Department International Relations & Cooperation, African Renaissance Fund Annual Reports 2012

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International Relations

10 October 2012
Chairperson: Mr T Magama (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Prior to the commencement of the briefing by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on the Audit Report, the Chairperson noted that, since some of the Auditor-General’s findings were disputed, there was a need for three-way communication between the Committee, DIRCO and the Auditor-General.

DIRCO presented its Annual Report for 2011/12. DIRCO had grown in scope and reach, but had had to adapt also to meet the climate of emergence of new economic superpowers, social networks and media influence. The European Debt crisis and youth unemployment were affecting the European Monetary Union, and changing the nationalistic tendencies. Since Europe was a major trading partner, although China was now the biggest, it was important for DIRCO to monitor developments closely. The specific details that were highlighted in relation to the Annual Report included the increased expenditure on missions that were built or purchased in this year. In relation to Consular Services, there were 168 new prisoners and 66 nationals in distress abroad. DIRCO would have to look more closely at the points raised by the Auditor-General, as it disputed the assessment of some items, although it was agreed that supply chain management needed to be more strictly monitored., A new programme was being developed in the Department, in collaboration with universities, for future space travel and potential expansion of the country’s territory to other planets. The appointments of South Africans to the Chair of the UN and African Peer Review Panel were noted, as well as the mediation in Madagascar. DIRCO was making increased efforts to communicate with the public, particularly on social networks. Much of its work, that had been under-rated, related to work with and assistance to foreign dignitaries.

Members asked if there was a code of ethics in relation to use of resources, although questions of allegations about five officials were not answered. Members questioned the feasibility of 2013 targets, but this question was not answered. Members enquired what had been done about ICT failures and data recovery, asked if priorities were placed on economic diplomacy, or on achievement within the priority areas of the country. Some Members indicated their concern with the failure to comply with Treasury Regulations, and the issues that were carried forward as continuing problems, despite being noted in the previous Annual Report, some of which were quite basic, and DIRCO was urged to address and clear them. Further questions related to any possible interventions on security companies operating abroad, preservation of manuscripts in Timbuktu, South African hostages held abroad and what measures DIRCO was putting in place to train staff on audit procedures, and how it intended to raise its numbers of women in senior management. They also questioned the research and development, knowledge production, and public diplomacy. Members were pleased to hear that South Africa was increasing its presence in other countries but cautioned that national interests and safeguarding of sovereignty should not be compromised. A question related to allegations about the hosting of the President of Madagascar was not answered. In answer to concerns about the space programme, and whether it was being correctly pursued, DIRCO noted that it was important for South Africa to stake its claim and benefit from the potentially lucrative outcomes. The chairperson urged DIRCO to make use of the Budget process recommendations, and noted that the Committee wanted to hear more about the youth Directorate.

Meeting report

Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO) & African Renaissance Fund Annual Reports 2011/2012
Prior to the commencement of the briefing by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Chairperson noted that the Chief Financial Officer of DIRCO had questioned some of the findings by the Auditor-General, and this indicated the need for three-way communication between the Department, this Committee and the Auditor-General (AG).

Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Director General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, noted that he would highlight the activities under each of the four programmes.

As a general overview, he showed a map and emphasised the all-pervasive nature of DIRCO’s operations, which now covered all continents and regions. The emergence of new economic superpowers, media outlets, social networks; and the impact these had had in changing the nature of global conflicts, had meant that DIRCO also needed to adapt. New economic powers, including  G20 and BRICS that were influencing this changing balance of power were largely situated in the Southern Hemisphere and were, in the main, developing countries.

The European “Debt Crisis”, together with youth unemployment in many of the countries on the Continent, were affecting the future of the European Monetary Union (EMU), and this was something that had given rise to nationalistic tendencies in Europe. Members were reminded that such nationalistic tendencies were responsible for previous World Wars.

Professional Trade Agreements (PTA) were important for South Africa, as outlined on page 7 of “2011/12 Annual Report” hand out. Recently, intra-trade amongst developing countries exceeded 50% of total trade. China was now South Africa’s biggest trading partner, surpassing the United States of America (USA), Japan and Germany. With increased USA military presence in areas surrounding China it had become increasingly important for DIRCO to monitor developments, given the importance of the PTAs.

In respect of the programmes, Mr Matjila noted that increased expenditure had occurred under the line item for Management of Property, because new Missions were built or purchased.  Accommodation of delegations was also a factor to consider under the costs.

With regard to the Consular Services programme, he noted that South Africa, in the 2011/12 financial year, had noted 168 new prisoners and 66 nationals in distress abroad. The number of South Africans arrested and imprisoned abroad threatened diplomatic relations. The South African nationals in distress were largely noted in East African countries like Somalia and Mali.

In relation to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programme, Mr Matjila noted that DIRCO was currently finalising the appointment of a new Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Mr Matjila noted some negative findings by the Auditor-General, and said that DIRCO needed to look at these in more detail, as DIRCO had felt that there were no problems. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) still owed a large amount to DIRCO. In regard to supply chain management, he confirmed that there would be increased efforts from DIRCO to comply more strictly with Treasury Regulations.

He noted that one highlight was that DIRCO was working with many universities in developing a programme, within the Department, for future space travel and potential expansion of the country’s territory to other planets.

In relation to the Enhanced African Agenda and Sustainable Development, Mr Matjila reminded Members that DIRCO had lobbied successfully for one of South Africa’s former Ministers, Ms Nkosizana Dlamini-Zuma to take position as Chair of the African Union. It had also successfully canvassed for Ms Baleka Mbete to be elected to the African Peer Review (APR) Panel. DIRCO facilitated the mediation in Madagascar, which culminated in the signing of the SADC Roadmap to Peace.

At the public diplomacy level, DIRCO had made efforts to engage with the broader populace on the work of the Department, as many had previously seen DIRCO as an “ivory tower” that did communicate well with the public. The new communication would largely be on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various magazines and newspapers.

The area of State Protocol was one of the duties of DIRCO that had been under-rated in the past. It was, however, quite intensive and the Department was kept quite busy with facilitating the arrival and departure of foreign and local dignitaries in South Africa or abroad. New diplomatic missions in countries like Azerbaijan, Fiji and South Sudan had also compounded the work load.

The Chairperson acknowledged the attendance of the US Consul-General at the meeting.

Mr I Davidson (DA) asked whether there was a code of ethics within DIRCO that curtailed the abuse of funds and DIRCO resources by staff members.

Amb Matjila said that the business plan had been approved for a SMART-goals approach to performance planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Ms Yoliswa Mvebe, Chief Director: Human Resources, DIRCO, said the Departmental code of conduct was visible at all missions and was given to every staff member on induction.

Mr Davidson interjected and asked about allegations of five officials who operated for DIRCO without authorisation or permission.

Mr Davidson decried the predetermining of the objectives for 2013, in light of the fact that the 2012 financial year was quite far from completion.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) also questioned the feasibility of the targets DIRCO had set for 2012 and 2013.

Mr Davidson asked what had been done about the ICT failures, noting that these exposed DIRCO to security threats, and asked if there had been any efforts at “data recovery”.

Ms B Africa, Acting Chief Director: Corporate Services, DIRCO responded that various service providers, including Microsoft and Intel, had been procured for data security and data recovery.

Mr Davidson asked what priority was placed by DIRCO on economic diplomacy and whether local missions abroad were being sufficiently educated on the importance of this aspect of their operation.

Mr Elof interjected and asked if there was a strategic plan linked to the country’s twelve priorities that were set by Cabinet.

Mr C Basson, Chief Director: Central and East, DIRCO, noted that DIRCO had highlighted five of the twelve Country priorities that it felt related to its work.  However, many of these were qualitative in nature and it was therefore difficult to measure the performance. This was proving to be a problem from the standpoint of the annual audits and compliance with Treasury Regulations. He added that South Africa was not alone in experiencing this problem; in most countries the foreign policy interventions were in conflict zones, and the interventions or state visits were unplanned.

Mr M Booi (ANC) focused more on the Auditor-General’s (AG) report and questioned the failure to comply with Treasury Regulations.

Ms T Gazide, Chief Director: Supply Chain, DIRCO, noted that the AG’s criticism about the lack of re-costed quotations before procurement was not seen by DIRCO as altogether valid, as all missions had re-costed quotations, which might not always be attached to audit files. Remedial action was being taken.

Mr B Skosana (IFP), in relation to the audits, asked DIRCO if there was adequate training of staff to equip them with the skills necessary to attain clean audits in the future. If so, he wanted details of this training.

Mr Nyameko Goso, Chief Director: Internal Auditing, DIRCO said all missions had their own annual performance plans (APP) and internal auditing departments (with qualified professionals).

Mr Booi asked for more information on the Palestinian conflict and DIRCO’s position, particularly in regard to protecting South Africa’s national interests.

Mr B Elof (DA) asked about DIRCO’s intervention on concerns about the “security companies” who were working in conflict-ridden areas abroad, and the complaints made against them by foreign countries.

Amb Matjila said that when he chaired a session at the Montréal Process, it was agreed that security companies often moved beyond their legal mandate and had been known to have smuggled drugs and performed military campaigns. However, it was very difficult to regulate them. These companies might be founded by South African citizens but registered in far-removed locations like the Isle of Man and other areas where DIRCO did not have jurisdiction. Their regulation would therefore require global intervention through a global protocol or convention.

Mr Elof wanted to know more about DIRCO’s efforts to procure the services of women in senior management within the Department. He also questioned the monitoring and evaluation of organisations to whom DIRCO entrusted certain of the functions.

Ms Dudley enquired about DIRCO’s efforts at research and development (R&D), and wanted more information about knowledge-production as it related to policy formulation.

Ms Dudley asked if the public diplomacy initiatives through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had already started.

Mr Clayson Monyela, Deputy Director-General: Public Diplomacy, DIRCO, mentioned that public diplomacy measures were already in place, via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube links on DIRCO’s website.

Mr Skosana commended DIRCO for increasing its presence in other countries but questioned whether national interests and the safe-guarding of South Africa’s sovereignty was not being compromised in the process.

Mr Skosana asked if reports that the President of Madagascar was being hosted, at taxpayer’s expense, in a hotel costing R5 000 per night were true, and if he was indeed fleeing from allegations of human rights violations.

Mr Skosana said that the ambitions for DIRCO’s space programme were, to his mind, worryingly reminiscent of the arms race that had ruined the economy of the former Soviet Union. He questioned whether South Africa was economically strong enough for such a programme, particularly in view of its own pressing national priorities.

Amb Matjila refuted comparisons between the space programme and the arms race, saying that instead this programme was comparable to the earlier years’ continental exploration or sea voyages. The programme could prove lucrative as South Africa could stake claims to space territory and colonies on other planets that may also have significant resources.

Mr Skosana wanted an update on efforts to preserve ancient Timbuktu manuscripts, as South Africa had spent a large amount of funding on building a library there.

Amb Matjila said that because of the present conflict in Mali the Timbuktu Manuscripts, with the exception of those held in South Africa, had been destroyed.

Mr Mbulelo Bungane, Chief Director: Consular Services, noted there was currently one hostage in Mali, held together with a Netherlands national. Abductors had made demands of 10 million euros ransom, per person, and the release of some of their own nationals. However, South Africa and the Netherlands were of the view that these demands must be met by the Malian authorities. DIRCO was assisting the family of the abductee with counselling and therapy.

The Chairperson said he was very concerned about the audit opinion from the AG this year, as DIRCO was previously one of the best-performing departments, and he reprimanded the Department, in particular, for having carried over eight issues of concern that were raised by the AG in previous opinions. He was disappointed that some of the contraventions were as basic as attaching TCC certificates to tenders. He encouraged DIRCO to make use of the Budget Review Committee and Budget Review and Recommendation Report, noting that the Committee would strengthen its oversight through these structures.

The Chairperson also noted that this Committee wanted to hear more about the Youth Directorate and its functions.

The Chairperson finally encouraged DIRCO to ensure that it was cited in the media for good reasons, and not negative issues contained in the audit opinions, although the opinion was unqualified, as this  tainted its image.

The meeting was adjourned.


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