Analysis of Department of Defence 2016 Performance Plans and budget: Committee section briefings

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Defence and Military Veterans

20 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee's Content Advisor and Parliamentary Research Unit presented three analyses to the Committee, on the Department of Defence (DOD) budget allocation, the Department of Military Veterans Budget Allocation (DMV) and selected issues arising out of the Annual Performance Plans (APP).

The first analysis noted that in general the Department of Defence faced challenges around the ageing personnel force, insufficient vessels for the anti-piracy operations, many disciplinary and court actions, and a high percentage of cases lost in court. Both the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) and the National Youth Service (NYS) had insufficient people to staff them. The Department had mentioned, but not elaborated upon, an ethics management programme and more detail was needed on this. The point was also made that 22 sub units were needed to patrol the border, but there were only 15 at present. R340 Million had been allocated to cyber security and there was delay in bringing back soldiers from Darfur. The Committee Content Advisor suggested that the Committee would need to ask the DOD to explain the relationship between the Defence Secretariat and Chief of the SANDF, as regards the restructuring plan, and it was also noted that a plan was needed to address disciplinary issues and oversight, to know the state of facilities. There were calls to reduce compensation of employees from 57% to 43% of the budget. The Committee should request more information on the support for the Reserve Forces, who were playing bigger roles in operations. There was reduction of 1 500 flying hours, as well as concerns about non integration of ICT and the role of the State Information Technology Agency. The Content Advisor also pointed out that the targets set in the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) were modest. Medical care given to Military Veterans from the defence force had compounded the challenges. The Department classified information from year to year and there was a new indicator of fatigue that would need to be addressed.

Members noted that the approach of this Committee to questions was quite different to the approach adopted by other committees but the general consensus was that it was positive and suited the circumstances, particularly since this Committee had to be alive to constant developments. It was noted that it would be useful to ask for a special presentation on the budget since the whole restructuring did not make sense. A workshop had been scheduled, so that questions relating to the analysis could be answered.

The analysis and budget overview of the Department of Defence noted the major changes in the programmes which included acquisition services, the impact of the Darfur withdrawal, reductions in the numbers of consultants, increases in the training allocations but reduced targets, increases in medical supplies and reductions in machinery and equipment. There was a slight increase in the budget figures but the net result, after inflation, was a drop of 1.86%. Performance indicators were also outlined, showing a reduction in flying hours, decrease in crime prevention operations, and new focus areas of the defence review, withdrawal of the SANDF from Darfur, border safeguarding and cyber security. Members were concerned about the drop in budget allocation in real terms, and questioned the effectiveness of the machinery and equipment that had been used for external operations. The target for court finalisations was questioned, but the point was made that since the military court was controlled by the Department of Defence, it would have to ensure adequate staffing and ensure that hearings were done more speedily.

The briefing on selected issues around the of 2016/17 APP of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) followed the same format. It was highlighted that in this Department, the priorities included an independent vote, health care and wellness centres. Of great concern were the subsidisation or provisioning of public transport and the incomplete state of the military veterans database. Performance issues highlighted included underspending, compensation of employees, DMV’s strategic risks and measures to limit them, and the results from the management performance assessment tool (MPAT). Key issues to be addressed were the appointment of a Director General, a report on the strategic risks and a realistic target for the MPAT. The Department also identified that it would want to deal with the issue of the separate vote for this Department. Members said the same risks had been identified for the past four years, but felt that the Department was perhaps over ambitious and not realistic in setting targets.

The analysis of the Department of Military Veterans 2016/17 budget allocation. There was a 14.41% overall reduction in budget allocation, but 90% of vacant posts were staffed. Database management decreased by 12.5%, health care support increased by 37%, and one figure on the 85% secured database did not appear to correlate with other information and would need to be questioned. 1 000 veterans had been provided with decent housing. Skills development and provincial offices allocations decreased by 6% and 4% respectively. There were 60 partnerships with private/state companies, 100 veterans' businesses were supported and 200 families had burial support. Members noted that their major concern was that 63% of the database was not verified which meant that the support was not reaching the majority of those entitled to it. Strong questions would be formulated and asked at the upcoming workshop.


Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson said that a strategic review workshop would be held by the end of this term, tentatively set for 19 May, with the NCOP. The Department would be attending the Committee to present its budget in the first week of May and the analyses to be presented today would prepare Members for that session.

Selected issues on the Department of Defence (DOD) 2016/17 Budget and 2016 Annual Performance Plan:  Content Advisor's briefing
Mr Peter Daniels, Content Adviser, Committee Section, Parliament, said he would highlight selected issues of concern from the Department of Defence (DOD) Annual Performance Plan (APP) and budget for the 2016 financial year. Many of the South African National Defence Force  (SANDF or the Force) personnel were ageing and the Department had to rejuvenate the Force. There were new requirement for conducting offensive operations. There was involvement with anti-piracy operations but there were not enough vessels. There were legal advice operations, as a lot of offences were being committed both internally and externally, but  and there were concerns that many of the cases were lost in court and the Committee would need to enquire the reason behind the poor success rate. In addition, court decisions were also not being implemented by the Department. Corrective discipline was crucial as there was a problem in that regard in the Department. It had been suggested that the success of the appeal in a recent case brought against the Minister might “have an effect on the future administration of justice in the Department”. Mr Daniels said that the DOD would have to be asked to explain what it meant by this statement. He noted limited capacity in the Legal Services division for the perfect delivery environment.

Mr Daniels said that another question that needed to be put to the DOD was whether the new leadership development and character building model had replaced the National Youth Service (NYS) plan? Were the numbers sufficient in the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) and NYS programmes – he personally did not think so and suggested that there was probably a need to bolster those programmes. The DOD had been asked to share the idea and reason for the Ethics Management programme, and that should be followed through.

Mr Daniels said that he was worried about the sub-units being deployed under sub outcome 3. Technology could be used for detecting contraband. DOD was doing quite well in this regard, but it was clear that more manpower was needed. There was a need for 22 sub units to patrol the border but DOD currently had only 15.  R340 Million had been allocated to cyber security and a strategy had been developed.

He highlighted the delay in bringing back soldiers from Darfur and asked what the role of the SANDF was in this, as funding had been allocated to that.

He said it was necessary to enquire about the relationship between the Defence Secretariat and Chief of the SANDF, in regard to the restructuring plan. A discipline plan was needed to address some of the disciplinary issues. Oversight was needed on the state of the facilities of the SANDF.

He noted that currently 57% of the SANDF budget went on compensation of employees, with calls to reduce it to 43%. He asked what kind of support was being given to the Defence Reservists, who were now playing bigger roles in operations, and their families. There was a reduction of 1 500 flying hours.

There were continuing challenges of non integration of ICT and concerns about the role of State Information Technology Agency (in giving support to the Department. The targets set in Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) were very modest, and it was notable that the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) was more ambitious and had set higher targets. Military veterans were getting medical care from the SANDF, which compounded the challenges.
The DOD was classifying information from year to year and DOD needed to report on this classified information.

Finally, there was a new indicator of “fatigue” and the DOD should be asked to speak to this, explaining what led to the fatigue, at what level was it, and what would be the role of the internal order in this.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that Mr Daniels was not presenting the budget and the APP. The major discussions on this would be between the Committee and the Department, when it presented. This discussion was only to clarify issues and points raised by Mr Daniels.

Mr S Esau (DA) said the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) had done very well when it had addressed some of the issues. The Committee should seek the opportunity to interrogate its report and and seek further clarity.

Mr S Marais (DA) agreed that DOD should present more information on the court rulings so that the Committee could understand its role.

Mr D Gamede (ANC) said the SCOPA approach was that it was the Chairperson who assigned Members to deal with particular issues.

The Chairperson said the approach of this Committee was more upfront, as all Members were given the liberty to ask questions without being restricted. When time was up, answers were then to be submitted in written form. It was a more open and interactive approach.

Mr B Bongo(ANC) said the approach by this Committee was good, and he would not like to see a situation where Members were restricted to asking questions on one particular issue, nor where Members were allowed to ask their own questions.  He would not be in favour of adopting the same approach that SCOPA used, as there were lots of unintended consequences. That approach could mean that Members had access to answers that were not given by the Department and this could create problem between the two stakeholders. In the event that the Committee was pushed to the wall to get certain information, the further approaches should be done through the Chairperson.

Mr Marais said that SCOPA was dealing with matters from a retroactive perspective, different to this Committee, and he felt that the Committee needed to deal with challenges as they were identified.

The Chairperson agreed that the SCOPA approach would not be workable for this Committee which dealt with issues as they happened, day to day. As Members went through the presentations they would note that there was a need to do some further research into the issues, and this would assist the Committee to be more informed.

Mr Esau said there should a special presentation by the Department, for instance, on how the budget was increased or decreased, as the whole restructuring did not make sense.

The Chairperson said there was a need for a workshop. The questions relating to the presentations by the DOD should be answered, with whatever was not able to be answered at the meeting then reduced to writing. This  was the format that the Committee would follow.

DOD 2016/17 Budget Allocation: Parliamentary Research Unit analysis
Mr Wilhelm Rensburg, Researcher, Parliamentary Research Unit, spoke on the 2016/17 budget and performance overview of the Department of Defence. He highlighted the following points:

Programme 1(Administration): Major increase for acquisition services and increase on consultants
Programme 2 (Force employment): Impact of Darfur withdrawal and increase for contractors
Programme 3 (Landward Defence): Positive reduction  for consultants, increase for strategic direction
Programme 4 (Air Defence): Increase in training allocation but reduced targets, increase in fuel allocation, yet reduced flying hours
Programme 5(Maritime Defence): Increase in maritime combat allocation
Programme 6 (Military Health Support): Increase for medicines supplies
Programme 8 (General Support): Increase for technology development, machinery and equipment as well as computers.

The general budget concerns were reduction in machinery and equipment as well as the major increase in the allocation for operating leases. He highlighted some of the budget figures (see attached presentation for full details) and noted that the percentage change was a decrease of  -1.86%.

He highlighted the 2016/17 performance overview. In Programme 1, the percentage of military court cases finalised was 40%. In Programme 2, some targets were now classified, such as UN Reimbursements. Programme 3 had a reduction in training targets from 3 146 in 2014/15 to 2 214 in 2016. Programme 4 had a target reduction in flying hours to 5 000. The number of sea hours remained at 12 000 under Programme 5. The number of health activities was lowered in programme 6. The Cyber Warfare strategy was to be submitted to JCPS cluster in Programme 7. There was a decrease in crime prevention operations in Programme 8.

General focus areas included the Defence Review, withdrawal of the SANDF from Darfur, border safeguarding and cyber security.

Mr Marais said he was concerned about the decrease of -1.86% in real percentages in the summary of the programmes in 2015/16 and 2016/17.This was double figure inflation. There was a dire need to understand the concerns, issues and challenges of the members of the Defence Force.

Mr Esau asked how effective was the machinery that had been used for external operations. It had been said by the United Nations that those countries that went for external operations had to go with their own machinery and equipment.

Mr Gamede said the perception that 40% target was too low, as regards the number of cases finalised, was wrong. It should be borne in mind that the Department had no control over the courts and should not be seen to be interfering.

The Chairperson said the military court was controlled by the Department of Defence itself. The disciplinary hearings were done internally, and not by the external courts. That was why there were targets that were set. The Department should deal with these matters as quickly as possible. Mr Gamede should understand the target in that context.

Mr Esau said there was an issue about not having more military judges; if that had happened,  more cases could have been dealt with.

The Chairperson said there would be a follow up by the Committee on the appointment of people to interrogate the disciplinary matters. The sooner these cases were finalised the better.

Selected issues from the 2016/17 Budget and 2016 APP of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV): Content Advisor's briefing
Mr Daniels highlighted selected issues from the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) 2016/17 budget and 2016 APP. He said the Executive Authority’s priorities for this year included progressing an independent vote, systems and processes, health care and wellness centres, training, skills development. Matters of considerable concern were the subsidisation or provisioning of public transport and the military veterans database.

Selected performance issues that he suggested should be highlighted and questioned with the DMV were underspending, compensation of employees, how to limit DMV’s strategic risks, and the specific measures that would be taken, selected performance indicators and targets and management performance assessment tool (MPAT). Key issues included the appointment of a Director General,  a report on the strategic risks,  and plans to curtail those risks, and a more realistic target for the MPAT assessments.

Mr Esau said for the past three or four years, the same risks had been identified, particularly pertaining to leadership, the vacancy rate, ICT and personnel. They were merely re-classified as low or high risk from year to year, but the same problems existed. These matters should be addressed so the DMV could have an unqualified report. This was the only Department that was over ambitious and not realistic in setting targets. The DMV started at level 1 in the MPAT assessment targets and they went to level 4. The Minister and Deputy Minister should explain to the Committee why there were such unrealistic targets that had never been achieved in the last five years.

Analysis of the DMV 2016/17 Budget Allocation: Parliamentary Research Unit briefing
Mr Rensburg also spoke on 2016/17 budget and performance of the Department of Military Veterans. He said in Programme 1, there was 14.41% overall reduction in allocation of budget, marginal increase for internal audit and contractors. The targets for performance were noted as 90% vacant posts staffed and 100% performance agreements signed. In programme 2, database management decreased by 12.5% and health care support increased by 37%. Performance included 85% secured database, but he noted that this would need to be questioned as it did not appear to be consistent. Another target was providing 1 000 veterans with decent housing. In programme 3, skills development and provincial offices decreased by 6% and 4% respectively and performance was 60 partnerships with private/state companies, 100 veteran’s businesses were supported and 200 families had burial support.

The Chairperson said these presentations would assist the Committee in the immediate short term. He advised that some of the issues raised by Mr Esau should be raised by the Committee in the strategic review workshop. Whatever the Committee wanted to see happening going forward should be specifically spoken to at the workshop and not be lost during the interaction. The approach should be uniform, in the interest of the SA National Defence Force as a whole.

Mr Esau said the data base completion for Military Veterans was at 37% at the moment and the discussions currently were about dependants. If 63% of database was not verified and only 37% of the veterans were considered for support, the Department would be doing great injustice to them.

The Chairperson replied that these were the issues that should be raised with the Department in the next meeting on 3 May.

The meeting was adjourned.

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