The Department or Military Veterans (DMV) gave the Committee a presentation on the implementation of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with those national departments and agencies relevant to the delivery of services and benefits to military veterans. The rationale behind the presentation was for the Department to help the Committee understand some of the successes and challenges that it experienced in the implementation of SLAs between the DMV and these entities.
MOUs entered into with the Department of Human Settlements had the benefit of providing housing for military veterans (MVs). Recent pronouncements by the Minister of Human Settlements were that there was going to be an up-scaling of existing projects and the creation of a special programme for the delivery of 5 000 homes to MVs. However, while 5 000 might be a figure worth aspiring to, the DMV had agreed on a more realistic target of 2 000. Making promises to MVs that might be unattainable would be more detrimental than helpful.
Bursaries, internships, workshops and employment opportunities had also been targeted for MVs by various government departments and entities, such as Transnet.
One of the key challenges that the DMV faced was capacity constraints, which it needed to address.
Members wanted to know how many houses would be provided for MVs at the district level. They were concerned that the database for MVs requiring assistance and services had not yet been completed. The completion of this database was necessary in order to provide houses to all deserving MVs, because without the completion of the database, the DMV did not really know who the deserving MVs were. They wanted to know why some MVs were not eligible for houses. They were also worried about the issue of stretching the salary criterion for MVs eligibility to houses from earning below R3 500 a month, to earning up to R15 000 a month.
Mr S Marais (DA) asked if condolences could be sent on behalf of the Committee to the Minister of Defence, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqukula, and her family on the passing of her son.
The Chairperson said that he would ask the Committee Secretary to send these condolences.
Mr Vernon Jacobs, Acting Deputy Director: Department or Military Veterans (DMV) offered an apology for the absence of Mr Thando Mguli, HOD: Human Settlements, Provincial Government of the Western Cape, who was not able to attend the meeting as he was having an operation on his eyes.
Mr Jacobs said that it had been brought to his attention at the previous meeting with the Committee that the staff at the DMV needed to reorder their thoughts on some issues. The presentation focused on an update on progress since the last meeting. It would not cover everything that was contained in the report that the DMV had presented to the Committee, but would rather focus on a few important issues. The Department of Human Settlements had been at the previous meeting and had made a presentation to the Committee, along with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).
Implementation of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Mr Jacobs said the rationale behind the presentation was for the DMV to help the Committee understand some of the successes and challenges that the DMV experienced in the implementation of SLAs between the DMV and the national departments and agencies relevant to the delivery of services and benefits to military veterans (MVs).
Within the social cluster, the DMV had service level agreements and MOUs with the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Basic Education; Higher Education and Training; Human Settlements; Public Works; Rural Development and Land Reform; Social Development; Transport; and Water and Sanitation. Within the economic cluster, the DMV has SLAs and MOUs with the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Economic Development; Energy; Environmental Affairs; Mineral Resources; Science and Technology; Tourism; Transport; and Water and Sanitation.
MOUs entered into with the Department of Human Settlements had the benefit of providing housing for military veterans. The DMV had MOUs and SLAs that had been signed and were in place across seven provinces. Recent pronouncements by the Minister of Human Settlements were that there was going to be an up scaling of existing projects and the creation of a special project for the delivery of 5 000 homes to MVs. However, a more realistic motivation had been put into the picture and it had been agreed that while 5 000 might be a figure worth attaining, 2 000 was a more attainable number. There was an agreement at present that the DMV had a target of 1 900 homes. The DMV had gone to the Eastern Cape and had handed over the first ten houses for MVs. The Department of Human Settlements had established steering committees, and MV housing projects had been elevated to be a special ministerial project to ensure tighter control over the projects and their status going forward.
Mr Jacobs described the pending MOUs with the Department of Transport (DoT), which had presented to the DMV, together with the Public Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA). An MOU with the Department of Transport was being drafted. He and the Acting Director General already had a copy of the draft MOU, and the DMV's legal services were busy with the due diligence process, so the MOU should be concluded in the near future. The key benefit of this MOU would be subsidized public transport for MVs.
The DMV did not yet have a firm written MOU in place with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) but the Committee had been appraised of possible opportunities resulting from the conclusion of this MOU. Many of the employment positions of MVs in PRASA were contract positions, but now MVs were being appointed to permanent positions in PRASA. The DMV had had two meetings with the chairperson of South African Airways (SAA) regarding opportunities for military veterans to become part of the procurement process, and to provide cargo handling for SAA, so there was progress in that regard even though the DMV had not yet concluded an MOU or an SLA with ACSA.
The Castle Control Board (CCB) provides a number of opportunities -- for example, the opportunity for MVs to attend workshops at the Castle. There were three military veterans that were employed as security officers at the Castle, and there was one MV dependent on an internship at the Castle as well. The DMV trusts that similar developments were going to grow in this area. Another positive development with the CCB was the provision of space to accommodate the DMV’s offices. Offices had already been identified at the Castle and the procurement of furniture etc was already under way so that in the near future, the DMV could move its provincial office into the Castle. SLAs and MOUs had also been entered into with the Department of Public Works regarding the provincial offices. The tender process for the provincial offices had closed and the specifications were in place. The DMV trusted that by the beginning of the financial year these offices should be available.
The DMV had an MOU with ARMSCOR that had been signed, which identified opportunities for corporate social investment initiatives in 35 different areas for military veterans. There were also internship opportunities that had been identified. One of the projects that was in place with ARMSCOR was the donation of blankets -- they had donated 4 500 blankets to MVs, distributed at an average of 500 blankets per province. Another product being provided by ARMSCOR was the funding and training of 30 female MVs in construction management under the auspices of the National Home Builders Registration Council. The Department of Military Veterans was funding the transport and accommodation for MVs to attend this training. After completing the training, these MVs would be placed in an incubation programme. So not only was the DMV trying to ensure that military veterans had access to housing, it was also promoting their development in other areas. The Housing Development Agency was also hosting a workshop for MVs to develop them to the first Construction Industry Development Board level, to mentor them and then to release them as self-sustaining persons in the field. ARMSCOR was also assisting with the alienation of disposable assets from the Department of Defence. The correct structure needed to be put in place for that to happen, and ARMSCOR had agreed to assist the DMV with that structure.
Transnet had agreed that they would target bursaries for MVs and at least ten bursaries for MVs were being discussed. They were also assisting the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) by providing funding for SANMVA in that regard. These had not yet translated into completed MOUs, but the legal services of both Transnet and the DMV were busy with the due diligence of those MOUs.
The DMV had been engaging with Denel but had not yet had direct meetings with them, so they had not determined any targets of an MOU or SLA with Denel, or the number of beneficiaries. However, they trusted that the DMV would meet with Denel before the end of December.
One of the key challenges that the DMV faced was capacity constraints which the DMV needed to address. With a view to assisting with the capacity constraints, the DMV had held two workshops where it had discussed its service delivery model, so there was ongoing discussion around the capacity constraints in the DMV to make sure that it followed through on its mandate and monitored the delivery of services to MVs and the effective progress of each of the MOUs.
Mr Jacobs concluded by saying that the presentation had been designed to address issues and feedback from the meeting with the Committee that was held on 10 June, and had focused on the progress made on those issues.
Mr S Esau (DA) said that he had read the document provided to members by the DMV. In the DMV’s latest annual report, it had detailed various MOUs that had not been concluded and were still pending. However, in the document that the DMV had given to the Committee for this meeting, there was no discussion of these pending MOUs and only an update of the previous engagement with the Committee on 10 June. He wanted to know if all of these pending MOUs had been compiled into the most recent report, and if not, when Committee members could have a real comprehensive report detailing all these MOUs. He was aware that there were a number still pending, and that only some had been signed off officially. For example, seven MOUs had been agreed to with the Department of Housing, while two were still pending. He asked what the status was of the two that were still pending. He said that targets regarding housing were problematic as the money that had been brought forward from the previous financial year was not enough to build the number of houses that had been promised. Once again, unrealistic promises had been made to MVs. These were people who had made sacrifices for the country and had been waiting for a long time and were becoming frustrated.
He wanted to know why most MVs did not actually qualify for housing. He asked the DMV to provide the Committee with the number of houses that were going to be supplied to MVs so that it could get a perspective about where this service delivery was going and when it was going to happen, so that when it spoke to MVs, the Committee could be confident about the services that would be delivered to the MVs.
Mr B Nesi (ANC) said that his main worry was isolating MVs from their communities by building their houses separately, alone and apart from the rest of the community. He asked why they were not being integrated into the communities because placing them on their own made MVs a possible target of the ill feelings of the rest of the community. He asked what mechanisms were in place to ensure that the money that was going to the beneficiaries of MVs actually went to them and was not kept by corrupt officials. He gave an example, saying that beneficiaries claimed that they had been given R69 000, but institutions implementing the transfer of this money had gained R41 000.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said that at the beginning of the year, the Committee had been worried that the DMV was not making any progress in providing services and houses for MVs. In the meeting with the DMV on 10 June, the Committee had given the DMV three months to prepare a report for the Committee regarding the progress of SLAs and MOUs. The Committee was then supposed to call the DMV to present to them in October, but due to changes in the Parliamentary calendar this had not been possible. The Committee had therefore decided to call the DMV to present to them in November on the progress they had made thus far with regard to SLAs and MOUs entered into with other agencies so that the Committee could determine whether the DMV was progressing in this regard.
He concluded by saying that he was worried about the eligibility criteria for MVs to qualify for housing. He also wanted to know when the Committee would call the agencies with which the DMV had completed MOUs, to meet with them. He wanted the agencies to meet with the Committee, rather than with the DMV.
Mr P Skosana (ANC) thanked the DMV for the progress report, and said that they were doing their work as mandated. He agreed with Mr Gamede, and said that in order to cover the input made by the different agencies to the delivery of services to the MVs, it was worthwhile that all those agencies come together to present to the Committee so that the Committee could have a holistic approach to service delivery for MVs. However, he urged Members to appreciate the progress report provided by the DMV, as it was quite important in giving the Committee a sense that it was moving forwards, even if the pace of development was slow.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) said that she could see that the DMV had made progress. She asked the Chairperson if the Department could be requested to compile a document detailing all the MOUs and dates when they had been entered into with the various Departments and Entities. She wanted this to be made available to Members so that they could monitor progress. She wanted a breakdown of the number of houses targeted for the different provinces so that Members could do oversight in their constituencies, and were able to monitor progress.
Mr Jacobs asked the Chairperson’s indulgence regarding questions that were beyond the issues of MOUs, and asked if the Department could capture responses to those questions and then to submit them to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that was fine.
Mr Jacobs described the criteria used to decide whether MVs qualified or did not qualify for housing. Any application for housing that the DMV receives was submitted to the Department of Human Settlements, who submit the application to a standardised test which gave an indication of whether the person submitting the application was eligible to receive a house or not. The DHS had a system that did an assessment of eligibility for housing. In the past, this system had excluded applications from households earning more than R3 500 a month. The former Minister of the DHS had agreed that a key would be inserted into this system so that when an MVs application reached that salary threshold, the system would extend the eligibility up to at least R15 000 a month. Despite creating that extension, there had been some MVs who were applying for homes who already had land, and the minute the system picked that up, those people were excluded from eligibility. Despite being eligible for a house, some MVs earned more than R15 000 a month and the system therefore excluded their applications, and at least 7 000 to 8 000 applications were thrown out by the DHS on those grounds.
Mr Jacobs agreed that making promises to MVs that might be unattainable would be more detrimental than helpful. Hence, the decision had been taken that the project should be reality based so that the Department could communicate to MVs what it could do, because the Department did not want to over-promise and under-deliver, which would lead to problems in the future. The DMV would be reporting regularly to the National Steering Committee on a monthly basis on the progress of the houses, to ensure that it could effectively do the job of providing houses to MVs and deliver accordingly.
The Committee had asked the DMV how it budgeted for homes, and whether the budget was based on needs or based on the available money. The DMV had always been advised by the Department of the National Treasury to budget according to how much money they had available to them, so while the need for houses may be a certain number, the amount of money that was available determined that the actual number of houses that were built was a different number. Therefore focusing only on the need for houses created a challenge.
Regarding the areas where homes were being built, down to district level, the DMV said that it would capture this information in writing and provide a written response to the Committee.
In relation to the question of why the DMV builds MVs houses in a cluster, separately from the other homes of community members -- almost in a separate village of their own -- this was partially needs-driven and partially demand-driven in trying to ensure that the DMV provided as many houses as possible. However, in their discussions with the DHS, there had been a strong recognition that these houses needed to be integrated into the community. To do this, the DMV and the DHS had been engaging with different municipalities that had general housing projects and asking how many homes for military veterans could be targeted so that they were not totally separated from the communities that they lived in. This was a complex issue and it was not always possible to avoid building MVs’ homes away from the rest of the community. However, there was always an attempt to build them within the community if possible. Where MVs had their own property, that would be taken into consideration and the DMV would try to make sure that their house was built on their land.
Members had also raised questions regarding timeframes of the MOUs that were not yet in place and were still pending. The DMV was working towards ensuring that by the end of the next financial year, all of those MOUs that were pending would be completed and in place. Some of them could be completed fairly quickly, while others might take up to two months, depending on the terms of reference. He trusted that those MOUs that were currently on the table would be completed by the end of the next financial year. The DMV was already holding discussions about the targets of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and determining how to work at those targets. For example, forecasting ahead, MOUs with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) would create 450 job opportunities for MVs. The DMV was looking at how to create employment opportunities for MVs within its target for employment creation. The MOUs that the DMV entered into were aimed at responding to both the immediate needs of MVs, as well as medium and long term needs.
With regard to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme the DMV said that it would include that in the next discussion that it had with the Committee, as it had not included it in this presentation. He might not have responded completely to Mr Gamede’s question concerning eligibility criteria but the DMV would also capture that in writing in the written responses that it would provide to the Committee.
The DMV had a register of all its MOUs and the beneficiaries that were targeted. This register was constantly updated as new MOUs were completed and the DMV was therefore able to make an updated list of all MOUs available to Members.
Mr Jacobs said he had spoken briefly at the beginning of his presentation about the number of houses that had been targeted per province, but he realised that Members wanted that detail for the district level and promised that it would be factored into their discussions. Members could find some of the breakdown of targets in the different provinces from the previous presentation by the Department of Human Settlements, but the DMV would update it so that Members would be able to compare what had been presented on 10 June against the updated report.
The Chairperson asked the DMV to submit its written responses to questions by Friday 6 November, as that was when the Committee would have its next meeting. He thought that the Committee had done justice to the purpose for which the meeting had been called.
Mr Esau raised the issue of stretching the salary criterion for MVs eligibility to houses from earning below R3 500 a month to earning below R15 000 a month. He asserted that the Department was not discussing the completion of the database, and that this was necessary in order to provide houses to all deserving MVs, because without the completion of the database the DMV did not really know who the deserving MVs were, and was denying them houses without due consideration for those that had still to be verified. He said that the DMV was doing well in the other aspects of its mandate but not in the progress on the database. He urged the DMV to get this job done as quickly as possible, without excuses.
The Chairperson said all Members agreed that the sooner the DMV completed the database the better and that the DMV would need to prioritise this.
He reminded Members that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had distributed a research document to them.
Mr Marais asked if the plans for an oversight visit had been finalised.
The Chairperson replied that Members would be made aware of the details for the visit in time.
The meeting was adjourned
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