the areas of data, messages, computers, and networks.

This is serious talk.   Whilst national cybersecurity needs are recognised as paramount, as the latest draft explains, the extent of state powers in the hands of uncontrolled and misdirected state effort gives concern to many in the ECSP business community, particularly in the light of the public nature of the internet.

No warrantless searches

On the other hand, whilst the C&C Bill gives SAPS and SSA extensive powers to investigate, search, access and seize assets wherever they might be located, the search powers granted are not emanating from the proposed Bill.

Search powers are only possible provided the search entity has a search warrant granted in the normal way, the department says.  SSA will be purely looking, they say, for data that has a feature of malevolence and commits crime in terms of the need to protect the State and its citizens.

At a briefing for the media, the Justice and Constitutional Development Department in Pretoria Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, gave a further assurance that what is about to arrive in Cape Town “will not give any powers to the State Security Agency (SSA) to control the internet or spy on local users”.

Criminal data

The search and seizure powers granted in terms of the latest draft of the C&C Bill around the interception of data “do not represent increasing the state’s surveillance powers”, the Minister said.

“As part of the final draft of the bill, it says that to prove an offence in a court of law, data must be seized as evidential material.  If the State cannot seize evidential material to adduce as evidence, it is impossible to prove the guilt of an accused person. “

The criminal procedure act is currently used to investigate cybercrimes, Minister Jeffery said, and to this end the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) “are already in the tool box”.

Anchor still RICA

The C&C Bill is merely extending the RICA from that aspect, he said, which already has basic general principles in place to protect persons against unlawful interception of communications. “There is thus no extension of the so-called ‘surveillance powers’ of the State”, he added.

He confirmed that previous versions of the Bill, whilst stating a person who fell foul on the issue of state information that was classified as secret could go to jail for 10 years without the possibility of a fine, now, the final draft of the Bill acknowledges that journalists and whistle-blowers have protection under the Protected Disclosures Act.

Minister Jeffrey said was satisfied that the C&C Bill, now headed towards its final shape, gives the State the tools to halt crime and bring those who used data as a tool of crime to book.

 Defining data

He concluded, “Data is merely a means to commit offences such as fraud, damage of programmes and computer systems, extortion, forgery and uttering. It can also be used to commit murder by remotely switching of a respiratory system or terrorism by overloading the centrifuges of a nuclear station or remotely opening the sluices of a dam which causes large scale flooding.”

Much of what will come up in the parliamentary hearings of submissions will most likely involve the space occupied by the ECSPs and their responsibilities as perceived by the State. Furthermore, the role to be played by any business institution using large amounts of data needs to be clarified as far as areas of compliance are concerned.

Previous articles on category subject

Draft Cybercrime Bill drafts industry – ParlyReportSA

South Africa on international cybersecurity – ParlyReportSA

Broadband allocation could involve SABC – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Communications, LinkedIn, 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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Medicinal use of cannabis makes progress

Medical Innovation Bill and cannabis

..sent to clients 18 Dec… Dr Narend Singh who took over the tabling of the Private Members’ Medical Innovation Bill from the late Dr Mario Ambrosini, said that he was so impressed by the progress of the Department of Health (DHA) in their support of the use of cannabis for medical purposes that he could see the possibility arising where he could withdraw his Members’ Bill in favour of broader legislation tabled by the Minister of Health.

He said “there was light at the end of the tunnel” and he himself was on a “high” to learn from Dr Joey Gouws, in charge of regulatory and legislative enforcement at DHA, that regulations on the growing of cannabis, manufacture, dispensing and medical use for medicinal purposes could be in place by the end of 2017 including registration processes and classification systems.

Holistic approach

Dr Gouws was briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio on Health on progress towards the commencement of such a programme and which not only covered the medical use of cannabis as proposed in the Medical Innovation Bill but covered research, registration, manufacture and the scheduling of substances.    Separate legislation would be in parallel amending such Acts as the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act.

Regulations were a draft form stage in authorising permits for use by practitioners, analysts, researchers or veterinarians.      In fact, said the DHA team presenting the update to parliamentarians, it might be possible to see certain herbal products with limited THC levels available within three months.

 Worldwide

Dr Gouws said that in the United Kingdom similar legislation, to be enacted, provided for innovation in medical treatment and allowed medical doctors to depart from medical treatments for a condition but the UK Bill did not specially address the use of cannabis. In South Africa, it will be allowed for under specific prescribed conditions for the treatment of certain medical conditions and for education, research and analysis.  Similar legislation in Australia and Canada had been studied.

Patients that are proposed for eligibility are those with severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting arising from cancer and HIV/AIDS, including treatment. Muscle spasms and severe pain associated with multiple sclerosis and seizures from epilepsy where other treatment options have failed or have intolerable side effects. Severe chronic pain is included as part of the proposals for indications.

Crop trials completed

The Department of Agriculture, the DHA team said, has justMedicines Control South Africa forwarded the outcome of cultivation trials at four agricultural research facilities jointly overseen by both departments. This would now be disseminated and assessed, which results would form part of the ongoing research by the Medical Research Council and other academic research centres involved in the future clinical use of cannabis.

Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 7 prohibited substance but regulations will shift this towards Schedules 3-6 which are prescription-only medicines with authorised prescribers.   Scheduling decisions involve levels of toxicity and safety; the proposed indication for a substance; the need for medical diagnosis before prescribing; the potential for dependence, abuse and misuse and access disciplines.

Certain cannabis products are prescribed at present but unregulated illegal herbal cannabis, Dr Gouws said, which is grown incorrectly and bought from the black market will have unknown concentrations of THC’s and cannabinoid concentrations combined with potentially harmful ingredients.   Cannabinoid drugs currently used are Dronabinal for loss of appetite during severe illnesses, Nabilone for nausea under similar conditions and Sativex for spasticity.

Conditions of use

If legalised, it will be proposed that objective evidence to support the proposed use of cannabinoids in whatever regulated form must be provided; the manner and duration of treatment provided; a patient must be monitored to ensure efficacy; the treatment outcome reported upon; the physician involved must be a specialist and informed consent by the patient or legal representative obtained.

In questioning the DHA, parliamentarians were particularly concerned that appropriate measures amending the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act, the criminal Procedure Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act were undertaken. One MP remarked that there must be no question of unintended consequences with law enforcement processes in order that criminal procedures under certain circumstances involving cultivation, marketing, administering and research can be clearly separated and easily understood by the South African Police Service.

Dr Joey Gouws said that this matter had already been investigated and the issues involved were with the State Law Advisor at this very moment. It appeared that they were satisfied. The framework for medical use and research had also been submitted, which also included the licensing of growers using controlled cultivation methods for medical, scientific and research purposes. There were various cultivars of cannabis which had different medicinal properties, she said.

Quality controls

The framework being worked to by DHA also includes reaching a standardised, quality assured product for medical use indications, bearing in mind that clinical decision-making in terms of Section 22A(9)(ii) and Section 21 of the Medicines Act must be made to the scheduling of products, Dr Gouws said.

For a while, Dr Joey Gouws said, cannabis as a medicinal drug for pain may remain as a Section 21 drug as things exist until all regulations were in place and registration and classification complete, so that the use could have a controlled start.  Herbal classifications may be allowed far earlier.

ends

 

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Hide and seek over R14.5bn Ikhwezi loss

Facts on Ikhwezi loss held back

…sent to clients 12 Dec… In the first of several meetings of the Portfolio Committee on Energy regarding Central Energy Fund’s Ikhwezi Project, chairperson Fikile Majola has agreed with ANC MPs and Opposition members to reject the Department of Energy (DOE) report on the PetroSA impairment or write-off amounting to R14.5bn.  Continue Reading

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FICA Bill : Hearings on legal point

President Zuma vs Parliament on FICA Bill

…..editorial……The convoluted thinking that is taking place in South Africa to avoid the consequences of the law has once again become evident in the ongoing battle between the Presidency and the Standing Committee on Finance with the return  of the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) Bill  by the President to Parliament and therefore unsigned into law.

Worried by warrants

The President claims that for representatives of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to visit business premises and even homes under special circumstances without a search warrant and in cases where obtaining a warrant would defeat the purpose of the search, may be unconstitutional.   FIC, meanwhile, has confirmed in Parliament that between the years 2011 and 2016, 930 warrantless searches with the consent of those searched had been carried out by its inspectors.

Rare happening


The move
by the President, after five months of inaction, has now forced Parliament to seek the opinion of senior counsel to reinforce their views that warrantless searches are indeed acceptable in terms of the Constitution.   The FICA Bill was originally recommended for signature into law and sent to the President by no lesser body than the National Assembly, then concurred to by the National Council of Provinces, both on the advice of Parliament’s own legal counsel on constitutional issues.   This is normal procedure with every piece of legislation.


This reason for further delay on the President’s part must have raised a few eyebrows at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) centre in Paris.     As those in financial circles are aware, the Bill was tabled by the Minister of Finance with the objective of not only aligning South Africa’s banking and financial institutions with global financial advances but to counter growing and localised corruption and money laundering.

Hurry up and wait

This august body, the OECD, much maligned by the Minister of Mineral Resources in tandem with his opinions on the SA banking system, is currently awaiting South Africa’s confirmation that it will comply with the latest round of requests for compliance with the fourteen rules, now amended, to counter international financial terrorism and extend the OECD’s ability to combat international money crime.

Warrantless searches are allowed in most major countries where compliance with OECD conditions are sought but in the same countries, as has been worded in the FIC Bill, the circumstances to allow this only in cases of suspected money laundering are specifically worded and this includes cases where the application for a warrant or a delay in obtaining a warrant would remove the element of surprise.

Treasury wanted immediacy

The request for South Africa to conform is more specific in terms of the requirements of the Financial Intelligence Task Force (FATF), better known by banks as the criminal investigation department of OECD.    A date for compliance was set by them in February 2017 and agreed to by South Africa. The banking sector is ready to implement the new rules both in staffing terms and with systems and procedures waiting. Minister Pravin Gordhan and some senior ANC party members have been vocal with their suspicions for the delay.

Mystery motives

In what appears to be almost Machiavellian in political terms, the President, with the knowledge that he must have that Parliament was about to close for business, might, according to some MPs, have lodged his further objections to the Bill in the hope that further support for his views could be garnered from subsequent hearings, submissions and more debate.

Chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, Yunus Carrim, countered the President’s unexpected move by cancelling urgent meetings on the Insurance Bill, scheduled for debate and hearings on the last two days of parliamentary business, and called for an urgent meeting of his Committee.  

Advocate Frank Jenkins, Parliament’s legal adviser, was asked to attend and give opinion, together with manager of FIC, Pieter Smit.   Also attending was the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas and National Treasury deputy DG responsible for FIC matters, Ismail Momoniat.

Carrim firm on subject

Adv. Jenkins confirmed the sections of the Constitution provided for a Bill to be returned but only once and on specific issues.  He saw the President’s action as unusual in that a Bill, worked on for two years with every clause scrutinized and with input from constitutional experts, could be returned at such a late stage with so much time having elapsed during which an objection could have been easily submitted.

He then explained to MPs how the Constitution does indeed allow for warrantless searches in terms of the Constitution’s specific wording on the subject matter. He listed six precedents of Bills passed into law recently where warrantless searches are allowed in certain prescribed circumstances in terms of the Constitution.   He said this was not a complicated issue at law in view of precedent.

No good choices

Chair Carrim said he had no choice but to treat the FATF issue as the least worst of bad scenarios and he was forced to apply parliamentary rules to the issue in order that the President’s move could be countered with indisputable legal fact and by applying parliamentary rules objectively and strictly. He wanted to observe protocol so that the matter could become “de-politicised”.  

He said the media had called him “brave” to stand in the way of the President’s obvious wish.   This was not the case, he said, but just a matter of following the rules and respecting the fact that Parliament was the final arbiter in such matters since Parliament represented each and every citizen of South Africa.

The response

The rule, Adv. Jenkins explained to the Committee, was that should a Bill be returned to Parliament by the President, having been beforehand approved by the House on every issue in the Bill, then only the specific point, i.e. warrantless searches, could be discussed and debated subsequently and altered if seen fit. This was stated in the Constitution.   The Bill could then be returned to the President with Parliament’s view on the subject matter alone.

He said that should the Committee decide that the President’s view was a baseless argument then they could probably avoid the President referring the matter to the Constitutional Court with further long delays by supplying advice from counsel.  Chair Carrim agreed with this suggestion and with Committee approval across all parties the call for legal submissions in the form of submissions in the New Year and the matter down for hearings and debate in Parliament after it opens in February/March 2017.

Hands off the Bill

Parliament could then return the Bill to the President, Carrim explained, with full legal constitutional opinion and throughout the whole process, only the issue at hand, i.e. warrantless searches, would be allowed for debate.   No other substantive issues could be raised, debated or voted upon as the Bill had been approved by Parliament, Carrim said, and only one issue was under scrutiny.

He said, this would be clearly advertised when calling for submissions and the Speaker asked to observe the rule in any subsequent National Assembly debates.  Any other comments and observations would be regarded as irrelevant.  As far as the OECD was concerned, this was a risk that Treasury would have to handle in their meetings with OECD but this route, Yunus Carrim felt, was the better option.

Believe it or not

For the five months that President Jacob Zuma has been refusing to sign the Bill into law
and refusing to give any reason other than finding the time to “apply his mind to the issue”, any amount of publicity on the need for speed must have landed up on the President’s desk
, even if  just legal advice on the subject instructed by the President.   Lying to Parliament has now become a presidential practice, cartoonists Jonathan Shapiro, Neale Blandan and Jeremy Nell having turned President Zuma’s relationship with Parliament into an art form. 

The “G” factor

As far back as 2009, the OECD published a list of countries divided into three parts, all depending on how or whether they complied to “internationally agreed tax standards”, in select jurisdictions, tax havens or other financial centres of interest and whether they had implemented appropriate legislation in line with OECD requests.   

The procedures are now part of standard international banking procedure but now relate specially to identifying money movements of “prominent persons” and where money laundering seems possibly to be evident.

Whether the President, as the most elevated and “prominent person” in the country, might be trying to protect himself or other “prominent persons” including friends and associates alike against investigation into money movements is not, however, the main issue.

All suffer

The far more serious issue is that the President’s seeming neglect in responding for months has exposed the country’s banking and financial systems to risk.  This is quite outrageous.  The President may or may not have a good argument that it is constitutionally inviolate for the FIC to search without a warrant and possibly with or without warning beforehand  but it seems a stretch of the imagination, given his track record, that he is morally indignant.

Parliament has now issued a gazette calling for comment with the following proviso: “All submissions must therefore only deal with the constitutionality of section 45B (1C) dealing with warrantless searches in clause 32 of the Bill.     As the hearings are on the constitutionality of warrantless searches, those making submissions are requested to provide legal opinions for their arguments if possible.  No consideration can be given to submissions dealing with any other provisions of the Bill.”

Hearings are promised as well in mid-March 2017 for  generalised input on the legislation, part of Chair Yunus Carrim’s call for Parliament to investigate “transformation in the financial sector.” 

 

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Madonsela: state capture and corruption linked – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Earlier Stories, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Liquor licensing may have impractible conditions

DTI gets tough with age limits

...sent to clients 17 Oct…..   In what will be a tough ask, Minister of Trade and Industry, Robliqour-store Davies has proposed a number of changes to the National Liquor Act, the most contentious being to raise the legal minimum age for purchasing liquor from 18 to 21 years of age. The call for public comment on the draft National Liquor Amendment Bill as gazetted closed on 30 October.

The Department and Trade and Industry (DTI), who deal with liquor licensing at a national level, state that South Africa has globally the worst figures for alcohol related accidents and anti-social incidents involving liquor abuse.

Drastic steps had to be taken to gain control of alcohol related injuries, illnesses and abusive behaviour that were costing the state some R40bn a year, the Minister said.

Younger age groups

The Bill focuses specifically on youth since DTI maintains that alcohol abuse specifically damages the development of the brain making youth vulnerable. Liquor advertising aimed specifically at young persons will be prohibited under the Act and revised rules set down on broadcast times and content. Advertising billboards aimed at youth will be banned from high density urban areas.

Minister Davies called for “robust public engagement on the issues raised in the Bill” as it dealt with matters “that are of significance to South African society.” He noted that South Africans consume alcohol related products at double the world average rate.

On the question of the age threshold proposed in the draft Bill is a minimum purchasing age, not as has been widely reported a “minimum drinking age”. The onus of establishing age will fall upon the supplier who must take “reasonable steps to establish age” when dealing with a young purchaser.

Pressure point

A civil liability will now fall upon the manufacturers and suppliers as well who knowingly breach the new regulations, Minister Davies said, believing that this was the only way to get the problem understood and the new rules adhered to.

sab-youth-beer-adThe draft Bill states that responsibility will also fall upon the seller not only not to supply liquor to a person visibly under the influence of alcohol but that the seller could be in addition asked to show reason why they should not bear costs for damage incurred as a result of a subsequent accident involving that person who made the purchase.

On the problem of community issues, such as tackling foetal alcohol syndrome which is considerably worse in South Africa than elsewhere in the world and alcohol related crime, the onus of proof will shift not only to a supplier but also to manufacturers to show that reasonable steps were taken to ensure that liquor is not sold to illegal or unlicensed outlets. Which brings up the issue of liquor licences.

Distance from community

Licensing is a provincial matter and there are a number of changes that the amending Bill police-raidwill make to the anchor Act which will have to be abided by. Particularly notable is the proposal that licences cannot be granted to an outlet less than 500 metres from any school, recreation facilities and places of worship.

Provinces are stated as “having an obligation” to be far stricter in granting licences in highly urbanised areas, giving due regard for the need for stricter business hours and for the need to deal with noise pollution in stressful living conditions.

Previous articles on category subject
New health regulations in place soon: DoH – ParlyReportSA
Licensing of Businesses Bill re-emerges – ParlyReportSA
Medicines Bill : focus on foodstuffs – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Madonsela: state capture and corruption…

says, Zuma involved in state capture.. 

editorial.. To those who know, the silence after a bomb goes off is quite uncanny. Like the state capture bomb. Even birdsongthuli-madonsela-2 ceases and the world seems to halt for a few seconds.  Then as things start up again, people seem to gabble. Everybody is rushing about. Life starts up but the noise seems incredible, if you can hear at all that is.   Following this comes the sickening realization that there might be a second bomb.   One seems helpless.

So it was when the Public Protector’s Report on State Capture was released.   Most had the feeling that to see in writing upon the frontispiece the words “state capture” was quite surreal.   Up until then it was rumour; an “alleged” idea; something that was always “strongly denied”; certainly, shady but in any case, difficult to prove… but it certainly shouldn’t happen in our backyard anyway.

Truth must out

thuli-encaThen the bombshell report was released.  The world seemed to halt in silence whilst its 355 pages were digested. Then came the voices, mostly loud and some quite vociferous.  Some demanded more proof; some demanded immediate retribution. Many asked for the President to step down, following which was a festival of interviews on e-NCA.    Meanwhile, in Parliament the corridors went quiet.   Like a phoney war.

Rewind

Whether there is a second bomb in the form of the Hawks and the NPA again charging Minister Pravin Gordhan is purely conjecture at this stage.   It is part of a process that Parliament is not privy to.   Parliamentarians must just watch these parties go about their business, unfortunately at the expense of a jittery investment market.

What we do know is that all judicial and parliamentary processes are painfully slow and this iscropped-sa-parliament-2.jpg as it must be.   Witness the complaints if a Bill is rushed or “hammered” through Parliament.  It rarely works when carried out at speed and the process is exposed for its faults.

The law may be an ass at times and very laborious but it is there to fight corruption.  To eventually win a case against such a difficult-to-prove crime may take time but it is devastatingly successful when achieved.

However, the name Gupta is not responsible for everything.   Some of unpleasant exposures, especially in the energy field, are the result of massive incompetence rather than a temptation of financial gain.

Taking time

In ParlyReportSA, now with clients, we detail four painfully long processes which eventually will result in what may not be liked by some but have been correctly subjected to the slow but democratic procedure of Parliament – the MPRDA Bill; the investigation into the tina-joemattIkwhezi R14.5bn loss; the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves; and how the mini-budget of Minister Pravin Gordhan has evaded the claws of state capture.

Our constitutional, and therefore our parliamentary system which is integrated into it, is subject to a clause which states that the president of the country is the person who is elected as the president of the ruling party’s National Executive.    This outcome only changes if that person is found guilty of breaking the law or his and her oath of office. For this outcome to be proven can take much time.

Patience a virtue

Gratifyingly also, amongst many outstanding court procedures underway, the arduous parliamentary and legislative process to ensure a recalcitrant President gets around to signing the FICA Bill, is underway.

His signature is needed in order that the countrzuma1y can meet international banking obligations and comply with money-laundering disclosure requirements. The fact that the President has not signed it, as was put before him by Parliament and has provided no reason for the apparent lack of inertia to do so, speaks volumes.  Probably a case for personal privacy will be tabled by his defence team, if he gets to need one.

Delaying tactics

Either the President in this instance will waste taxpayer’s money with a long drawn out case or be advised to withdraw, as has been his practice up until now, by acceding at the last minute and will have signed or be told to.

zwaneHe and his associates know that this Bill is a critical tool in the fight against illegal transfers of funds by “prominent persons”.  Minister Zwane’s fight with the banking sector is an unnecessary sideshow connected to this process. More becomes evident in the media , day by day, of this gentleman’s shady dealings.

Dark forces

Another fight calling for patience and now being unearthed is the level of corruption within intelligence services, Hawks and the NPA.  Hopefully, this is not as deep as the relationship that Robert Mugabe had with Nicolae Ceaușescu of Hungary, based on which he built his CIO and followed the advice gained from his training with Nangking Military Academy.

hawks logoHopefully also, with the NPA, Hawks and other major undercover government departments, only such matters as  graft involving as rhino trade and state capture bribes are the tools of trade involved and the aim remains simply self-enrichment.

Hope springs

The “goodies” in South Africa have much to undertake in order to beat the “baddies”, not helped by senior ANC officials not getting off the fence for fear of being demoted on the party list and losing their pensions.    All the same, there are so many good men and women speaking out at the moment from all spheres of political and business life,  the ANC in particular,  that “the force” would appear unstoppable.

Getting Parliament back into control and equal to the Cabinet will be a long process andparliament mandela statue calling for extreme patience, as manifested by our greatest President who demonstrated such incredible patience over many years in his long walk to freedom.

Previous articles on category subject

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Anti-Corruption Unit overwhelmed – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Earlier Stories, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Communal Property Bill assists land reform

Reform assisted on communal property 

communal-land-4…sent to clients 21 Oct….The tabling of the Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill could represent a major advance in bringing order to many aspects of government’s land reform policy. In essence, the Bill will ensure that householders have security of tenure and thus have the ability to raise capital before they enter into any agreement on the management of communal land.

The new Bill focuses on developing the practical and legal aspects of ownership of communal land by a communal property association (CPA) whilst at the same time providing security of tenure with a new initial procedure of naming householders to benefit. The draft has now been approved by Cabinet.

Whilst the thrust of government policy on land reform has always been to bring ownership ofland-reform self-sustaining agricultural land to previously disadvantaged communities, the process has been much bedeviled by conflict over land falling under the control of traditional chiefs; the inability of small farmers to raise finance without title and, most important, for households able to enjoy security of tenure.

Communal confusion

An unintended consequence of the original CPA programme launched by government has been that government has not wished to involve itself, nor has any investing entity for that matter, in the community strife and argument over communal land, a feature of many CPAs. Consequently, the CPA system has demonstrated its inability to involve itself in loans, any state support, or receive the support of agricultural assistance programmes.

community-farmIt might be said that CPAs as a structural system is “off the banking radar”, a fact which MPs in parliamentary committee meetings have complained of a number of times.

As a result, expensive trusts have become the order of the day, banks preferring to deal with such entities and even government itself having to use them because of the informality of a CPA and the inability of loan applicant to show security.

The objective of the Act when it was signed into law was to create a new form of juristic person to allow disadvantaged communities to acquire, hold and manage property in common. A community that qualifies in terms of the Act can therefore, on the basis of agreement contained in a written constitution, form a legal entity (the CPA) and thereby become owners of property, including land, via the CPA.

Agricultural reform

A CPA as it currently stands allows its members to become owners of land which has been “prioritised for the provision of infrastructural support to land reform farmers to enable them to create sustainable jobs and alleviate poverty.”

However, over the few years since CPAs were established, it appears from parliamentary Lesedi traditionalportfolio committee meetings, that things have not gone well. In some cases, traditional chiefs had intervened and gained control of land previously under the aegis of the members of a CPA. Meanwhile, traditional chiefs had complained that CPAs were acting like “chiefdoms” in themselves, the department told parliamentarians.

Tweaking and compromising

Some attempts were made by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to persuade CPA members to appoint traditional chiefs on an “ex-officio basis” but the situation remained untenable, not necessarily just because of the problem of traditional control but because, due to shortage of staff, they said, had no ability to monitor the situation and no picture of what land was under CPA control, where CPAs were, and their needs.

In addition, no measurement of outcome of any schemes appeared possible, Opposition members complained. Quite clearly, they said, the NDP land reform programme has not been successful to date. Whilst the idea had been along the right tracks, it seemed the system was patently in trouble.

Green Paper study

After two years of investigation, in 2014 the Ministry, produced a Green Paper on the subject. After creating communal property ownership rights, the new proposal in the Paper was to secure individual tenure to each household beforehand, be it a farm-dweller or tenant, and for each household to own its rights at law before the CPA was formed to lock into this.

land-reform-5As per the Act in force, it would be possible for a community or group of persons to have access to a registered title to land through common or joint ownership with every name included (in a deed of transfer) or through a trust (with title vesting in the trustees) or a juristic person (with title vesting in that legal entity). Once registered, the CPA would become a juristic person – that can sue and be sued. It could acquire rights and incur obligations in its own name, in accordance with a CPA constitution.

In a policy statement, a Bill was proposed along these lines with a CPA constitution as before dealing with sub-divisions, servitudes, the right to encumber with a mortgage, deal with leases and settle disputes – all essential to the development of the area concerned but in respect of nominated persons giving those persons therefore security of ownership.

The bigger picture

The new Bill therefore speaks to a process to align a CPA to the broader land reform mandate in terms of the policy statement. The Bill also says a Communal Propertyland-claims-court Associations Office is to be established which is headed by a Registrar of Communal Property Associations. As a result, CPAs will be better equipped, it is felt, to take part in development; its status is recognised and is known to government; and has a secure system of tenure established as a base for ownership.

DHA said the plan was to clearly establish the connection between the land itself and those who live on it and depend on it for agricultural income. With more clearly established security and a need to register for compliance, it is hoped that a CPA structure will present a more viable face to the investing world.
Previous articles on category subject
New approach to land reform – ParlyReportSA
Restitution of Land Rights Act reversed – ParlyReportSA
Land Holdings Bill joins state acquisition trend – ParlyReportSA

Posted in human settlements, Justice, constitutional, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts0 Comments

NRCS hammered over port delays

NRCS admits failure to meet LOA targets

…..sent to clients 16 Oct…...The National Regulator for Compulsory Specificationsasogan-moodley (NRCS), responsible for the issuance of letters of authority (LRAs) to complete import certification of imports in respect of critical safety regulations, came under intensive fire in Parliament from MPs across all party lines.

This included a warning from Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Joan Fubbs, that the NRCS failure to meet its annual targets, particularly bearing in mind such targets were set by themselves, was not acceptable.

Chair Fubbs told CEO Asogan Moodley of NRCS his agency was “a blot on the otherwise excellent annual performance of the Department of Trade Industry (DTI)”, NRCS being the only one of the seventeen DTI entities to receive a qualified annual report from the Auditor General’s office for the past year.

Durban is problem area

sars-warehouse-durbNRCS has a mandate to provide LOAs for clearing goods for sale or service in various categories of goods imported into South Africa, with the port of entry of Durban providing most of the problems in supplying the necessary LOAs. Chair Fubbs said that the poor performance already shown in the first quarter of the current financial year did not auger well for any change in the immediate future. This cannot be the case, she warned.

NRCS divides imports into the main categories of automotive including all components; chemicals, materials and mechanicals; electro-technical including IT and electronic appliances and food in the form of fishery products, canned meat and processed meat. NRCS also ensures standards on building supplies and checks calibration and checks of weights and measuring equipment supplies, including gaming equipment.

Massive backlogs

CEO Moodley told parliamentarians that outstanding LOAs over the recognised maximum period of 120 days were, at worst, 191 days – where 179 consignments were involved. In all some 1,500 consignments exceeded 120 days across all imports at various ports of entry, he said. The worst failures to supply import LOAs were in respect of electrical goods, IT appliances, vehicles and automotive parts.

All imports were checked on a “risk-based approach” and dived into low-risk, medium-risk andcargo-vessels-durban high-risk as far as consumers were concerned. Target turnaround time, after inspection and issue of relative LOAs, was respectively 75 calendar days for low-risk, 90 calendar days for medium-risk and 120 calendar days for high-risk.

Asogan Moodley emphasised that a major problem had been that DTI had changed working days into calendar days which had overtime connotations for NRCS with already limited staffing levels.

The whole truth

Chair Fubbs queried the number of days that cargo was outstanding supplied by NRCS in their annual report, stating that she was aware that the situation was far worse that indicated by NRCS in their presentation. In fact, a number of consignments needed by commerce and industry has been sitting in bond for nearly a year, she said. This was not acceptable, she warned.

warehouseCEO Moodley named his problems in clearing goods as being as being a result of short staffing of expert examiners, who were difficult to find – although some personnel were being trained or re-trained to meet technological changes. Compounding the problem, he said, was the necessity to update the entire NRCS IT ability, which was budgeted for but which had not yet been completed.

He also complained that the volumes of incoming imports and the technical advances represented almost monthly in imported goods were not exponentially related to the growth of NRCS, its skills base and the level of monitoring expertise, particularly at major ports.

IT gear just standing

In respect of the electro-technical category, he said that whilst inspections were up 11% transnet-container-terminalagainst target, the processing of LOAs within the financial year stood at 68% lower than the target for 120 days turnaround. In other instances, inspections carried out at source or at retail level were also short on target level but CEO Moodley assured the Committee that the NRCS had embarked upon a process of implementing a new system of automation and modernisation to improve performance.

He said it would take 18 months to complete such a programme at a total cost of R50m.
Major problems encountered were that certificates of origin supplied by importers which differed when the same goods were subsequently imported resulting in the need for fresh LOAs and that all processes at present were manual which increased load.    He called for the regulations to be changed so that more categories were allowed for so that very low risk products could be handled specifically on a quicker turn-around basis.

Opposition members said that they could not see how this would improve the situation since the problem appeared to be an inability to handle any volumes with untrained staff, whether low risk or high risk.    MPs noted that import bottlenecks were a financial threat to businesses and industry who were reliant on such imports and failure by DTI in this regard led to job losses and low growth.

Technical advances not in tune                nrcs-logo                                    

CEO Moodley and his team of departmental heads went to great lengths to explain the technical variations in international goods and imports coming from various countries that were either substandard or which had wrong documentation. He said that the failure to provide standards for treated timber and safety footwear, for example, had caused a backlog and such issues as non or sub-standard tyres on vehicles had slowed things down in the automotive sector.

He complained that the lack of consistency in supplied products and the constant attempts to short-circuit the system by importers accounted for much of the delay in turnaround.

Where it matters

CEO Moodley said that the electro-technical industries represented an area where most product failures occurred.  He added that the introduction of LED technology had compounded the checks for accuracy and reliability and such issues as compatibility of electrical goods, in many cases portable generators and white goods, had a poor record of power specification labeling and consequent safety in South Africa.

This was a growing problem with many countries who worked to different standards, various plugging methods and a different disclosure ethic.

Warning

durban-port-bigIn conclusion, when the debate was wound up, the Committee noted that a complete change of direction in the methods and ability of NRCS to meet its targets had to be found and that future presentations by NRCS reflecting such dismal results would not be tolerated.

As a result of a number of critical comments from MPs across party lines, the backlog of 1,650 LOAs over 120 days would be tackled, regulator Moodley promised, “by October” but stated this as being with the use of “new inspectors”.

Also, in an effort to speed up the search for unsafe or non-compliant products, there would be no need to obtain a new LOA for additional imports of a product where one had been additionally granted, he said. However, NRCS reserved the right to carry out spot checks.

Consequences

From a subsequent follow-up report in Business Day, it was learnt that DTI had confirmed the resignation of CEO Asogan Moodley and that such a move “had been a decision of Mr Moodley himself”. Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said he had instructed DTI’s DG, Lionel October, “to engage with NRCS to ensure they meet their targets”.

DTI said that Minister Davies “simply expects management and labour of DTI entities to meet their targets”, referring specifically to LOA targets in the case of NRCS.
Previous articles on category subject
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Tax law changes after mid-year budget – ParlyReportSA
New Customs Duty Bill opposed by BUSA – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Earlier Stories, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Foreign assets amnesty Bill underway

Timing of window period resolved as 30 June

…..sent to clients 15 Sept…  The Standing Committee on Finance has now behind it the call for comment on a revised draft Rates and Monetaryfinancial-darwin Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill which proposes a Special Voluntary Disclosure Programme (SVDP) for financial amnesty  in respect of offshore assets and income.     The process is therefore well underway for the introduction or tabling of the final Bill from Treasury.

The draft Bill was coupled with a second draft for comment, the Draft Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws (Administration) Bill, which handles implementation of the amnesty. 

gordhan2The original proposals were made by Treasury in June of this year following the statement made by Minister Pravin Gordhan in the 2016 National Budget. The idea is to again encourage non-compliant tax-payers to voluntarily disclose offshore assets and income, with a window period of opportunity to do this bearing in mind that the global standard for automatic exchange of information between tax payers is coming into force in 2017.

Alterations made

Changes to the original proposals are a re-definition of trusts to include those located externally; tax relief will apply to tax assessments going further back in date and undeclared amounts derived from foreign assets will apply for the financial years from March 1 2010 to Feb 28 2015, the common date for tax assessments.

Foreign assets

In the case of foreign assets, the tax applied was to be applied at 50% of the highest value of all assets offshore, the foreign currency conversion rate forsars-logo valuation being the highest Rand spot rate of the years applied for and declared.    A request to reduce this to 40% has been accepted by Minister Gordhan.       Treasury feels that anything less will cause discomfort those who have declared foreign assets correctly and have paid normal tax rates in the meanwhile.

Taxpayers who disposed of any foreign held assets prior to 1 March 2010 will also be able to apply for relief under the SVDP window, any tax to be payable in South Africa.    The application form is called the Voluntary Disclosure Application Form (VDP01) and can only be accessed via the SARS e-filing system if the current system is to be used for this particular SVDP.

More time

Financial advisors and banks have also pointed to the lengthy processes involved in filing applications, particularly where foreign asset valuations are involved and Treasury have indicated that the window period will run now from 1 October to 30 June 2017 to accommodate this.

The gazette states, “The SVDP (and the acceptance of electronic SVDP applications using the SARS e-filing platform) will commence on 1 October 2016 and will continue until 30 June 2017.    South African residents (individuals, sole proprietor, partnerships, deceased estates, insolvent estates, South African trusts, close corporations and companies) and former South African residents will be allowed to disclose their foreign assets held in contravention of the Exchange Control Regulations, 1961 (Regulations) as at 29 February 2016. Exchange control applications to the SVDP Unit are to be made pursuant to the provisions of Exchange Control Regulation 24 (Regulation 24).”

Particularly relevant is the addenda, “Please note that any party involved in a foreign exchange transaction that is currently under investigation by FinSurvmoney may not apply for administrative relief.”

From the proposals, it can be seen that R10m plus R1m a year is the maximum size of legal offshore investments that can be made by SA residents currently under the Act. This cannot be used to “offset” against any levy rendered against a disclosure, says SARS.       Corporates can still invest up to R1bn without informing the Reserve Bank.

Safe with SARS

SARS has said the average turnaround time is currently about 16 working days per case submitted.

Nothing has yet discussed in any way before the Standing Finance Committee on the issue of the Panama Papers, nor probably will it be, but the 1,700 South African names purported to be on record now with SARS from the Papers has been cited by some as a possible reason the Bill had not been tabled.

It is quite clear from the gazetted statement that no claims for amnesty are possible in general terms whilst an ongoing SARS investigation is in process.  ThisAfrica Money might disbar certain high profile cases therefore.

A final Bill is therefore now anticipated in Parliament for hearings, debate, concurrence by the NCOP and passage to the National Assembly for a vote since, presumably, nothing will happen until the Act is amended by both Bills.
Previous articles on category subject

Parliament debates three financial market and tax Bills
Budget 2016: more on amnesty – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Restitution of Land Rights Act reversed

Concourt says land bill “improperly” passed

…,sent to clients 25 August….  The Constitutional Court has upheld anconstitutional-court application that amendments to Restitution of Land Rights Act were improperly processed by Parliament.  The Bill was tabled by Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti.

Groupings opposed to the legislation successfully argued that the amending Bill went through Parliament without sufficient consultation with affected parties.

The proposal made by the Bill was that further claims may be lodged going back to the 1913 Natives Act but the Bill, about to become an Act, had been in any case “put on hold” for 24 months to allow for existing outstanding claims, some 8,000 of them in terms of previous legislation, to processed first.

Existing claimants brought that particular application against the Bill on the basis that those who lodged claims under the new amendment to the Act would be “jumping the queue” and their claims might or were being ignored. The re-opening of the restitution of land process was therefore greeted by a mixed re-action, a fact not expected by the ANC amongst the populace concerned.

More haste less speed

madlangaOnce again the particular habit now regular of the governing party of hammering legislation through Parliament at the last minute before recess has bounced back on the Cabinet and the Presidency.    Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga said in his finding that the Constitutional Court could find “no cogent reason” for the apparent haste to sign the Bill into law.

He said that there had been a complete lacking in the required public consultative process by all nine provinces as the Bill went through the NCOP process of approval. He described Parliament’s behaviour with regard to the passage of the Bill as “improper”.

How it started

When the Bill was first tabled in a meeting of the National Assembly’s Rural Development and Land Reform Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Minister Gugile Nkwinti confirmed that the whole process of land restitution for black persons dispossessed of their land was to be re-opened for a period of five years.

Under questioning,he confirmed that no constitutional changes were envisaged, despite the fact that the new Bill would mean an Act that backdated claims to 1913.    Critics of the Bill noted at the time that the tabling of such legislation was, as they put it, “politically motivated” in the light that it was being processed before national elections and with the then forthcoming provincial elections in mind just around the corner. The outcome of those elections would confirm the Minister’s fear and that of the Cabinet.

Critics also stated that there was insufficient time to process the Bill properly. ANC MPs chose to ignore this warning. Thw whole process has therefore been a waste of public funds.

In the kitty

Minister Nkwinti then announced that Cabinet had set aside R47bn for theGugile_Nkwinti envisaged exercise over a period of five years. Opposition members were again alarmed, stating the country had neither the resources nor court time to process such a plan and, in any case, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was already facing an uphill struggle to process and finalise the existing claims it had on their books. Opposition members also called for sight of Treasury approval.

During the course of the Minister’s departmental presentation on strategy leading to the budget vote a week later in Parliament, when confronted by opposition MPs asking for a direct answer as to whether he would call for constitutional change on property rights or not, he replied that there was “no such question arising.”

The whole truth

Since that time the tandem Expropriation Bill has also been returned to Parliament unsigned and similarly passed in haste before a recess but, in this case, in the light of a possible adverse opinion by the Constitutional Court.

Minister Nkwinti chose to issue a statement on the the passage of the Expropriation Bill upon its being voted through the National Assembly although not in the domain of his Ministry.

cronin2This statement completely contradicted the declared motivations of Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, who had steered that Bill through Parliament declaring his legislation to be necessary for public works to execute infrastructure projects.

Nkwinti’s statement  claimed  that the Expropriation Bill “would bring about the possibility of at last of speeding-up land restitution and reform” thus laying the groundwork of his new land Rights Bill and contradicting the assurances of Cronin.

The numbers game

In his original briefing on the tandem Restitution of Land Rights Bill, Minister Nkwinti stated at the time that since its inception, the state’s restitution programme had benefited some “370,000 households”.    Normally one refers to “claimants” but it was his way of getting to his point using self-serving mathematics.

This meant, he said, that some “1.83m persons had benefited so far from theland-reform process, as against an estimated 3.5m people who had been forcibly removed from their land as a result of colonialisation and racial and discriminatory laws”.

A new closing deadline for lodgement of land claims was set by the Act as mid-2019 and a booklet on how to lodge a claim published.  Mobile lodgement offices were to visit all areas, the department told subsequently told MPs, and the lodgement process required no fees.

Tough words

Whilst the Constitutional Court has now re-affirmed that the right to restitution “could not be overstated” and that “restitution of land rights equals restoration of dignity”, Justice Madlanga was not prepared to overlook the fact that the time line of the parliamentary process had been manipulated.

“As an example, the process of public participation in the Northern areas was reduced to a shambles by haste”, he said, “and as a result of the truncated process of the NCOP, the whole parliamentary procedure had been tainted”. The NCOP was found to have “not applied its mind to the task.”

Give it time

Pending re-enactment of the Act, the Commission on Restitution on Landland-claims-court Rights may continue to receive claims and acknowledge receipt but only process them once existing outstanding claims that had a closing deadline of 1998 are finalised. After 24 months, further consideration can be made on the possible re-enactment of the legislation.

In conclusion, Opposition parties fear that the new Act will allow traditional chiefs with the additional powers granted in terms of legislation favoured by President Zuma to supersede rights on land already granted to communities.

One way only

Disquiet was also expressed by some MPs with the land acquisition claim alternatives as financial compensation was mainly the choice for claimants.

Some MPs expressed the view that they were “uncomfortable” with a monetary solution as a solution to dispossession since this almost amounted to a bribe.

DA MP Thomas Walters said in his view the reason for the slow rate of land occupation was not, as the ANC claimed, the result of whether or not there was a solution on the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle but rather a reflection of the fact that 92% of land claimants preferred to take cash pay-outs instead of working the land and creating jobs.

Minister Nkwinti strongly denied this as did the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Previous articles on category subject
New approach to land reform – ParlyReportSA
Land reform: Something very sad is going on – ParlyReportSA
Minister says need for legislation on land reform a priority
Agri-SA gives views on minimum wage – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, public works, Special Recent Posts0 Comments

National Forests Bill enforces forestry control

SA forests critical to industry

…sent to clients 25  Aug…. With exports of forest products over R2bn and an industry that employs 170,000forests people, 66,000 of which are in hands-on forestry operations, the National Forests Bill now tabled in Parliament is of considerable interest.

The little known Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, has published the draft Bill’s explanatory summary mainly to control and remedy deforestation. This will affect the eleven corporate timber companies operating in South Africa, 1,300 commercial timber farmers and an estimated 20,000 small-scale timber growers.

Sustainability

The Bill states that it will provide for the public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources; increase the promotion and enforcement of sustainable forest management and increase the measures to control and remedy deforestation.

woodlandsFrom what it appears, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAFF) has partially lost control over the whole forestry data collection story, particularly natural woodlands, although it acknowledges that thanks to hired consultants collecting data on the easy question of commercial forestries is where things are more up to date.

Short on facts

One of the major worries is that data on most of 25,000 small-scale timber growers’ data is not collected due to focus on major industries. Whilst intensively managed exotic tree plantations such as pine and eucalyptus (the largest) and wattle are highly regulated, with 70% production going in for pulp & paper production, as far as woodlands are concerned, mainly defined as 10% canopy cover, the areas are mainly exploited for firewood and represent some 40m hectares of natural resource not reported upon.

Last to know anything

On the commercial side where there is an established Investment value of some 1.3m hectares of plantations, wood-roofs-sawmillswhich have an annual sustainable production 20 million tons, such represents the national quoted figure for forest products of over $2bn. Nevertheless, by the time DAFF gets any figures on timber plantations, the data, it seems, is some three years out of date.

The problem is, it appears, that there is absolutely no back data on woodlands either, and trends cannot be calculated. The Bill wants to rectify this. With jobs to create and houses to build, there exists a vacuum in knowledge.

The air we breathe

Bearing in mind that no biomass inventory can therefore actually be represented in calculations for carbon trading purposes in terms of the Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) the calculations of the current carbon picture “do not have data baseline”, the Bill states. DAFF says it has a problem in that national figures must start somewhere but it seems that the baseline of what the heritage exactly is will take some time.

Looking around, about 0,5% of South Africa’s total land area is covered by natural forests and the word “natural” remains the expression when calculating figures because things look like a bit of a thumb suck. What is there, however, has to be saved and the quantity or area will define what is needed in money and effort.

Kynasa forests

It is known, for example, that there are some 1 700 indigenous tree and shrub species representing some 530 000 ha. of dense growth existing along the south and east coasts and on the southern and south-eastern slopes of inland mountains in South Africa. The other suspected half is spread over the interior plateaux in isolated valleys and ravines. This represents a somewhat scattered picture.

co-2-graphic“Catch up” is therefore called for in data form in order to start calculating the all-important figures surrounding carbon emissions. However, it appears from the emphasis on definitions in the Bill that the first step is to get control of the current mass extermination of South Africa’s woodlands, which is happening at a fast rate.

Stopping the destruction

To do this some clear definitions at law are necessary first, so it seems, and in order to take action it is necessary to amend the National Forests Acts so as to provide for what actually are “natural forests” and “woodlands” at law and to provide for public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources.

If land reform is on the horizon shortly, the perhaps the necessity for this Bill is therefore all the more important. Remedies and penalties for acts of deforestation are called for and it would appear that a great deal of thought has been given, by the State Law Advisor as well as DAFF, as to whether the Bill should remain as it is as a Section 75 Bill and therefore not referable to the Provinces through the NCOP or the Traditional Council of Leaders.

One gets the idea that this is a technical Bill rather than a Bill that needs emotive local participation at this stage.
Previous articles on category subject
New Air Quality Act will deal with major polluters – ParlyReportSA
Carbon offsets paper still open – ParlyReportSA
SA’s COP21 climate change paper debated – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Enviro,Water, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts, 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, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Carbon tax offsets on the way

Tax offsets plan almost ready for Parliament

sent to clients 12 Aug     Only a little reminding is needed that 29 July 2016 was the deadline for comments to carbontax1Treasury on the forthcoming carbon tax offsets plan which Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has promised will come into effect 1 April 2017 with some saying it might even be as early as 1 Jan 2017.

It was in 2014 that National Treasury published the first carbon tax discussion paper for public comment. It was agreed the that such a tax would be phased in over a period of time, the first phase running up to 2020. The marginal rate was the envisaged at R120 per tonne of CO2 and during phase-one, a basic percentage based threshold of 60% will apply for tax offsets below which tax is not payable in order to assist with transition into the new scheme.

SARS as usual

Everything has been based on South Africa’s commitment to the Copenhagen agreement signed in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025 – below the “business as usual” scenario.   The motivation provided for the tax remains as “so the cost of climate change an be reflected in the price of goods and services”.

sanedi carbon capIt was agreed that the tax would be administered by SARS.    Since that date, whilst the pro and cons of such a tax caused heated debate in some circles as to whether an introduction of a price mechanism could influence consumer and producer behaviour, the inclusion of Eskom in the tax net left many feeling somewhat helpless due to the utility’s enormity.

Eskom maybe dictates

OUTA complained that “Eskom’s various electricity tariff increases of almost three times the rate of consumer price inflation over the past eight years has become a tax of its own on society.”

They added that the electricity increase impact had resulted in fact to a reduction in electricity and energy as a result and this, which coupled with reduced production and consumption, had inadvertently caused a reduction of greenhouses gases having already taken place, OUTA said.   Of course, this remains totally unproven.

Neither Cabinet nor Treasury/SARS have replied to OUTA’s call to note “unintended consequences”.  No Treasury official it appears has felt that the Copenhagen Agreement can be dis-respected and have presumably felt that OUTA’s platform that a drop in national growth, due to global events and construction problems, has had little to do with the actual design of an overall process to cut carbon emissions over the next period of fifty years or so. The argument continues.

Quantifiable is the word

Now the first phase of the tax offsets are being set in concrete with Treasury having called for comment on theemissions final formula for the first phase of tax proposals, proposing, as before in the draft, that companies can reduce their liability for carbon tax by up to 5% or 10% of their total greenhouse gas emissions, depending on their sector, by investing in qualifying projects that result in quantifiable greenhouse-gas reductions.

Treasury says that the qualifying investments and offsets are likely to be in sectors such as agriculture, public transport, forestry or waste management and the accompanying documents note…“The proposal to use carbon offsets in conjunction with the carbon tax has been widely supported by stakeholders as a cost-effective measure to incentivise GHG emission reductions.”

How not to pay tax….offsets

“Carbon offsets involve specific projects or activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions, and are developed and evaluated under specific methodologies and standards, which enable the issuance of carbon credits”, SARS concludes.

It is worth noting that tax legislation usually comes in the form of a “money” Bill which Parliament can debate butgreen scorpion not amend. Should the debate raise issues, then Parliament can address Treasury who will, according to their dictates, reconsider and change if they alone see fit.  

The general feeling seemed to be from hearings was that this event had to happen in line with other established economies, although OUTA has remained strong on its views that Eskom as a major player in the energy mix is distorting the situation.

The Treasury website has all the details of rules on which tax regulations will be based.
Previous articles on category subject
Treasury’s plan for carbon tax – ParlyReportSA
Carbon offsets paper still open – ParlyReportSA
Carbon Tax under attack from Eskom, Sasol, EIUG – ParlyReportSA
Treasury sticks to its guns on carbon tax – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Enviro,Water, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet

Same Parliament, same Cabinet, different mood

..editorial……Parliament has now resumed with the same Cabinet, the same 400 MPs, the same ANC Allianceparliament 6 majority instructed whips and the same names in the party benches but the ambiance is very different.     This subtle fact, however, matters little in the immediate future.   Legislation before the National Assembly (NA) will still be subject to a simple numbers game when it comes to voting. Well, almost.

In the case of a Section 76 Bill, that is a Bill that needs not merely the concurrence of that portion of the 400 MPs that sit in the NCOP but subject to full debate by all nine provinces and a mandate returned in favour or not, there might be the beginnings of healthier opposition. Power at local level has been emboldened since Parliament last met.

So far, matters of consequence have been that the Department of Energy has presented its REIPPP plan with support from most other than Eskom with no Minister present and the Mineral Resources Portfolio Committee has re-endorsed a revised Minerals and Petroleum  Resources Development Amendment Bill for process by the NCOP using its ANC majority. Again no Minister was present. Eskom will be presenting on this and matters regarding coal any day.

Old tricks

jacob zumaHowever, presuming the picture in Parliament stays as it is until the 2019 national election with Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma at the helm as President, it will be interesting to see what type and how much legislation is hammered through the NA by the ANC using the same old tactic of deploying party whips with threats of being moved down on the party list system for a total majority, timed last year in a rush just before a recess.

Notably, now in the case of three Bills sent for assent after being voted through, the three were not signed by President Zuma into law acting on legal advice.

With this trio now back with Parliament on the grounds of either suspected unconstitutionality and/or incorrect parliamentary procedure, the issue is now whether the coterie of Cabinet Ministers that surround the President, with Director Generals appointed by and who report to those Ministers, will take Parliament more seriously.

Not hearing

Good advice is not good advice when it comes in the form of a last minute warning not to put signature to any Bill thereby turning it into an Act of law. Plenty of such advice not do this in respect of a number of Bills was previously given during parliamentary portfolio committee debate, at parliamentary public hearings from affected institutions, business and industry and even earlier in public comment when the Bills were first published by gazette in draft form.

Similarly, the lesson seems not to be learnt in higher echelons that the independent regulatory entities are also not to be ignored – institutions from the Office of the Public Prosecutor to ICASA, from NERSA through to the board of the Central Energy Fund and from National Treasury to international courts, the UN and international bodies protecting human rights. Parliament is due to hear from ICASA any moment.

Most worrying, however, are the attempts to by-pass Treasury when presenting policy to Parliament. Ideological bullying can bankrupt a country in no time.

Such issues as Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s National Health Insurance dream and Minister Joemat-Pettersson/President Jacob’s Zuma’s dream of six nuclear energy reactors – plans that the country should not possibly not countenance from a financial aspect – have neither been presented to Parliament in the proper national budget planning form or officially and financially endorsed.

Missing money details

Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, has gone as far as a White Paper to Parliament on the NHI and Minister Joemat-Pettersson has briefed Parliament on nuclear tendering. Treasury have said nothing about a financial plan in each case. Money is short, as evidenced by Treasury stepping in on the provisions for BEE preferential procurement. Somewhere there is a disconnect.

As for President Zuma’s continued pressure to bring traditional leaders into the equation with what amounts to two separate judicial systems and has even talked of the equivalent of four tiers of government – one therefore not even reporting to Parliament and certainly no idea of local government and nor subject to the PMFA  has its problems. President Zuma has used his ally, the Minister of Justice, to table the Traditional Courts Bill before Parliament. Opposition parties will walk out on that one, we are sure.

The Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, as part of the same coterie, has made a mild signal that the days of Cabinet maverick behaviour, even arrogance, towards Parliament and no respect for the separation of powers may be coming to an end. The SACP is clearly not happy. That is where the new ambiance felt in an unchanged Parliament may play an unofficial part and pressure may start building.

 
Previous articles on category subject
Parliament to open Aug 16 – ParlyReportSA
Parliament under siege – ParlyReportSA
Radical White Paper on NHI published – ParlyReportSA
Zuma’s nuclear energy call awaits Treasury – ParlyReportSA
Here it comes again…. the Traditional Courts Bill – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, earlier editorials, Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Health, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament to open Aug 16

Parliament .. in a galaxy far, far away

 

……editorial….There’s nothing  more like an election to disrupt Parliament and the business of running a country thanparliament 6 an election.    Probably, and to a lesser extent, the same is going on in the USA but nevertheless few politicians in SA at present seem to have their eye on the ball when it comes to important decisions on matters of state.     Parliament is, of course, in recess.

A good many of the Cabinet seem to be on a different planet. Some appear to be focusing on putting out political fires in the lead up to what is, after all, only a local election. A disproportionate amount of time seems to be spent in a parallel world of infighting, all of it totally unrelated to business and industry. Our Cabinet seem more concerned with issues such as the SABC, for example.

Short on crew

Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only people at their desks at the moment are Mark Barnes at the Post Office, Minister Lynne Brown with her fight to reform public utilities and control Eskom’s statements; members of the Competition Commission; and Minister of Finance Gordhan Pravin and his Treasury crew.

On communications matters outstanding, Minister Faith Muthambi seems to have left the planet altogether.  Minister Cwele is fighting with his own colleagues on broadband allocation,putting the brakes on a desperately late decision. tina-joematt

Minister Joemat-Pettersson seems lost as to whether to go ahead with nuclear or not; now having to decide it seems whether to have more independent power providers or not and possibly reverse her promises to the private sector; trying fruitlessly to buy Chevron with SFF money and whether or not to renew the contracts of highly experienced personnel at NERSA. This Minister seems badly off radar.

Hands off

Eskom’s unexpected statement that the private sector REIPPP clean energy programme “makes no economic sense” must have wounded DTI’s investment programme and Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, also seems missing from the control deck in the light of  Zimbabwe trade inconsistencies. Again, living in another world far, far away, not having a plan “B”.

Meanwhile, the Presidency has a whole in-tray of unresolved legislative issues to make decisions upon and, sadly,Rob-Davies decision-making appears not to be the President’s forté.     Parliament re-opens for business on 16 August and it won’t be a moment too soon.

From now until the Christmas recess, matters before Parliament will vitally affect business and industry. It would seem doubly important therefore to get this election over and hope for some coherent policy statements from Cabinet.
Previous articles on category subject
Parliament and the investment climate – ParlyReportSA
Parliament closes on sour note – ParlyReportSA
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, LinkedIn0 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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