The Department of Military Veterans briefed the Committee on its strategic plan for 2012 to 2016, as well as the 2012 Annual Performance Plan. The strategic priorities included providing social relief of distress to the most vulnerable of the military veterans, the promotion of military veteran’s heritage and memory and provision of empowerment programmes and deepening of their skills base, as well as maintaining the credibility and security of the database. The programme structure was outlined, as it was noted that the challenges included inadequate financial resources, human resources and infrastructure, including insufficient monitoring and evaluation capability, which compromised the completeness and integrity of information on the database. One of the key budget risks was the inability to invoke section 26 of the Military Veterans Act. Members asked about the strategic budget costs, and more than one Member asked for a specific response if the budget presented to the Committee at the time when the legislative amendments were being considered in fact related only to costs, and had not included the costs of administration. A DA Member insisted that this in fact amounted to misleading the Committee. Members further interrogated whether the Ministry had an appreciation, at the time, that the structure was not affordable, although the Department claimed that the filling of posts would be done incrementally. Members asked for further information and a copy of the Means test, on pensions, and whether all Military Veterans were recognised. They noted that an apparently contradictory statement was made by the Deputy Minister, and as a result the DMV would need to provide separate information in respect of benefits provided to those who had been members of different structures. Members also enquired about burial support, whether the benefits were prioritised, the Department’s office space, which departments were working with the Department of Military Veterans to provide other benefits, and how this was done. A Member noted that many Military Veterans had considerable skills, and suggested that these must be assessed and tapped into, as not all should be dependent on benefits. Members questioned the staffing of the Department and how many had military experience, and an understanding of the plight of Military Veterans, queried the health and wellness services, how the provincial coordinators would work, whether housing was available and accessible and suggested halfway houses. They also queried the time that was required to arrange for assistance, and how the different databases were collated. Concerns were expressed as to the cost of administration, particularly in the provincial offices and any stand-alone health facilities.
Department of Defence and Military Veterans Strategic Plan 2012- 2016 and Annual Performance Plan (2012), in respect of Military Veterans: briefing
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General, Department of Military Veterans, outlined the strategic priorities for the medium term, noting that, in respect of military veterans, this Department (DMV or the Department) intended to provide immediate social relief of distress to the most vulnerable of the military veterans as well as to provide comprehensive support services to military veterans and to promote a military veterans’ heritage, as well as to honour the memories of those who had passed away. The DMV would also promote empowerment programmes for and of military veterans, and develop, confirming and deepen the skills base of military veterans, whilst also maintaining the credibility and security of the National Military Veterans database.
The budget programme structure was explained, to illustrate the purpose and sub-programmes for administration, socio-economic services and empowerment and stakeholder management services (see attached presentation for further details).
Mr Motumi then outlined the strategic risks that had been identified. Firstly, the DMV had inadequate financial resources, human resources and infrastructure to deal fully with its mandate and plans. It also lacked monitoring and evaluation capability, which in turn compromised completeness and integrity of information on the database, as well as meaning that there was shortage of data regarding available skills and dependency of the skills audit and database. The key Strategic Budgeting Risk was the inability to invoke the provisions of Section 26 of the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011. (See attached documents for more detail)
Mr D Maynier (DA) said that strategic budget costing had been done in respect of benefits, or projected benefits only, and did not factor in the cost of administration. There was support for the new legislation from this Committee, based on a costing of R1.6 billion in the Medium Term Framework. However, it now seemed that the Committee had been misled about the cost. He asked how this had happened.
Mr Motumi said that the main costing had to do with delivery of benefits to Military Veterans. The Department had engaged actuarial services for the costing, with guidelines from the National Treasury, that focused only on the medium term and the delivery of benefits, and the costing for that was a rounded-off amount of R1.6 billion. He did not think that the Committee had been misled.
Mr Maynier said that it seemed that, in respect of administration, the Minister or Deputy Minister had approved the structure, and it must surely have been appreciated that this structure was not affordable, as that structure envisaged, for example, 141 posts. He also asked for an explanation on this. He asked specifically whether it was correct to say that administration was not factored into the costing presented to the Committee, and, if this was correct, then the Committee was misled on the costing. He asked specifically if he was correct in saying that the Minister or Deputy Minister had approved a structure that was not budgeted for.
Mr Motumi replied that staffing and the filling of posts would happen on an incremental basis. Priority posts were identified and there was continuous engagement with the National Treasury.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) also asked if the R1.6 billion was for benefits only.
Mr Motumi said that that was correct, and the amount was rounded off. It excluded administration.
Mr Groenewald said that there should be a means test to assess the Military Veterans, but said that he had not, as yet, seen that Means Test. He asked how benefits were calculated if no such test existed, and what was the progress on that.
Mr Motumi aid that the Means test was in the legislation, and services were delivered, and benefits given to Military Veterans, based on that Means test. The Means test would be presented to the Committee when the Regulations were presented. Consultations with other departments were in progress.
Mr Groenewald asked for more information about pensions for Military Veterans.
Mr Motumi replied that the different types of pension were in the existing legislative framework. The Department was looking at a consolidated Military Veteran pension.
Mr Groenewald asked if the Military Veterans Heritage was selective in its application, and if there was a distinction between Military Veterans in the South African armed struggle and other veterans.
Mr Motumi replied that the idea was to level the playing field so that all Military Veterans in
Ms P Daniels (ANC) said that this presentation had many flaws. She too asked how the DMV arrived at the costing and if it was based on the availability of resources.
Mr Motumi said that the provisions were based on the allocations made by the National Treasury. The National Treasury allocated resources when it approved the funding structure. The Department continued to discuss and engage with the National Treasury, and hoped that the budget would be adjusted to allow for the allocation of additional resources for Military Veterans.
Ms Daniels asked about burial support and how this was determined.
Mr Motumi said that administrative systems had been put in place to facilitate this.
Ms Nonkonzo Molai, Deputy Director General: Military Veterans Empowerment and Stakeholder Relations, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, said that this process was demand driven and based on historic figures. The Department had provided comprehensive interventions, and had looked at a process of actually getting Military Veterans employed. It hoped, in this way, to ensure that the number of Military Veterans who were actually destitute and required burial assistance were reduced.
Ms Daniels asked what informed the prioritisation of benefits and if they were set out in chronological order. She asked if they could be prioritised based on immediate needs.
Mr Motumi said that the Act did prioritise service delivery, especially health care. There was a move to include access to health care for all Military Veterans, so all of them would be issued with cards for such access.
Ms Molai added that the Department was providing a comprehensive package. The list was not in strict chronological order. The top priority on the list was the provision of social relief of distress to the most destitute Military Veterans, but apart from that, the remainder of the list was not prioritised.
Ms Daniels asked for more information about land and buildings, the Department structure, whether all staff were housed in one building, and if there was only one structure. She asked if the Department could make use of existing land.
Mr Lifeni Make, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, said that there was a need to have buildings with proper access for Military Veterans. The Department had done an exercise but was unable to find suitable buildings. This led to a request to the National Department of Public Works to find a building for the Department of Defence and Military Veterans. This process had taken over two years, and would hopefully be finalised by the end of May 2012. The line items for “Goods and services” referred to how offices were run and aggregated into the different branches, with the total budget broken down per branch.
Ms H Magabedeli (ANC) asked what was being done to address specifically the poverty of military veterans, and which department was working on this issue.
Ms Mabel Rantla, Deputy Director General: Socio-Economic Support Services, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, said that the DMV did not have the capacity itself to deliver on the benefits handled within the unit dealing with Socio-economic Support Services, but it had, in line with the Military Veterans Act, entered into discussions with other departments and had agreed that, on an annual basis, other service delivery departments should present a list, on an annual basis, of military veterans who qualified for services, such as housing or other benefits. Based both on these lists, and the Means Test, DMV would then provide the required services. However, during discussions with the Department of Human Settlements, it became clear that there was already a list of those Military Veterans to whom housing had already been provided. She reiterated that DMV worked with other different departments around service delivery.
Ms Mgabadeli asked for more information about the transfer and exchange of skills, noting that military veterans had many different skills and experiences to share in the country.
Ms Molai said that, through the database, the Department had now collected comprehensive information, but was also trying to understand the situation. It was in the process of developing an Action Research Study on Military Veterans, to learn what skills they possessed besides their school examinations. Recognition of Prior Learning was also an option in the Centre for Advanced Training, to understand and recognise all skills.
Mr M Nhanha (COPE) asked how many top managers there were, in total, in the Department, who had military experience in the sense that they had seen military action, and who had a real understanding of the plight of military veterans.
Mr Motumi replied that the DMV did have personnel with both military experience and also an understanding of the plight of military veterans, although not all the staff had actually served in the active armed forces.
Mr Nhanha asked if the Health and Wellness sections would be spread across nine provinces and if any province would be given the first allocation of such a section.
Ms Rantla said that
Mr Motumi said that all provinces would have a provincial co-ordinator and there would also be regional co-ordinators reporting to provincial co-ordinators.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) asked about accessible housing for Military Veterans, wanting to know if they were currently housed, and if such housing was accessible. This was a new Department which had not really advertised itself extensively to military veterans. He asked if the Department knew where military veterans could be reached and how it was attempting to promote itself to them.
Mr Motumi said that when the Department was established, two years ago, it had indicated that it would only temporarily stay in the Denel building, for about a year, while it engaged with the Department of Public Works to find its own accommodation. There had been significant delays on the part of the Department of Public Works but at the end of the next month the DMV would assess the current situation. DMV was also investigating accommodation in provinces and regions and would prioritise areas of higher concentration as the next phase, once provincial co-ordinators were in place. The DMV was also engaging with the municipalities on their programmes, since some did have programmes and service delivery in places for Military Veterans.
Ms Daniels asked if the Department had thought of halfway houses as an interim measure for Military Veterans, as some of them had resorted to living under bridges.
Ms Rantla agreed that an interim measure was needed. The Department of Social Development had agreed to assist if presented with a list of people in need.
Ms Daniels asked what the likely time frame would be, if a Military Veteran requested assistance from the DMV.
Ms Rantla said that the DMV was mostly able to attend to visits to needy people quickly. Sometimes, if a Military Veteran was unable to come to the office, his or her organisation could ask the DMV to assist.
Ms Daniels said there were some Military Veterans who did not need to be dependent on others, and were able to contribute to the betterment of country.
Ms Molai agreed, saying that the DMV was looking at the empowerment of Military Veterans with broad skills, to ensure that they played a useful role in the country.
Mr Maynier referred again to the issues of costing that he had raised earlier. Whilst he did not wish to belabour the point, the answers now given by the DMV showed that in fact that Department had misled the Committee.
Mr Maynier said that one of the difficulties the Department would face, largely because of the Deputy Minister’s intervention while the Bill was being deliberated, was the issue of fairness. The Deputy Minister’s statements had created a public perception that the purpose of the DMV was to delivery to some, but not to all Military Veterans, and the performance information on the benefits would have to be broken down not only to show the total number of beneficiaries, but the numbers in each formation or structure, to ensure that there was in fact delivery to all Military Veterans, and not only to those who had been with particular formations. He asked if the DMV had a plan to gather information also on the formations.
Mr Groenewald noted that there were different databases and different centres where people could register, so he wanted to know how the information was collated, once people had registered, how many of the bodies were registered, and how many people had, to date, been registered and accommodated in terms of health and other sections. He asked how many had qualified for the Means Test, and other different tests.
Mr Motumi replied that the first phase of registration had captured over 11 000 persons, up to 14 December 2011. The next phase of registration would be taking place from 7 May to 30 June 2012. This would be publicised so that Military Veterans could access those points. The Department planned to refine the process before the second phase.
Mr Motumi then explained the process. For instance, in regard to health care, if a request was received, it would be checked against the database to see if the person was a bona fide Military Veteran, and against the South African Military Services (SAMS) footprint. There were three military hospitals, and sick bays in smaller areas. The SAMS planned to expand the footprint.
Mr Groenewald said that all Committee members received enquiries from people, so he wanted the Department to provide a short list for each and every benefit, and the test for that benefit, by the end of the following week.
Mr Motumi replied that this list would be provided.
The following questions were raised but not answered.
Mr Groenewald asked why was there such a long wait for the Means Test in line with the Regulations.
Ms Daniels asked if the Department could cope with the practical ramifications of the Means Test, for example when a member requested a service.
Ms Daniels noted that the Department of Defence was a national department, and therefore wanted to know how the provincial co-ordinators were to relate with other government departments in the province. She pointed out that accessibility was a key concern.
Mr Maynier expressed concern about the cost of administration. Because the Department had been set up only recently, it spent more money on administration than on benefits, but this must change in the future. He asked if DMV had already budgeted for provincial offices in the nine provinces, and for the administration costs related to this. He also wanted to know if staff had been allocated to the 141 posts at provincial offices, and if costs had been worked out for those offices.
Mr Maynier also noted that the DMV may have stand-alone health care facilities, and asked if this had been budgeted for.
Mr Nhanha asked for confirmation on the figure of “70” mentioned and asked if this was a cost, or the number of people trained.
The meeting was adjourned.
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