The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DOD) briefed the Committee on the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) and National Youth Service (NYS) programmes run by the Department and also its Skill Development and Retention Strategy. It explained that the MSDS was implemented in 2003 as part of the DOD’s HR renewal strategy to provide sufficient young, fit and trained members for force employment, especially during peace missions. The MSDS essentially serves as a probationary period during which the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) assesses new recruits for their performance, discipline, conduct and development potential for continued military service. Since its establishment in 2003, the MSDS has had a total of 39, 053 intakes, of these, 24,586 had their contract renewed, 8,286 exited the MSDS after two years and 1,566 resigned before the completion of the programme. The MSDS targeted intake for the year 2014/2015 is intended to be 4,961 but this is subject to the Department’s HR budget. The achievements of the MSDS since establishment include the creation of a more affordable system for recruitment, provision of employment opportunities for the youth and the recruitment of 24,586 young and fit members to feed the Regulars whereas 6,861 members of the total intake have been able to join the Reserves. The Department also explained that it runs a fourteen week Youth Leadership Development Programme as part of the broader National Youth Service (NYS) programme. It had successfully run the training programme since January 2011 in collaboration with participating state departments. The training is intended to provide the recruited youth with appropriate targeted skills in leadership, transformation management, ethical behaviour, civic education, effective communication, management of personal finances, occupational health and safety, fire fighting, AIDS awareness, self-defence and drill and sports as a platform to foster discipline. A total of 5365 youth had been graduated from the programme since its inception and the main participating department that had sent youth to the DOD for training under the programme was the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).
The Department also made a presentation on the measures employed to address the consequences of the cancellation of the AMG contract. It explained that the AMG contract was terminated on 21 March 2013 as a result of Auditor General’s 2010/11 audit opinion that stated that the contract did not conform to current governing framework. The Department had subsequently concluded an interim Skilled Services Agreement (SSA) with Denel to mitigate the effects of an abrupt termination and through this, 139 out of 523 critical and scarce skilled services were retained. The Department’s Own Capability plan was adopted to mitigate the adverse effect of the loss of the AMG expertise and it contains a plan to transfer skills of the 139 AMG staff that were retained, continued and targeted recruitment and optimisation of SAAF logistics structure. The process of skill transfer in less complex domains will be completed on 31 March 2014 whereas in the more complex cases up to two more years will be required. The presentation highlighted the need for the department to extend the SSA by up to two years to cover longer term skills transfers from some 53 members; for SAAF to develop a relatively permanent solution for the 14 SSA engineers and other similar specifications (a total of about 20) with very long replacement lead times, and a lasting solution for the need for own specialists.
The Committee applauded the Department on the bold step taken to cancel the AMG contract that had drained the Department’s budget for the past 27 years. Members also commended the Department for the progress so far made in transfer of the 139 critical skills and asked it to continue reporting to the Committee on the transformation of skills.
Department of Defence briefing: Military Skills Development Strategy (MSDS), Skills Development & Retention Strategy in SA National Defence Force, National Youth Service initiatives
Dr Sam Gulube, Secretary for Defence and Military Veterans, Department of Defence, explained that the aim of his presentation was to provide an overview of the Military Skills Development System (MSDS), Skills Development and Retention Strategy, and National Youth Service (NYS) within the Department of Defence (DOD).
Major General Andries De Wit, Chief Director: Human Resources, Strategic Direction and Policy, DOD, explained that the MSDS was implemented in 2003 as part of the Department’s human resources (HR) renewal strategy, to provide sufficient young, fit and trained members for force employment, especially during peace missions. He further explained that the main design considerations for MSDS were that the system needed to be more affordable and allow higher deliverables against a lower HR expenditure. It was important that the system be voluntary and feed the Reserves.
The MSDS aimed to induct members into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and to equip members with basic military skills and functional training. It would evaluate members’ development potential and suitability for continued service in the Regular and Reserve forces. This would allow the DOD to choose individuals for a possible future career in the military, thereby ensuring a sufficient trained pool of young and fit members to fulfil SANDF deployment needs. The Reserves would thus be fed with trained troops and junior leaders,.
The MSDS was one of several service or contract systems in the SANDF. It essentially served as a probationary period during which the SANDF would assesses new recruits for their performance, discipline, conduct and development potential for continued military service. The MSDS was not a separate system or project that stood apart from the mainstream recruitment for SANDF, but rather was the mainstream recruitment process and entry service system for the SANDF. The basic and fundamental military skills which were imparted to new recruits under the MSDS would lay the foundation for their further advanced training, utilisation and rank progression as career military practitioners (soldiers, airmen, sailors, medics) or as Reserves.
Since its establishment in 2003, the MSDS had had a total of 39 053 intakes, of whom 24 586 had their contract renewed, 8 286 had exited the MSDS after two years, and 1 566 resigned before the completion of the programme. The MSDS targeted intake for the year 2014/2015 was intended to be 4 961, but this would be subject to the final budget allocations. The achievements of the MSDS, since establishment, included the creation of a more affordable system for recruitment, provision of employment opportunities for the youth and the recruitment of 24 586 young and fit members to feed the Regulars. 6 861 members of the total intake had been able to join the Reserves.
Maj-Gen de Wit outlined the DOD’s Skill Development and Retention Strategy. In the financial year 2009/2010, the DOD had introduced key remunerative retention strategies to curtail the number of personnel leaving the Department. Over the last two years, the attrition rate in the DOD declined to below 2%, but on average it tended to sit at the 5% mark.
He further explained that the Department had since adopted both remunerative and non-remunerative employee retention strategies. Examples of some of the non-remunerative employee retention strategies that the DOD had adopted were the recognition of long serving staff, increase in vacation leave days from 26 days to 30 days, and increase in Family Responsibility leave days from three to five.
Specific measures that DOD had implemented to retain scarce skills in the Department included the provision of technical allowances, the introduction of Military Aviation Career Incentive Pay (MACIP), Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), specifically in the military health environment, and the policy on Transformation Management in the Defence Force. These initiatives had been able to keep the attrition level in the Department at a manageable level.
Major General De Wit then explained that DOD ran a fourteen week Youth Leadership Development Programme as part of the broader National Youth Service (NYS) programme. The Department had successfully run the training programme since January 2011, in collaboration with other participating state departments. The DOD’s training was intended to provide the recruited youth with appropriate targeted skills in leadership, transformation management, ethical behaviour, civic education, effective communication, management of personal finances, occupational health and safety, fire fighting, AIDS awareness, self-defence and drill and sports, all of which were offered as a platform to foster discipline. He further stated that all instructors were subjected to the NYS cadre training to ensure alignments to the NYS objectives and outcomes.
5365 youth had graduated from the programme since its inception. He also mentioned that to date, the main participating department sending youth to the DOD for training under this programme was the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). The current intake consisted of 1 195 participants referred by the DRDLR, who were due to graduate on 7 November 2013, and on 5 December 2013.
The Department planned to have three intakes in 2014, with the first running from 10 February to 15 May 2014, the second from 4 August to 6 November 2014, and the last from 1 September to 4 December 2014. The training had received positive impact reviews from DRDLR, for instilling discipline and leadership in the participants.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) stated that the Committee would like to see some lower-level officials from the Department, in future presentations. She explained that those were the people who actually got down to doing the work and “getting their hands dirty”.
Dr Gulube answered that bringing the lower level staff for future presentations would not be a problem, and the Department would be guided by the invitation of the Committee.
Ms Daniels stated that it was not correct for the Department to say that it mades selection for NYS training. In fact, it was only receiving recruits for training from DRDLR. She asked whether indeed the Department did do any selections on the NYS.
The Chairperson also asked whether DOD charged fees for the training that it carried out for DRDLR and other Departments, under the NYS programme.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) asked where DOD received its funding for training youth under the NYS. He wanted to know whether the funding came from DOD, or from the Departments that referred youth for training.
Dr Gulube replied that the DOD’s NYS programme was run in conjunction with other state and provincial departments, because it was not funded under DOD. He further explained that DOD entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the participating departments, and so the responsibility for recruitment and the provision of funding for the programme were shouldered by the other participating department.
Mr D Maynier (DA) was concerned about allegations of sexual assault against female recruits under the MSDS. He wanted to know the incidence of sexual offences against women recruits, and what plans the Department had put in place to address this problem.
Dr Gulube responded that any cases of sexual harassment within the Department should be treated as an exception and not the norm. He explained that the Department had a dedicated directorate to deal with issues of gender equality and sexual harassment within the Department. He undertook to give a future presentation to the Committee, setting out statistics of such cases handled.
Mr Maynier enquired as to the criteria used for selection or recruitment of NYS members, and whether there were any guarantees that they were not from a single party.
Dr Gulube responded that since DOD did not actually attend to the recruitment for NYS, it would be hard for it to provide such guarantees. He reiterated that the recruitment under NYS was done by the participating departments who then requested DOD to do the training on their behalf.
Mr S Esau (DA) asked whether the mental and physical capacity of recruits was tested beforehand, to ensure their ability or fitness to withstand the training programme.
Dr Gulube answered that all recruits that went through the DOD training had to undertake a medical fitness test, to ascertain that they were physically fit to undertake the training. He said that there had been cases where recruits had failed the fitness test and they had been stopped from undertaking the training.
Mr Mlambo asked the Department to shed more light on the protests that were rumoured to have taken place amongst some MSDS intakes in the middle of the 2013 year, and how those had been resolved.
Mr Esau asked if the Department had a mechanism for tracking MSDS recruits who had exited the programme, and if it was able to ascertain if they were able to obtain employment in other sectors. He said that it would be important for the Department to form partnerships with the private sector to assist in assimilation of the recruits
The Chairperson asked whether there was any guarantee that the NYS trainees would be able to obtain employment within DOD.
Ms Daniels wanted to know more about the relationship between DOD and other Government Departments. She also asked about the fate of those MSDS members who were not absorbed into the military system, and whether they would be absorbed by other departments of government.
Major General De Wit responded that DOD had a directorate in place to take care of exiting recruits and find placements for them. He explained that the Department had formal agreements in place with private entities and parastatals, to provide employment opportunities for exited MSDS members. However, he did acknowledge that the process of tracking them was still a challenge for the Department.
He added that the Department would host youth camps, upon requests from other government departments. The Department entered into MOUs with the requesting dpartments and it also provided the facilities for the training. This training usually lasted between two and three weeks.
Provision of skilled services to the South African Air Force (SAAF) following termination of Aerospace Manpower Group contract
Dr Gulube stated that this presentation would report on measures employed to address the consequences of the cancellation of the Aerospace Manpower Group (AMG) contract.
He explained that the AMG contract was terminated by DOD on 21 March 2013, after the Auditor-General (AG) had given an opinion in 2010/11 that the contract did not conform to the current governance framework. The Department had subsequently concluded an interim Skilled Services Agreement (SSA) with Denel, to mitigate the effects of an abrupt termination. In doing this, 139 out of 523 critical and scarce skilled services were retained.
Major General Johan Pelser, Chief Director: Force Development and Support, South African Air Force (SAAF), Department of Defence, then presented on SAAF’s Own Capability Plan that was adopted to mitigate the adverse effect of the loss of the AMG expertise. The Capability plan contains a plan to transfer skills of the 139 AMG staff that were retained; continued and targeted recruitment; optimisation of SAAF logistics structure and technical personnel development, motivation and utilisation; greater integration with strategic technical partners (Denel Aviation, SAA Technical, SA Express); utilisation of foreign training opportunities; establishment of specialist service system and implementation of the DOD remuneration strategy.
Major General Pelser stated that the Skills transfer plan was an essential component of the Department’s Own Capability plan, it is an essentialcomponent of the contractual agreement between SAAF and Denel and as such it is contractually and individually enforceable against Denel and the remaining SSA employees. He explained that SAAF had identified personnel to receive skills transfer and the process of transfer had commenced in all other areas except for 18 SSA engineers and related personnel- due to a recent high loss rate of SAAF engineers and 16 scarce skilled and vacant posts. The process of skill transfer in less complex domains will be completed on 31 March 2014 whereas in the more complex cases up to two more years will be required.
Major General Pelser further explained that a relatively permanent solution will need to be found for the 14 remaining SSA engineers (due to the very long lead time to produce replacements), the SAAF museum curator (since there is no such mustering in the SAAF) and other similar specialisations totalling about 20. One of the solution options include closer integration with Denel.
In terms of recruitment and development and the rest of the Own Capability Plan, most of the short-term objectives of the Department have been met, however one of the main challenges has been National Treasury’s cut on DOD’s budget specifically HR budget that led to a reduction of recruitment targets and contract renewals. SAAF Recruitment for 2013/2014 was thus curtailed below optimal levels except for engineering recruits. In partial mitigation, the department presented a proposal to National Treasury to make good the shortfall on the HR budget, and there has been an indication that this might be done. Other challenges include market-related technical remuneration challenge stills and high turnover among graduate engineers due to simultaneous existence of outside opportunities.
Major General Pelser highlighted the need for a sustained engineering capability in the Department for it to remain a smart buyer and operator of military systems. SAAF is mandated to specify its requirements comprehensively, confirm that they are correctly contracted, generally supervise execution and accept delivery on its own behalf. SAAF/DOD requires a sustainable specialist solution to enable it source from outside or internally, keep in the same job for extended periods and keep motivated.
As a way forward, Major General Pelser highlighted the need for the department to extend the SSA by up to two years to cover longer term skills transfers from some 53 members; for SAAF to develop a relatively permanent solution for the 14 SSA engineers and other similar specifications (a total of about 20) with very long replacement lead times, and a lasting solution for the need for own specialists.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) noted that the Department had referred to the need to find a permanent solution to the challenge of 20 SSA members whose skills were relatively difficult to transfer, and asked the Department to own the exercise of finding the permanent solution.
Ms N Mabedla (ANC) thanked the Department the presentation and also commended it for the bold step taken to cancel the AMG contract that had drained its budget for the past 27 years. She also commended the Department for the progress so far made in transfer of the 139 critical skills and asked it to continue reporting to the Committee on the transformation of skills.
Major General Pelser welcomed the comment and undertook to continue to reporting back to the Committee on the transformation of skills. The Department will report back on 16 October 2013 on transformation of skills.
Ms Daniels stated that the Department needs to wake up to the fact that once there is a policy in place, the National Treasury will allocate money to it. She hoped that the Department had dealt with the issue of force design and force structure under the defence review.
Mr N Booi (ANC) sought clarity on the relationship between the DOD and the National Treasury.
Dr Gulube responded that the relationship between DOD and the National Treasury is a cordial one but sometimes there are areas of frustrations for the Department when it comes to approval of its budget spending. He stated that as a result of the cut down on the Department’s budget by Treasury, there was currently an HR budget shortfall of about R950 million. As regards the issue of force design and force structure, the Department is waiting for the finalisation of the Defence review so that it can be formally adopted.
Mr D Maynier (DA) wanted to know how many AMG members were employed in the VIP squadron and how may were retrenched and whether the retrenchment had any risk to the Presidential Jet.
Major General Pelser said that the figures of those VIP squadron members retained under the AMG contract was seven but unfortunately he did not have the figure of those retrenched but undertook to avail it later.
Ms Daniel wanted to know whether the contractual obligations had been incorporated into the SSA agreement and whether these were enforceable terms.
Major General Pelser replied that all the conditions had been incorporated in the contract and formed an enforceable term of the contract between Denel and SAAF. He also explained that the contract had been reviewed by several lawyers and it had been confirmed to be water tight.
The Chairperson sought clarity on the nature of the AMG contract and the obligations the Department had towards the AMG employees.
Dr Gulube responded that the Department had sought a legal opinion on the AMG contract before termination; it established that the contract was an enforceable one and that it had been executed a number of years back. The contract had to be adhered to.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for their presentation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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