The Committee considered its Report on the Department of Defence Budget Vote. Members appreciated the budgetary concerns of the Department but emphasised that there be maximum efficiency in the use of finite resources. Members observed that the most appropriate organizational structure for military veterans and the associated costs were still largely unknown. Statistics regarding racial and gender make-up of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needed to be known in order to evaluate the transformation of the organisation. In the absence of an external threat, the SANDF must be more involved in the socio-economic and educational development of
Members discussed the issue of confidentiality and also addressed concerns about the failure of the Minister of Defence to appear before the Committee.
The Committee decided that they would read the report for purposes of clarity and only make recommendations on the following day.
The Committee read the report of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on Budget Vote 19: The Department of Defence, which was based on the budget presentation made by the Department of Defence on 17 June 2009.
The Committee appreciated the budgetary concerns of the Department but emphasised that there be maximum efficiency in the use of finite resources. Members observed that the most appropriate organizational structure for military veterans and the associated costs were still largely unknown. Statistics regarding racial and gender make-up of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needed to be known in order to evaluate the transformation of the organisation. In the absence of an external threat, the SANDF must be more involved in the socio-economic and educational development of
To begin with, the Chairperson addressed the two issues that had been raised by the DA in the previous meeting. The first related to the request that the Minister of Defence appear before the Committee. The second item concerned a demand that the readiness briefing be conducted openly, instead of a closed session like it had been done in the past.
On the first matter, the Chairperson indicated that that he had sent a letter to the Minister to request her attendance at the Committee meeting. The Minister replied that she had not yet been briefed (by the Department) and therefore could not accede to the request at this time. With respect the second issue, he emphasised that it was the Committee’s prerogative to decide what should or should not remain confidential.
Mr D Maynier (DA) was astounded that the Minister had not yet been briefed. He hoped that the Committee would reach some consensus on what issues could be classified as confidential. Section 32 of the Constitution gave everyone the right of access to information, while at the same recognising that some things may not be disclosed. As a result, the Committee needed to find out where to draw the line on this matter.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) reminded the Committee that classified information may not be disclosed to the public. The Committee should be prudent and not insist that the army must disclose all the information at its disposal.
Mr Maynier commented that the test should be whether the disclosure of the information would substantially affect the life of a serving member or an existing operation. If such a case existed, the information should then not be disclosed. However, most things should probably be disclosed if the committee was to preserve a constitutional democracy.
The Chairperson surmised that the Minister was still adjusting to her new position. He would nevertheless persuade her to appear before the Committee given the President’s assertion that Ministers must be held accountable to Parliament.
The Chairperson believed that transparency and openness were key imperatives. The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) programme was very important because it ensured that the youth, from mainly disadvantaged areas, also benefited from career opportunities offered by the SANDF. The Committee was keen to engage with the Department further regarding the crippling conditions of military bases as well the payments made by the United Nations in respect of peacekeeping missions. While the Department operated at a national level, there was nevertheless a need to integrate itself into the provincial communities. The Committee also wanted to discuss the challenges that the military experienced in respect of border control.
Mr O Monareng (ANC) asked about the considerable decrease of 34.56% in the helicopter capability sub-programme. He asked what happened to the Rooivalk programme and whether it was being taken over.
The Chairperson replied that the Department had great difficulty selling the helicopter internationally. It either was not properly marketed or could not be sold. The question was valid and it was an outstanding area that the Department needed to attend to.
Mr Mlangeni was confused about a misspelling in the document. The word was supposed to be “employs” not “employees”.
Mr Maynier asked how much latitude the Committee would have to make changes to the report.
The Chairperson answered that it was the Committee’s report and therefore it could make as many changes as it wished.
Mr Maynier asked if the Department could submit a report on the shortage of pilots before the Committee convened again the following day.
The Chairperson said that he would follow-up with the Minister to request whether the report could be made available before then.
Mr L Mphahlele (PAC) advised Members to keep in mind all the questions posed last Friday, particularly those relating to the number of pilots and the gender and racial composition, instead of each Member’s only remembering his or her individual questions.
The Chairperson advised the Committee to be active and follow-up with the Department. Within the Committee, Members needed to move away from putting their party’s interests above the Committee’s.
The meeting was adjourned.
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