The South African Military Academy briefed the Committee on the nature of the degree programmes which it offered, the academic and functional military aspects included in these programmes, as well as its research activities and plans to extend these through the Security Institute for Leadership and Governance in Africa. The Academy offered Higher Certificate, Bachelor Military Science, Honours, Masters and doctoral degree programmes, although it was severely constrained by its size, with a maximum capacity of 365 students only. Statistics on the students were included, and it was explained that the Academy also attended to their physical training, ensured welfare and advised career managers on functional training and career development. The challenges and achievements were not presented to the Committee, but Members were asked to study these from the attached documents. Members questioned whether the Academy was actually training to meet the needs of the Department of Defence, given that there were such severe skills challenges and scarcity, noted concerns by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) about their career paths and lack of exit mechanisms, asked if career management advice filtered down to students, and why there were disproportionately low numbers of students from the Air Force and Navy, as well as the length of time to train pilots. They questioned why no information was included on pass rates, called for this information, and the costs and challenged the Academy whether students would not be better off attending a civilian university. Questions were raised on benchmarking. A Member urged that training on the Constitution and its values must be inculcated across the entire Defence Force, and urged that competent, committed soldiers with unquestionable patriotism should be produced.
The South African Air Force (SAAF) followed up on issues raised following the Committee’s oversight visit to the Langebaan Air Force Base, and said that some of the matters highlighted issues more broadly affecting the whole Air Force. They included concerns about infrastructure and facilities, management of moveable assets, skills retention and development, the efficacy of career management policies, transformation endeavours and grievance policies. Most challenges were attributed to low funding levels which had led to the increased maintenance backlog, and inability to develop or maintain skilled individuals, which also affected the transformation goals. Each of these was elaborated upon. It was noted that initiatives taken to address some of the problems included the Department of Defence establishing the Defence Works Formation to reduce its reliance on the Department of Public Works, prioritisation of duty buses, revised disposal policies, and the setting up of independent committees. Particular problems were noted with flying hours and skills development, with limited flying hours leading to reduced availability of squadron operational training and pilot instructors, as well as reduced training hours. Although up to 90% of artisans were in place, and the retention quite good, and similarly for pilots, there was a shortage of graduate engineers and SAAF had developed its 'Own Capability Plan'. There were still problems around effective communication of promotion decisions, but the new Individual Grievances regulations had improved compliance. SAAF had not managed to meet commitments on transformation but had a directorate and action plan to drive transformation, again hampered by sustained under-funding. Members noted their concerns with several unbecoming practices noted during oversight visits as well as allegations that SAAF personnel airing issues with the Committee had later been targeted. Members questioned incentives, particular transformation challenges at Langebaan, the precise changes that had improved the grievances procedure, called for clarity on the moveable assets and whether the exercise was completed, how airworthiness was taken care of to allow flying hours to be increased, the promotions policy, the transfer of skills under the AMG contracts, and whether charges were leveled against the Officer Commanding: Airforce Base Langebaan. Members were disappointed at the absence of senior officers during an oversight visit, and said that the issues raised now were not in line with Committee observations. More detail was requested on the vacancy rate and deficiencies in the posts, whether the Board of Inquiry had looked into the Langebaan facility, and the status of the training facility in Pretoria.
The Defence Force Service Commission detailed the work it had completed since its establishment last year, and said that its major challenges related to human resource management and procurement. From October 2013 the Commission had been implementing a comprehensive hand-over from the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission. Regulations had been finalised and were awaiting approval by the State Law Advisers and a report had been submitted to the Minister on a death benefits policy. The appointments of staff were outlined. The Commission was still awaiting the approval of the Defence Review, was concerned about the sustained capability of the SANDF to engage in operations, said that the slow pace of implementation of its recommendations by the Department was problematic, and reiterated problems with conditions of service and recruitment, training and career management of soldiers. There were attempts to address these through engagement with stakeholders including the Ministry. Members asked that timeframes be set to improve conditions and tools of trade, and emphasised that the Commission must focus was the succession plan and promotion. Members asked whether there was currently a mechanism, or plans to develop one, to ensure that compensation was paid to dependents of soldiers who had died in the Central African Republic, called for a summary of recommendations implemented by the Interim Commission and a five-year plan for the new Commission.
The Office of Military Ombud (OMO) reported that it was now running, following its establishment under the Military Ombud Act. A major challenge was that it was not incorporated in the Defence Review. Its mandate was to investigate complaints by a member or former member of the SANDF, regarding conditions of service, or by a member of the public regarding the official conduct of a SANDF member. There were challenges and uncertainty around the definition of member, the scope of a complaint about “official conduct”, which was not defined, the time period for lodgment of complaints, and the backlogs (445 complaints were lodged but only 224 finalised), with further administrative and operational challenges also. Institutional independence remained problematic, with the OMO getting its ring-fenced funding from the Department of Defence and accounting to it for resources, and it had requested the Defence Review to allow the office to be registered as a Schedule 3 entity under the Public Finance Management Act, with its own accounting officer. It was limited to making recommendations to the Minister, was powerless to enforce its own decisions, with the Ministry perceiving its recommendations as negotiable, whilst the Department was not implementing them, and it had no power to instigate own investigations. Members were concerned that the OMO did not appear to understand its role, and said the Committee had, for good reasons, taken very precise views on it not implementing its own decisions, for reasons of command and control, but that the Committee could assist in holding the Department to account. Members were concerned that the regulations had not yet been passed, said that OMO was not visible to members or the public and had to make people aware of its existence and functions, asked if the investigation into the military base had been finalised and how it dealt with 12 000 defence civilians on finance-linked issues.
Due to time constraints, presenters were asked to furnish responses in writing, although a DA Member wanted to record his objection, on the basis that he was never provided with the written responses. Members agreed to postpone the finalisation of the Legacy Report, adoption of the Minutes and consideration of the Private Member's Bill to the following day.
South African Military Academy (Saldanha) Contribution to professional Defence Force: Briefing
Maj Gen Manfred Mabuza, General Officer Commanding, Training Command, Military Academy, Department of Defence, introduced the Dean of the Faculty of Military Science, Professor Samuel Tshehla, who would present on the academic programmes run by the Military Academy (MA or the Academy).
Prof Samuel Tshehla explained that the MA was concerned with ensuring professional military education, which encompasses both academia and functional military training. He noted that the size of the facility at Saldanha was a major problem, because the MA’s maximum capacity was 365 students, including 25 post-graduates. Of these students, 210 were in first year, but only 65 would remain for second and third year, with the rest, if they were successful, receiving a Higher Certificate in Military Studies.
The MA served as a feeder for the needs of the Department of Defence (DOD or the Department) and therefore structured its programmes to produce the scarce skills required by the Department of Defence, without neglecting the fact that these were all military persons being educated. The MA offered a Bachelor of Military Science specialising in Security and Africa Studies, or Organisation and Resource, or Human and Organisation Development, or Technology and Defence Management. The Academy also offered Honours and Masters degrees, as well as having a newly-accredited doctoral programme. The MA also incorporated the Centre for Military Studies, which conducted research for the Department of Defence. Negotiations were currently being conducted to facilitate further research through the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa, based at Stellenbosch.
Lt Col R Mathipa, Chief Military Instructor, Military Academy, presented the part of the briefing dealing with Section Military Development (SMD). He started by outlining the demographic statistics of the first, second and third year students, in terms of their race, gender and arm of service (see attached document for details). He noted that the MA also included 193 inter-telematic education students. He said that the role of the SMD was to ensure the students underwent the functional military training necessary to ensure that they understood military specific principles, including command and control, military discipline and regimental duties. The SMD also conducted students’ physical training, ensured their welfare and advised Career Managers on Functional Training/Career Development. The SMD's military days included drill session, parades, community service and military training and development. The military development included pistol and R4 shooting, indoor shooting and physical fitness evaluations.
He noted that the SMD's military weeks were differentiated according to year, and ran in January and September. The first years would firstly do an induction course, followed by musketry and civic education. The second years did adventure training on sea and then land. The third years did a war simulation exercise and then land and sea survival. The SMD also conducted a trans-enduro project , or the reintroduction into the South African Defence Force, during December recess. In June, students continued with their functional and promotional courses, detached duties, other approved programmes or took their leave.
Brig Gen Lawrence Mbatha, Commandant: Military Academy, said that in view of time constraints, and having covered the basic information on the programmes conducted, he would not detail the challenges and achievements of the MA, but these were fully set out in the attached document and he urged Members to read these for themselves.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) questioned the graph on page 16 of the presentation, saying that the MA had said it was training in accordance with the needs of the Department of Defence. However, there were still challenges relating to skills scarcity within the Department, and she wondered how effective the MA was as a feeder institution. She then asked for clarity on what exactly was being shown on the graph. She also wanted to know how the programmes of the Faculty of Military Science factored into the Department of Defence.
Prof Tshehla replied that the graph shown on page 16 of the presentation was calculated in decade intervals, and that the last decade also included the Higher Certificate in Military Studies, which started in 2003, resulting in the spike in the numbers of qualifications awarded. He also repeated that the biggest limitation on the numbers of qualifications awarded was the size of the facilities, and if these were increased, then the numbers of qualified people channelled into the Department of Defence would also increase.
Brig Gen Mbatha added that the MA wished to match the attrition rate of the Defence Force, but until it was fully capacitated it would be unable to do so.
Ms Daniels noted that when the Committee had gone on oversight visits, several members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had been concerned with their career paths and especially with lack of proper exit mechanisms. She asked how far down the career management advice spoken of by the SMD actually filtered down to the students.
Brig Gen Mbatha said that the type of the people coming to the MA would demonstrate their future utilisation, and at what level. The MA dealt with junior leaders and the programmes offered by the MA were geared towards ensuring these students understood Africa as a theatre of battle. The contribution to scarce skills was demonstrated through the content of the various degree programmes, as well as future programmes such as military legal education.
Prof Tshehla conceded that issues of career management were not covered sufficiently in the presentation and noted that this would include the remuneration of the lecturing staff.
Ms Daniels asked the reason for the low numbers of students from Air Force and Navy, aside from the Army making up the largest part of the South African Defence Force, and asked how long, for instance, it would take to train a pilot.
Prof Tshehla replied that the degree programmes were tailor made for the Department of Defence. He said that, for example, the technical needs of the Navy were catered for through the Bachelor of Military Science in Technology, which included nautical science. Addressing how long it took to train a pilot, he explained that whilst the MA was responsible for teaching theoretical aspects such as angles of elevation and descent, the students would undergo the practical training at an Air Force base. He added that the Military Skills Development Systems (MSDS) contingent numbers were lower now than in the period 2003 to 2006. There were many graduates from the programme in civilian universities and in the defence industry, so they did interact with the civilian community
Mr D Maynier (DA) was surprised that there was a complete absence of information relating to the pass rates, and would like to know the average pass rate of second and third years. He also enquired about the average number of undergraduate degrees awarded, and the average costs of the entire degree. He then asked whether the MA would agree with the proposition that if military officers went to a civilian university they would obtain a better education and at a lower cost, and that therefore the MA should in fact be shut down.
Prof Tshehla replied that the pass rate for first years was 75%, because, despite the small numbers of students, these students had been out of school for more than four years, which had a negative impact on their study skills. That had lad to the consideration of a four year extended degree programme. With the second and third years, the pass rate was between 90 and 95%. The spread of graduates between the degree programmes followed the same lines as other universities, with the sciences producing the least and the arts the most graduates. The tuition fees were around R4 500 per student and approximately R1.2 million was paid by the Department annually. He believes that this represented value for money, because tuition at civilian universities would range from R15 000 upwards. He also said that he strongly believed that the Military Academy should not be closed. He reiterated that if the Department increased the size of the Academy, it could get more value for money. Furthermore, it was important to note that the Academy, unlike civilian universities, ensured that military culture and training was inculcated into the students.
Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) wanted reassurance that the education the students received would not result in the type of military coup d’etats experienced by other African countries. She wondered if an academic education had contributed to the tendency for African soldiers to rebel. She urged that the vision stated by former Minister of Defence Lindiwe Sisulu to produce competent, committed soldiers with unquestionable patriotism should be realised. She also hoped that the education included ensuring that the students understood the nature of the South African Constitution and its transformative and reconciliatory values, so that the country could continue to progress. She was also interested in knowing more about the benchmarking exercises conducted by the MA.
Prof Tshehla agreed that it was important to teach the students constitutional principles, and said that this went far in ensuring that the SANDF, as a whole, ascribed to constitutional values and did not follow the example of other defence forces on the African continent. In terms of benchmarking, he noted that only South Africa and Egypt had academies which offered degrees, while Namibia was in the process of doing the same.
Langebaan Flying School update on matters relating to the Committee's 2013 oversight visit
Maj Gen Cedric Masters, Chief Director: Air Policy and Plans, South African Air Force, briefed the Committee on the points it had raised following on its visit to the Langebaan Flying School and other bases, which he believed were symptomatic of wider issues within the South African Air Force (SAAF). The issues raised had related specifically to the infrastructure and facilities, management of moveable assets, skills retention and development, the efficacy of career management policies, transformation endeavours, including demographics, and grievance policies. He attributed most of the problems to the low funding levels which had led to the increased maintenance backlog, and inability to develop or maintain skilled individuals, which also hindered the SAAF's transformation goals.
The SAAF's maintenance requirements were calculated at R3.4 billion, although the allocation to the bases over the last five years was only R36.68 million. This had led to funds being drawn from the operations budget for maintenance and human resources costs, and a deficit of R238 million. The SAAF had noted the required maintenance costs with the Chief of Logistics. The Department of Defence had taken initiatives, including the establishment of the Defence Works Formation, to reduce reliance on the Department of Public Works for maintenance. The use of military members was of only limited help, because they had little time remaining after their regimental duties and Force preparation tasks.
Turning to movable assets, and the availability of vehicles, Maj Gen Masters said that the serviceability of vehicles ranged from 51% to 68%, and this was due to the limited operating budget, resulting in an inability to sustain the Vehicle Support Plan. The lack of accommodation facilities had resulted in a need for duty buses, and the procurement of these had been prioritised.
He noted that the disposal delay mostly related to Category 2 or non-military vehicles. The decisions were taken on the basis of good governance, and the micro-dotting of vehicles was done for registration purposes on the e-Natis system before sale There was also a review of the disposal process by the Military Command Council, to preclude fraud and corruption. There was now an Independent Alienation Approval Committee. The Departmental Commercial Procurement Board had dis-approved the award of the auctioneers’ tender, resulting in a board of inquiry, whose investigations were now completed. The new auctioneer would be in place by May.
Maj Gen Masters then turned to the development of skills. He said that pilot development depended on steady and regular through-put of pilots, from basic flying training through squadron operational training to operational flying. However, the limited flying hours and high force employment requirements had led to reduced availability of squadron operational training, and that in turn led to a limited number of operationally qualified pilots for pilot instructors. The limited funding also resulted in the situation where flying hours must be prioritised for operational flying by qualified pilots rather than for training. There was therefore stagnation in the operational squadron training’s level of training. There was a need to ensure adequate flying hours, but this could only be done subsequent to airworthiness being ensured. For all of this, lack of funding was a serious constraint.
In relation to skills retention, Maj Gen Masters said that the SAAF had 80%-90% of the aviation artisans and technical officers it needed, and there was quite a stable retention rate, with an average of 10 years experience. However, the SAAF had only 44% of the graduate engineers it required and a resignation rate of 22% was apparent in recent years. The aircrew numbers, including pilots, were stable, because of reasonable remuneration policies and significant breach penalties in the employment contracts and that had resulted in a resignation rate of below 5% since 2010. He noted that it was important for the SAAF to have its own technical and engineering capability. In order to achieve this it had developed its 'Own Capability Plan', in accordance with a Military Command Council directive. Most of the objectives of this above plan were on track, with the Denel Aviation person improving the utilisation of SAAF technical personnel. However, the specialised skills provided by the AMG/SSA contract remained scarce.
Maj Gen Masters then commented on the efficacy of career management policies and practices. These were covered by the Defence Act and Military Disciplinary Supplementary Measures Act and the regulations to these Acts. Promotions were covered by the SANDF Promotion Policy, Interim Instructions on Placements and the Transformation Policy. Some problems were identified around effective communication of the decisions, and the procedures were sometimes neglected. There was also confusion relating to discretionary and non-discretionary promotions, and the Airforce Command Council now required all discretionary decisions to be conducted in open forums. SAAF also could not discount illegitimate practices in relation to promotions, and this would also be combated through the open decision-making process. The SAAF's Human Resources model was outlined (see attached presentation for full details).
Turning to the SAAF's grievance procedures, Maj Gen Masters said that he had confidence in the changes brought about with the implementation of the Individual Grievances Regulations, and said that the type of non-compliance with military ethos previously seen was no longer experienced and that there was also no longer any abdication of responsibilities at the unit level. The backlog in grievances created through the previous uncertainties regarding command and control had now been resolved and the Department of Defence's Grievance Board was meeting.
It had been said that the SAAF had not been able to meet the SAAF Command’s commitment regarding transformation. However, SAAF had established a directorate to drive transformation and had a Transformation Action Plan, which focused on gender mainstreaming, flying hours for black and female junior pilots, youth development, fast tracking and alternate exit mechanisms. The Directorate for Transformation Management had consulted with Base Command Councils to ensure proper mechanisms and processes were in place, but it was also important that these councils manage transformation at their levels. However, the lack of a viable exit mechanism and a lack of funding continued to hamper transformation efforts.
He concluded this portion of the presentation with a representation of the demographic statistics for each category of employee in the SAAF, including a breakdown per acquisition programme, and by race and gender.
In conclusion, Maj Gen Masters said that the Air Force Command Council had correctly identified the SAAF's central problem as sustained under-funding which had led to the loss of capabilities, an increasing maintenance backlog, and constraints on transformation and development goals. Furthermore, he asserted that solving the funding and exit mechanism problems would have a positive effect on the concerns raised by the Committee regarding the SAAF.
Ms Daniels said she was not happy with the unbecoming practices that the Committee had noted in the Air Force bases. Without derogating from what Maj Gen Masters had said relating to the demographics of the various acquisitions programmes, she wanted to say that she was also not happy with the levels of representivity reflected and said that this must be dealt with. She also wanted clarity on whether there was an incentive given where a member remained in a certain rank, despite their eligibility to progress, and asked what this incentive was called, who had received it, and on what basis.
Ms Daniels further noted her concerns about reports that officers of the SAAF who had spoken to members of the Committee during their oversight visit to Langebaan had later been 'targeted', and stated that the Committee did not take kindly to this. She also spoke to the challenges with the Human Resources division at the Langebaan base, because the officer to whom the Committee had spoken had said "black people don't want to stay at that base".
Ms Daniels asked exactly what was being done to improve the grievances procedure, particularly in view of its importance for morale and command and control.
Ms Daniels then wanted clarity on the moveable assets that were supposed to have been disposed of, specifically asking it this exercise had been completed and, if not, for an indication of the challenges.
Ms Daniels wanted to know how often the SAAF ensured that the airworthiness was taken care of, so that flying hours could be conducted, bearing in mind the budgetary constraints.
Ms Daniels also wanted the promotions policy explained to the Committee, specifically the process and dictates of the policy in terms of non-discretionary promotions and unavailability of posts. She also asked about the status of the AMG contract and whether it was tight enough in regard to the transfer and development of the skills pursuant to these contracts.
Ms Daniels asked if there had been any charges leveled against Col M Petso, Officer Commanding: Airforce Base Langebaan.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) commented that he was disappointed that the senior officers were not present when the Committee had visited the base and therefore the presentation given now was not particularly consistent with the issues raised to the Committee at the time of its visit. He was worried also that there did not appear to have been any improvement at all, especially in regard to transformation.
Mr D Maynier (DA) wanted to know about the vacancy rate, specifically how many pilots were required in respect of each acquisition programme, and how many vacancies there were in these programmes. He also had the same concerns regarding flight engineers and navigators, particularly in the A109, Gripen and Hawk programmes. He also wanted an explanation on the deficiency in these posts.
Mr S Esau (DA) asked whether there was a Board of Inquiry into the Military Academy and how it related to the Langebaan facility, and, if so, what the findings of this Board had been.
Mr Esau wanted to know how critical the lack of flying hours was.
Mr Esau referred to the AMG contract also raised by Ms Daniels, and understood that there was a transfer of skills taking place, but asked whether the Committee could be happy with the expected level of performance from the personnel, who were said to have few years of experience, and whether there was potential to increase this, for it must affect the SAAF's operational capacity.
Mr Esau enquired about the status of the training facility in Pretoria.
Mr A Maziya (ANC) then suggested that, due to the lack of time, that the Committee should resolve to have written responses presented, rather than hear the responses now.
Ms Daniels supported that proposal.
Mr Maynier noted his objection, saying that he never received these written responses and that he would prefer to have the responses given now.
The Chairperson ruled that the written responses were to be forwarded to him by 17 March.
Maj Gen Masters said that he would do so, but wanted to clarify two issues urgently. Firstly, he noted that Col Petsa had not been charged with anything. Secondly, he wanted to confirm that the senior officers were not present at the Airforce Bloemspruit when the Committee visited, and not at the Air Force base in Langebaan.
Defence Force Service Commission briefing on its work to date
Prof Edna van Harte, Defence Force Service Commission, gave some introductory remarks regarding the mandate of the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC or the Commission) as inspiration for its work. She identified major challenge areas as including human resource management and procurement and said that the major aims of the Commission included encouraging pride in the uniform and the implementation of recommendations by the Department of Defence. The rest of the presentation focused on the progress on work done so far, future challenges and the way forward.
Prof van Harte said that the Commission was presently in the initial stages of establishing its infrastructure. She went on to thank the Department of Defence for implementing recommendations made in the Interim Commission's Report of November 2010, especially the completion of the new Defence Review Report, implementation of the individual grievances management policy and process, and the establishment and capacitating of the Defence Works Formation.
Since October 2013, the Commission had conducted a comprehensive hand-over from the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission and had finalised regulations for the functioning of the Commission, which awaited approval by the State Law Advisors. It had submitted a report to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on the development of a comprehensive Death Benefits Policy in December 2013. It had engaged with the Chief of the SANDF and Chief of Logistics on the establishment of a dual office in Cape Town, which had been approved of, up to the stage of procurement. The Commission had also appointed a Head of Secretariat. Another 13 posts were at an advanced staffing stage, with the assistance of the HR division. The Commission had further identified factors critical to the successful completion of its mandate, and had engaged with key role players in the defence environment, including the Commander in Chief of the SANDF, President Zuma, the Minister of Defence, the Military Ombud and the Secretary for Defence.
The DFSC attended awards evenings and passing out parades at the Military Academy on 10 and 11 December 2013, and the Armed Forces Day Parade at Air Force Base Bloemspruit. The DFSC also planned to conduct consultative visits at the Infantry School (Oudtshoorn), 1 Military Hospital (Pretoria), 2 Military Hospital (Cape Town), 3 Military Hospital (Bloemfontein), Army Combat Training Centre (Lohathla) and Air Force Base Makhado.
The challenges identified by the Commission included the fact that it was still awaiting the approval of the Defence Review, which would have major implications for all persons related to the defence industry. It had to ensure that all members of the SANDF would enjoy a better life and that all deployed soldiers received the required tools of trade. The main challenge identified was the sustained capability of the SANDF to engage in operations. The pace of the Department of Defence to implement to recommendations of the Commission was also problematic. Problems had been identified with the conditions of service of soldiers and the recruitment, training and career management of soldiers. Lastly, five posts in the Commission's Secretariat remained vacant owing to budgetary constraints.
The Commission aimed to address the known challenges through ongoing consultation with various stakeholders, research and benchmarking and by making recommendations to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. Consequent to a meeting with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, the Commission also planned to deal with several HR related issues - specifically recruitment in the SANDF, career management, succession planning and promotion, the granting of honorary Colonel status and recognising years of service through rank.
Mr L Diale (ANC) said that the Committee was well aware of the terrible conditions facing the armed forces, and would like to know whether the Commission had a time frame for the improvement of these conditions.
Ms Daniels wished to emphasise the importance of seriously addressing the challenge of tools of trade. She would also like the Commission to impress upon the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans also that critical posts needed to be filled. Lastly, she believed that the most important matter on which the Commission must focus was the succession plan and promotion within the Department of Defence, because this was fundamental to the morale of the SANDF.
Mr Maynier wanted to know whether the Commission had any mechanism, and, if not, whether it would consider a mechanism to ensure that the dependents of soldiers who were killed in service received their compensation. He was speaking particularly of the soldiers who had died in service in the Central African Republic. He also wanted to the Commission to ensure that the interim reports and reports to the Minister were tabled in Parliament, because of their potential to cause a political 'civil war'.
Mr Esau said he would like to see a dashboard report on the work done by the Interim Commission, the status of the implementation of every recommendation and a plan of what the Commission wished to achieve over its five year term.
Ms N Mabedla (ANC) also asked for a plan of action so that the Committee could track the progress on the interim recommendations and future work.
Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) wanted to emphasise the issue of the Interim recommendations. She also asked for the Commission to unpack the challenges relating to tools of trade, especially consequent to the Committee's visit to ARMSCOR. Lastly, she would like to know what exactly constituted the infrastructure that the Commission was setting up.
The Chairperson repeated his earlier instruction that written responses must be provided to the Committee by 17 March.
Military Ombud presentation on matters relating to the execution of its responsibilities
Lt Gen (ret) Temba Matanzima, Military Ombud, assured Members that the Office of the Military Ombud (OMO or the Office) was up and running. He highlighted the challenge presented by the Office not being included in the Defence Review.
Mr Siviwe Njikela, Chief Director: Operations, Military Ombud briefed the Committee on the Office of the Military Ombud, focusing on its performance statistics and operational and legislative challenges. He said that the Committee should be aware of the legislative history behind the Office, which was established through the Military Ombud Act, No 4 of 2012 (the Act). The Office itself was established at the end of 2013 and staffing procedures continued. Recapping the mandate, he said that OMO was empowered to investigate complaints by a member regarding conditions of service, by a former member regarding conditions of service, or by a member of the public, regarding the official conduct of a member of the Defence Force, or a person acting on behalf of a member.
Mr Njikela said that the Members had been in possession of copies of the presentation for some time, and he would not therefore, in view of the shortage of time, present on every slide. He proceeded to slide 19, which provided an overall summary of the activities of the Office. Of the 445 total complaints received, 224 had been finalised. These complaints ranged from complaints about promotion, demotion and rank review; service benefits and service termination. Statistics were also provided on the gender, race, rank and service division of the complainant; as well as whether a present or former member lodged the complaint or whether this had been done by a member of public.
Regarding operational challenges, he said that the Office had identified challenges around the finalisation of the case load accumulated during the 2012/13 financial year, before the OMO was established. Secondly the newly appointed staff still needed to be acquainted with the uniqueness of the military environment in order to operate efficiently. Thirdly, the lack of a case management system led to labour which added no value. Fourthly, the Office struggled without fully functioning ICT capacity. The procedures for the finalisation of complaints needed to be cemented. Lastly, the lack of information about the OMO and its role compounded the problem of the grievance processes functioning at sub-optimal level within the Department of Defence.
The legislative challenges faced by the Office centred on four main aspects, which were, respectively, who could complain, what would be regarded as a reasonable time to lodge a complaint, institutional independence and operational independence. He expanded on these in turn. The Act did not currently define a “complainant” but section 4 stated that a member of the defence force may lodge a complaint, and section 1 cross-referenced this to the Defence Act of 2002 which was exceedingly wide, especially when read with the definition of “Defence Force”, yet appeared to exclude members of the statutory and non-statutory forces. Furthermore, section 4(1)(c) of the Act was unclear on the scope of a complaint by a member of the public, because “official conduct”, although referred to, was not defined in the Act, resulting in the risk that members of the public could potentially complain about a broad range of administrative conduct within the Department of Defence. Section 4 therefore required clarification.
In regard to what might constitute a reasonable time within which to complain, it was explained that section 7(2)(c) gave the Ombud a discretion to refuse to investigate a complaint that was not lodged “within a reasonable time”. In the absence of regulations dealing with this, the OMO currently deemed a reasonable time to be that complaints were brought within 180 days of the member or former member becoming aware of the cause for complaint. Complaints from members of the public should be brought within 90 days from the day on which they became aware of the act or omission complained of. However, a deviation from this may be condoned if adequate reasons were provided to the Ombud.
Currently the OMO was accepting all complaints that fell within its jurisdiction, including those from previous statutory and non-statutory forces, but difficulties were faced due to the age of the cause for complaint, particularly in amassing evidence.
Mr Njikela said that independence and impartiality of the OMO was key to ensuring its efficiency, effectiveness and credibility. However, the Office's budget was currently ring-fenced by the Department of Defence. This caused difficulties, because it meant that the OMO needed to comply with and be accountable to the Department of Defence's internal processes and structures for its resource requirements. As a result, the OMO had already made submissions to the Defence Review, during 2011, requesting that the Ombud be the accounting officer for the Office, and that the Office be registered as a PFMA Schedule 3 entity. During discussions on the Military Ombud Bill of 2011, Parliament had suggested that a suitably qualified Chief Executive Officer should be appointed for the Military Ombud to assist with all financial and administrative requirements under the Act. These suggestions, however, were not taken further and the Ombud continued to pursue the possibility of registration as a Schedule 3 entity.
There were further concerns about the OMO’s operational independence. Section 6(5)(b) of the Act stated that, after investigating a complaint, the Ombud “must recommend an alternate resolution to the Minister”. This effectively left the Ombud powerless to enforce its own decisions and there was a perception within the Ministry that the OMO’s recommendations were negotiable. A mechanism to ensure that the Department of Defence was held accountable for the non-implementation of recommendations would help in this regard. Giving the Ombud the power to instigate its own investigations would also help the Office, by allowing the Ombud to be proactive where issues were systemic or members were reluctant to come forward.
Mr Njikela concluded by saying that the Regulations to the Act were at draft stage. The OMO wished to record its thanks to the SANDF and the Department of Defence for their cooperation, despite the challenges highlighted above.
Mr A Maziya (ANC) was concerned that the Office did not understand its role, which was to be a final point of call in the grievance and disciplinary procedure, and that it must make a final determination, before the matter was handed over for confirmation by the Minister and legal action. He also stated that there was a problem with the Department of Defence, because the Committee had waited two years for the regulations to the Military Veterans Act, and now it appeared that the Department had prioritised the staffing of the OMO before the regulations. He asked how the OMO could spend its budget without these being in place.
Ms Daniels spoke to the institutional independence issues, noting the OMO’s concern that it had no authority to enforce its recommendations or to conduct its own investigations. This issue had been raised and deliberated upon by the Committee prior to passing the Act. The Committee had felt that it would be problematic to empower the OMO to conduct “witch-hunts” and this would also pose problems with the Command and Control structures.
Ms Daniels, speaking to the statistics on grievances and discipline complaints, said that the OMO represented the last hope for many members of the SANDF and that it had to ensure that all members were aware of the process for addressing grievances.
Ms Daniels asked what the OMO would do to ensure the independence and impartiality of its own Office, should a member came forward with a complaint relating to the Military Ombud himself during his service.
Ms Mabedla referred to the correspondence from the Military Ombud dated 12 March 2013, which stated that to date, none of the recommendations made to the Department of Defence had been carried out by that Department. She requested whether there was any mechanism to follow up on the complaints and recommendations, and what steps would be taken in the event that the Department failed to act, to ensure that the complainant did receive results.
Ms Mgabadeli made a request to the OMO that it should proactively advertise its existence and mandate to the public, so that they could bring forward any complaints.
Mr Maynier wanted to know whether the Ombud had finished its investigation into the state of the military base, and, if so, whether a report had been completed and submitted to the Minister. Secondly he wanted to know how the Ombud was dealing with complaints from the approximately 12 000 defence civilians, especially because he had received several complaints out of the finance division.
Mr Maynier, following up on the matter raised by Ms Mabedla, suggested that the OMO should provide Parliament with a report on the total number of recommendations not implemented by the Department of Defence, so that Parliament may hold the Department to account. Lastly, he asked for the Ombud to furnish the Committee with the contact details for the Office, so that members could direct SANDF members who approached Parliament with complaints to the OMO.
The Chairperson again repeated the request that written responses be made to the Members’ questions. He requested input from Members whether they wished to reconvene later, to finalise the remaining items on the agenda.
The Committee resolved rather to meet the following day to finalise the adoption of minutes, adoption of the Legacy Report and the Private Member’s Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
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