Department of International Relations & Cooperation 2012 Annual Report

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Meeting Summary

Committee Members were worried that neither the Director General nor the Minister was present. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said that in the 2011/12 financial year, South Africa had 46 African bilateral missions, 27 missions in Europe, 17 in the Americas and the Caribbean and 32 in Asia and the Middle East. South Africa and African economies increasingly were linked to new economic powers. Its top trading partners were China, Germany, United States and Japan. In this year the achievements in international relations and diplomacy included South Africa becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, where it would focus on strengthening relations between the UN and regional organisations, particularly the African Union (AU). It had mediated in Zimbabwe and Madagascar, been a successful participant in two BRICS summits, had held 32 structured sessions to advance domestic priorities, successfully lobbied for Dr Dlamini-Zuma to be appointed as Chair of the AU Commission, and had trained officials on economic diplomacy. DIRCO had an unqualified audit, but with some findings. It had a vacancy rate of 14.1%, but had abolished 116 unfunded posts. A number of officials were trained. South-South relationships were strengthened and electoral observer missions were conducted in four countries. The rise in exports was noted. South Africa was elected as Chair of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) for three years. Communication and marketing support was provided through the Public Diplomacy and State Protocol Unit.  Four new diplomatic offices were established in South Africa, for Azerbaijan, Fiji, Georgia and South Sudan. The African Renaissance Fund had a surplus of R246.39 million, and examples of projects funded through this were the Cuban Aid package, humanitarian assistance in Somalia and electoral assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A challenge remained that it was unable to respond to crises due to the procedures that had to be followed.

Members asked about the vacancy rate and the employment equity, the issue of employees engaging in other employment. They asked if DIRCO had any control of local and provincial overseas trips and negotiations. They enquired what was being done to address the Auditor-General’s findings, particularly on supply chain management, enquired as to the impact of the Economic Diplomacy toolkit, and reminded DIRCO that Members still wanted to receive it. They also wanted to know the effect of the signature of agreements, the impact of negotiations in the UN, SADC and BRICS, the cost of supporting Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature, more information on AFCONE, and the results of South Africa’s vote on Libya. They enquired how foreign property was protected, what had happened to the intention to support Swaziland, whether it was adequately reaching out to the populace, and whether enough information was given on Taiwan. Members asked about the monitoring of Missions, its approach to regionalism, whether the American African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) was likely to be renewed, and use of consultants.

Meeting report

Department of International Relations and Cooperation 2011/12Annual Report briefing
Mr Asogan Moodley, Chief Financial Officer, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, apologised that the Director General was not present as he was attending a conference.

He noted that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO or the Department) had 46 African bilateral missions, 27 missions in Europe, 17 in the Americas and the Caribbean and 32 in Asia and the Middle East. There were new economic powers influencing the balance of the global distribution of power, resulting in the formation of new political and economic groupings. South Africa and African economies increasingly were linked to these new economic powers.

In 2011 South Africa’s top trading partners were China, Germany, United States and Japan. The highest value of exports went to China and the United States. South Africa’s trade with Africa had increased over the last three years in both exports and imports. South Africa’s top exports markets in the EU were Germany and the United Kingdom.

He outlined some of the highlights of South Africa’s international relations and diplomacy, saying that South African had achieved:

- becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, where it would focus on strengthening relations between the UN and regional organisations, particularly the African Union (AU)
-mediation and facilitation in Zimbabwe and Madagascar
-successful participation in two BRICS Summits
-successful and extensive lobbying for former Minister Dr Nkosizana Dlamini-Zuma to be appointed as Chair of the African Union Commission
-the holding of 32 structured bilateral sessions, advancing South Africa’s domestic priorities
-the development of an-Economic Toolkit developed for economic diplomacy, and training of 96 officials at Head Office, with 27 trained abroad

He noted that in this financial year, DIRCO had achieved an unqualified Audit opinion and had an approved Department budget.

He then highlighted some of the achievements of each of the programmes. Under Programme 1: Administration, the Department had implemented the Electronic Cashbook system. There was a 14.1% vacancy rate and 116 unfunded vacant posts were abolished. In the period under review, 286 officials were trained in preparation for Foreign Service, 1 952 officials were trained in Protocol and Etiquette and 171 officials were trained on identified topics.

Programme 2: International Relations and Cooperation had successfully lobbied for the election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma as Chair of the African Union Commission. South Africa led the Southern African Development Community (SADC) electoral observer missions, in Seychelles, Zambia, DRC and Lesotho.
There was a strengthening of South-South relations, through BRICS. South African exports to China grew by 46% and exports to India grew by 20%. There was participation in the global system of governance with non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in 2011 and 2012. South Africa was elected as Chair of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) for three years and there were multilateral and bilateral agreements signed or entered into force. There was also a strengthening of political and economic relations.

Under Programme 3: Public Diplomacy and State Protocol, provided communication and marketing support to all the political heads and the Department. The Branch created accounts for new social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and U-tube. There were 129 Diplomatic Missions and 50 Consular Posts in the period under review. The branch was also able to coordinate state protocol for various officials, visits, workshops and events. There were four new diplomatic offices established in South Africa, for Azerbaijan, Fiji, Georgia and South Sudan.

Ms N Lallie, Chief Director: Africa Multilateral, DIRCO, noted that Programme 4 related to International Transfers. She explained that the African Renaissance Fund was established under Section 2(1) of the African Renaissance International Cooperation Fund. The Fund had an advisory committee that would make recommendations to the Minister on which projects should be approved and have funds disbursed. The Director-General was the Accounting Officer of the Fund. The income received from the Fund was R527.55 million and expenditure was R280.16 million. The surplus was R247.39 million. Examples of projects funded throughout the 2011/12 financial year were the Cuba Economic Aid package, humanitarian assistance in Somalia and electoral assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to those projects, the Advisory Committee recommended R141 million worth of projects that were still waiting for approval. One challenge was that the current systems that had to be followed made it hard to act quickly during a crisis. The Department was addressing concerns about monitoring and reviewing implementation of projects, and this included increasing visits to projects.

Discussion
Mr A Nyambi (Mpumalanga, ANC) noted that the Committee should not accept apologies of the Director Generals and other Heads; they should be required to be present at these meetings.

Ms E van Lingen (Eastern Cape, DA) felt that not only the Director General, but also the Minister, should be required to be present. The necessary respect should be shown to both Houses of Parliament.

Mr K Sinclair (Northern Cape, COPE) said it was difficult to deal with policy issues if the political heads of the Department were not present.

Mr Moodley said he would write a memo to the Minister and the Deputy Minister and let them know about the Committee’s concern with their absence.

Mr Nyambi felt that the report showed improvements from the previous year. The vacancy rate, however, was worrisome, and he wanted to know why it was still so high.

Ms B Abrahams (Gauteng, ANC) asked what the policy on equity was and questioned whether this was now correctly changed from being “black” to “African”.

Ms Nicolette Schreiber, Chief Director: Human Resources, DIRCO, explained that the Department filled a number of vacancies through promotions within the Department, and this created a vacuum because this meant there would be vacancies at lower levels where people left. The Department lost about 150 people a year to death or retirement, and was doing its best to try to address this problem.

In regard to employment equity, she added that DIRCO had 1.9% disabled employees. The Department used the term “African”, not “Black” because it reported to the Department of Labour, who categorized the figures on that basis. The Department had to differentiate between the groups.

The Chairperson asked how far DIRCO had gone to deal with the issues raised by the Auditor-General on employees engaging in employment outside of DIRCO.

Ms Schreiber responded that the Department of Public Services and Administration allowed officials to work outside government with approval from the Director-General. She said the Department needed to start taking disciplinary action if people were working outside DIRCO, without approval.

Mr Nyambi commented that the Annual Report did not reflect local and provincial governments going on international trips.

Ms van Lingen wanted to know if there was a list available of local and provincial governments’ overseas trips. She wanted to make sure there were positive gains in these trips for provinces in terms of finances, because recently there were many provincial and local government visit to do with the oil business.

Ms Lallie said it was difficult for the Department to monitor and advise the provinces. They had the right to go overseas and push their own provincial agendas, if the National Department was not giving enough support to them. The best that DIRCO could do was to insist that the provinces and local governments should inform the Department when they were going on a mission. Sometimes there were foreign missions in South Africa that encouraged provinces to go overseas and visit. Provinces paid their own way, which helped the Department’s budget. However, some agreements took advantage of South Africa and because of this, DIRCO was now narrowing its focus. South Africa had a decision to make on how it wanted to play their influence out in the world. This decision would not be made with officials in departments but made with political heads. She said she could not agree with the statement that South Africa was like the United States or other donor countries.

Mr Nyambi asked what steps the Department was taking to address the findings of the Auditor-General. He enquired what steps were being taken to supervise on, and ensure compliance with supply chain management. He also wondered why there was a lack of understanding the National Treasury framework and how it would be addressed.

Ms T Gazide, Chief Director: Supply Chain Management, DIRCO, said that the Department provided training in training institutes within the Department. Every year it would do training and update missions on compliance issues. The Auditor-General noted an issue with procurement and she noted that missions did not always comply with South Africa’s SCM. The Department had developed a checklist that monitored procurement to deal with these issues. The Department was currently trying to obtain compliance with DIRCO paying all invoices within 30 days.

Mr Nyambi wanted to know the impact of the Economic Diplomacy Toolkit, and reminded the Department that it still had to provide the toolkit to the Committee, as requested.

Mr Moodley invited the Committee to come to Pretoria and see the Economic Diplomacy Toolkit. He asked whether the Department should send them or if the Committee would arrange for a visit to the Department.

The Chairperson said the Department would be coming back to the Committee.

Ms Abrahams wanted to know the purpose of signing bilateral agreements and how they were followed up on, because it seemed that very little seemed to have happened despite them being signed.

Ms E Van Lingen (Eastern Cape, DA) asked what the costs were to support Dr Dlamini-Zuma in the post of AU Commission Chair.

Ms Lallie answered that DIRCO had not anticipated that the lobbying campaign would take as long as it did. They thought it would end in January but then there was an impasse.

Mr Moodley clarified that there was a first round worth R6 million for lobbying and a second round high which the Department had budgeted an additional R6 million. SADC countries had endorsed the Department’s candidate but Mr Moodley did not know the total expenditure.

Ms van Lingen requested more information on AFCONE, referring to slide 50 of the presentation.

Mr Sheldon Moulton, Acting Chief Director: Economic and Social Affairs, DIRCO, answered that South Africa had been selected to host the Secretariat for AFCONE and the Department now needed to negotiate a host country agreement and to set up an office space in South Africa.

Mr B Mnguni (Free State, ANC) wondered what the achievements in UN, in Africa and in SADC were.

Mr Moulton explained the Security Council benefits. There was a strong congruence between South Africa’s foreign policy and the items on the Security Council agenda. This was why it was so important for South Africa to be at the table and to be making decisions on these issues. In the first non-permanent term on Security Council South Africa stressed the need for working with regional institutions, specifically the AU. South Africa then chaired the Security Council in January this year and was able to formalise the need to work with regional institutions and took it further by adopting Resolution 2033, which effectively institutionalised the partnership and level of cooperation.

Mr Moodley said, in regards to the benefits of BRICS membership, that the BRICS countries represented one third of the world’s population and they also represented 18% of the world’s GDP. On the African continent there was a high demand for natural resources, and he agreed that much of the natural resources were flowing out, especially to China. There was a strong desire to provide manufacturing and beneficiation in the African continent. When this happened, it was necessary to consider South Africa’s contribution in the interaction with rest of the world. South Africa was well positioned within the BRICS agreements to manage and ensure that African interests were considered, in the rush for natural resources. China was willing to assist South Africa in regularising the balancing of trade. South Africa could potentially harness the surplus resources in the BRICS Development Bank. The country also wanted to be an influence on that Bank. South Africa had the biggest economy on the African continent but this could change in the next few years, and other members on the Continent could take advantage of opportunity to join BRICS.

Mr Mnguni wanted to know that how South Africa gained back its reputation after noting votes.

Mr Moodley answered that the voting on Libyan involvement was intended not to promote nor stop regime change, but to deal with challenges in Libya. South Africa went with the AU to deal with this issue. He said that since he did not believe that South Africa had lost credibility, it had no need to regain it. South Africa’s voting has always been directing to supporting good governance.

Ms Lallie added that in regard to the Libya issue, the AU roadmap could not be implemented because the budget of the AU was largely from Europe, and Europe stopped the Commission from implementing it. He too said that South Africa planned to be involved in finding a solution, not regime change.

Mr Mnguni asked for assurance that when the Department was purchasing property overseas, that foreign property should not be vulnerable.

Ms B Africa, Chief Director: Property and Facilities Management, DIRCO, said that when the Department did a construction project, an interdisciplinary team was involved in the designing, planning and implementation of the project. In regions, there were regional security offices. Once a construction site was completed security still continued to be an issue of the mission. The State Security Agency visited 40 missions a year and reported on the security, physically and technically, to the Department. In regard to appointing consultants, a South African architect, engineer and quantity surveyor would be appointed and would assist government in planning, design, appointment of local contractor and supervising contractor until the end of the project. Sometimes the Department tendered for contractors, or, when it appointed a consultant, there was a fixed fee for design and planning, but when it got to the construction the contractor would charge a percentage.

Mr Mnguni asked how far the intention had gone to give Swaziland R200 million.

Mr Moodley answered that the Minister of Finance was engaged in the Swaziland issue but it would be expanded upon later.

Ms Lallie added that Swaziland was considered a state and therefore could request and accept help.

The Chairperson asked what the reason was for the Department dedicating two senior officials for the Public Diplomacy Programme, because it had seemed insufficient.

The Chairperson asked if DIRCTO felt that it was reaching its target to reach the populace of South Africa adequately. He also asked for comment whether this Department had the capacity to be custodians of South African foreign policy.

Mr Moodley said that in 2009, R20 million was used for public diplomacy, but now it was about R47 million. There was focus on this. He gave an example of the Minister engaging with communities and students, and said that outreach programmes were in place. The Department had Diplomatic research and training, and the Department held events and invited members of the public, like academics and professionals to come in and discuss foreign policy. The Department received outcome documents on the events and he was willing to forward them to the Committee.

Ms Lallie added that the Department had roundtables with civil society and they engaged with them for electoral observing. The Department mostly interacted with academia.

The Chairperson wanted to know how the Department monitored foreign missions.

Ms Lallie said that Missions were required to submit monthly reports to their business unit on what they were doing. If there was a call to action, the mission had to notify the Department. The Department had a way of monitoring the situation.

The Chairperson was worried about the lack of a Security and Recovery Plan in the IT system, and he wanted to know what plan the Department had.

Mr Moodley said that it was true there was not a Disaster Recovery Plan but the Department was in the process of developing one, which was in advanced stages. The Department backed up information daily and once a week, and stored it off-site.

The Chairperson asked if the public was sufficiently informed on the mission in Taiwan. He mentioned that South Africa needed to know about the Dali Lama issue as well.

Mr C Basson, Chief Director: Office of the Director General, DIRCO, said that the Dali Lama was both a religious figure and head of Tibetan government in exile.  It was impossible to separate out the functions, and there was no other country in the world that recognized an independent Tibet, and South Africa subscribed to that. The Taiwan-China relationship had changed dramatically, but the Taiwanese economy was completely integrated with China’s. Taiwan was a WTO member as a regional territory. Trade exports from South Africa to Taiwan were one of the fastest growing and he gave the example of BMW exports from South Africa not being able to keep up with the demand.

Mr Sinclair wanted more clarity as to what the Department was trying to say in relation to its approach to regionalism, specifically SADC. He wanted to hear about the benefits of South Africa’s membership in BRICS. He cited examples from the China-South Africa relationship, and said China was taking much of South Africa’s raw materials without the South African people benefitting.

Ms Lallie responded that regional integration was one of the Department’s highest priorities. The enthusiasm for regional integration had been lowered however, because what had been happening globally, like in the Eurozone. South Africa was always “the big elephant in the room”. In good times, South Africa’s strength was appreciated but sometimes that had worked against it as well.

Mr Sinclair asked what the current position was of the American African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). He commented that a balance must be found between the big countries in the world.

Mr Moulton noted that when the US Secretary General was recently in South Africa, there was talk around AGOA and the need for its renewal.  There were aspects of AGOA that gave concessions for United States interests, but market access and provisions were also important.

Mr Sinclair noted that page 134 of the Annual Report made reference to the number of consultants used and wanted to know if it was necessary to use such expensive consultants.

Mr Moodley said that the Department followed protocol when it came to visiting Heads of State, whether it was a private or working visit. DIRCO did not contribute to celebrations, but simply attended to the protocol aspects, which included security and accommodation.

Mr C Basson, Chief Director: Office of the Director General, DIRCO, added to the general comments already made. He said DIRCO had trouble writing indicators because it was difficult to measure things on the multilateral side. The Canadians and the World Bank had created a system that seemed to work well. South Africa was probably the only country in the world that went into great detail on their foreign policy and published it. The Department had sent a person to do research into the Canadian system, and was now training more officials on that system.

Ms Lallie said that in the Department, delays were not intentional but were a part of following due process. Sometimes, structural issues made it just as difficult to spend and not spend money. It took time and paper work and if there was no emergency then it was manageable, but with emergencies it was difficult to respond quickly.

Mr Moodley added that DIRCO would be engaging with the National Treasury to see how shorten the protocol timing so the Department could deal with humanitarian crises.

The meeting was adjourned.
 


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