Department Military Veterans: 2012/2013 Financial Performance, 1st & 2nd quarter 2013/14 Expenditure reports

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Defence and Military Veterans

16 October 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) gave an overview of its activities in the 2012/13 year. This Department did not have its own budget vote and was run as one of the programmes in the Department of Defence under the overall Accounting Officer, and received an allocation not directly from the National Treasury, but from the Department of Defence. DMV was responsible for providing Section 5 service delivery benefits in terms of Military Veterans and their dependents such as education, health, housing, transport, burials, pensions, the Tomb for Unknown Soldiers, honouring and memorialisation of the military veterans and veterans. It had, in this year, developed regulations for approval under the Military Veterans Act, to regularise the rolling out of the benefits to the deserving military veterans and their dependents, but the supporting structures would only be in place in the next year. There were currently 56 505 veterans registered on the database and the intention was that they should be subjected to a means test when applying for service delivery benefits, although in fact that means test had not been finalised. The DMV had received funding in this year to fill critical posts and develop information technology systems, a building and policies and procedures. Its budget was, after adjustment, raised to R101.4 million. The funding was, however, spent on honouring military veterans, on offering education bursaries and health and wellness. The Goods and Services budget was fully spent. Only 31 of the establishment of 169 posts were filled.

The opposition party Members emphasised several times that they believed a means test was important. Although the ANC urged them to think about the people and not the money, they maintained that they were seeking to ensure, firstly, that the DMV complied with the law, and secondly that a standardised procedure was adopted to be fair to all. The DMV explained that it used its database and certain other considerations, such as unemployment, when assessing what benefits would be paid. One Member questioned whether the original intention was that money be paid “when available” and thought that the DMV’s mandate needed to be checked on this point. A DA Member questioned how much was spent on honouring military veterans, how many, in what form, and suggested that if R46 million was spent, that could have provided R800 000 and more to each, which could have been used for housing. It was not the principle behind honouring the military that was objectionable, but attention had to be paid to the figures. Members felt it important that the DMV must get its own vote and the DMV asked for assistance from the committee in approaching National Treasury. At the moment its hands were tied and it was not able to implement the Act fully. Members asked if the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Defence had assisted in getting capacity but were told it was not finalised.

Meeting report

Department of Military Veterans 2012/13 financial statements and report
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director General, Department of Military Veterans, gave the general review of the state of financial affairs and important policy decisions facing that Department in the 2012/13 financial year. He noted that the Department of Military Veterans (DMV or the Department) was responsible for providing Section 5 service delivery benefits in terms of Military Veterans and their dependents such as education, health, housing, transport, burials, pensions, the Tomb for Unknown Soldiers, honouring and memorialisation of the military veterans and veterans. Funding to provide these benefits were to be made sufficiently available and allocated to the Department of Military Veterans.

In this year, the Department developed regulations for approval in terms of Military Veterans Act, 18 of 2011, to regularise the rolling out of the benefits to the deserving military veterans and their dependents. The supporting structures which were required to be established in terms of the Military Veterans Act, 18 of 2011, such as the Military Veterans Advisory Council and Military Veterans Appeal Board, would be put into operation fully in the 2013/14 financial year.

The first and second phases of process to update personal information in the National Military Veterans Database was initiated and completed in 2012/13. There were currently 56 505 registered military veterans in the database, who were to be subjected to a means test on an application basis for eligibility of the service delivery benefits, as prescribed in the terms of the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011.

The funding allocated was basically for the filling of critical posts and development of information technology systems, procurement of an office building, policies and procedures. However, funds were spent on military veterans honoring functions, education bursaries support, and health and wellness service despite no allocation having been made for financing DMV administration. For goods and services, the allocation was fully spent and the balance of R3,2 million represented accruals, for services  already received in 2012/13 financial year but where the service providers submitted the invoices too late for them to be paid in this year.

He noted that the Department of Military Veterans fell under Vote 22: Department of Defence (DOD) and Military Veterans in terms of 2012/13 Estimates of National Expenditure. The Secretary for Defence was the Accounting officer. Military Veterans was accounted for under programme 1 :Administration.

It should be noted that no physical amounts were transferred from DOD to DMV in the 2012/13 financial year. The Department of Military Veterans was allocated an original budget of R51.2 million during 2012/13 financial year which was finally adjusted up by R50.2 million to R101.4 million.

Mr Motumi noted that there were capacity constraints, and only 31 posts were filled out of 169 posts

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) emphasised the importance of a means test and said that it was important to ensure that benefits were given only to those who passed the means test. He said that giving out benefits with no means test meant that the spending was unauthorised. For this reason he wanted to know when the means test would be finalised.

Mr Motumi replied that the Department applied a means test even though the regulations had not been passed. In some cases the Department used norms and standards.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked how many honouring functions took place last year and what the total cost of these was, and also wanted a breakdown.

Mr Motumi replied that the total amount used was R46 million. This amount was used mostly for transporting recipients and for tracing their families. The first parade was in Bloemfontein.

Mr Maynier asked the Department how it was able to decide on the distribution of the benefits to the veterans.

Mr Motumi said that the method DMV used to decide on who would get the benefits was the database and engagement with the military veterans association SADMA.

Mr J Maake (ANC) noted that the benefits were given to the veterans based on availability of resources but he also pointed out that that was not the initial agreement. He suggested, therefore, that the reference to “subject to availability of resources” be taken out.

Mr Maake also said that the Department did not say it had received any money from the National Treasury and asked why this was the case.

Ms N Mabedla (ANC) told the Committee that she believed it was very important for the DMV to get its own vote. It was, at the moment, solely dependent on the Department of Defence for getting an allocation, but the DOD had its own burdens. She recommended that the sub-directorate be strengthened so that it would be easier to manage the Department

Mr L Diale (ANC) wanted to know about the relationship between the National Treasury and the Department. He also noted that the DMV did not get a separate budget or separate allocation from Treasury. He wanted to know how long the Committee would be discussing the issue about providing for veterans.

Mr Motumi said that in fact the DMV did not get any budget allocation directly from the National Treasury. He asked for Parliament’s support to the DMV, and to assist it in the relationship with Treasury.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) asked if the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department had yielded any results in relation to the unemployment.

Mr Motumi said that the stages of the MOU were yet to be committed.

The Chairperson questioned the statement that the DMV faced constraints in employment, asked if it believed it had enough people to do the job, and whether it would have accommodation for increased numbers. He asked how soon the accommodation issues would be resolved.

Mr Motumi responded that the DMV had constraints. He cited issues such as the approach structure, and said that the figure of 196 was the total posts available.  

Mr Maynier asked the Department again about its decision making process around benefits. He wanted to know how the DMV would decide how to distribute benefits fairly and equally. He again asked how many  veterans were honored.

The Chairperson responded by saying that the question is answered by the relevant Act.  and that it is unfair to ask the question.

Mr Maake asked Mr Maynier to clarify his question.

The Director General said that were 540 veterans who were honored.

The Chairperson asked how much was spent for these veterans

Mr Motumi responded that R46 million was spent

Mr Maynier wanted to know the breakdown of these funds. He also said that if 540 military veterans were honored, and R46 million was spent then it meant that R850 100 was allocated to each veteran. This was an awful lot of money that could, instead, have been used to build RDP houses.

Mr Maake responded that a veteran might have been honored fives times or received five awards each, and suggested that Mr Maynier should do his calculations again. He also made the point that it was not actually for Mr Maynier to decide on how much each veteran received or deserved. Even if each person received R850 100, that amount of money would not be enough to compensate.

Mr Groenewald asked the Chairperson to give Mr Maynier a chance. He fully agreed with the principle of honouring the veterans. However, the costs were important and must be borne in mind.

Mr Motumi  said that the DMV essentially could not deal with the matter properly. The Department was unable to implement the law because of the situation with National Treasury. The issue did indeed restrict the Department from moving forward.

Mr Groenewald asked if the Department looked at whether every one of the beneficiaries passed the means test.

Mr Mlangeni urged that the Members must change their attitudes, and understand that the regulations were not ready. He said that the most important point was that it involved people, so Members must not only look at the question of money, but also be considerate and understand that people’s interests were being taken into account. The requirements were unduly strict and he agreed that something would have to be done to sort the matter out with National Treasury.

Mr Groenewald responded by saying that the all the Members wanted to see military veterans qualify for the benefits, but that it was important to do things right. Furthermore he questioned why, two years after the fact, the regulations still had not been passed. Until then, the law could not be disregarded.

The Chairperson said that he hoped that the Director General agrees with him that the number reflected was around 56 000  and that the first person on the list was the first person to get a house .

The Chairperson also said that party designation was not an important factor in the matter being discussed.

Mr Motumi agreed. He then proceeded to give some analysis of the database. This dealt with those who never got to be integrated in the military in 1994, those who continued to be in the military after that date, and some who were no longer in the military. The Department would use this database when deciding how to allocate. The first consideration was always given to those who were unemployed. In relation to the regulations, he said that the regulations were tabled in May.

Mr Groenewald asked if the person who was first on the list was the first one to be benefit, or how that was determined.

Mr M Booi (ANC) said that it is very sad to pin point weaknesses instead of strengths, and that the database issue was an old problem. He wanted to make the point that many veterans were now dying, not having really been assisted, and it was important to give the Department credit for what it was doing.

The Chairperson told the Committee to keep in mind that not everyone would want houses so the benefits must be adjusted to meet the individual needs of the veterans.

Mr Motumi said that housing issues were handled by the Department of Human Settlements.

Mr Groenewald said that he was disappointed that he still did not know how the system worked and that the people he represented were not beneficiaries.

Mr Booi proposed closure.

The meeting was adjourned.


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