The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on Wednesday received responses from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on the input received from the public hearings into the Foreign Service Bill (FSB).

Adv Steenkamp took the committee through the various input received and said the Bill did not create a dispensation outside the public service but provides for complementatry legislation aimed to specifically strengthen the foreign service.

The FSB was tabled before the committee in 2015, and the committee has worked intensively and consulted extensively. Among other stakeholders, it consulted with almost all the government departments, and the committee undertook a trip to Canada to understand how the Bill worked in those contries that have a similar piece of legislation.

Adv Steenkamp said the Foreign Service Bill resides with Dirco but it is a bill that affects a specific group of officials from across governent, seeking to unify them within a professional foreign service for a specific period of time.

Dirco’s Adv Menzi Simelane said the Bill will synergise operations at missions and will allow for the Ambassador to be the main person to report to.

When enacted, nobody should talk about their departments while they are outside of the Republic, they will report according to the framework as provided for in the Bill, Adv Simelane said.

The FSB is mainly intended to professionalise and unify foreign service under Dirco’s management. Adv Steenkamp said SA’s foreign relations will be practised in a more focused and efficient manner.

Members sought clarity on various issues, including challenges at the country’s borders, the role of the Department of Public Works on disposing assets as well as the locally recruited persons (LRPs) working at missions and how they relate to transferred staff from the country.

Committee Chairperson Mr Siphosezwe Masango voiced uneasiness with LRPs who might possibly be used to spy on SA officials.

It was revealed that locally recruited persons working at SA’s embassies are usually vetted by police of the host nations, and that there are measures usually implemented to curb such activities as spying.

The committee will tomorrow and next Wednesday deliberate on the Bill clause by clause.

The committee also accepted Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s apology with the insistence that she must find time and come before the committee while it was still dealing with the Bill. The Minister had committed herself to coming to the committee but had to attend, at short notice, to other government business.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

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