The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) presented its Annual Report for 2009/10. Highlights were named as
Members congratulated the Department on its audit results. However, they expressed criticism about the format and cost of the Annual Report, as well as highlighting some errors, and asked for a comparison of timeframes and achievement of objectives. Members asked about regional political, economic and infrastructural integration, and the White Paper on Foreign Policy. They questioned the overtime payments and the turnover of staff, and sought clarity on the different categories of missions. They enquired what
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted
The Chairperson noted that the IBSA forum included
The Chairperson also commented with pride on the participation of South African company Murray and Roberts in the rescue of the Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days, and cited rescue efforts as a true example of international cooperation, saying the miners were seen as a symbol of hope. He would also convey the message of success in unity.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO): Annual Report 2009/10
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, announced the appointment of Ms M Joyini, currently the Deputy Director General, as the new High Commissioner Designate to
Dr Ntsaluba then tabled and presented the Annual Report of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO or the Department). The key priorities in the 2009/2010 financial year had been the continued prioritisation of the African agenda, the strengthening of South-South relations, strengthening of relations with formations of the North, strengthening of all political and economic relations, and participation in the global system of governance. The Department also focused on organisational strengthening and provision of operational support services.
Dr Ntsaluba said the Department had received an unqualified audit report (with no matters of emphasis) for the third year in a row. The Department had utilised 98.55% of its budget, with the under-expenditure resulting from a delay in payment for the Capital Works Programme in
He highlighted the organisational establishment. 319 vacancies had been filled, making a total of 2341 filled positions within the Department. The vacant unfunded positions were highlighted. Dr Ntsaluba pointed out that although ideally they should be filled, it was difficult to find funding in the current financial climate. He noted that 33.3% of employees were women (short of the target of 50%), and 1.5% were people with disabilities (short of the target of 2%). The Department was making an active effort to reach gender and disability targets. The Department’s turnover rate was 9%, which was relatively high, but this was attributable mostly to promotions and retirements.
Dr Ntsaluba said that DIRCO was rated second-best employer of choice by tertiary students studying towards qualifications in Humanities, and this finding resulted from the human resources (HR) initiative to encourage young people to look at a future in diplomacy. The cadet programme was going well, provided a channel for human resources needs, and interventions had been made to enhance employees’ career focus and direction. DIRCO also participated in career fairs for Grade 10-12 students, and career exhibitions at colleges and universities.
Dr Ntsaluba outlined DIRCO’s full support for employees in Hardship Missions, and said that research by the HR division resulted in various recommendations. Firstly, rotation of Hardship Missions was to be reduced from four to two years, particularly since some employees would be separated from their immediate families during this time. Those who accepted Hardship Mission appointments were, immediately afterwards, able to opt for a four year Category 1 or Category 2 placement (so-called “Ice-Cream Mission”). The Department was also trying to establish a spousal support office to maintain better information for partners and address domestic issue complaints, as well as providing a 24 hour crisis and support service for those in Hardship Missions.
The HR strategic priorities for 2010/2011 included establishment and promotion of effective organisational processes, talent management, employee resourcing and utilisation and management capacity building.
Further to his remarks on capacity building, Dr Ntsaluba then touched on the accredited
The African Charter on Democracy had been signed in February 2010. DIRCO was setting up the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO) in
Dr Ntsaluba mentioned the continuing need for South African relations with the European Union (EU) to be strengthened, besides the problems arising from the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
Dr Ntsaluba also mentioned the importance of the Department’s evaluation of the UN system and entities, and their interaction with developing communities, in order to nuance South African involvement. A study tour would shortly be done. Talks on non-proliferation were held with America (USA) in 2009.
Dr Ntsaluba also highlighted the relationships with various countries. He underscored the partnership with
The Department had also coordinated 87 ceremonial events and managed 168 incoming and outgoing visits. The diplomatic community in
The DIRCO Public Participation Programme (PPP) had allowed DIRCO to reach out to many students. The successful hosting of the World Soccer Cup was a highlight for
Other major internal highlights were noted, including the relocation to the new Head Office building, the purchase of OR Tambo House in
Dr Ntsaluba then referred to issues raised in previous years. The problems of financial management and assets had been examined. The problem of partner departments failing to pay debts was now addressed through Memorandums of Understanding with those departments. Performance information had been addressed through the establishment of a quality assurance team. Risk management processes were to be strengthened. Consular support would continue.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC) thanked Dr Ntsaluba for his thorough and detailed report, and commended the unqualified audit. However, he commented that the Annual Report did not employ a user-friendly format, contained blank spaces, could be neater, and also contained an error on unauthorised expenditure figures.
Dr Ntsaluba appreciated these constructive comments.
Dr Koornhof said that the report did not set out consistently and clearly the measurable outputs on performance, and that inclusion of timeframes which would have made it easier to measure achievements against objectives. He asked if this information was in fact available.
Dr Ntsaluba said that these details were available, although they were not included in the Annual Report.
Dr Koornhof referred to the Minister’s report, and asked about the progress with regional integration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regarding political unity, economic integration, and infrastructure.
Dr Ntsaluba said that there was significant progress towards political cohesion, and highlighted the President’s efforts to engage with regional leaders. Much had taken place on trade integration, but there was much to be done with industrial integration, because of differing industrial strategies in the region. Progress was achieved on free movement, with visa waivers for SADC residents, except for DRC and
Mr K Mubu (DA) conveyed his congratulations on
Mr Mubu questioned the three-fold escalation of overtime payments. He also asked if the high turnover among senior staff reflected dissatisfaction.
Dr Ntsaluba noted that there was now a system to control overtime. This issue, which had been taken to the
Mr Mubu enquired as to the status of the White Paper on Foreign Policy.
Dr Ntsaluba said that the White Paper had been commissioned in the current financial year, with a deadline for discussion of 15 October. Meetings would be held with academic and business communities shortly and in November the Department would also call for participation from other departments. DIRCO hoped to bring a draft to Parliament by mid-November.
Ms R Magau (ANC) asked what was being done about managed migration, in the wake of xenophobic attacks against African foreign nationals. She also asked what
Ms Magau asked whether the South African quota for secondment of South African officials to regional and international organisations had been fully allocated and whether they were given support.
Dr Ntsaluba said that the full quota was not filled yet, and although a systematic program of support had never been designed, the Department was willing to open its doors for necessary assistance that may be needed. This was especially true with regard to the Pan African Parliament, in which the Department had a vested interest.
Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) also congratulated the Department on the unqualified report. He asked how visits abroad were serving the national interest, and suggested that there was not sufficient emphasis on participation. He emphasised the need for meaningful diplomatic engagement and said the results should be set out. He asked why the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were not mentioned.
A DIRCO representative said that DIRCO had a rigorous process that focused on how both political and specific sectoral issues were met. The engagement with Angola, which had the fastest growing economy in Sub Saharan Africa, had opened up many opportunities for South African investors, and the Gulf of Guinea could potentially offer crude oil to South Africa at better prices. No reference was made to the MDG, because the focus on this occurred in the 2010/2011 financial year.
Mr Mokgalapa said that he had recently heard from a school learner that career exhibitions rarely were held in the more rural areas.
Dr Ntsaluba responded that DIRCO tried to reach rural areas, and that University of
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) referred to the Marange diamonds issues and asked who was monitoring that situation, and what the public role was. There were human rights issues involved, and she urged the need for full transparency.
Dr Ntsaluba recapped the situation around diamond rush, illegal aspects, and the human rights abuses. He noted that
Ms Dudley asked about the use of Cuban-trained medical students, and wondered if they were contributing to the effectiveness of the Department of Health.
Dr Ntsaluba noted that many South African students from disadvantaged backgrounds would have been unable to attend medical school in
Mr T Magama (ANC) congratulated the Department on its many improvements. He thought that it was time to impose some deadlines and to see substantial progress in certain areas. He also asked for details on economic diplomacy training, since the current administration had placed more emphasis on it.
Dr Ntsaluba noted that there had been some internal delays but that the delayed matters would be fast-tracked. He said that a longer discussion was needed about economic diplomacy, although he could say that DIRCO was working with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), and had revamped the curriculum and conducted workshops. There were difficulties in sustaining training after deployment, but dti officials might be able to offer regional support.
Mr M Manana (ANC) also expressed congratulations to the Department on its audit results. He thought that it could have saved some money on the Annual Report. He enquired about how many young people had been incorporated into the system.
Dr Ntsaluba said did not have figures with him on the youth, but said that the Department’s organisational culture had changed substantially. The cadet programme targeted young University graduates, and provided conduits to move up within the Department.
Ms Joyini added that although there was no guarantee that cadets would be absorbed into permanent employment, the programme set out clear criteria and theoretical and practical standards must be met. Last year, 52 candidates were absorbed and 6 declined, with all candidates in ICT, finance and HR being absorbed.
The Chairperson asked for further explanation on “Ice Cream Missions”.
The Chairperson asked about the management of the revenue of missions, particularly where it was not permissible to hold foreign currency accounts, which meant that huge cash transactions were done, which was not in line with international accounting standards.
A Departmental representative explained that there were four categories of missions. Categories 1 and 2 were termed “Ice Cream Missions” because they were mostly situated in the G20 countries, where a certain level of comfort was enjoyed. Categories 3 and 4 involved placement in countries which were “cash based” such as Algeria and Sudan, where, as a fact, most financial transactions had to be conducted in cash, as funding through banks and bank transactions could not be guaranteed. A fifth category would soon be added.
The Chairperson asked about strategies to curb political mismanagement or fraud.
Dr Ntsaluba noted that a system needed to be designed to limit risk.
The Chairperson asked about coordination between the three spheres of government.
Dr Ntsaluba conceded that coordination was a major problem. Although a framework had been adopted, there was lack of political will, administrative systems and understanding. Within the Information and Communication Technology Service (ICTS) cluster, communication must improve. DIRCO would be asking Cabinet to allocate a special slot for discussion of still further possible improvements.
The Chairperson said the termination of the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) Africa Service was unfortunate, and asked if there were plans for DIRCO and the Department of Communications to pursue the matter further.
Dr Ntsaluba agreed that this was disappointing, as it limited
Mr Magama noted that communication about
The Chairperson agreed, noting the controversy reported during
Dr Ntsaluba fully agreed with the points about communication and the spirit in which it must occur. There was a need to anticipate issues and prepare the correct strategy in advance. The
Dr Koornhof noted that Parliament would in this year, for the first time, be able to review budget reports and make recommendations, and asked if Dr Ntsaluba wished to highlight any key issues.
Dr Ntsaluba highlighted four key areas. He said that the operational part of the budget was under pressure. Rising costs of rental had resulted in the halting of acquisitions. There was a need to look again at the capital budget, to prevent losing Diaspora work. Furthermore, he noted that there was some difference of opinion with National Treasury in regard to foreign exchange gains and losses, which affected DIRCO, being foreign-currency driven. He thanked the Committee for its support, effective oversight and constructive criticism.
The meeting was adjourned.
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