The Portfolio Committee considered its Report on the Defence and Military Veterans Budget. Areas of concern included the reimbursement from the United Nations or African Nations for the peacemaking missions and the recommendation of the approval of the Budget Vote. The Committee suggested that the Budget Vote be adopted and the Members concerns be left for further engagement and also be prioritised with National Treasury. Some members proposed that the Budget Vote not be adopted and some Members stated that not approving the budget vote is going to extremes as the Department is always not having enough budget.
Budget Vote 19 was adopted without amendment. The DA requested that their objection to the approval of the Budget Vote be noted.
Committee Report on Defence and Military Veterans Budget
The Chairperson tabled the document for consideration. He indicated that the Committee would go through the document page-by-page and Members could give their input where necessary.
Mr S Esau (DA) referred to paragraph 1.5 on page 22 and highlighted that the reimbursements from the United Nations or African Union for peace-making missions had to be reviewed as the totals were classified and this had a negative impact on the budget of the Department.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) supported Mr Esau but suggested that the point not be amended but be made a recommendation and be prioritised for a special request with National Treasury. Treasury could explain why it was stated as classified so that the Committee could make an informed decision.
Mr Esau mentioned that costs spent by the country from these reimbursements were specified but the money the Department had to get back was not specified. He suggested that the money that the Department ought to receive must be specified in percentage.
Mr M Booi (ANC) explained that the process of reimbursement funds was a long cycle, which was a problem even for other Departments such as the Department of Home Affairs and International relations. He experienced the problem in SCOPA as the reimbursement funds went to Treasury and no information would be available as to how much the country received as reimbursements.
The Chairperson said the Committee’s biggest concern was the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (SADF) funding the operations (missions), but when Defence was reimbursed the money did not come straight back to Defence but gets lost in Treasury, which disadvantaged the Department.
Mr Booi suggested that the Committee engage with Treasury on Treasury’s availability about the Committees concerns. He had worked with SCOPA in trying to resolve the problem of reimbursement funds that were getting lost in Treasury.
Mr Esau stated that the Committee could always remind Treasury of its responsibility. He suggested that the Committee should take Mr Booi’s explanations about reimbursements as a recommendation to Treasury when the Committee appeals for the Department’s budget increase. The Department was already in financial difficulty and Treasury was disadvantaging the Department further.
The Chairperson suggested that the discussion about reimbursement be continued later for further engagement.
Mr D Maynier (DA) stated that the fundamental problem of the Department was the fact that the Department spent too much money on personnel, little on operational and too much little capital acquisition. On page 26 paragraph 6.1 on recommendation of the Committee on approval of the budget vote, the recommendation was inconsistent with the report that stated that SANDF was under funded to various extents. He proposed the Committee either not support the recommendation on paragraph 6.1 or look at how the budget could be reallocated.
Mr Booi said not approving the budget vote was a big problem. How did the Committee expect the Department to work if the Committee did not give the Department money by not adopting the budget? The Department had to function. He proposed the Budget Vote be adopted, then the Committee should find a solution for the under budget of the department.
Mr Esau stated that there was an issue of being vote specific and budget specific and the latter allowed for objections or concerns to be raised. He understood that the ruling party is in the awkward position of having to oppose its own budget, but the opposition party could oppose and make cases that could be highlighted.
Mr Gamede said all government department budgets were never enough. He proposed that the Committee add that having taken into consideration that the budget was not enough; the Committee support the budget that was allocated to the Department.
Mr Maynier said that recommendation would only massage and not help the fact. If the budget were opposed then NT would be forced to review the budget allocated to the Department. It was wrong to support a budget that was inadequate to support operations of the Department.
Mr Booi said that honourable Maynier was raising a valid point, but the Committee had to recognise that it had not done enough from its side as a team. He proposed that the Committee prioritise in engaging with Treasury about the Committee concerns and the problems Treasury might have which led to the allocation of the said budget.
Mr L Mbinda (PAC) asked for clarity as to how the system worked, as he believed that the budget was before the Committee to be either adopted or not. He was concerned that if the Committee did not approve the budget the Department would not get even the little allocated to it.
Mr Maynier said it was not about parties but it was about Parliament as the Committee was serving on legislation as Members of Parliament and of the legislature. It was the duty of the Committee to stand up and hold Treasury accountable.
Mr Gumede stated that the situation could have been better if the Department was given more to spend and the Committee would have to oppose the budget. The Committee had to acknowledge that the budget was not enough. He proposed that the Committee adopt the budget and then engage with the Treasury regarding its concerns.
The Chairperson said Members all agreed that the Department is under budget and would never have enough, but not approving the Budget Vote was going to extremes and demobilising the Department. Even if the Committee through legislation could force Treasury to review the Department’s budget Treasury would review on availability of resources and might come back with the same conclusion.
Budget Vote 19 was adopted without amendment. Mr Maynier requested that the DA’s objection to the adoption of the budget vote be recorded.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Committee and Joint Standing Committee on Defence have oversight to United Kingdoms and the program was circulated to Members. He suggested it could be formally adopted in a meeting on 14 May 2015. He also informed the Committee that members were invited to the post budget Vote Debate Function and the invitation was being circulated to members.
Mr Maynier informed the Committee that he had replied to the invitation and apologised that he would not be attending due to the caucus of his party.
The Chairperson noted Mr Maynier’s apology. He then wished the Members good luck for the budget debate that was schedule for the coming week.
The meeting was adjourned.
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