Department of Military Veterans 1st quarter 2012 expenditure report

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Defence and Military Veterans

19 September 2012
Chairperson: Mr J Maake (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) presented its expenditure and performance report for the 1st quarter of 2012. The presenter described the actions and plans in relation to education, health, employment, welfare and housing. Education was centred largely on the pilot to provide bursaries at primary, secondary and tertiary level to military veterans or their dependents. DMV was working with Departments of Health and Social Development to try to establish a healthcare and wellness centre, and compiling statistics around those accessing counselling. A concrete skills development proposal had been submitted to the National Skills Development Fund, to commence with training of 1 000 military veterans over a two year period, and several other departments had agreed to provide skills, jobs and economic empowerment for veterans. Workshops had been facilitated to discuss pensions, and there was a possibility of consolidation of schemes. Specifications for houses of military veterans had been agreed to, and preliminary lists of veterans most in need of housing were being obtained from the provincial Military Veterans Associations. Platforms were being developed for communication of Military Veteran issues. Internally, in this quarter, DMV had concentrated on setting up systems for management and had done preparations to implement various accounting and personnel systems. It was prioritising the preservation of military veterans’ heritage, and held engagement with military veterans. Nine staff had been appointed and other posts prioritised for filling. Challenges were outlined as the lack of office space, which affected procurement, insufficient budget to fill posts and purchase necessary resources, inadequate technical competencies to implement all programmes, including inadequate support staff, and the current reliance on militarised systems of the Department of Defence, which slowed down delivery.

Members remarked that the Department was focusing on building bureaucracy rather than service delivery and felt that its 100 education bursaries were allocated arbitrarily. They were worried that if the Department did not have a mandate it would be difficult for it to implement its plans, or hold other departments to their commitments. They asked how the budget was spent, if the vacancies were not filled, called for a breakdown of the spending of R5.6 million on staff, why no provision was made for employment of white or Asian employees, and how the military veterans most in need of housing were identified. They also questioned the sufficiency of the demobilisation payout h for members who could not be in the employ of the Department during integration.

Meeting report

Mr Tshepe Motumi, Director-General: Department of Military Veterans, presented the 1st quarter 2012 expenditure report of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (the Department or DMV). He noted, in relation to education, that DMV had commenced a pilot on education services to military veterans and dependants for the 2012/13 financial-year. A sum of R10 000 would go to each of the 17 primary school children, R12 000 to each of the 29 high school learners, and R40 000 to each of the 54 tertiary school students who had been awarded bursaries. A total of R2 678 000 would be forwarded to relevant schools as soon as the DMV received funds from National Treasury. The drafting of the education policy was in progress. 

In relation to health issues, the DMV was working with other relevant departments to identify property to be converted into a healthcare and wellness centre for those military veterans who needed such a facility for survival and protection of their human dignity. A concept paper on the MilVets Healthcare and Wellness Centre had been developed for discussion, refinement and approval by the 3rd quarter of the current fiscal year. DMV had also held discussions with the MilVets Healthcare Professional Association (MVHPA) and South African Military Health Services (SAMHS) to determine and consolidate statistics on military veterans who were currently accessing counselling. The Department was also exploring the possibility of partnering with MilVets HPA to accelerate access to counselling. 267 military veterans received counselling from MVHPA, and SAMHS had yet to provide the list of requested information.

In relation to employment and skilling of the workforce, it was emphasised that
a concrete skills development proposal had been submitted to the National Skills Development Fund, to commence with training of 1 000 military veterans over a two year period. The DMV had also engaged with several government stakeholders who could provide skills, jobs and economic empowerment for veterans. The Departments of Water and Environmental Affairs, Home Affairs and Rural Development had been consulted and were currently finalising Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs).

With regard to the welfare of the veterans,
the DMV facilitated a workshop on 7 June 2012 by the Government Pension Administration Agency. Participants at this workshop included Special Pensions and Fund Pensioners, as well as recipients of the Department of Social Development’s World War Grants. The agenda was to discuss pensions for military veterans and options to consolidate the pensions of military veterans. It was agreed that a Task Team be established to work on the pension of the military veterans and its terms of reference were agreed to in the workshop.

The specifications for houses of military veterans were determined and agreed to with representatives of military veterans and the Department of Human Settlements. Preliminary lists of military veterans in urgent need of housing have been received from the Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. Funding from National Treasury was awaited for provision of houses for military veterans.

On the issue of a development-oriented public service, Mr Motumi said
platforms had been identified that could be used for marketing and communicating the military veterans’ agenda in an efficient and effective manner. The development of the DMV Marketing and Communication Strategy, for consultation within the Department, had contributed to the improvement of communication. It was anticipated that the Marketing and Communication Strategy of DMV’s Marketing and Communication Unit would be approved during the second quarter of 2012, whereafter it could be implemented.

DMV focused on the initiative to set up its own systems for financial management, supply chain management and human resource management. With the support of National Treasury and State Information Technology Agency (SITA), preparatory processes were conducted for implementation of the Basic Accounting System (BAS), LOGIS and PERSAL systems. This included the opening of a separate account. DMV would be launching these systems during the second quarter of 2012. A separate budget vote for the DMV had also been central to the deliberations with National Treasury. 

In line with international best practices, DMV had
prioritised the preservation of military veterans’ heritage by honouring their immense contribution to the democratisation of society, as well as commemorating and recording their rich experiences in order to inform and educate present and future generations, and  enhance patriotism and love for their country.

During the first quarter of the 2012 financial year, the DMV achieved several significant highlights. These included the submission of the DMV Management Performance Assessment Tool to the Presidency, and discussion of the Service Level Agreement between the Department of Military Veterans and the National Department of Public Works (DPW) on all aspects pertaining to DMV infrastructure, including land and offices. The DMV Executive
had an unmediated engagement with military veterans during the SANMVA National General Council, on 26 April 2012, as well as other engagements with the one hundred military Veterans who were guests of the Minister during the Freedom Day celebrations. The purpose of these engagements was to gain greater understanding and strengthen existing relations.

Nine permanent appointments were made to the Department during the first quarter of 2012. These included the appointment of the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Director Provincial Offices Management and Stakeholder Relations, Chief Director Military Veterans Health Care,  Well-being and Support, Deputy Director Planning, Deputy Director Human Resource Planning and Systems, Assistant Director provincial co-ordinator, Assistant Director Administration (Socio-Economic Support Services), and Administrative Assistant in the office of Deputy Director-General Stakeholder and Empowerment Management and a Senior Registry Clerk. The appointments made improved capacity in the Department to ensure effective delivery of the DMV mandate.  

Tables showing performance against selected performance indicators and review of performance on human resources targets and compliance to employment legislation were presented (see attached documents).
Mr Motumi highlighted a number of challenges. Lack of office space was proving to be a problem, and this was making it difficult for the DMV to implement its procurement plan, including office equipment. This was the reason why DMV had ensured the signing of the service level agreement with DPW. DPW had now indicated  that the DMV could move into new offices on 01 September 2012.  

Another challenge was that the insufficient budget impacted on the delivery of outputs by the DMV,  because it had been unable to purchase necessary resources or fill critical posts. The Department was currently utilising the operational budget to deliver certain benefits and services required by the Military Veterans Act. During the first quarter, the DMV had presented its full budget requirement to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster Budget Review Team, and was hoping to receive additional funding in order to fast track the provision of the benefits to military veterans. Engagements between the DMV and National Treasury took place in order to discuss the DMV Human Resource budget requirements. The funding requirement to fill the critical posts was submitted to National Treasury for consideration.

The third challenge was the inadequacy of technical competencies essential for programme implementation.
Inadequate support staff put undue pressure on all in the Branch. This challenge should be resolved with filling of critical posts, but that was dependent on funding.

Finally, Mr Motumi said that the DMV was reliant on militarised systems of the Department of Defence (DoD), and this fact was slowing down the delivery processes. Once DMV specific systems were established, this would hopefully make it possible to move with all due speed to deliver socio-economic support services to the military veterans who were eligible for such support.  DMV was currently engaging with SITA on the required systems.

Mr Motumi finally tabled and explained the reporting timelines for critical events in the next quarter, and the anticipated financial expenditure.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked how the budget had been spent, if no posts were filled.

Mr Motumi said the R51,207 million budget was for the entire year. The money spent to date was concerned with the running of the Department. However, the budget allocated was actually not sufficient to run the Department as it was supposed to be an operational budget. He assured the Members that no spending had occurred other than on service delivery.

Ms Daniels asked if the DMV was going to spend more on the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) in order to improve the project

Mr Motumi responded that the CAT would be utilised as a skills development facility for veterans leaving the service. The intention was to put it under the Department of Defence. Infrastructure needed to be fixed in that facility.

Ms Daniels wondered if the demobilisation payout was enough, for those members who were not in the employ of the Department of Defence when integration took place.

Mr Motumi stated that DMV was attending to this issue. It was likely that a Military Veterans Pension would be introduced. Some veterans were receiving pensions, while others were not. At present this was based on contractual agreements. A Steering Committee working with National Treasury was giving this issue attention, and it was intended to create a Consolidated veterans’ pension Fund.

Ms Daniels noted the remark that communication “was being developed” and asked what issues the DMV was speaking on to the military veterans.

Mr Motumi elaborated that a Communication Strategy was being developed. The strategy would have two key pillars, in order to communicate with the military veterans. Internally, the strategy would communicate government intentions. Externally, its approach would be developmental, and would be aimed at external stakeholders. He would welcome any suggestions from this Committee as to what and how to communicate with military veterans. It was envisaged that this was not going to be a long process. The public needed to know a great deal about the military veterans. Already, the Communication Unit of the Department had started to work closely with the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) to try to get a uniform communication approach to stakeholders. The strategy would be presented to the Committee once it was finalised.

Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) wanted to find out about methods used in coming up with the preliminary lists of veterans in urgent need of housing.

Mr Motumi expatiated that an MOU was to be signed by the Deputy Ministers of the Departments of Military Veterans and Human Settlements, in relation to the housing lists. DMV realised it could do little to implement certain sections of the legislation if it did not have a database of military veterans. The database was the primary source for deciding what to do and who would get benefits. The Military Veterans’ organisations had also been compiling information about the military veterans, with Eastern and Western Cape providing lists although other provinces’ lists were still outstanding.

Ms Mgabadeli wondered how “public” the public participation programme had been and whether the DMV included any social workers.

Mr Motumi explained that the public participation programme formed part of the Communication Strategy, and this was aimed at reaching the constituency or target market in order to get feedback on its information needs, and to be able to meet with the families of military veterans. The DMV had also recognised the need for social workers, and one Unit was already using the services of a social worker. There were plans to approach the Department of Social Development (DSD).

Mr D Maynier (DA) remarked that the Department was focusing on building bureaucracy, not on service delivery. He enquired about the specifications of the houses of the military veterans and the cost for a unit.

Mr Motumi responded that the needs of establishing a new Department must be recognised. There was a risk of over expenditure, and that had been communicated to the National Treasury. The indications were that the DMV would receive an improved budget. He explained that the RDP houses cost R86 000. For the military veterans, the specifications pointed to an estimate of R150 000, and a model house would be built, to ensure that this estimation was correct.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) wanted to know why no provision was made for white and Asian employees in the Department.

Mr Motumi responded that the table shown indicated permanent staff, and some were seconded to the DMV from the Department of Defence.

Mr Groenewald asked why the DMV was spending R5,6 million on a staff of 27 people.

Mr Motumi said that a breakdown of the payments to employees, and the staff complement, would be sent to the Committee. He reiterated that some staff members were seconded to DMV.

Mr Groenewald commented it was not acceptable to say some staff members were on the payroll of the Department, because they were seconded to the Department. Seconded staff members were usually paid by the Department who had originally employed them.

Mr Motumi said it depended on the agreement between the two Departments. There was a Service Level Agreement in place between DoD and DMV, and some of the workers were employed on a contractual basis.

Mr Groenewald said that Committee had still not received information on criteria to be used in the registration of military veterans. He felt the Department was making promises and not delivering.

Mr Motumi explained that the Department was fulfilling its promises. The Committee would be briefed about regulations pertaining to the Military Veterans Act. Already, two drafts had been developed. The Department was awaiting approval from the Minister.

Mr Groenewald asked if Mr Motumi was suggesting that the Minister was delaying things, because he would be prepared to phone that Minister.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) intervened, saying he thought this would not be necessary, because Mr Motumi had indicated that a number of drafts had been developed.

The Chairperson enquired about the common illnesses that were affecting the military veterans and the kind of person who was administering counselling to them.

Mr Motumi said post-traumatic stress disorder was identified as a common illness. The South African  Military Health Services and an outside NGO were administering counseling services.

Ms Mgabadeli, commenting on the challenge around the lack of office space, said that MPs had constituency offices that were primarily intended for service delivery, and suggested these could be used.

Mr Motumi stated that his Department would look into the issue of constituency offices. Currently, the DMV was also looking at spaces in areas that did not have military footprints. He added that the DMV had established military veterans coordinators in provinces, and regional offices would be opened soon.

Ms Daniels wanted to know if other military veterans not belonging to SANMVA would be considered for benefits like housing.

Mr Motumi explained that the DMV and other departments would cooperate on issues. For example, the DMV had agreed with the Department of Human Settlement that in some cases it should build an ordinary RDP house, but include specifications stipulated for houses of the military veterans. DMV would then top up or pay for the extra costs of specifications.

Ms Daniels wondered if the lack of a mandate on some matters, as set out by the DMV, meant that it would never implement anything. She was worried that if the MOU with another department did not work well, the DMV could not implement its plans.

Mr Motumi elaborated that in some areas the Department did not have a mandate but the Minister had an obligation to ensure that a service was delivered to military veterans.

Mr M Nhanha (COPE) was pleased to hear that the Department had finally got a database, as it was long overdue. He asked if there was a toll-free number that could be used to raise concerns about military veterans.

Mr Motumi said the DMV was in the process of establishing a toll free number. At the moment, the office of the Director-General was doing that kind of work.

Mr Maynier commented that the 100 bursaries awarded to potential beneficiaries who were on the list provided by the military veterans organisations were arbitrary allocations. He suggested this should be done in an equitable manner, and commented that there were no clearly objective criteria set out for the allocations.

Mr Motumi said the matter of bursaries would be attended to in the next academic year. Military veterans had been approaching the DMV, either to get bursaries for themselves or their dependents. Military veterans’ organisations had forwarded lists of deserving candidates, some of whom were entirely without the kind of means that would otherwise enable them to study, making them deserving of the bursaries.

Mr Maynier asked what amount of money was spent on the MK anniversary.

Mr Motumi said that this would be reported in detail in the next second quarter, as the anniversary occurred in August.

The meeting was adjourned.


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