The Department of Military Veterans briefed its oversight Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on its strategic plans for 2015 to 2019 and it Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16. The presentations outlined the breakdown of the Medium-Term Expenditure Estimate of R582.2 million across its three programmes and the baseline. The Director-General also elaborated on the organisational structure of the Department. Gaps in the structure had led to service delivery challenges and only a “small” amount of monitoring and evaluation being observed meant the Department was not as complaint as it should be. The Department would be discussing the issue with the Departments of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Public Service and Administration and National Treasury next week. Although the monitoring and evaluation capacity did not match the needs, the department had started to focus on the evaluation of service delivery programmes.
In the presentation the Department outlined the work it had completed per programme and strategic objective. Across the three programmes, baseline indicators were that 123 funded posts had been filled; the communications and marketing strategy had commenced and critical administrative policies including the recruitment policy had been approved. In addition, decent houses had been provided for two military veterans, 4 719 had access to healthcare and 200 veterans and their dependents had received bursaries. The objective to recognise and honour military veterans through the erection of 10 memorial sites had not been achieved.
The ANC, DA and the PAC were in agreement that the Military Veterans Department was performing poorly. The Department had received a disclaimer and it was expected that the Department, which was fully aware of its weaknesses would be taking urgent measures to turn itself around. The DA asked why some of the performance indicators which had addressed weaknesses had been removed. The DA charged that human resources and health figures amongst others were messed up, performance targets were fluctuating and the database of military veterans was a pain yet it was a pre-requisite for getting any benefit. People were submitting documentation online and getting no response, even for two years.
The ANC said while it sympathised with the Department, its sympathy only ran so deep. The majority party had expected to get a clear plan on how the department was planning to achieve an unqualified audit outcome. The ANC also questioned why the Department was proud to say it had built two houses for military veterans when its target was 3000. The Committee also had to be given a breakdown on where the money for travel and subsistence had exactly been spent. The ANC felt that the Department was blaming other department’s inaction for some of its weaknesses and poor performance.
The PAC Member, who was welcomed as a new committee member, asked for a breakdown of who was benefiting from the Department’s interventions plus a breakdown of DMV's travel and subsistence spending. He advised that the Department look at capacity and competence of staff to deal with the challenges of the audit disclaimer
In response, on the whole, the Department said it would report back with more details and breakdowns on the various concerns and questions raised by the Department. On the matter of housing; DMV was aware that the Members did not want to hear about its dependence on other departments but this was a reality. This financial year the Department was looking at other ways to ensure there was delivery of housing even if the Department had to do it on its own. The budget was there and it was transferred to the provinces. Unfortunately there had not been much movement.
In conclusion, the Chairperson said the Committee would be hearing from all other departments which had a role to play in some of the functions of the Department of Military Veterans. This would better inform Members when it came to budget considerations. The Chairperson also suggested that perhaps it should monitor the spending of the Department for a quarter.
The Committee was briefed by the Director-General Mr Tsepe Motumi who was flanked by senior officials from the Department of Military Veterans. He combined both presentations as there was some overlap.
Mr Motumi said during the 2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework would focus on the finalisation and approval of the following major service delivery policies:
- Public support for transport;
- Military veterans’ social relief of distress;
- Military veterans pensions;
- Military veterans’ heritage;
- Stakeholder management;
- Training and skills development;
- The Department of Military Veterans’ memorialisation policy; and
- The Department of Military Veterans’ business and empowerment support policy.
He said discussions were already underway for a comprehensive review and restructuring of the Department’s organisational structure as approved in 2010. The structure had created challenges which had impacted on service delivery. There were gaps that the Department would be discussing with the Departments of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Public Service and Administration and National Treasury next week. There was a “small” performance, monitoring and evaluation but it was not as complaint as it should be.
The Department highlighted its contribution to the Forum for South African Directors General and the improvement plan for the Department’s practices through the Management Performance Assessment Tool.
Overview of 2015/16 financial allocations
The total budget for the Department’s programmes 2015/2016 was R582.2 million. Broken down per programme the medium term expenditure estimates were R157.5 million for programme 1: administration; R266.3 million for programme 2: socio-economic support and R158.4 for programme 3: empowerment and stakeholder management. Of this total, goods and services accounted for the most with an expenditure estimate of R263.2 million followed by transfers and subsidies amounting to R218.5 million. Payment for capital assets was the lowest expense of R3 million.
Baselines for Programme 1: Administration - the Department’s communications and marketing strategy had commenced; although monitoring and evaluation policies had not been achieved they had become a focus; critical administrative policies had been approved to include a recruitment policy and 123 funded posts had been filled.
For Programme 2: Socio Economic Support - two military veterans had received decent housing; 4 719 veterans had access to healthcare and 200 veterans and dependents had educational support through bursaries.
For Programme 3.2 which sought to improve the quality of life of military veterans and their dependants; 1 270 had accesses training and skills development and there had been a modest 10.9% reduction in the level of unemployment per year.
For Programme 3.3 which aimed to recognise and honour military veterans for their contribution to democracy through the erection of 10 memorial sites there had been no progress to report. Key infrastructure projects highlighted for future were the development of head stones, construction of military veterans call centre; the erection of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the monument; the establishment of the Health and Wellbeing Centre (HWC) and the refurbishment of new national and provincial office accommodation.
Mr S Esau (DA) asked about measures taken with regards to the Department’s disclaimer as issued by the Auditor-General. He did not have a problem with the special purpose vehicle (SPV) being removed as a performance indicator (PI) as well as the indicator of small businesses engaged in partnerships, but what performance indicators had been put in place to deal with those specific issues? The findings dealt with leadership, management, internal control, audit commitment, ICT and the quality and competence of officials. Could he have specific PIs so that the Committee could monitor progress made in that regard? The sad part was that the Management Performance Assessment Tool in 2012/13 which the Director-General referred to indicated 15 [overall] areas of weakness. The two lowest performing departments were Women and Children and Military Veterans. Knowing that the MPAT process informed one about the areas of weakness and then not taking immediate steps, one would anticipate a qualified audit but maybe not the worst of audits, the disclaimer. The Department was fully aware of its weaknesses and it needed to address them. Why were the areas of weakness and worst performance not put in as indicators?
Mr Esau said out of the 169 funded posts, 135 were pitched, that was not 90%. Ninety percent was 152 funded posts. Out of the 135, 123 were filled which is 90% of 135. That figure had moved up to 127 and apparently today it was standing at 130. There was a review being undertaken with the Department of Public Service and Administration to look at the staff complement. This was where he had a serious problem. The Estimated National Estimate (ENE) stipulated up to 271 positions. The Department had indicated that over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, for the last two years, it was looking at 169 funded posts. There was a contradiction in the numbers and the statistics. This was never reported in quarterly reports, neither was the removal of indicators reported in quarterly reports. It was only announced during the current meeting. That was unacceptable. If this had been a discussion within the Department and with the necessary other relevant departments, the Committee should have been informed that there had been changes to the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the Strategic Plan and the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE). This was so that when it did oversight it was aware of the correct figures and numbers. There was a problem with HR that it was not addressing the issues of incompetence and the appointment of key positions. The Department was sitting on money that was supposed to be employing people to do the actual job. Why was this not being executed? The money was there. The Department of Defence was supporting the Department of Military Veterans and it was fully capacitated in terms of recruitment. Why was the Department not leaning on the Department of Defence?
He said the Committee knew historically that the Department had only achieved 40% of its 50 targets. That must change. Forty percent was not only mediocre, it was poor performance. In light of this, the monitoring and evaluation capability became so critical. There should be a checklist on a daily basis. According to the Department’s own admission, the monitoring and evaluation capability was non-existent; there were only some remnants of monitoring and evaluation. It was unacceptable. If the Department was to become a higher performing department there needed to be key people in the staff complement to see that it performed optimally.
Why was the indicator of the Auditor-General opinion removed? It was unacceptable. That indicator was not there. It should be there as it was a serious problem for the Department.
In terms of the Ministerial priorities from 2012 to 2016 versus 2015 to 2019; four of the priorities had dropped off but they continued to be priorities of the National Development Plan and government outcomes. They were still very relevant and had to be looked at. These were acceleration of benefits, empowerment of military veterans towards reconciliation and nation building, promotion of military veterans’ heritage and developing and deepening the skills base of military veterans. Those were four that were not on the priority list.
He said the communications and marketing strategy according to the Director-General had only started now. It was not the first year it was on the agenda but the third year. He spoke to military veterans regularly. People were submitting documentation online and getting no response, even for two years. The strategy was responsive and did not address the needs of the desperate military veterans. The provincial offices had been an indictment and according to the report they were going to be fitted out with hi-tech capabilities. Could a person in the office actually use hi-tech? The person in the office in Cape Town could not. If the person was a one-man band then it was not suitable.
Mr Esau said the database was a pain as it was a pre-requisite for getting any benefit. Why had all the Certified Personnel Reviews (CPRs) not been amalgamated into one database? Those who were still in the army did not qualify while those who did serve qualified. They were not on the database. Whether they received benefits or not, the regulations and the policies should determine it. People were in limbo they did not know if they were military veterans; by definition of the Military Veterans Act they were, but they were not registered by the as one. This opened the Department to litigation. With the uproar and dissatisfaction in the community there would be issues raised. If not resolved between the Department, the Committee and the military veterans it would be elevated to a court case. It was a right and it would probably go to the Constitutional Court because it was an Act.
Mr Esau asked for a final list of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The Committee had requested the list but it was not a comprehensive list. It did not say what had been executed. He said he knew the agreement on housing and human settlements was in place but the implementing agent was the local authority. This meant the agreements had to be extended to a further sphere of government. Had those agreements been drafted? Had they been submitted to the 287 municipalities? The work was not easy; there was a lot of paperwork. The people in the administration had to be competent and had to be able to drive it and monitor it because it was taking time to conclude and military veterans were getting impatient. The Department claimed that it supported them, but the processes were constantly being delayed.
He charged that the human resources figures were messed up. The figures needed to be sorted out. If it was fully funded, why did the Department continue over the MTEF to keep it at 90%? There was no indication that it would become 100%. So, there was 100% funding but the Department was not employing the 100% of people. That was a big concern.
There were also discrepancies on additional posts. The figures had been fluctuating. There had to be some consistent figures in the APP and in the ENE. Look at the vacancy rate of 40% in programme three; 20% in programme one. This was the vacancy rate where people had to be employed but there were additional people and contract people and the posts were not being filled. Seconded people were being paid by their Departments and not by the Department of Military Veterans. It was a freebie. They got the labour but another department was paying for it.
Performance targets had also been fluctuating. Could the Department detail these in the quarterly reports? The figures given in the APP on training, housing; they had been going up and down. The Department only achieved building two houses. Transport; had the policy been completed and even negotiated. The SLA with the various Departments; the targets had been set but there was zero achievement.
The Director-General had indicated a decrease in the projections from the 2014 ENE compared to the 2015 ENE. The motivation was that it was from the ministerial meetings. That was the guidance given from there but there still needed to be an explanation. Things were being cut but there was also an increase in the budget.
What was the administrative support to the South African Military Veterans Association (SAMVA)? What did it entail, what were the financial implications? What travel and subsistence funding was given to the various military veteran associations?
Health was another figure that was up and down. The latest health figure was 7 500 military veterans and now the target was 8 000. The report coming in from the quarterly performance report showed that the 7 000 was going to be exceeded in the current year. It was not realised.
He also asked that the Department speak about partnerships with the organs of state and private business. Could the two be separated in the report as the two were different in nature and the partnership relationship was also different.
The policies of the APP 2013 and the current one did not speak to one another. Some were mentioned and others were not. They had to be consistent going ahead.
He said when it came to the budget, of course, DMV knew that travel and subsistence was a concern. It was a big budget of R52 million. How was it planned, broken down and where did the allocation actually go to? The Department was a very small Department. It was equal to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate which had spent R1.1 million.
Similarly what was the R8.7, R8.8 million for communications going to be used for? Performance Agreements, the report said it was 100%. The Department indicated that there was a case of one person who did not complete a performance agreement and that was an act of misconduct. The supervisor had left and that could not be concluded. If it was reported in the APP then it should be reflected as 99% or 98% not 100%.
In terms of Programme 1 on staffing, he said they were looking at 50%, increasing to 80% by 2014/15 and then 90%. It was moving very slowly even though these were funded posts. The HR skills plan had also changed. That was meant to have been completed in the last financial year. The APP targets that had been set had been changed slightly but when they had been changed, they gave different connotations which did not reflect the previous target.
What were the suspended accounts that had not been paid within 30 days because of requirements of invoicing and proper documentation not being met? How many accounts were not in order?
The statutory planning and the instruments that had to be submitted were not. The indicator, target and the achievement was 100%. That was not true. The Committee knew that DMV had put in a separate request for the annual report to be submitted a month later. There was a serious delay.
Another performance indicator that had been removed was the attendance and participation of the DMV in relevant cluster meetings, the enterprises maturity level, the percentage of public opinion of military veterans, the AG opinion… The DG mentioned the households. He said they were dealing with the classification of households. What were the details? What was the money value; the Department had said there were about 250.1 million households.
Who were the contractors?
On training and development, there was R306 million for the MTEF. For the current financial year there was R71.3 million set aside. There was a target of 3 000 trainees; what programmes had been put in place? Were they accredited and recognised and would a person get a qualification or a trade or craft that they could actually get a job with and take care of their families.
There was an indication that there were 25 strategic initiatives, out of that only one out of ten was achieved. What were these? If the Department was setting a target that it had not achieved in three years, why was it setting itself up to fail?
Of the cases referred by the National Anti-Corruption Hotline and the Presidential Hotline, the DMV report indicated that 100 percent of the cases had been dealt with. What was the actual case load? If they were dealt with, what were the consequences; were people found guilty or not guilty or were the cases simply written off as not relevant to the Department?
Mr Esau said the Health and Wellness Centre was costed at R10 million and was meant to have been concluded. It was on the agenda, not in the last financial year but the previous one, and it had still not materialised. In the last discussion, the Department said it was about to purchase a centre. What the real status and what was the cost of R10 million increased to?
He said there was an issue with the supply chain management (SCM). He acknowledged that the Department had taken certain steps to appoint the financial people and also the competent people to address that issue.
He commended the Department for taking immediate steps because that was a concern. Looking under Programme 2, R250 million went to transfers and subsistence. It was other line departments that became responsible for doing the work of the Department. The SCM and SLAs were not in place; the Department was heading for trouble with serious discrepancies. The critical posts had to be filled immediately.
As Ms Esau concluded, Mr Motimele joked that that should be enough questions from him as he had been asking questions for the last 20 minutes.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) said as a Portfolio Committee, Members were not happy about the audit outcome of the Department. The disclaimer was an indication of challenges within the department. It sent a message that military vets were not receiving what was due to them. The Committee expected to get a clear plan on how the department was planning to achieve an unqualified audit outcome.
The Department had requested an extension to submit its 2013/14 annual report after the submission date due to challenges experienced within the department. Were there any measures in place to prevent the re-occurrence of late submission? She asked if DMV had a clear timeline for the filling of all vacant posts.
With the decreased allocation for the training and development from R79 million in 2014/15 to R78.8 million 2015/16; was the budget sufficient for increasing the number of military veterans with access to training and skills development per year to 3 000? The Department did not achieve its target for 2013/14 on the number of military veterans given access to training.
Did the budget of R97.9 million for compensation of employees include all post that had to be filled for 2015/16?
She said the Department had failed to deliver 1000 houses as per 2014 APP. Could the Department unpack and give clarity on this plan going forward?
Mr B Bongo (ANC) agreed with Ms Mnisi that he was unhappy with performance. The Department had to pull up its socks in terms of fast-tracking certain issues. Where was the problem? They presented that there was a disclaimer but what progress had there been since? To achieve an unqualified audit report, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. What was the turnaround strategy and the capacity building thereof? Did the people working in the Department understand the plight of the military veterans?
He said the Department was proud to say it had built two houses but it planned for 3 000. It had now told the Committee it planned to increase its target to 4 000. The Department was playing with the Committee and Members were not there to play; there was serious business to achieve. In the outer years the target was 6000, 7 000. What was the turnaround strategy? As much as there was a Service Level Agreement with the Department of Human Settlements, military veterans could not get more than a 50 square metre house. What were the plans for decent housing? The Committee would be looking at budgets and Members had to be comfortable with what they were considering. Military veterans already qualified for housing if they went to the municipality but they needed decent housing. It was important to improve the lives of military veterans; at a strategic level immediate steps were needed. Military veterans were dying and new military veterans were being bred. At the centre of everything though was the disclaimer.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) sympathised with the Department but added that, that sympathy was not be open ended. Responses the Committee was receiving were that the Department was dependent on certain departments and other agencies and stakeholders. The Department had to get its facts correct on which stakeholder had or had not acted. When the Committee had the other stakeholders in front of it, Members had to have all the facts. Only one side of the story had been heard so once the other side had been heard, could he comment honestly.
Mr L Mbinda (PAC), who was introduced and welcomed as a new committee member by the Chair and Mr Gamede, said it was his first time to speak in Parliament and perhaps the questions he asked would be too detailed. He asked for a breakdown of who was benefiting from the Department’s interventions. Similarly could the Department provide a breakdown of travel and subsistence? In terms of an unqualified audit, was it not too ambitious a target when coming from a disclaimer? The audit outcome would have negative spin-offs in the next audit. He advised that the Department look at capacity and competence of staff to deal with the issues and challenges of the audit.
Mr Motumi said the concerns had been noted specifically with regard to audit outcomes of the 2013/14 financial year. The concerns had also been raised by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). A turnaround strategy had been developed which addressed all the areas identified by the Auditor-General. As part of the strategy there would be a better rollout of benefits for military veterans and there would be more efficient running and administration of the Department. In due course, as the Committee requested, the turnaround strategy would be presented. Parts of the strategy had been presented that day in terms of interventions in the area of finance and supply chain management and so on.
He reiterated that in comparison with the 2012/2013 financial year, the first year the Department was assessed by the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT); there were improvements in 2013/14 and 2014/15. The Department had moved in some areas from red to amber/yellow to green. For example, for the period, just past, in different areas such as strategic management and governance and accountability the Department had been able to move from yellow to green. This was just a point of illustration; he did not want to go into detail.
He said there was a request for a breakdown on the verification of the database. This could be done and could be submitted. A breakdown of who the recipients of the benefits were could also be done and submitted. The integration of the database was a matter that had been raised and the Department was working together with the Department of Defence on this. The issue of the database was an ongoing one; it could never close or stop. There were campaigns and major communication events around the database and on the issue of verification but it was also ongoing. On a daily basis there was some confirmation of whether people were on the database.
The Department would submit the Memorandums of Understanding and the Service Level Agreements. It had done this last year in reply to a parliamentary question but the information would be updated and given to the Committee. There had been further developments. The status of it would also be provided by the MOUs with other departments or other entities. Details about MOUs and SLAs with the municipalities would be given.
He noted the concern that the communication roll-out had been on the table for the past three years. It was ongoing and from time-to-time there were major events which had huge communication implications. It was a permanent priority because the Department needed to communicate with its stakeholders to let them know how to access benefits and services and how to reach the Department. Similarly, there were road shows and other events organised for principals to engage with the stakeholders, the military veterans.
The matter of provincial co-ordinators was being looked at. In particular the Western Cape was being addressed. Honourable Esau’s comment that the office should not be a one-man show with no presence was noted.
There was continuous work being done to refine the human resource figures. The Department did have the information and could provide a detailed breakdown of the entire human resource footprint. A consistency of figures would be ensured in the various documents: the strategic plan, the annual performance plan and the quarterly and annual reports.
The issue of the vacancy rate was being addressed. The gap was being closed and the Department was getting close to 100% on the current post establishment. Until such time as the current post establishment had formally, officially and legally been amended, DMV worked on what it had now. Based on that, it would fulfill its 100% target at the end of the financial year on the target of a post establishment of 169.
Mr Motumi said the fluctuating performance targets would be addressed. The Department had already looked at it and was preparing a different submission that it would make to the Committee. This would be an erratum to what had already been given out in the current strategic plan and the annual performance plan. It would also speak to a decrease or increase in the baseline.
Regarding administrative support to the SA Military Veterans Association, he said it could be made fully visible. There was admin support and expenditure.
The Department also acknowledged the high expenditure for subsistence and travel, how it was planned and where and what the allocation was going towards. What was reflected was a conglomeration of expenditure and subsistence and travel for officials in the department and to a greater degree expenditure towards SAMVA and SAMVA-related activities as well as the military veteran communities. As the errata was looked at, the indications of the performance agreements in terms of the percentages would be amended with the comments that had been made that it was not 100% in the previous financial year but rather 98% or 99%. Steps had been taken against the one senior management service (SMS) member who had not complied.
The Department could share the requested information on the accounts and financial statements once it was scheduled to.
More flesh on the item of the declassification of households and classification in accordance with standards would be fleshed out.
There were already programmes in place for training and development. There were also initiatives to put in place other programmes. The main thrust of skills development was that people should get jobs either as part of their training or immediately after. Where it was a certificate course it was accredited.
A breakdown of the strategic initiatives and what they were would be provided. He conceded that the target was high and may not be achievable. The Department would look at it and perhaps adjust and amend it.
The matter of the exclusion of the SPV had been explained. In the last two to three financial years there was the SPV but there was no movement so the Department decided it was not needed. There were other initiatives.
Full information on the caseload of the Presidential and Anti-Corruption Hotline would be provided. The Department had responded to or dealt with all cases that had been brought to it. There may be one or two that were still on hold but a full status could be provided.
Regarding the Health and Wellness Centre, he said this had been put on the APP two to three financial years before. The Department had been unable to put it in place because of ongoing discussion with the Department of Public Works. When the Department thought they had “cracked it” they had to go back and start again. It was one of the five priority areas in the infrastructure programmes. The first would be established in Gauteng and then in the other provinces.
He noted the comments on the slight improvements within the environment of supply chain management and finance personnel. It was being accelerated and further capacitating those environments which had been critical in ensuring compliance, expenditure flow and that there was no irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The issues raised about the audit outcomes had been talked to in that there was a turnaround strategy.
Mr Motumi said military veterans were receiving what was due to them but not in all areas as indicated in the benefits. They were receiving benefits in terms of healthcare, education for themselves and their dependents, burial support, and training and skills development. The one area that had been flagged as an area void of movement was access to transport.
On its request for an extension to submit the previous annual report; there had not been a conclusion to the auditing of the financials by the Auditor-General. When annual reports were submitted they had to be submitted with the financials. Therefore an extension had to be requested. DMV did not want a recurrence of that and undertook to submit it on time.
On the filling of vacant posts, that had been addressed. He proposed that DMV, subject to the Committee’s agreement, could present each area in detail.
On the matter of housing; Mr Motumi said he was aware that the Members did not want to hear about its dependence on other departments but this was a reality. This financial year the Department was looking at other ways to ensure there was delivery of housing even if the Department had to do it on its own. The budget was there and it was transferred to the provinces. Unfortunately there had not been much movement. There was also a return to the fiscus of some of the money that was for housing. This was not done by the Department.
He said he felt the issues had been fairly addressed and the Department was ready to return and present in more detail on the various issues raised. Perhaps there could also be a workshop.
Mr Motimele said it was clear that the Members were very much affected personally. They had military veterans in their families, homes, as their colleagues and as their dependents. It was a very important department that had to be handled with care. Oversight was not just about compliance, it was also about assisting the Department. On the disclaimer; the Department was not likely to get his sympathy, but it was water under the bridge.
The Committee would also be briefed by the national department and agencies that supported military veterans.
He said Members may have to monitor the spending pattern of the Department for one quarter. If not the entire Committee, then perhaps he would do it himself as Chairperson.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Military Veterans Annual Performance Plan 2015/16 financial year
- Department of Military Veterans Strategic Plan 2015 to 2019
- Vote 19: Department of Military Veterans 2015/16 Budget & Annual Performance Plan Analysis
- Selected Issues of Budget, Strategic Plan & Annual Performance Plan of Department of Military Veterans
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