The Secretary of Defence provided a summary of the Strategic Business Plan of the Department of Defence. This included a strategic overview; a medium-term strategic focus; the priorities handed down from the Minister of Defence; an overview of the programmes planned by the DOD; and budget allocation and trends. It covered all branches and set out the Mission Success factors for each programme. The current budget made no provision for the inclusion of MVs but the reduced budget allocations had had a negative impact upon the DOD and performance targets needed to be revised.
The Office of the Auditor-General then provided an outline of the findings in the qualified audit opinion in relation to the previous financial year, and of the resolutions of the Standing Committee On Public Accounts (SCOPA) resolutions. However, since the Department had not yet appeared before SCOPA to explain the financial statements arising out of the 2007/08 financial year, this could not be regarded as finalised.
National Treasury then stated that although the Department had requested an increase of its budget this would not necessarily be possible, although there might be further money available for allocation specifically for the military veterans matters, now included in the Department, but not included in the budget as previously drawn. There had been large purchases of capital equipment which also meant that it was unlikely that more budget could be found for the general operations.
Members asked whether the military veterans would have to be funded from the current budget, asked where the responsibilities lay, who was included under military veterans, what programmes were currently in place for them, and called for a complete document outlining all the projects. They commented that at the moment most of the information was coming in a piecemeal fashion, which made it difficult for the Committee to see the whole picture. There also needed to be more debate on this topic. Members were also concerned as to whether the military veterans were simply drawing pensions, or were actually currently benefiting the country, and what social responsibility initiatives were being taken, as also whether there was an updated database of veterans. They also asked about the discrepancies in the pensions between members of the statutory and non-statutory forces. A number of Members made the point that it was necessary for the Defence Force and the task team to draw up a specific timeframe. Members also asked questions about transformation, the combat readiness of all groups, whether there were sufficient and skilled personnel to handle the new capital equipment and the submarines, what the role of the National Defence Force would be in crime prevention and control, and border control, and why there seemed to be a bias towards landward defence. They asked that a presentation be given later about the successes and failures in international military missions, and the state of readiness of the Defence Force (in closed session). The Memorandums of Understanding that had to be serviced, collaboration with other non-profit entities and whether there was a need to produce a new Green Paper on Defence were also interrogated. Further questions related to the absorption of youth into the Military Skills Development System, loss of scarce skills, the number of flying hours, as seen against the acquisition of new planes, and the possibility of erecting a Memorial Wall at Freedom Park
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation and summarised that this meeting would provide some overview of the past work of the Committee for the new members, and of the issues relating to military veterans. He also pointed out that the Budget under discussion was still in its draft phase. In the new fourth parliament, the Department of Defence had been expanded to include Military Veterans (MVs), but they had not been included in the current budget.
Department of Defence (DOD) Strategic Plan 2009 - 2012 Briefing
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Secretary of Defence, provided a summary of the Strategic Business Plan (SBP) for 2009/10 to 2011/12. The presentation included a strategic overview; a medium-term strategic focus; the priorities handed down from the Minister of Defence; an overview of the programmes planned by the DOD; and budget allocation and trends. This covered all branches of the Department of Defence (Administration; Landward Defence; Air Defence; Maritime Defence; Military Health Support; Defence Intelligence; General Support; and Force Employment), and the presentation also set out Mission Success Factors for each programme. It also laid out how the DOD's programmes aligned with government priorities; and legislation and regulations that the DOD intended to submit to Parliament.
Mr Motumi pointed out that the current budget allocation made no provision for MVs; but also noted that the reduced budget allocations had had a negative impact on the DOD and performance targets had needed to be revised.
Financial Statements: briefing by Office of the Auditor-General(AG)
Mr Musa Hlongwana, Business Executive, Office of the Auditor-General, provided an outline of the findings in the qualified audit opinion in relation to the previous financial year. He said that although the audit report had found fewer qualifications than in previous years (13 , down from 17 previously), there were still were as of concern. The presentation also provided an overview of the Standing Committee On Public Accounts (SCOPA) resolutions. However, he pointed out that the Department had not yet appeared before SCOPA to explain the financial statements arising out of the 2007/08 financial year, and so this audit could not be regarded as finalised.
Budget: National Treasury presentation:
The representative from National Treasury (NT) stated that, because of the current socio-economic needed of the country, there was very little additional money available for the DOD. Although the DOD had requested an increase of its budget to reflect 1.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as opposed to the 1.3% currently being received, this was still a percentage of an ever-increasing GDP. The actual amount received was in fact increasing each year. He reiterated that the President, during the recent State of the Nation address, had indicated that there was to be no roll-over of funds. Thus, money which had been allocated to other departments could not simply be transferred to the DOD.
In April, the National Treasury made a proposal for the restructuring of government departments, and suggested having an independent Deputy Minister for Military Veterans, an were a that had hitherto been neglected. However, it was decided to only change the name of the Department to include both Defence and Military Veterans. The Military Veterans Affairs Act of 1999)outlined a need for the creation of an Office of Military Veterans, but it was unclear how or whether this office was functioning.
National Treasury also drew attention to the Capital Expenditure of the DOD, which included the procurement and operation of new military equipment. He noted that it was a huge amount; thus the DOD should not expect increases in their budget allocations over the next few years because of current shortages.
The Chairperson noted that there were no specific allocations for MVs in either the DOD budget, or from the National Treasury, and asked whether the speaker had any thoughts on this.
The National Treasury representative replied that, as far as the Treasury was concerned, the DOD would had to fund MVs out of their current budget; and would not receive additional funding for that.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) wanted clarification on the point that the National Treasury had done nothing to provide funding for MVs. He also asked for an explanation of the term "military veterans", and asked whether this included liberation struggle veterans, those who had fought in World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War.
Mr L Mphahlele (PAC) followed up on the question from Mr Mlangeni, asking where the responsibilities lay. He noted that the Treasury seems to be saying that it was not responsible for allocating budget to MVs, and asked who was ultimately responsible for this. He also noted that there had been moves to include those ex-combatants or MVs who had been younger than 25 in 1996.
The representative from National Treasury said that the National Treasury made allocations to the Department, and the Department must then use the money to fund whatever was expected from them in terms of legislation. So it was not up to the National Treasury to make allocations for MVs; this should be done by the DOD. He said that the Treasury did not know what the implications of establishment of the Military Veterans entity would be; although there may be funds available there were as yet no details. The MV Association was not a new programme but had not been formally established. At the same time, however, he noted that there was some money set aside for establishing of new departments, so National Treasury would had to go back and find out whether there was more money available for the DOD and MVs.
He noted that the definition of a military veteran included those who had fought in the former liberation movements, such as MK and APLA , as well as those in the South African Defence Force, and those who had fought in World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War.
Mr T Nxesi (ANC) asked which programmes were currently in place for MVs.
Mr Derrick Mgwedi, Chief of Human Resources, DOD, outlined a number of programmes. The Military Council was busy looking at how to support MVs with regard to health services, so that they and their dependants could also benefit. This was still being worked on. The Department of Housing had also played a big role in assisting MVs in obtaining houses. The DOD was also working with Provincial Governments relating to processes of creating small and medium enterprises. The issue of the maintenance of graves of MVs, especially those in other African states, was still receiving attention. The DOD was trying to partner with Public Works regarding a set of graves in
The Chairperson asked for a complete document outlining all of these projects, as at the moment the information was coming in a piecemeal fashion, and this did not help members to see the bigger picture.
Mr D Maynier (DA) noted that the Secretary of Defence had claimed that there was no allocation for MVs in the DOD budget. However, the DOD's strategic business plan made provision for a Military Veterans' Association (MVA) to be fully functional by March 2011 and had already targeted 80% establishment of an MVA by 2010. Thus, he questioned that there surely must had been some provision for MVs in the DOD budget.
The Chairperson was concerned that there had not yet been vigorous debate within the DOD about MVs, and stated that this needed to happen now. However, Members had registered the Minister's input in the strategy document. He said that the fundamental question was how much money would need to be spent on MVs, and that this issue would come up often during this financial year.
Mr Maynier said that he had heard that each service chief from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would be present for the Committee meeting today, to discuss how budget would affect their state of combat-readiness. However, none of them were present, and he wondered why not.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee first needed to ask questions of the Secretary for Defence, as he was involved in budgeting and accounting. However, he also noted that he had asked for the service chiefs to be available to come and interact with the Committee, and hoped that this would happen in the near future.
Mr Maynier then asked if the Committee would be able to meet these service chiefs prior to the budget vote on 26th June. He said he would like to know how well different branches of the defence force would be able to deploy with the current budget draft.
The Chairperson asked the delegation if they would be able to answer these sorts of questions, and was assured that they would.
Ms A Dlodlo (ANC) asked about transformation, which she said was not necessarily about affirmative action only or gender only, but also related to the combat readiness of all groups. She asked whether the Defence Force had the required skills, personnel and disposition to handle the machines that had been acquired. She also asked specifically if there were the required skills and personnel to handle submarines.
Mr Motumi agreed that transformation was important, and assured the Committee that all the required functions of the Defence Force would be performed. The Defence Force included strategic defence packages, which involved personnel who had been or were being trained for the different programmes, machinery, and equipment. The Defence Force had also engaged in exercises with other countries,; and also went on missions as tasked by
Mr Mgwedi noted that, as a government department, the DOD was obliged to follow government-regulated developments in terms of special dispensation for members. Thus, it had to first process recommendations with the relevant government departments first, and this often took some time.
Ms Dlodlo also noted that dealing with MVs was one of the most sensitive were as in the DOD budget, and that this would be an expensive, but necessary, exercise. The MK and APLA Military Veterans groupings had been in discussion for some time and this had provided the way for the smooth creation of the South African National MV Association (SAMVA). There would clearly need to be much interaction, but there were different ideas over how this would happen. She asked whether there needed to be a separate department for MVs, or whether they should just fall under the current DOD. She further asked what the role of a Defence Force should be in a developmental state; and whether this role was sustainable. She noted that the Defence Force had huge resources available (especially in terms of personnel), but that it was not occupied on a day-to-day basis. She asked how these resources benefited the country as a whole, and whether the Defence Force could make these resources available. She stated that social responsibility initiatives were also important, and asked whether the SANDF needed to become involved in, or make facilities available to, schooling or education initiatives.
Mr Motumi agreed that resources needed to be sustainable; and noted that the SANDF already engaged with other departments to discuss the use of its land and buildings for broader community development projects.
Ms Dlodlo further noted the need for a database of MVs. Ms Dlodlo then asked if these MVs would be useful to the social dispensation in the country, or if they would simply receive benefits.
Mr Motumi answered that there was already a database of MVs, but it would need to be re-examined.
Mr L Gololo (ANC) asked about what the source of the current MV database was, and whether it came from the old Certified Personnel Registers.
Mr Mgwedi noted that it was difficult to track individuals, as their details kept changing. However, the DOD worked closely with the various MV Associations to try to find these MVs, although the Associations were not always that helpful.
Ms Dlodlo noted the requirements in the State of the Nation Address; she stated that MVs and the Defence Force needed to play a role in broader development programmes in the country, including playing a crime control and prevention. She also questioned what the appropriate role of the Defence Force should be in this. She also noted that there were discrepancies between the pensions for non-statutory force (NSF) members, and those from the statutory forces; and asked that this be addressed.
Mr Motumi conceded that there were discrepancies in the pensions of NSF and statutory force members, and that the DOD was busy engaging parliament and the National Treasury to correct this.
Ms Dlodlo asked why there was a bias in the budget towards landward defence; and asked why, if buying "special equipment" was already budgeted for, did the Department not use the Special Defence Account to help address some of the issues related to MV funding.
Ms Dudu Mutloane, Chief Financial Officer, DOD, answered that there was a bias in funding towards landward defence, but this was due to additional funding that was received from the National Treasury for specific projects, including completing the Waterkloof Airbase runway, and for A400M strategic lift capability. Thus, the money had to be used for these purposes, which seemed to indicate a bias towards landward defence. Regarding the special defence account, she noted that this account serviced multi-year projects and if there were roll-overs, or milestones had not been delivered in any specific year, then the DOD tried to re-prioritise cash-flow. Thus, if this money were to be used for MVs, the DOD would have to find additional funding for the army instead. The National Treasury also would take back the extra funding, for example any additional revenue from a forex gain, so there was no real surplus.
Ms Dlodlo also stated that the Committee needed to look at the expenditure patterns of this account in previous years to be able to recognize savings, and possible reallocations of the money, to assist MVs.
Mr Nxesi asked how the DOD would assess its successes and failures in international military missions.
Mr Motumi answered that the detail of this would be made in a later presentation to parliament. However, he considered all their missions mandated by the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) to have been successful; although there had been challenges regarding methods of reimbursement, equipment, and material.
Mr Mphahlele asked how the Defence Force was coping with transformation, considering that
The Chairperson was also interested in the issue of servicing MOUs.
Mr Motumi stated that the DOD was not in a position to service all the MOUs that had been entered into since 1994. However, the Department had started a process of re-prioritising these. Those within the SADC would be given main priority, but others would also be included.
Mr Mphahlele noted that the DOD had mentioned collaboration with different non-profit organizations, and asked with which, besides the Red Cross, the SANDF would collaborate.
Mr Motumi answered that the DOD also collaborated with Armscor, Reserve Force Council, the security sector training authority SASSETA, First Aid League, and
Mr Mphahlele also mentioned collaboration between the SANDF and South African Police Services (SAPS) regarding border control, and asked what measures were being implemented to counter the current illegal influx of foreigners.
Mr Motumi said that the SANDF had collaborated with SAPS on border control. There was initially a directive from government to scale down this involvement by 2009, and plans had been put in place to achieve this. However, this decision was currently being reviewed, especially in light of the Confederations Cup and World Cup, and it was decided that the SANDF should still be involved.
Mr Maynier stated that there seemed to be a defence policy void. He noted that there were often contradictions within single policy documents, and asked whether there was any intention for the DOD to produce a new Green Paper on Defence.
Mr Motumi disagreed that there was a defence policy void, and said that the Defence Force worked on the basis of the original 1996 White Paper. A draft document was being put together, which would outline a defence strategy for 2010-2030. This would be presented to Parliament once it had been cleared with Cabinet and after consultations with other State departments. It should be completed by the end of the calendar year.
The Chairperson asked about preparation and mechanisms being established to ensure transparency in tendering processes for procuring new landward defence equipment.
Mr Motumi answered that, in terms of tendering processes for Strategic Defence Packages for landward defence programmes, recommendations had been taken into account, and the DOD was trying to ensure that irregularities would be addressed.
The Chairperson was also surprised that the DOD had not made money available to MVs, and noted that it was important to review programmes relating to them. However, there had been no mention of time-frames or allocation of budget as yet; and he asked what Parliament should expect from the DOD in terms of MVs.
Mr Motumi stated that, with regard to the allocation of funds to MVs, the DOD was in the process of examining how a new entity would develop after the pronouncement by the President. The Minister had therefore asked for the establishment of a task team, and the DOD would make presentation on this once the document had been created. He explained that the Task team would comprise representatives of MVs, SAMVA, the DOD, the Directorate for MVs, and the Department of Public Service. This group would be responsible for the re-arrangement of the structure of responses to MVs. By the end of this week, the Minister would provide a promulgated membership list of the Task Team, which would also give the terms of reference. In terms of timelines, he stated that he did want to commit the task team to specific dates, but they would hopefully complete their work before the end of the calendar or financial year.
Mr Nxesi said that the DOD was still only trying to put together a task team, which would then look at the next stages. He then asked how long it would take until there was a fully functional Department.
Mr Mlangeni also asked if it would take a long time, noting that task teams often took some time to produce findings. He also asked about the timeframe for completion of the report, and what would be expected of the task team.
The Chairperson noted that expectations on this matter were high, so this needed to be solved as a priority. Much work had been done in the past, and he asked why the task team would need to begin the whole process again. He also asked for specific timeframes.
Mr Gololo also requested a specific date for the task team to report back to the Committee.
Mr Motumi noted that the task team would need to take into account all the processes, including legislative frameworks, budget outlines, and the formation of SAMVA, which had already taken place. Thus, some work had been done already, which would hopefully shorten the process. But there had now been a directive to establish an entity of MVs, with the head becoming a Head of Department in the Ministry. Thus, the task team would only be a temporary body, with a specific task to perform. However, he still did not want to commit to timeframes, as this was for the task team to establish.
Lt Gen Vejay Ramlakan, Surgeon General, DOD, agreed that there had already been a lot of work done prior to the establishment of the task team. However, he also stated that the Department currently had more than 7000 veterans, more than 3 000 spouses and more than 12 000 dependants to cater for, and the cost to the Department would be more than R40m, additional to current budget. However, this would allow the Department to provide an equal pension for all NSF members. Therefore, there were places where quick gains could be made; but work was already being done in this regard. He noted that one of biggest problems was that the issue of MVs was inter-departmental, and could not be solved by the DOD alone.
Mr Nxesi said that he understood the uncertainty, but there was a need for a specific business plan, with clear timeframes, so that the task team could be held accountable. He said that this needed to be done quickly, as MVs needed to be rewarded for their loyalty.
The Chairperson also asked about the absorption of youth into the military, and whether they simply disappeared into the system. He asked whether there was an updated policy arrangement on this, and when the Portfolio Committee would hear about it.
Mr Motumi responded that absorption of youth into the military skills development system (MSDS) did still happen, and he said that he could give detail about different intakes of youth. This was one of the Apex Priorities of the Department.
Mr M Mncwango (IFP) noted that in the Strategic Business Plan, the DOD mentioned loss of skills to the private sector as an issue that was affecting its operation. He asked what skills were being lost; and what the DOD was doing to counter this.
Mr Motumi answered that it was still a challenge to retain those with scarce skills (pilots, navigators, engineers), and not lose them to the private sector or other governments. He said that there were strategies in place to retain them, including special dispensations and re-examination of contracts.
Mr Mgwedi added that, as a government department, the DOD was obliged to follow government-regulated developments in terms of special dispensation for members. Thus, it had to first process recommendations with the relevant government departments first, and this often took some time.
Mr Mlangeni asked for clarification on the statement from the National Treasury that those from liberation groups were included in the definition of military veterans.
Mr Motumi answered that MVs from the non-statutory forces were covered by the
1999 Act, as well as those from the former SADF and former Homeland (TBVC) forces. These groups were represented in the SAMVA.
Mr Maynier noted that the question of MVs was important, and would probably consume much of the Committee's time over the next year. However, an equally important issue was the state of readiness of the SANDF. He then asked about the number of pilots currently employed by the Defence Force, how many vacancies there were, and how the DOD would retain these pilots and aim to attract more. He also noted that the DOD had cut the required flying hours, but was buying more planes. Thus, it seemed that the budget was being used to buy planes that could not be flown, as there were not enough pilots, and the existing ones did not have sufficient flying hours.
Brig. A de Witt, Chief of Staff, Department of Defence, stated that he did not know the current vacancy rate, but would provide this information to the Committee Secretary. He also said that pilots were trained according to need, as set out by the air-force, not based on fund allocation. Thus, the DOD was trying to find ways to make the process cheaper. He also noted the problem of retaining pilots, as many would leave to go to the private sector and to other countries. The amount of flying hours for pilots was also worked out according to different combat grouping needs.
Mr Maynier again asked if there was a shortage of pilots; and whether 950 flying hours was optimal.
Brig De Witt answered that there was a shortage of pilots; but he did not know the exact vacancy rate.
Mr Maynier noted that certain milestones had been delayed, and asked whether the money had therefore been re-allocated to land defence. He also asked whether the public was losing money on Defence Force purchases, because of the depreciation of the
Ms Mutloane stated that additional funds could only be used for what they were allocated towards, and could not be used for alternative purposes. However, funds could be re-prioritised. She also stated that the public would pay more if the Rand weakened, but they would also pay less if the
Mr Gololo asked whether the SANDF was ready to defend the country.
Mr Motumi answered that the SANDF was both ready and able.
The Chairperson said that there must be unanimity on policy within the Department before came back to Parliament as, at the moment, all the information and priorities were piecemeal.
Mr Motumi stated that the DOD would try to consolidate all the information and come back to the Committee. He again stated that he would need to come back to the Committee on a timeframe regarding the establishment of an MV entity. He added that a presentation on the state of readiness to respond to an attack could be made to the Committee, in a closed session. This presentation was ready, and could be given as soon as possible.
Mr Maynier asked whether the briefing on the state of readiness of the armed forces could be conducted prior to the budget vote next week. He also wanted to record an issue with the presentation being made in closed session, as he believed it was in the interests of both the public and SANDF that it be made public.
The Chairperson responded that these types of presentations had always been made in closed session, as otherwise the information could be used by the country's enemies. There were parliamentary rules relating to this, and he stated that he would look into it for future meetings.
Mr Gololo mentioned that there had been talk of erecting a Memorial Wall at
Mr Mgwedi answered that there had not yet been any interaction with the DOD about this, but that it would be looked at in the future.
Mr Mphahlele again asked about the racial and gender composition of the defence forces.
Mr Mgwela again answered that he did not have the exact figures, but would make these available to the Committee by the end of the week.
The meeting was then adjourned.
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