The Committee met with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans to reflect on and hear her views on the poor performance of the Department when appearing before the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA). It had been called to appear before SCOPA on 3 February because the audit by the Auditor-General of the Department’s Annual Report and Financial Statements 2008/09 had given qualified.
The Chairperson said that for him the only fundamental questions raised in the hearing were those on tangible assets, lease commitments, and the holding of the positions of Secretary of Defence and Chief Financial Officer by persons in an acting capacity.
A Democratic Alliance Member thought it necessary to provide context, in spite of the Chairperson’s pleas to focus on the SCOPA meeting. In his view, there was a standoff between Parliament and the Ministry. The Acting Secretary for Defence had often not provided adequate answers to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and had given the impression that information was being withheld from Parliament. However, it was conceded that the Acting Secretary might lack detailed information. Despite this, he should have been supported by a delegation equipped to assist him and provided with adequate guidelines, possibly from the Minister, as to what he might or might not disclose to Members of Parliament.
The Minister said that she was ‘at a loss’ as to how the SCOPA debacle could have happened, given the entire Ministry and Department’s efforts to prepare, and its confidence in the Acting Secretary’s readiness for his first appearance before the Standing Committee. Moreover, she had committed herself to the Department’s achieving a consistent record of unqualified audit reports. The Minister put on record that the Secretary of Defence was not responsible for defending the country. Nor was his inability to explain audit reports a reflection of the South African National Defence Force. He was the accounting officer; he dealt with the annual audit reports, and with the finances; the preparedness or otherwise of the Defence Force was the responsibility of the Chief of the Defence Force. She admitted that it had seemed that the Acting Secretary of Defence was unable to explain the reasons for the audit qualifications. When he was asked about tangible assets, the Minister thought that he was ‘understandably unable to explain’ since there was a disjuncture between the Department’s method of classifying its records according to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation standards, and those adopted by the National Treasury which made a very clear distinction between capital assets and stock. The Acting Secretary of Defence had not appointed himself, nor had the Minister. The President appointed the Secretary of Defence.
She said that the Department was working hard to resolve the Auditor-General’s issues with the asset register. The Deputy Minister of Defence was collaborating with the Minister of Public Works to allow the Department’s leases be lodged with the Department as soon as possible, and the Minister was confident that this and other issues would not again be cause for a qualified audit. The Department had taken corrective measures with regard to irregular expenditure. The Department had developed a management training manual, and established a management system. A compliance officer in the Ministry would administer this. The Department had established a board of enquiry into the Aero Manpower Group contract, and the Minister would ensure compliance with the board’s recommendations. Accruals, a matter from the 2007-2008 audit, had been attended to. She again expressed confidence that there would be no more audit qualifications. The Minister felt that there should have been no qualification on Departmental revenue, since the Department possessed the necessary documentation. The Inspector-General had completed a preliminary report on the procurement officials. The Minister said that a permanent chief financial officer would be appointed very soon by means of transfer of an existing chief financial officer from another department. She said that it was vital for Members who issued press statements to verify their facts. The Acting Secretary might not be eloquent like the Members, with the ability to produce ‘a quote a minute’, but he did however have qualities that were highly valued in the Defence Force, such as discipline, dedication and commitment.
The Chairperson had met with the Chief of Defence and generals, who had supported the Acting Secretary. He was fully convinced that the Department was ready to meet all demands upon it. An African National Congress Member appealed to all concerned to see South Africa holistically: one could not afford to make mistakes. The South African National Defence Force was for everyone. A Democratic Alliance Member said that the Minister’s analysis of the Standing Committee meeting was ‘wrong’. She was treating the symptom not the cause. There remained underlying frustration in Parliament which had exploded in the meeting of the Standing Committee. Correspondence, questions, and complaints needed to be responded to, as did Members’ concerns about visits to bases.
The Minister asked the Member not to conflate his own impressions with what had happened at the Standing Committee. SCOPA was genuinely interested to find causes. This was not related to politics, since Members of the ruling party were ‘up in arms’. Their frustration was that an accounting officer had been unable to respond properly. She asked Members to inform the Department clearly as to the mandates of the respective Parliamentary Committees, in particular, that of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. She thought that the Defence Portfolio Committee sometimes exceeded its mandate.
The Chairperson concluded by saying that the nature of his own position placed limits on what he could do and agreed with the Minister that the issues should not be taken out of proportion. The South African National Defence Force was highly ready to meet any demands upon it. With regard to the problem in the Standing Committee, ‘It was a question of articulation’.
The Chairperson welcomed the Hon. Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, to the meeting the purpose of which was to reflect on the hearing of the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (the Standing Committee) on the Department’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for the financial year 2008-2009 (Report) held on 03 February 2009. The Chairperson said that the Minister, having heard adverse media reports, had called the Chairperson to ask for the meeting in order that she be informed of Members’ views of what exactly had happened on that particular day. He said that Mr A Mlangeni (ANC), Mr L Diale (ANC), and Mr D Maynier (DA), had been present in the meeting; he observed also that the Parliamentary Monitoring Group monitor, who had been ‘writing out exactly what took place on that particular day’, was present.
The Chairperson welcomed also observers from the United States Embassy and members of the media.
The Chairperson said that ‘it is a nice and friendly meeting’. He hoped that Members would keep it that way and reflect with the Minister ‘in a more proper, pointed and honest way’. He called for the maintenance of ‘respect and discipline’. This meant that Members would have to confine themselves to the agenda.
Chairperson and Members’ reflections on the 03 February 2010 meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
The Chairperson told the Minister that Ms L Mashiane (COPE) had asked the first question in the Standing Committee’s meeting, in which she had asked the Department about tangible assets and lease commitments. (Report, pages 237-245) The Portfolio Committee had asked such questions in the past. A straightforward answer had been expected, but the questions and responses had gone ‘to and fro’.
The Chairperson said that Ms Mashiane had also asked how long the position of Secretary of Defence had been held in an acting capacity; she had asked also what his future was, with reference to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), ‘the green book’, Chapter 5 on Departments and Constitutional Institutions, in which the pattern of authority was defined. Ms Mashiane had had reservations that Mr T Motumi held his position only in an acting capacity, but had not wanted to ‘engage heavily’.
The Chairperson said that Ms Mashiane had further asked who held the post of Chief Financial Officer, in response to which Mr T Motumi, the Acting Secretary of Defence, had introduced Ms Dudu Mutloane, Acting Chief Financial Officer. ‘That was the pattern of questions that came out.’
The Chairperson said that for him these were the only fundamental questions. He would ask Members to help him in ‘an open process of engaging with the Minister’ as to exactly what had happened in the Standing Committee’s meeting, because the Minister took it very seriously. It was her responsibility politically to ensure that the Department was administered correctly. It was in that context that she had raised her concern.
Mr D Maynier (DA) presented his compliments of the New Year to the Minister and her staff by way of introducing his question.
The Chairperson asked Mr Maynier to reflect on the Standing Committee hearing first, before proceeding with his questions.
Mr Maynier said that his own analysis of what had taken place in the Standing Committee’s meeting was that there was an underlying context, and the situation had been developing for several months. The Minister, in her statement released on 04 February 2010, had said that she took Parliament’s oversight role seriously. However, the facts demonstrated, in Mr Maynier’s view, exactly the opposite. For that reason there was, in Mr Maynier’s view, ‘a Mexican standoff’, between Parliament and the Ministry. His view of how that arose was that the Portfolio Committee of Defence and Military Veterans had been meeting the Acting Secretary of Defence regularly throughout the past eight months. On these occasions the Acting Secretary had often not provided adequate answers to questions. He was often unwilling to provide information requested by the Committee. This created the impression that Parliament was being kept in the dark. Mr Maynier accepted that in regard to of some questions the Acting Secretary of Defence might not be informed of the details. However, on these occasions, the Acting Secretary should have been supported by a suitably composed delegation equipped to provide him with the details and assist him in answering the Portfolio Committee’s questions. Mr Maynier also thought that the Acting Secretary was not provided with adequate guidelines, possibly from the Minister, as to what he might or might not disclose to Members of Parliament. Lack of such guidelines presented a difficulty. The situation was compounded by the Ministry of Defence. Parliamentary questions had not been answered.
The Chairperson asked Mr Maynier to focus on the Standing Committee.
Mr Maynier said that he was explaining the underlying context.
The Chairperson insisted that Mr Maynier confine himself to what the Committee had agreed upon for its agenda. ‘Let’s not go haywire.’
Mr Maynier said that, with respect, if one was to understand what had happened in the meeting of the Standing Committee, it was necessary to undertake a proper analysis of the problems so that they could be resolved.
The Chairperson again insisted that Mr Maynier confine himself to the agreed agenda. ‘Let’s not contextualise’, he said, but just deal with the issues of that day.
Mr Maynier replied that he had therefore completed his reflection on the Standing Committee’s meeting, but this did not mean that he had no more to say.
The Chairperson said that he had never denied that Mr Maynier had more to contribute. He asked if other Members had anything to say.
Other Members did not have anything to add at that stage.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans’ oral presentation
The Minister thanked the Committee for the opportunity to meet to obtain clarity on the matters about which she had written to the Chairperson after receiving the media reports about the outcome of the Standing Committee meeting. ‘The reports in the media have been frightening. ‘I’m at a loss as to how this could have happened, despite what Mr David Maynier might wish to think. I’m grappling with the very idea that it could have gone so wrong, especially given the level of preparation that we had put in place.’ It had taken a long time to study the Auditor-General’s report, especially after she had committed herself to the Department’s not having a single qualified audit report in her time as Minister.
When notified that the Department would appear before the Standing Committee, the Minister dedicated the whole of the Saturday before the meeting to understand those matters needed to assist the Department. The following Monday, the Minister had incurred the wrath of the Secretary-General of the ANC because she missed the normal working committee scheduled every Monday in order to sit with the Acting Secretary of Defence, with whom she had convened a special council on defence to be sure that the Acting Secretary would be able to represent the Department well. After the Acting Secretary had explained the matters, the Minister was well convinced that his understanding and her understanding were at the same level, and that he was fully competent to handle the situation. So convinced was the Minister and her colleagues that the Deputy Minister of Defence, who would normally have accompanied the Acting Secretary, decided not to do so. It was thought that the Acting Secretary would be ‘very comfortable on his own’, bearing in mind that this would have been his first appearance before the Standing Committee.
An unfortunate impression had subsequently been created, perhaps inspired by the official opposition, that the Department of Defence was ‘a shambles’, and would be unable to defend the country. ‘I need to put on record that the Secretary of Defence is not responsible for defending the country. Nor is his inability to explain audit reports a reflection of the South African Defence Force. He is the accounting officer; he deals with our annual audit reports, and he deals with our finances; the preparedness or otherwise of the Defence Force is the responsibility of the Chief of the Defence Force.’
Secondly, an impression was given that the Minister had failed to attend the Standing Committee meeting. She requested the Chairperson to list the number occasions when she had been present or absent at Portfolio Committee meetings, and the number of meetings that she herself had initiated. ‘I did not fail to turn up for Scopa, because I had not been invited.’ It had been her intention, however, purely from her own initiative, to be there, because she had wanted to understand what the Standing Committee had wanted to find out; and also because she was completely convinced that one was beginning to see the effects of the turnaround strategy of the Secretariat. However, there had been a three line whip for the Cabinet Committee meeting, and, unfortunately, she had been therefore unable to attend the Standing Committee. She had intended that the Acting Secretary of Defence should indicate her circumstances to the Standing Committee. However, instead, an apology was given; whereas she believed that an apology as such was inappropriate, because one apologised for absence when invited.
‘The damage, however, remains my responsibility’. She acknowledged the need to repair the integrity of the Department.’ It was her aim to make sure that the Ministry and the Portfolio Committee saw matters from the same perspective. All present had a responsibility, and she thought it incumbent to exercise that responsibility responsibly. She then wanted to deal with the reasons why her Department ‘had performed so badly’ before the Standing Committee, and explain to Members some of the issues that the Standing Committee had asked but on which the Department was unable to answer, if only to convince Members that the Department was ‘completely on top of the situation’, and that the Minister was committed to the avoidance of any qualified audit opinions from the Auditor-General.
The Minister reacquainted Members with the issues facing the Department at the beginning of the year under review, 2008-2009. There had been a rupture in the ruling party. Defence was in a uniquely unfortunate position in that both Minister and Deputy Minister, who had been actively attending to matters, had resigned in April 2008. In August 2008 the Department suffered a further loss when the Secretary of Defence had died. The Acting Secretary of Defence was appointed in September. The Minister gave this background so that Members could understand objectively the environment in which the Acting Secretary of Defence was operating, and the environment to which this particular audit report applied.
The Minister said that she was ‘extremely impressed’ by what had been achieved in this period. The audit qualifications had been reduced to six. In spite of these political upheavals, and the death of the Secretary, ‘the Secretariat tried to hold its own’.
The Minister now wanted to focus on the matters at hand. She admitted that it seemed that the Acting Secretary of Defence had been unable to explain the reasons for the audit qualifications; he was asked about tangible assets: the Minister thought that he was ‘understandably unable to explain’ for the reason that the Department had been in a predicament for a very long time in so far as there was a disjuncture between the way the Department classified its records and the way in which it was now required to register and account for its assets.(Report, page 15) Until the present, the Department had been following North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) standards, because it had joint operations with NATO, and was responsible for peacekeeping in Africa. The agreement required conformity to NATO standards. However, the standards adopted by the National Treasury made a very clear distinction between capital assets and stock.
The Minister had conferred with the auditors to try to seek an understanding with the requirements of the National Treasury, because it was indeed a problem if the Auditor-General was unable to find a record of the tangible assets in the hand of the Department. She thought that the Acting Secretary had the answers, but was unable to explain because of the historical context from which the Department had not been able to disengage itself.
In terms of the Constitution, the Secretary of Defence was appointed by the President, who, as Commander-in-Chief, had needed to consider the appointment very carefully, and had had several other major appointments to consider as contracts expired. There was no contract with the Acting Secretary. The President’s priority had been to appoint a new Commissioner of Police, because the contract had expired. Thereafter, the President had been obliged to direct his attention to the intelligence services, because those contracts had expired. The Minister thought that the President was now attending to the matter, and would be able to announce an appointment in due time.
It was unfortunate that Ms Mashiane had posed her question to the Acting Secretary of Defence because he had not appointed himself, nor had the Minister. This was a question to which the President alone could respond.
With regard to the audit qualifications, the Minister was sure that the Acting Secretary of Defence would have had the answers. She wondered whether, since it was his first engagement with the Standing Committee, he had been unable to rise to the ‘aggressive’ level of the encounter, and therefore unable to explain what needed to be explained. Given a more favourable ‘mindset’, she was sure he would have been able to respond. She wanted to assure the Committee that this was a matter with which the Department and Ministry had been seized.
The Minister said that the Auditor-General had found that the Department of Defence had been unable to maintain a proper asset register as required by the National Treasury and had not disclosed any information with regard to assets. The root cause was non-disclosure of financial information because no physical asset count register could be valued from the Defence Force, because essentially the Department had not aligned its systems to the requirements of the National Treasury. The Department had immediately begun ‘a clean-up’ of the register. The Department sought to remove capital immovable assets from the register, ‘from clouding it with stock’, to ensure that it was able to approach Cabinet with a request that it be allowed to deviate with regard to fixed capital assets, ‘which was land’. This was a standard deviation that had been allowed to the Department of Public Works because of historical inaccuracies in the system of auditing assets that belonged to the State.
The Minister said that the Department was also trying to obtain a deviation from the norm that was set by National Treasury to enable the Department to migrate from the systems that it had previously been using to those required for a proper accounting system. The Minister’s responsibility was to ensure that as early as possible the measures that the Department had undertaken would be completed, namely to migrate the manual and multi-accounting systems to the new system. The Department’s problems were aggravated by the fact that each service had its own register and its own system. It was needed to ensure that these systems could be migrated into one, in order to compile one asset register that the Auditor-General could study and find answers to the concerns which he had raised with the Department.
By the financial year 2011, the Minister believed that all these systems would be established. However, she hoped that for the current year a favourable response to the request for deviation would ensure that there would not be a cause for qualification, although she conceded that it might be an emphasis of matter.
Lease commitments were the second issue. The Auditor-General had found that the operating leases disclosed were overstated by R8.4 million, whilst the finance leases were understated by an estimated R10.7 million. The root clause was that there was no physical asset count that could be used for this purpose. The Department was establishing corrective measures. One of these was to ensure that cell ‘phones, copiers, printers and bottled gas containers were included in the lease register. As of 30 September 2009 an agreement had been concluded with the National Treasury. The Deputy Minister of Defence was collaborating with the Minister of Public Works to achieve alignment. The Department had requested the Department of Public Works to allow that all the Department’s leases be lodged with the Department at the earliest possible time. ‘We project that this will not appear as a qualified audit’.
The Minister said that the third issue was irregular expenditure, which was understated by R102.7 million. The cause was again that the Department had not conformed to National Treasury requirements. As of 30 September 2009, the Department had ensured that corrective measures were in place. The Department was ‘on top of the matter’.
The Department had developed a management training manual for its offices, because it had discovered that some of the problems had emanated from a lack of training. The Department had also established a management system, which would be managed by the headquarters of the Department of Defence. The Minister said that it was her responsibility to administer this. It was her intention to appoint a compliance officer in her office. She projected that the Department would not receive a qualification upon this again.
The Auditor-General was unable to verify the accuracy of payments made for goods and services in terms of the AMG contract. This was the main cause of the Auditor-General’s finding. The Department had established a board of enquiry into the Aero Manpower Group (AMG) contract. This contract was routed via Denel, and ‘these are the people who maintain our aircraft’. The recommendations of the board of enquiry were available to Members. The Minister would ensure that there was ministerial oversight to ensure that the board of enquiry’s recommendations were complied with. The appointment of the compliance officer would assist her. Again, she was confident that the Department would not receive another audit qualification.
The fifth issue was accruals. This was a matter from the audit of 2007-2008 and had been attended to. This audit qualification would not recur.
The final qualification was on Departmental revenue. In this regard the Minister felt that the interaction with the Auditor-General could have been much better, and that there should not have been a qualification. The root cause was that housing for Defence Force members was not in line with the 2002 resolution. The Department possessed the necessary documentation. There were other resolutions of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council that had given the Department the necessary foundation for what it had done in terms of charging R500 per person for board and lodging.
The Minister referred also to the enquiry into the procurement officials. The Inspector-General had completed a preliminary report on the matter. He had asked for more time to continue his investigation, taking into his confidence the legal division of the Department. Mr J Lorimer (DA) had asked about the report, but at this stage it was inconclusive: at a later stage the Inspector-General might be able to brief the Committee. The Minister, however, wished to point out to the Committee the confidential nature of the information.
The Minister said that a permanent chief financial officer would be appointed very soon by means of transfer of an existing chief financial officer from another department.
The Chairperson asked if any Members required clarity on matters arising from the Minister’s oral presentation. The Chairperson asked Members to confine the discussion to the issues on which clarity was sought, and add substance to the issues that should have been replied to in the Standing Committee meeting.
Mr Lorimer said that he was pleased that there was progress on the Inspector-General’s report on the procurement officials. He would be most interested to see the report. This was clearly ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back at Scopa’. Whereas there had been previous dissatisfaction in the Standing Committee’s discussion on logistics and assets, this was when the discussion became heated. It was Mr M Mbili (ANC) who had made strong allegations about a senior procurement official. The Committee had not had a good experience with South African National Defence Force logistics personnel. In October 2009, when issue of some suspicious tenders had been raised, the Department had been asked to produce documents, but these were still outstanding. He was prepared to wait until the Inspector-General’s report was ready, but wanted the outstanding documents to be put on record.
The Minister replied that she had read Mr Lorimer’s press release of 29 November 2009, indicating that Mr Lorimer had asked the Minister of Defence to investigate these matters and that ‘three weeks later she was sitting on her hands and had not done anything about it’. It was important for Members who issued press statements to verify their facts. At no point had Mr Lorimer asked the Minister to investigate anything to do with procurement. The matter had been discussed by the Minister in a committee in October 2009. She had been asked in Parliament and her answer had been very clear: should she be asked in the Portfolio Committee she would be open to dealing with the matter, but ‘I have not been asked’. She said that in all fairness it was necessary to report the truth in order to resolve the matter fundamentally. She had noted Mr Lorimer’s concerns on the matter, which was why she had asked the Inspector-General to investigate.
Mr Lorimer said that the Portfolio Committee had agreed in November 2009 to ask the Minister to investigate procurement; however, he did not know if the Portfolio Committee’s request had been conveyed officially.
The Minister asked it to be put on record that she had never received such a request. This was a very serious matter on which there needed to be agreement between the Portfolio Committee and the Minister. ‘I do my damnedest 24 hours of the day to be able to attend to these matters,’ she said. ‘To be portrayed as sitting on my hands on such an explosive matter is unfortunate.’ She would await the Committee’s formal request.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the Portfolio Committee had agreed to make such a request, and that he would have to check with his own office to see if any correspondence to the Minister had been sent.
Mr Mangeni said that Mr Lorimer should have enquired first from the Chairperson’s office. It was a serious matter to make such an allegation. One should not say such things about the Minister.
Mr Lorimer said that he expected the Portfolio Committee to follow through on its resolution; it was not for him to have to keep enquiring if this had been done.
The Chairperson said that he did not want to make it an issue and that he would investigate.
Mr Maynier said that, as a Member of the official opposition, he was always happy to take the credit, but that the Minister had given him too much credit. It had been the ANC who had escalated the discussion in the Standing Committee meeting, as the Minister would have been aware if she had read a transcript [the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s report] of the Standing Committee meeting.
The Minister replied that, if she was crediting the official opposition with anything, it was with the allegation that she had failed to appear, because there was an impression in the media that she had consistently failed to appear. She said that she was fully aware of Mr Maynier’s limitations.
Mr Maynier asked, ‘given the Acting Secretary of Defence’s poor showing at Scopa’, if the Acting Secretary still had the Minister’s support, and if she had recommended to the President that the Acting Secretary be appointed in a permanent capacity. Secondly, he asked if, in making her recommendation, she had taken into account allegations made some years ago that the Secretary of Defence had interests in defence companies that were connected to Chancellor House. He also asked if the Minister had taken into account matters raised by the Auditor-General where there was reference to R284 000 worth of ‘fruitless and wasteful expenditure on the Secretary of Defence’ s house’. (Report, page 323)
The Minister said that she would respond to Mr Maynier’s question on the permanent appointment as Secretary of Defence. She wished to explain that the audit finding was for the year 2008-2009. The Acting Secretary of Defence was appointed ‘at the tail end of that year’. The incumbent referred to in the audit report was deceased. There were references in the report to investigations into asset chain liability. When those had been completed, the Department hoped to resolve the matter. It had no bearing on the present incumbent.
The Minister said further that the Acting Secretary of Defence was a man who had been pressed into his post in order to rescue a situation. ‘I think that he had held his own.’ She had called in the Secretariat in December to find the money that the Ministry needed to borrow against in order to ensure that the soldiers were paid before the 23 December. She indicated to the members of the Secretariat that they would not leave until the money had been found, even if it meant that she would have to lock them in the room. ‘On that fateful day, they sat up until 12 p.m.’ The Acting Secretary had at about 5 p.m. received a message that his mother had passed away. ‘What did he do? He continued until the job was finished.’ He came to hand the documents to the Minister, and then went home to his grief-stricken family. This demonstrated the commitment of a man who deserved to be in the position which he held. The Minister said ‘I am completely baffled’ as to why he could not explain himself in the Standing Committee meeting. ‘He did not acquit himself well, by all accounts’. He might not be eloquent like the Members, with the ability to produce ‘a quote a minute’, but he did however have qualities that were highly valued in the Defence Force, such as discipline, dedication and commitment, as Mr Maynier would understand, and he had, however, well demonstrated his determination to avoid another audit qualification. She would recommend him for any job. However, she might have to provide added training and back up to strengthen his readiness for interaction with Mr Maynier. His response in the Standing Committee did not detract from the fact that the Department was in a complete state of preparedness, financially and in every other way, and some credit should be given to the Acting Secretary.
The Chairperson said that he had had a meeting with the Acting Secretary on the Sunday before the Standing Committee meeting, and had been well convinced that the Acting Secretary had the necessary capacity to respond adequately. He had long known the Acting Secretary as one of the people on whom the Department could depend, and he had been impressed with him in Portfolio Committee meetings. However, the Acting Secretary was not like Mr Mbili, who could speak at any time, but took time to come to conclusions on issues
The Minister observed that she thought that the Chairperson was going to say that the Acting Secretary was not like Mr Maynier with his debating skills.
The Chairperson indicated that Mr Mbili was a formidable speaker. However, the Chairperson did not want to prolong the discussion on the Acting Secretary further, unless there was something new to say.
The Chairperson said that he had held a long meeting with the Chief of Defence and generals to get their perspective on the situation. They all supported the Acting Secretary. After this meeting, he fully understood and was convinced by what the Minister had said. He acknowledged the presence of the Auditor-General. The Chairperson was fully convinced that the Department was ready to meet all demands upon it.
Mr Mangeni commended the Minister’s assessment; she had dealt with all the issues raised, as if she herself had attended the Standing Committee. He asked about Denel.
The Chairperson said that the meeting’s agenda did not extend to Denel.
Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) said that the task of the Department of Defence was huge; its remit was to defend everybody, irrespective of politics. There was a failure to see South Africa holistically, and she preferred to ‘package issues’ when it came to Defence, rather than refer to particular individuals or parties when listing issues. One could not afford to make mistakes. The South African National Defence Force was for everyone. There was a need for a workshop on logistics. This had been accepted in the National Assembly, but not implemented. She asked for an equal understanding.
The Chairperson acknowledged Ms Mgabadeli’s contribution to the interim committee established to discuss SANDF issues; she had not hesitated to come forward and assist in ascertaining the problems faced by the SANDF. The Committee would find some time to discuss amongst Members themselves the issues facing the SANDF.
Mr Maynier said that the Minister’s analysis of the Standing Committee meeting was ‘wrong’. She was treating the symptom not the cause. There remained underlying frustration in Parliament which had exploded in the meeting of the Standing Committee. Correspondence, questions, and complaints needed to be responded to, as did Members’ concerns about visits to bases.
The Minister said that her intention was to learn what had happened. She asked Mr Maynier not to conflate his own impressions with what had happened at the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee was genuinely interested to find causes. This was not related to politics, since, as Mr Maynier had said, Members of the ruling party were ‘up in arms’. Their frustration was that an accounting officer had been unable to respond properly. She asked Members to inform the Department clearly as to the mandates of the respective Parliamentary Committees, in particular, that of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. She thought that the Defence Portfolio Committee sometimes exceeded its mandate. She advised consultation with the Rules Committee. There was a matter of R2.9 billion which was allocated to consultants, contractors, and agencies outside the Department of Defence. She acknowledged that for an onlooker this was a huge amount of money for consultants. However, it was money that was used for the maintenance of bases. She acknowledged that the necessary segregation had not been applied by the Auditor-General, and this is what the Acting Secretary of Defence would have wanted to explain to the Standing Committee. She assured the Committee that these audit qualifications would not recur.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the Minister was putting him under pressure in good faith because she wanted clarity. The nature of his own position placed limits on what he could do. He said that statements affected the wider public. He agreed with the Minister that the issues should not be taken out of proportion. The South African National Defence Force was highly ready to meet any demands upon it. With regard to the problem in the Standing Committee, ‘It was a question of articulation’. He thanked the Minister, Members, and all present.
The meeting was adjourned.
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