Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-03-03 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Parly Studies Document Secrecy

Publication  News24
Date 2001-03-03
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

Parliament - The National Assembly's rules committee was on Friday urged to re-examine the issue of under what circumstances documents tabled at Parliamentary committees could be classified as secret. 

The Speaker, Frene Ginwala, said it was important parties reached a common understanding on the matter, and it was perhaps not necessary that Parliament's rules be changed. 

The issue was under the spotlight recently after uncertainty about whether documents submitted to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) - dealing with the controversial R43 billion arms deal - could or should have been made public. 

Johnny de Lange (ANC) said the current rules allowed committees to decide, behind closed doors if necessary, whether documents marked "confidential" should be made public. "It is very clear that a document is open when the chairman decides it is."  

Ginwala said parties should discuss the issue among themselves, and workshops could be held. Suggestions should then be brought to the rules committee. Parliament's committee system also needed to be examined, as well as their role and status, she said.  

Committees had been created to match government departments, but the question arose whether this was still wanted. The Cabinet, for instance, had gone over to a cluster system.  

Democratic Alliance Chief Whip Douglas Gibson said he had heard last week of one committee which had not yet met this year. 

Sybil Seaton (IFP) said smaller parties had difficulty covering 27 committees in the two days a week currently effectively allocated to committee work.  

De Lange said a system was being considered of having one week a month devoted solely to committee work, with a pre-planned programme.  

With acknowledgement to Sapa and News24.