The Department of Defence and Military Veterans briefed the Committee on part of its Annual Report 2008/09, concentrating on the issues falling under Programme 1: Administration. The Strategic Focus was stipulated in the Constitution and involved defending and protecting the Republic of South Africa and its people. The Strategic Focus also provided an overview of the support of Government's diplomatic initiatives on the continent and in the region. The Committee was presented with the annual financial statements, and noted that R27.89 million was allocated and R27.80 was spent, with the underspending caused by delay in appointment of a contractor at the Air Force base in Waterkloof. Some of the achievements under this program included the Delivery of 5 Augusta helicopters, Hawk and 5 Gripen aircrafts and a submarine to the South African National Defence Force. The Department indicated that it had taken corrective measures to mitigate the challenges it had faced and one of the ways was through the Implementation of Project Clean Audit to enhance internal controls and good corporate governance.
Members enquired whether there was a more recent Defence Policy than that of 1996. They noted that the Minister would be attending to answer other questions and address the Members on other issues. Members noted that some of the questions asked by Parliament had not been answered, and, in response to the Acting Secretary of Defence assurances that the Minister would address these issues, noted that the Secretary for Defence was the accounting officer and should have been able to respond to the queries. Members enquired why the slogan for the Annual Report was the same as that of the ruling party, pointing out that the defence force was supposed to be non-partisan. Members also asked how much progress had been made on establishing the Department of Military Veterans and how the Department’s organogram would appear after its establishment, what were the delays in staffing, what was the situation with the office space, and called for a list of the journalists who had been invited to accompany the Department on its peace-keeping mission. Members also asked why the appointment of the permanent Secretary had been delayed, but the Chairperson ruled that this question could not be answered, although it was clarified that the appointment was done by the Minister. The purchase of eight A400m aircraft was described as a “moot point”, as the contractual review was still under way.
Department of Defence Annual Report 2008/09 Briefing
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would, in addition to this meeting, be having another meeting with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, who would present on other programmes mentioned in the Annual Report that would not be covered by this meeting.
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Acting Secretary for Defence, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, presented the first part of the report. He described Programme 1: Defence Administration. The components under this programme included the Strategic Focus, which involved meeting commitments stipulated in the Constitution, of defending and protecting the Republic of South Africa and its people. The Strategic Focus also provided an overview on the support of Government's diplomatic initiatives on the continent and in the region.
The report also covered the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which focused on Infrastructure and Department of Defence Works Regiment and the Revitalisation of the Reserves.
In his presentation on the Annual Financial Statement, Mr Motumi informed the Committee that a total amount of R27, 899 million was allocated to the Department and that R27, 801million was spent. The underspending of R97,74 million was due to a delay in appointment of a contractor at the air force base in Waterkloof.
Some of the achievements under this programme included the Delivery of 5 Augusta helicopters, Hawk and 5 Gripen aircraft and a submarine to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the successful launch of the South African Military Veterans’ Association in September 2008.
The challenges that the Department encountered under this programme were the untimely passing away of Secretary for Defence, Mr J B Masilela, and shortage of office space. Mr Motumi indicated that the Department had taken corrective measures to mitigate the challenges. It had implemented the Project Clean Audit to enhance internal controls and good corporate governance.
Mr D Maynier (DA) asked what the defence policy was, noting the last Defence Policy seemed to have been established in 1996.
Mr Motumi replied that the defence policy remained what Parliament had last approved, as well as the legislative framework provided by the Constitution.
Mr Maynier wanted to know if the Minister had proposed a Ministerial Directive for the financial year 2009/2010, as the last Ministerial directives were done in the 2005/2006 financial year.
Mr Motumi responded that the Minister had not issued directives but that the process was under way for the forthcoming medium expenditure framework.
Mr Maynier wanted to know if consultants had been brought in to advise on the structure of the Ministry. If so, he wanted to know the contract value of this, and what recommendations were made.
Mr Motumi replied that there were no consultants hired. The only work that was being examined was with reference to the establishment of the Department of Military Veterans.
Mr Maynier wanted to know why Parliamentary questions and correspondence were not responded to by the Ministry.
Mr Motumi advised that the Minister would be responding when she appeared before the Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson said he was not satisfied with the response given by Mr Motumi, as he was the accounting officer.
Mr Maynier also expressed a similar view and insisted he wanted to know who was responsible for the non-functioning of the Ministry.
Mr Motumi clarified that the various units were tasked with the responsibility of generating responses, depending on where the questions were directed. All these responses were processed through to the Acting Secretary of Defence, and then through to the Minister. He further stated that he was not aware of any Parliamentary questions that had not been answered.
Mr Maynier wondered why the slogan for the Annual Report was the slogan of the ruling party (“Safeguarding South Africa for a better life for all”) when in fact the expectation was that there be a non partisan defence force.
Mr Motumi explained that this was embraced as a government-wide theme, and was one that was communicated through the President's State of the Nation Address. This was also confirmed by the Head of Communication, Department of Defence.
Mr L Tolo (COPE) wanted to have clarity on the statement in the Department’s report about improving the delay in staffing levels.
Ms Mary Ledwaba, Chief Director: Human Resources, Department of Defence, replied that the delay in staffing levels related to requirements that, in order for a post to be filled, there was a need to make funds available and for the post to be job-evaluated. These processes tended to occur more slowly than the exodus of staff from the Department.
Mr Tolo asked if the Ministry had hired another building, as DOD’s statement about engaging Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to alleviate office space problems was not clear, and presumably affected the finances.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) asked if the Department had co-opted any journalist as part of the peace keeping mission in order to give a positive picture of the defence force.
Mr Motumi noted that an invitation had been extended to journalists, but what the journalists wrote was not influenced by the DOD, as the journalists were guided by their own ethics.
Mr Lorimer demanded to have a list of journalists who had been invited to participate in the peace keeping exercise.
Mr Motumi assured him that the list would be provided
The Chairperson asked how the organogram would stand, with the inclusion of the Department of Military Veterans (DOMV).
Mr Motumi answered that the organogram would change, but the precise details would be contained in the report that was being done to assess the establishment of DOMV.
Mr L Diale (ANC) asked if the Department of Defence was carrying out renovations on its facilities to improve the livelihood of its defence personnel.
Mr Motumi assured him that these concerns would be addressed during the presentation of Programme Seven.
Mr Diale proposed, through the Chair, that the Portfolio Committee should pay a visit to inspect these facilities.
The Chairperson took note of these remarks.
Mr A Mlangane (ANC) wanted to know why there had not been a permanent appointment for the Secretary for Defence.
The Chairperson requested that the Minister be asked to respond to this matter when appearing before the Committee, as Mr Motumi could not give an answer on a matter that clearly affected him.
Mr Mlangane insisted on an answer to his initial question.
Mr Motumi stated that the appointment of the Secretary for Defence was done by the President, on recommendation by the Minister.
Mr Maynier wanted to know if Mr Motumi had signed a performance contract.
Mr Motumi noted that he was on a performance contract for the duration of the period of the current Minister's tenure.
Mr Maynier wanted to know if the Department had a strategic business plan.
Mr Motumi responded that DOD had a strategic business plan, and that this was tabled to Parliament in May 2009.
Mr Tolo wanted to know if the Department rendered help to other departments. He had noted that the Department of Home Affairs in Musina, Limpopo province, needed to be assisted with the fence along the border line, as illegal immigrants were moving in and out freely.
Mr Motumi replied that the DOD offered assistance, which was given on the basis of a formal request. He cited the example of the Department of Agriculture’s request in erecting a fence to prevent foot and mouth disease.
Mr Tolo asked what DOD was doing in relation to health support, as the vehicle being used in Polokwane army base was not in proper working condition.
Mr Motumi assured that the issue would be looked into.
Mr Maynier wanted to know if the Department supported the acquisition of the eight A400M aircraft.
Mr Motumi responded that Mr Maynier's issue was a moot point.
Mr Maynier wanted to know when the contractual review for the purchase of the eight aircrafts would be completed.
Mr Motumi stated that the contractual review was still under way and the Minister would report to the Committee once that had been resolved.
Mr Maynier wanted to know how the additional funding of R4 million that was requested for maritime renewal would be spent.
Mr Motumi responded that the funds were part of the proposal that had been put forward to the National Treasury for additional funding for 2009/10, but that these had not been approved.
Mr Maynier wanted to know the meaning of the statement in the Annual Report referring to 'investment in a strategic collection capability'.
Mr Banie Engelbrecht, Chief Director: Budget Management, Department of Defence, responded that there were specific requirements in the border environments, for land, air and water, that required to be addressed. He further stated that these were not only physical, but could include activities such as extending ranges to enhance early detection of intruders.
The meeting was adjourned.
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