Consideration of proposed amendments to the Military Ombud Bill [B9B-2011]; Consideration of Draft Committee report to the Presidential Review of State-owned Entities Committee

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Defence and Military Veterans

06 March 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Senior Parliamentary Legal Adviser took the Committee through the proposed amendments to Clause 5 of the Military Ombud Bill requested by the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development.  The proposed amendments omitted references to the National Assembly in the clause.

The Committee agreed to request the Select Committee to provide a motivation for the proposed amendments before considering the request.

The Committee discussed the draft report to the Presidential Review of State-owned Enterprises Committee.  The report included comment and recommendations concerning the Armaments Corporation of South Africa Ltd and the Castle Control Board, which were the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans.  Reference was also made in the report to Denel Pty Ltd, which currently fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Enterprises.  Negotiations were under way to transfer responsibility for Denel to the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans.

Members had not had sufficient time to study the draft report and felt that the Committee required a briefing by the Department of Defence on the positioning of Armscor and Denel.  The Member from the Democratic Alliance questioned the continued existence or Armscor as a State-owned Entity and suggested that the more profitable divisions of Denel could be privatised.  The report would be amended to clarify the vacant post of Chief Executive Officer of Armscor.  The Committee agreed to postpone consideration of the report and would request an extension of the due date for the submission of the report.

The Committee considered the draft programme for the strategic planning workshop to be held on 16 and 17 March 2012.  The workshop would be attended by Members from the Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.  Members from the Democratic Alliance objected to the expense of holding the workshop at a hotel in Arniston and the additional traveling time required.  The concerns of the Members were noted.  The draft programme was approved by the Committee and the workshop would be held at the venue in Arniston

Meeting report

Consideration of proposed amendments to the Military Ombud Bill
Mr Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Senior Parliamentary Legal Adviser referred the Committee to the report of the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development on the Military Ombud Bill dated 23 November 2011 (see attached document).  The Select Committee proposed amendments to Clause 5 of the Bill to omit the references to the National Assembly in the clause.

Mr D Maynier (DA) suggested that the Committee requested a motivation from the Select Committee for the proposed amendments.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) pointed out that the Military Ombud was not a Chapter 9 Institution in terms of the Constitution.  The proposed amendments from the Select Committee made sense as the involvement of the National Assembly in the appointment of the Ombud and Deputy Military Ombud was not required.  She felt that a motivation from the Select Committee was not required.

Mr Maynier said that the Select Committee had deliberated on the Bill and had formulated the proposed amendments.  The Portfolio Committee needed insight into the motivation behind the proposed amendments in order to properly consider the matter.

Mr E Mlambo (ANC) agreed with Mr Maynier’s suggestion and that the Committee had to consider the motivation for the proposed amendments.

The Chairperson agreed to invite the Select Committee to provide a motivation.  The Committee would consider the proposed amendments during the meeting scheduled for the following week.

Consideration of Draft Committee report to the Presidential Review of State-owned Entities Committee
(The draft version of the Committee report was not available for publication).

Mr Peter Daniels, Committee Researcher explained that the Committee’s report on State-owned Entities (SOE’s) included comment and recommendations on the Armaments Corporation of South Africa Ltd (Armscor) and the Castle Control Board.
 The report included additional comment on Denel (Pty) Ltd.  Denel was currently under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Enterprises but repositioning under the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans was under discussion.

The information in the report was sourced from the annual reports of Armscor and the Castle Control Board.  The Committee recommended that the vacant position of the Chief Executive Officer of Armscor was filled as soon as possible; that the conceptual framework for the positioning of Armscor was finalised in order to improve the relationship between Armscor and the Department of Defence and that the training of personnel from historically disadvantaged communities was prioritised.  The recommendations concerning the Castle included the reinvestment of revenue from the Het Bakhuys facility; the filling of the vacant positions of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer and the development of a proper strategic plan.

Ms Daniels noted that the former CEO of Armscor was suspended on 19 November 2009 on various charges of misconduct.  It was not clear if the former CEO had subsequently been dismissed.  If he was still on suspension, the Committee could not recommend that a new CEO was appointed.

Mr Daniels would amend the report after confirming that the former CEO had been dismissed.

Mr Maynier agreed that the appointment of a new CEO of Armscor was an urgent matter.  The draft Committee report was circulated to Members immediately prior to the meeting and he requested the opportunity to study the report.  He queried the continued existence of Armscor as an SOE and felt that the Department of Defence should take over the critical function of defence matériel procurement.  Certain divisions of Denel were profitable and the entity could be partially privatised.

Ms Daniels observed that government continued to invest in Denel, without receiving a return on the investment.  The operations of Denel were crucial to the Department of Defence and the current reporting structure under the Ministry of Public Enterprises was inefficient.

Mr Maynier said that the issues concerning the reporting structure and the potential for the partial privatisation of Denel required further debate.  He was not convinced that the Department of Defence had the capacity to successfully manage SOE’s.

Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) noted that the discussions concerning Denel had been under way for some time.  The Committee had not been involved in the process.  She felt that the Committee required more information on the negotiations before a recommendation could be made.

The Chairperson agreed to invite the Department of Defence to brief the Committee on Denel before the final report was adopted.

Mr Maynier suggested that the briefing by the Department included the motivation for the continued existence of Armscor as an SOE.  The core function of Armscor was the acquisition of capital defence equipment, which should be the responsibility of the Department of Defence.

The Chairperson advised that the deadline for the submission of the Committee report was 8 March 2012.  The Committee would request a postponement.

Other Committee matters
Consideration of the draft programme of the Strategic Planning Workshop
The draft programme of the strategic planning workshop on 16 and 17 March 2012 was tabled.  The workshop would be attended by the Members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.

Mr Maynier queried the necessity for holding the workshop at the L’Aghulhas Hotel in Arniston.  He felt that adequate government facilities were available in Cape Town at minimal expense and that it would not be necessary for Members to depart on 15 March to attend the workshop.  He asked what the cost of the workshop was and suggested that the expenditure on the workshop could be better applied to the Committee’s oversight activities.  He supported the workshop but wondered what the desired outcomes were.  His position was supported by Mr S Esau (DA).

The Chairperson said that the desired outcomes would be determined at the workshop.

Ms Daniels said that the Committee was entitled to apply its discretion in spending its approved budget.  Her position was supported by Ms N Mabedla (ANC) and Mr Mlambo.

The Chairperson noted the concerns that were raised by Mr Maynier and Mr Esau.  The workshop would be held at the venue in Arniston.  The draft programme of the workshop was agreed and supporting documents would be distributed to all Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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