The Portfolio Committee on Defence met to consider the draft Second Term programme, and to consider and adopt the Committee Minutes from previous meetings. The Chairperson noted that he had received a letter from the DA member, raising issues that he thought should be included in the programme, and gave a chance to the Member to take the Committee through these points. The Member indicated that he firstly wanted to confirm which Committee would be dealing with the Defence Review, urged that the Portfolio Committee should at least have the opportunity to receive a briefing and ask questions, and suggested that whichever Committee was to deal with the matter, it was urgent. Secondly, he felt that the allegations relating to the internal audit must be investigated, and made the point that this was something different from the Auditor-General’s report and warranted a special meeting. Some Members took issue with the matter being discussed now, saying that they were not privy to the information that Mr Maynier was describing, and until a matter was properly placed on the agenda, with supporting documentation circulated to all Members, it should not be discussed. Another DA Member interjected that the matters were neither irrelevant nor new as they had been aired by the Minister during the budget speech, and were investigated by the Department, so the Committee did have a responsibility to take them further.
The Chairperson took the points, and said that he would now consider the requests and try to find space to discuss them in the programme.
Members moved on to consider the minutes of 2, 3, 9 and 10 July, raising their concerns that Parliamentary staff were not ensuring that the documents were placed in Members’ pigeon holes on time. Typographical errors would be corrected in the minutes of 3 July and the minutes of 9 and 10 July had to be amplified with comments that the DA had made but which were, respectively, not recorded, and not recorded in the correct place. The minutes were adopted, subject to these amendments.
Committee’s Draft Second Term Programme of the Committee
The Chairperson noted that the draft Second Term Programme (the programme) had been circulated and called for comments.
Mr D Maynier (DA) said that he wanted to make three general comments, but would make them at the end of the considerations about the rest of the programme.
The Chairperson referred to page 7, and suggested to Members that there should be a day in which Members could identify the strategic action procedure, which would then form the basis of the action plan of the Committee for the next five years.
Mr Maynier then raised his three comments. Firstly, he reminded Members that a very important issue before Parliament was the Defence Review 2014, yet it was not clear how that Defence Review was to be dealt with by Parliament – namely by this Portfolio Committee, or the still-to-be established Joint Standing Committee on Defence. He suggested that the Defence Review be made the first priority of a Committee, and noted that there was a degree of urgency to it. He asked if the Chairperson had any ideas who would deal with it, and said that if it was to be this Committee, the he wanted to suggest that the programme be amended, so that the Defence Review appeared as the prime order for business.
Secondly, Mr Maynier noted that he had sent a letter through to the Chairperson on the previous day, in response to the Chairperson’s letter, making suggestions on what had to be included in the programme. He wondered if the Chairperson could respond in this meeting on the content of that letter.
Thirdly, he commented that this programme was traditionally compiled with very little input from the Members, but was pleased that the Chairperson had invited input, which was a positive move.
The Chairperson responded that with regard to the Defence Review, there seemed to be research suggesting that this fall to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, but since this Committee was not yet off the ground, he had asked the Parliamentary Legal Advisors to investigate the possible role of the Portfolio Committee on the Defence Review. He reminded Members that this Committee would still be receiving a briefing on the issue, and would be able to advise the Defence Review Board what it wished to see.
The Chairperson confirmed that he had received the letter, and told other Members that Mr Maynier had suggested some amendments to the programme. Mr Maynier had made some allegations of corruption, but the Chairperson wanted him to be more explicit so that they could be dealt with more clearly in future. The operations of the Secretary of Defence (SOD) fell under the purview of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, which was another reason why this Committee must be swiftly established. The Portfolio Committee was yet to receive the Auditor-General’s presentation to be able to consider the internal audit matters, and he suggested that this matter should await the Auditor-General’s briefing.
Mr Maynier took the Chairperson’s point on the operations of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, and said that he would raise matters of operation with it, once it was established. He amplified that he had inquired about investigations into alleged abuses at the South African Army School, where the Military Ombud had completed an investigation, and had furnished a report to the Minister. Mr Maynier wanted to know if the Committee would see that report, and would be briefed by either the Military Ombud or Secretary of Defence. In respect of the Department of Military Veterans, he wanted to clarify that the audit done by the Department’s internal auditors was different from that done by the Auditor-General and he believed that the Committee should receive a separate briefing from the internal auditors on the matter.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) stated that he had some difficulty, because the Portfolio Committee was now discussing issues not listed on today’s programme, and debating information which was not yet before the Committee and suggested that the Committee must adhere to the programme. Any information that any Members discussed must be documented and be before all Members. He disagreed with Mr Maynier that any one issue or item should be singled out as every issue discussed by the Committee was of importance, and none should be prioritised because it was considered particularly relevant by one person. He thought that the number of matters now introduced was clouding the issue, that the programme must be clear and Members should adhere to the programme.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) agreed with Mr Skosana, and said the issues raised by Mr Maynier were not on the programme, and in future, Mr Maynier must ask the Chairperson to table them before raising them. Any Member wanting to raise issues should do so through the Chairperson so that they could be part of the agenda.
The Chairperson conceded that the Committee would now stick to the documents before it, and would advise Members of any new issues raised with him.
Mr Maynier wanted to clarify that he had merely be following a process and responding to the letter from the Chairperson asking for Members to raise any issues, which was precisely what his question on the Defence Review was. Whether the Chairperson tabled Mr Maynier’s letter lay in his discretion but he was more than willing to send through his response. He added that the issues raised were relevant not only to him personally, but had to investigated by the Department and Members should recall that they were in fact raised by the Minister during the budget speech, and were clearly regarded as important measures as investigated by the Department of Defence. He believed that the Portfolio Committee had a duty to call for a briefing on these very important matters.
Mr S Esau (DA) confirmed that the issues that were raised in the correspondence by Mr Maynier were matters that had already been discussed in the Committee and during the briefings of the Department. If Members referred back to the minutes, they would see that questions were put to the Department of Defence, and so Mr Maynier was not raising anything unrelated to matters already considered.
The Chairperson thanked all the Members and stated that there was no real difficulty with the matter. He would follow the process on any issues raised, and place them on a future agenda, where necessary.
Members adopted the draft programme.
Consideration of Committee Minutes of 2, 3 9 and 10 July
The Chairperson noted that the minutes had been circulated but no comments had been received.
Mr Esau commented that the Parliamentary staff, without any fault on the part of the Committee Secretary, were not doing their job. Members would be told by the Secretary that they would find the notices and papers in their pigeonholes, but they would not have been placed there, which was an inconvenience. He also wanted to note that there were some typographical errors.
At the request of the Chairperson, Mr Esau said that in the Minutes of 3 July, at page 3, the fifth bullet point gave an incorrect citation for the Act.
The minutes of 9 July, on page 2 highlighted the issue raised by Mr Maynier that there was a contradiction in terms of under-funding. There was reference to the Committee “supporting” the budget, yet his party was of the view that the Committee was not mandated to either approve or support the budget, yet the comments that the DA raised on these points were not included in the notes
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to note the comments and make the necessary amendments.
Mr Maynier said that he had not been aware that the Members should send through any comments on the minutes in advance but would do so in future. He wanted to point out that the Minutes of 10 July, page 2, did record his objection, but not in the correct place. His objection related to the Committee’s viewpoint and should be noted under paragraph 3.
Members approved the adoption of the minutes, subject to these corrections.
The meeting was adjourned.
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