Department of Defence & Military Veterans Budget and Strategic Plan: Further deliberations

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Defence and Military Veterans

23 March 2010
Chairperson: Mr M Booi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with members of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (the Department) to receive the responses to the questions that Members had posed at an earlier meeting around the Department’s 2010 to 2013 Strategic Plan. A written document was tabled. Members then raised further questions relating to the number of flying hours for pilots of the Hawk and Griffin systems, the number of Navy vessels that were mission-ready and the capacity of the landward force to deal with border safety and security and the 2010 World Cup. Members also queried why the Department of Military Veterans had not been included in the Department’s structure, how the Department contributed to the socio-economic needs of the country, and the latest developments around the cancelled Airbus 400 M contract. Members also questioned the shortfall in the Department’s budget and asked about the Department’s plan for addressing the Auditor-General’s concerns.

The Chairperson called for a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Defence as well as the Director-General of the Department of Military Veterans, in order for the Committee to gain clarity around this new Department. Members called upon the Department to provide more detailed information around its funding requirements, as this would allow the Committee to better assist the Department in motivating for more funding. The Committee resolved to approve the Department’s Strategic Plan.

Meeting report

Department of Defence and Military Veterans: Strategic Plan and budget 2010-13: further discussions
The Committee had previously asked the Department to provide written responses to some questions, and the document containing those questions was tabled, and was then further interrogated by Members.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked what the plan was of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (the Department) around de-unionising the military.

The Chairperson said that, as the issue of unions was not within the structure of the Department, this question need not be answered.

Mr Maynier asked, with specific reference to the Hawk and Griffin systems, what the numbers of optimal and actual flying hours had been budgeted for each year, and whether there was a shortfall.

Mr Banie Engelbrecht, Acting Chief Director: Budget Management, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, answered that the optimal number of flying hours were based on requirements set by the Chief of Joint Operations. There was no deficit in terms of training. He did not have specific information related to the amount of flying hours for these types of aircrafts.

Mr Maynier asked how many of the South African Navy’s vessels were mission-ready, with particular reference to frigates and submarines.

A South African Navy representative added that the Navy had an internationally benchmarked system which defined its mission-readiness. This system was known as the Level of Capability and categorised ships as either having ‘Basic’, ‘Functional’ or ‘No’ Level of Capability. All frigates and submarines were, at any given time, kept at various levels of capability.

The Chairperson asked whether the Defence Force’s landward force had sufficient capabilities to effectively deal with border safety and security, and search and rescue operations, as well as the 2010 World Cup.

A South African National Defence Force representative answered that South Africa’s landward force had sufficient capabilities to be deployed whenever necessary.

The Chairperson asked whether there was any specific Departmental plan regarding military veterans.
Mr D Dladla, Acting Chief of Policy, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, answered that work was currently under way to ensure that the Department of Military Veterans’ structure was put in place. This would inform all other subsequent activities related to this Department. R20 million of the Department of Defence budget had been allocated for the establishment of this Department’s office, although this was not the full extent of the allocation for military veterans.

The Chairperson asked whether there would be an allocation for pensions, healthcare and other social benefits.

Mr Dladla answered that he assumed that the Strategic Plan would speak to the issues raised by the task team appointed to look into this matter.

The Chairperson said that since Parliament would, from September 2010, be in a position to influence budgets, it was important that the Committee be provided with more concrete information in order to better assist the Department to get the funding that it needed. He added that the Committee would continue to meet with the Deputy Minister as well as the Director-General of the Department of Military Veterans to gain greater clarity around this issue.

The Chairperson asked how the Joint Operations were being shaped around foreign affairs.

Lt-Gen Themba Matanzima, Acting Secretary for Defence, responded that forces were deployed externally and worked together with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to ensure that the Government’s diplomatic efforts, in line with its international agreements, were enhanced. The Department had witnessed many successes in this regard, particularly in relation to its relationship with other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and peacekeeping missions in Africa.

The Chairperson asked what the overall capacity of the Defence Force was.

Brig-Gen Andries De Wit, Human Resources, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, answered that the current approved structure for the full-time component provided for 87 500 posts. Due to budget considerations, however, 78 100 positions were budgeted for in the Strategic Plan for the 2010/11 financial year. The current full-time staff complement as at 1 March 2010 consisted of 76 750 members. This shortfall would be bridged in the upcoming financial year.

A SANDF representative added that the Army was in need of prime mission equipment. It was more expensive to maintain old equipment than to acquire new equipment.

The Chairperson asked about the Department’s contribution to the socio-economic needs of the country.

Lt-Gen Matanzima replied that the Department, through the SANDF training, was doing a lot in this regard. Young people were trained to become doctors, engineers or other professionals. The Department had assisted communities in the building of bridges, fire-fighting and other social matters. It worked together with the other relevant Departments in the carrying out of these activities.

Mr D Smiles (DA) asked whether there was any point in being mandate-driven when there was a decrease in the budget.
Mr Dladla answered that funding limitations had hindered the Department’s attempts to deliver fully on its Constitutionally-derived mandate. The Department hoped to move towards a situation where its mandate drove its activities, as opposed to the present situation in which budget considerations drove these activities.

Mr Smiles responded that the Committee was willing to assist the Department in this regard. The Department would, however, have to provide the Committee with adequate information around its needs and plans.

Mr Maynier said there needed to be a new Defence Policy. The Department needed to provide a credible argument as to its funding requirements.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) said that the SANDF could not carry out its duties effectively with the constant decreases in the budgetary allocations. The Committee had failed to assist the Department in this regard. He suggested that the White Paper should be reviewed, and a clause should be inserted which stipulated that it be reviewed once every five years.

The Chairperson said the Committee could do more to assist the Department, as this was in the best interests of the country. However, as the Committee had accepted the Strategic Plan there was no need for members to enter into debate around this issue.

Ms N Mabedla (ANC) asked what funding the Department needed in order to eradicate the backlog with regards to the repair and maintenance of equipment.

A Department representative answered that the Department was currently undertaking a ‘condition assessment’ of all its facilities, which would be completed by the end of the 2010/11 financial year. Thus far, the estimated total stood at R13 billion. The R2 billion that it had at its disposal for the next three years was therefore insufficient. It had, however, been receiving increasing allocations from National Treasury for this purpose. The Department of Public Works had a new refurbishment programme which, although more expensive, was far more in-depth.

Ms Mabedla asked what the Department was doing to address the Auditor-General’s concerns around poor oversight and management of spending.

Mr Engelbrecht answered that the Department had been focusing on good governance. Part of this focus was its Operation Clean Audit, which specifically addressed all its audit qualifications.

Mr Smiles asked whether the Department was satisfied with the training the SANDF provided, both in terms of the input and output.

A South African Navy representative answered that the South African Navy trained matriculants from all races, each province and each gender. There were currently 511 members training at the SA Saldanah. Many of its trainees were afforded the opportunity to study abroad. This situation was representative of all the Department’s sectors.

Mr Maynier asked when the Defence Update would be made available. He also questioned whether the Defence Strategic Plan was the same as the Defence Update.
The Chairperson said that the first question should be posed to the Minister by way of a formal letter. He asked that a response to the second question should be provided to the Committee in writing, once all the relevant information had been collated by the Department.

Mr Maynier asked what was the shortfall in the Department’s budget.

Mr Engelbrecht answered that the estimated shortfall on its operating budget stood at R3 billion. The estimated shortfall on its total budget was estimated at being in the region of R7.3 billion.

Mr Maynier asked whether the Department could list some of the highlights among its acquisitions for this financial year.

A Department representative answered that, due to the sensitive nature of this request, the Department would prefer to present this in greater detail in a closed meeting.

The Chairperson asked where the new Department of Military Veterans would fit into the Department’s structure.

Mr Matanzima answered that the full Department was still being established.

The Chairperson responded that the organogram should at this point have changed. This would have gone towards explaining the Department’s hierarchy. He also asked what the timelines were for addressing the priorities outlined by the Minister

Mr Matanzima responded that some of these priorities were to be dealt with in the 2010/11 financial year. It was, however, difficult to place an exact timeline on many of these priorities.

The Chairperson asked whether the legislation listed was ready to be presented to the Committee.

A Department representative answered that the Department’s legislative programme for 2010 was ready and had been handed in this year. This programme set out the schedule for when the legislation should be addressed. The Defence Amendment Bill and National Defence Force Services Commission Bill had been dealt with. The Geneva Convention Bill would be dealt with in April. The Military Discipline Bill would be dealt with in June.

Mr L Tolo (COPE) asked what the latest developments were in relation to the Airbus 400 M contract being cancelled.

A Department representative answered that the contract had been cancelled and the Department was currently in the process of having this money returned. The different exchange rate since commencement of the contract would, however, affect the amount of money returned. Airbus was, nonetheless, contractually liable to return this money.

Mr Maynier asked for more details around what was envisaged around the leadership of the Department.

The Chairperson agreed to Mr Matanzima’s request that a response on this be provided to the Committee in writing.

The meeting was adjourned.


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