Department’s Annual Report 2006/07: briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

15 October 2007
Chairperson: Mr F Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The DoD provided a presentation on their Annual report of the year 06/07. Committee members were satisfied that many of the previous years recommendations were being enacted or under consideration. However consternation was raised at the continuance of certain issue including Defence Intelligence Headquarters relocation. A major issue was that of the SANDF’s upcoming withdrawal form border control duties in order to allow the SAPS to takeover, the ability of the SAPS was severely criticised and members expressed concern over the issue.  Another issue raised relating to this was the interaction of different departments and the need for effective relations in order to manage inter-departmental issues.

Meeting report

Annual Report Briefing: Department of Defence (DoD)
Mr January Masilela, Secretary of Defence, DoD, briefed the Committee on the Annual Report of the Department for 2006/07. He tabled the strategic direction of the Defence Force. Human Resources issues were particularly pertinent, and he detailed the strategies to retrain skills and provide efficient exit mechanisms for service personnel. The Acquisition Procurement Programme included the disposal of obsolete equipment to poor African countries, such as Gabon, as well as the roll out of the IPRI electronic procurement system in order to track expenditure. The Defence Resources Information section was currently engaged in transforming members of the force into expert accountants in order to take back capacity for control over finances from civilian accountants, allowing better controls by the Chief of the Military. Operation Sleeper was cited in relation to rural security, and the role of the army in border control was detailed. Force preparation exercises were running according to plan, except for the malfunction at Lohatla. ,
Defence Intelligence had reported customer satisfaction with intelligence provided. Ammunition issues were cited. The financial statements were overviewed.

Mr M Booi (ANC) congratulated the DoD on their work. He requested more information on page 268 and 269 of the Annual Report, and, with reference to page 269; he asked what kind of agreement was pending with the United States.

Mr Masilela stated that the figures representing a reported loss, comprising a qualification on page 268 of the Annual Report did not constitute an actual loss, and that the issues were resolved. In terms of page 269, he explained that the agreement with the United States was a compliance agreement over supplying of sensitive weapons system components that were sanctioned. There was provision of funding to ensure compliance and DoD were currently satisfied with progress being made.

Mr Booi asked how the DoD budgeted for post-conflict operations and asked whether they were funded solely by the DoD.

Mr Masilela stated that South Africa was not the only country involved in post-conflict operations and that funding came from the African Renaissance fund as well as countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium.

Maj Gen Dlambulo Tshiki, Chief of Staff: Joint Operations, DoD, stated that the SAPS controlled border posts while the Army patrolled the actual border areas,  handing over individuals. He felt that the SAPS was not ready to take over the patrolling job but stated that he was not qualified to comment further.

Mr R Shah (DA) commended the Department on progress, but questioned the decision to withdraw from the borders in order to let the South African Police Service (SAPS) take over border operations. He questioned the issue of rural security and stated that the SAPS were ineffective. With regard to this he found it strange that the commandos had been demobilised only to have the army supplement the SAPS with 1300 troops daily.

Mr Masilela stated that the Department of Defence should not ideally pull out of their border control role, however in principle the military was not supposed to be operational within the borders of South Africa. For obvious reasons they did render aid to the SAPS, as ultimately they were responsible for the territorial integrity of South Africa. He stated that if maritime integrity was violated they would obviously act to prevent it. He cited practical problems with commando units as the reason for their demobilisation as there were many issues involving use of force that were becoming problematic. He stated that the Department was evaluating the effectiveness of the SAPS.

Mr Booi stated that over the border control issue Maj Gen Tshiki had no right to keep quiet as the Department was being held to account, and he demanded an answer as to whether the SAPS had the capacity to effectively police South Africa’s borders. He requested details and remarked that he had seen the problem first hand at the border.

Mr Ndlovu added that this was a problem of political statements meeting practical consideration and asked how it was going to be solved.

The Chairperson stated that it appeared that there was a lack of co-ordination between the DoD and the SAPS, and that perhaps as a starting point there should be discussions with inter-departmental delegations. He reiterated that inter-departmental relations were not strong and stated that the handing over of duties to the SPAS was a joint responsibility that demanded co-operation and sharing of expertise. If territorial problems existed, they needed to be addressed.

Mr Masilela replied that there was a structure between the DoD and the SAPS, but a challenge was that structures were not implemented at a high enough level. The Minister had called for an inter-Ministerial meeting to solve this problem.

Mr Shah asked what were the huge maintenance issues that the Department of Public Works was not dealing with. Furthermore he wanted to know what was the reason for the Department of Public Works had not completed their tasks. He wanted to know what initiative had been taken and what procedures had been followed in accordance with this initiative.

Dr S Pheko (PAC) asked whether the disposal of obsolete mirage fighters in Gabon was safe, and likened it to the practices of Western countries of dumping unsafe obsolete armaments in Africa.

Mr Masilela commented that it was an issue that African countries did not contribute financially, but would prefer to be receipts of funds. This problem needed to be resolved.
Mr Shah asked whether the ammunition shortage was indicative of a lack of capacity.

Mr Ndlovu asked how long the age-old problem between the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the DoD would take to resolve. He also stated that he was extremely perturbed that DI was not looked after properly and noted that the headquarters issue was about six years old. He considered the placement of DI in headquarters situated in a public area that was frequented by taxis was unacceptable.

Mr Masilela replied that the Department would come back to the these issues questions.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) asked whether the DoD was comfortable with its level of transparency.

Mr Masilela responded that they actually needed transponents. There was a clear policy on how they were managing expenditure and other important procedures. perhaps should come to the Committee to discuss what their commitments were.

Dr Koornhof made an observation that the technical layout of the presentation needed some revision.

Dr Koornhof raised concern about funds for maintenance of equipment and asked whether the Department was comfortable with the level of control that they had over the serviceability of equipment, so that it could be capable of preventing tragedies such as that at Lohatla.
Mr Masilela replied there was challenge regarding restructuring. Furthermore the presentation addressed exactly how the procedures worked. He thought that the Department was in control of the situation, even though there were challenges. In their medium-term and long-term plans there were gaps but that was being dealt with.

Dr Koornhof requested clarity on the inadequate funding for weapons purchasing and maintenance as it seemed that more expensive weaponry was purchased than originally anticipated. This included the maintenance of the old weapons as well as the new weapons. He stressed the fact that it was potentially dangerous to have insufficient funds for maintenance of weapons.

Mr Masilelaresponded that they actually needed some transponents. There was a clear policy on how they were managing expenditure and other important procedures. He suggested that the DoD should come to the Committee to discuss what their commitments were.

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) asked whether the DoD felt comfortable with receivable amounts owed to them by other departments, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs (DoFA).

Mr Masilela thanked the Committee for the appreciative compliments regarding the report. The Department was given important skill sets for Auditor-General’s office. The engagement was more indepth that the presentation explained. There was an understanding between the parties.

Mr Ndlovu questioned whether the statement that the military’s state of readiness was compromised due to ammunition shortages actually meant that the military was not ready, or whether there was some other explanation.

Lt Gen Jansen van Rensburg (Chief of Corporate Staff: DoD) commented that in the army the reserves had procedure that when one joins the reserves that person was allocated a speciality that would be used in a unit. This speciality would be used either in their unit or as a supplement in an organisation. In the past few years the Department had experienced a loss of expertise in certain crucial areas. There was study conducted to find out what was available in the reserve environment, it was discovered that the reserves had a lot of available expertise. At present a list of people who had the scarce skills was drawn up, this was done to create structure, so that these people could be called up and serve in those areas that required immediate skills.

Mr Masilela commented that progress was being made. Furthermore several skill sets were being made available by the Auditor-General to the Department in order to ensure that another qualification does not happen.

A member of the Committee complimented the Chairperson on his professional handling of the meeting. This professionalism was seen as the reason that there was an extremely clear level of communication and engagement.

Mr Shah reiterated that the Committee should be briefed about progress. There were issues such as rape that was being investigated by the United Nations that the Committee should be informed about.

Ms Van Wyk thanked the Department on their presentation and was impressed by its depth and thought that it was an intensive interrogation of the Annual Report. She thought that the Committee should be more involved in the processes of the DoD.  

Dr Koornhof concluded the meeting by thanking the DoD and the Chairperson of the Committee for a successful meeting. Furthermore he stressed that this was the beginning of a process and that the DoD should be supportive of the process. He continued that although there were plans what was now required was action.

There were a few question that were left unanswered. These were; Dr Pheko asked whether market related salaries were sustainable.

Dr Pheko was concerned about the border control issue and asked whether the army was withdrawing because the situation had become better. He requested that defence diplomacy be elaborated upon.

An ANC member reiterated the consternation that the role of border protection was being devolved to the SAPS. She questioned the ability of the SAPS to perform maritime border control. She also drew attention to the withdrawal of the navy to Simon’s Town, leaving the whole coast vulnerable despite it being the South African Navy’s (SAN) task to ensure security for the whole of Southern Africa.

A Member asked whether the ammunition shortages were internal or in effect in deployment zones.

A Member enquired what what air defence did, as reserves were patrolling the borders.

A Member noted that the DoD had not given a full account of exit mechanisms. She requested that the item “wasteful expenditure” be explained.

Mr N Ndlovu (IFP) asked what the DoD meant by the transformation of the military justice system.

Dr Koornhof asked whether the SAPS had an entry strategy for the border control takeover and whether the DoD exit strategy interfaced with SAPS in order to allow for seamless takeover of duties.

Dr Koornhof asked why the Department was getting qualifications by the Auditor-General on the same issues year after year. He noted from the Annual Report that the Auditor General had heavily criticised the lack of internal control over finances.

Mr Shah asked about the status of the Rooivalk project now that the bid to Turkey had been lost.

Mr Shah asked, with regard to the training of Pakistani personnel in VIP protection, whether this was done in terms of peacekeeping missions or internally.

Mr Shah stated that the relocating of Defence Intelligence (DI) headquarters was not a new issue but it looked as if no progress had been made.

Mr Shah did not know that the Department were facing huge challenges with regard to the logistics support and asked for clarity.

The Chairperson then adjourned the meeting.


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