Department of Military Veterans on its Jan-Jun 2016/17 performance

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Defence and Military Veterans

07 September 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Military Veterans briefed the Committee on the fourth quarter 2015/16 performance and 1st quarter 2016 performance, indicating the targets and achievements for each of the programmes. Overall, in the fourth quarter the Department was committed to achieving 20 targeted performance indicators ,of which it managed to achieve nine in full, which constituted 45% performance.

In the 1st quarter 2016, the Department spent R91.2 million of the total quarter 1 projected spend of R135.2 million. During quarter 1 there was a rollout of benefits such as social relief of distress (SRD), burial support, housing, health and wellness and education support. The technical team on housing, consisting of both DMV and DHS, was established and the plans were under way to deliver on these benefits. The achievement in this quarter was around 60%.

Members were divided in their views as to whether the DMV was performing adequately. The DA Members were particularly critical, saying that the same issues were being raised several times without being resolved, but other ANC Members said that they recognised the difficulties the DMV faced in its programmes. Members asked questions on the low number of cooperatives established, why EduLoan rather than NSFAS was used for education, the relationship with  ARMSCOR and other stakeholders, the amounts available for burial support for veterans. Members wanted to hear more about the restructuring in the DMV, when this would be finalised, why not all vacancies had been filled, when the Director General would be appointed. They were concerned about an amount of R235 million that was not spent by DMV and asked what had happened to this money. They questioned why compensation had not been paid and the provision of housing. 

Meeting report

Department of Military Veterans on 4th quarter performance 2015 and 1st quarter performance 2016
The Chairperson read an apology from the Minister of Defence.

Ms Nontobelo Mafu, Acting Director General, Department of Military Veterans (DMV) said that Mr Moses Ramphele would be presenting the report on performance, but introduced her colleagues.

The Chairperson was pleased to note that only one of the presenters was in an acting position.

 She noted that she was being asked to introduce her colleagues.  

4th quarter 2015/16 Performance Report
Mr Moses Ramphele, Planning: Department of Defense and Military Veterans (DMV) said that the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011 aimed to provide national policy and standards on economic support to Military Veterans and their dependents, including benefits and entitlements to help a dignified, unified, empowered and self-sufficient community of military veterans.

He provided a summary of the entity's performance in the 4th quarter of the 2015 financial year, reading out each of the performance indicators and giving the percentage of target achieved (see attached presentation for all performance indicators). Overall, in the fourth quarter the Department was committed to achieving 20 targeted performance indicators ,of which it managed to achieve nine in full, which constituted 45% performance.

Under Programme 1 the required documentation was submitted to other relevant entities on time for audits, financial disclosure, and reporting. Training, performance agreements and hotline cases were fully achieved. Only 50% of communication strategies were implemented. Under Programme 2: Socio Economic Support, the targets related to percentage of bona fide military veterans verified in a database, decent housing, access to healthcare services and bursaries provided. Programme 3: Empowerment and Stakeholder Management aimed to get private sector companies and organs of state in partnership with the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and to drive forward training, strategic initiatives and honouring of veterans.

1st quarter 2016/17 performance preliminary report

The programme was planning to achieve five targets during the first quarter, but three targets were achieved, resulting in 60% performance overall.

At the end of the first quarter, the spending was R21.9 million, as opposed to the first quarter projected budget spend of R36.2 billion.

A breakdown of the Programme Performance Indicators (PPI), by each programme, was then given (see attached presentation for full details). Where there was deviation from the targets, this was mentioned in terms of percentages. In Programme 1, the DMV fell short on targets for submission of signed performance agreements, filling of all vacant and funded posts, and paying of invoices within 30 days of receipt.

Under Programme 2: Socio Economic Support, the indicators showed deviations in:

  • PPI 201:  Total Military Veterans with access to healthcare services per year for 1st quarter – target of 14 125 and deviation was 1 201
  • PPI 202: number of military veterans with decent housing per yea, where the target was 250 and deviation was 249
  • PPI 203: Average days taken to register and update personal records of military Veterans on the National Military Veterans database were 90 days and the deviation was 15.6 days
  • PPI 204: Number of bursaries provided for Military Veterans and their dependents per year the target was zero
  • PPI 205: Number of military veterans and their dependents who have provided with counseling and treatment target was 500 and the deviation -150

Under Programme 3: Empowerment and Stakeholder Management, targets were not achieved for the number of private sector companies and organs of state in partnership with the DMV, access to skills and training, cooperatives developed for military veterans, strategic international and regional interventions, and burial support.

Ms N Mnisi (ANC) needed an explanation on signed documents submitted under Programme 1. The Department had only achieved 30% for 2013 and 2014 of the financial year, and also 30% for 2014 and 2015 of the financial year. She also wanted a clear explanation on the issue of public transport for Military Veterans as there had not been any movement for the last three years. She asked whether the Department needed any intervention from the Committee on public transport. In terms of the target for Military Veterans Co-operatives established she noted that 32 out of 40 needed to be registered and asked why that was outsourced.

She indicated that the Department had improved its expenditure, and noted the measures put in place through Edu Loan and ARMSCOR to improve expenditure targets of the Department. However, she was not happy that nothing had been spent under compensation for injuries and she asked if there were plans to improve here. There were also serious problems around burial support for Military Veterans. She asked if there are any plans to solve those problems.

Mr S Esau (DA) said that he wanted to make some general remarks and then move to specifics. The DMV was still under-performing. The Department had been asked to provide the Committee with a report to address shortcomings of the Department but it had not being submitted. The Department had too many generals and too  few soldiers on the ground to do the work. He asked if the change of top managers to a middle class management would impact their salaries, since they were effectively demoted. He commented that the Department was spending 51% of budget for Military Veterans benefits, and he noted that R235 million was not spent. He asked where the money was, and whether it had been returned to National Treasury or rolled over as additional spending for the following year.

Mr Esau commented that it was unacceptable for military veterans to be undermined and reminded the Committee that the DMV had told the Committee that many more people would be receiving benefits.  He asked where those people were, when the majority of military veterans were not registered; this suggested that the very same people who had been getting benefits from the start were benefitting again, at the expense of those who were not registered.

Mr Esau said that  the State Information Technology Agency  had reported to this Committee on the task give to it on data access and use, and was developing systems, but that the DMV had not made any enquiries. SITA could have resolved the issue of registration quickly because it had expertise and resources to do that, but DMV was full of incompetent people who could not drive the data base. He said that there was no excuse for that and database problems needed to be resolved urgently. He told the DMV not to talk about burial support that was extended to families or medical aid that was extended to families because these were beyond projections. He noted that the money for bursaries had increased, but asked where that money was sourced since it was not budgeted for. 

Overall, Mr Esau summarised that he had major concerns about the DMV. The turnaround team was not present. There had been under-spending. He wanted to know what was the progress of appointing a Director General. He commented further that he could not see real passion for changing the life of military veterans from the Department.

Mr Esau then said that he had compared the quarter 1 results to see if there had been any improvement from the previous quarter. He indicated that the only item that was overspent in quarter 1 was bursaries, standing at 91%, but said that it was understandable because the Universities accept bursaries at the beginning of the year. He thought that people in the top positions within the DMV were not capable enough to drive the Department, and the Department needed to have a Director General who will drive everybody to reach the common vision and mission.  

Mr J Skosana (ANC) thanked the presenters, and noted that the DMV was dealing with a number of programmes, each with its own challenges. He would not judge DMV and say it does not perform well or it does not give proper leadership. A positive indicator was that it only had one person now in an Acting position, and that was an achievement. He would not like to single out people because each of the programmes was showing challenges. The Department was making progress, even if there were challenges, but he would like to urge the DMV that it must act to address and arrest them immediately. He noted that the Department needed to deliver more services to the people who needed them. He asked if there were any mechanisms to ensure payment of invoices within 30 days. He noted that the DMV had not been able to hire HR officials because of shortage of office accommodation in various provinces but asked if there were plans to alter that. The administrative heads must ensure that they fulfilled their mandate and that all challenges are addressed.

Mr N Khoza (EFF) said that it was true that the DMV was not where it needed to be, and he said that although there were efforts, they were not sufficient. Throughout all the meetings that the Committee had, the same few issues were raised time and again without any change. Now that the administration had changed he hoped they would listen. The Department seemed to be focusing on the administration, which showed better achievement of targets. The administration was the driver but it was shown that there was a problem there.  The Department must not focus only on putting more people in the administration, but place better focus on monitoring whether they were doing the work. He asked for more detail on the level of the vacancies. He noted that solutions could be found for all problems; the DMV must work on this.

The Chairperson noted other Members' observations that the DMV needed a permanent Director General and said that the Committee must ensure that this happened, since there had to be an accounting officer at the DMV. It was suggested that the DMV must submit the list of all the State Agencies that were slow in signing service level agreements so that the Committee could call in those State Agencies and ask what was their problem ,but the Department should write to the Committee also setting out what efforts it had taken itself to get their signature.  He noted that the DMV was relying on other departments to build the houses for military veterans, but this must stop, and the Committee should take the matter up. He asked about the pros and cons of Edu loan verses NSFAS, as NSFAS could be converted to a bursary to students. He noted that the Committee was generally more satisfied on the position of the staffing, except with the Director General position which must be filled.

The Acting Director General acknowledged the comments that were made by Committee Members. She said that the Department would  address the issues raised. She appreciated that this Committee had to make sure that the DMV delivers on its mandate and all comments were accepted as constructive criticism. In relation to filling the position of Director General, the Department was communicating with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Mr Sibongiseni Ndlovu, Chief Financial Officer, DMV firstly wanted to address the questions around the 0% spending on compensation. The DMV had a challenge in rolling out the benefits but it would address the issue immediately once the signing of the Service Level Agreement with ARMSCOR was concluded, as an implementing agent ,who would be appointing service providers. Because of the dedication issues, the DMV was not able to engage directly with other service providers until that matter was resolved. The Department acknowledged that it had a serious problem with regard to availability of budget for burial support, but there were funds within the programme to cater the shortfall. The back dated date payment related to a travel agent, and DMV had challenges around the way in which the invoices were submitted, but that had been sorted out. Now, when doing the bookings, the invoices were generated immediately instead of submitting the invoices only after 60 days, as it had done before. DMV had formalised the decentralisation of the financial delegations so that the process of submitting and authorisation of the payments was now faster. Previously, there were people who were supposed to authorise the invoices, but were not giving the power to do so.

Mr Ndlovu then spoke to issues of the rollovers. The DMV had underspent an amount of R234 million in 2015 and it took the decision to return that money to National Treasury. When it applied for a budget rollover for this year the application was declined.

Mr Lefeni Make, Deputy Director General, DMV, said that most of the building work that was done was not done by the DMV, but it engaged with the Department of Public Works (DPW). For instance, DPW had approved accommodation in three provinces – Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Gauteng. Speaking to the performance agreements he said that as at 30 June 2016 74% of the SMS members signed their agreement. He assured the Committee that when the Department came back to report again, all agreements would have been signed. Since the Acting positions had been filled, the DMV was embarking on exercises with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). He conceded that the DMV had a weakness in monitoring and evaluation capability but this was being addressed. The DMV had filled most of the posts within the proposed structure in the services delivery branches. However, it had taken a decision not to fill the post merely for the sake of doing so, and it was concerned to appoint only the best.

Dr Alex Mahapa, Deputy Director General: Socio-Economic support, DMV, said that the Committee had raised some valuable issues as guidance. There had been a slight improvement on benefits for military veterans because previously there was lack of leadership and decisive decision-making to ensure that benefits were being received. He indicated that he served was on the central core of the Department that dealt with the dispensing of benefits. The Chairperson was right when suggesting that the DMV must have SMART performance indicators, but the DMV had some problems in meeting targets when it had to depend on outside stakeholders. It had tried very hard to come up with solutions to the challenges, particularly around housing.  The DMV had tried to negotiate with National Treasury to empower military veterans, with the help of their building contractors, to build their own houses, but was told that only the Department of Human Settlements was mandated to deal with housing, and that it must deal with other departments for appointing of contractors. DMV had entered into an agreement with ARMSCOR to shorten the regulatory side and criteria for building houses. The Act did not actually require “building houses” - it said that the DMV should “deliver decent houses”. The DMV had reduced the number of the indicators to ensure that it could deliver the houses that it said it would. DMV had recognised that military veterans did not get benefits from their efforts in the war of liberation, and many houses had been attached when they were retrenched, and the Department therefore was prepared to put in the effort now for the military veterans. Previously, before the DMV was set up, military veterans would only get the 40 square metre RDP houses; now they were getting 50 square metre RDP houses. In the case where they had only old houses, they were renovated to bring them into good repair. In this way, the DMV should be able to achieve without being so dependent on others. The Annual Performance Plan of the DMV would need to be changed to suit the needs of the Department. The Department had blamed other departments in the past when it had not been able to carry out the mandate. He agreed that management at the DMV needed to design a model that would provide benefits for military veterans. The DMV had also tried to secure compensation for those military veterans who had been psychologically affected by the previous system of apartheid, but an agreement it had attempted to secure for services in this regard had gone to litigation. Military Veterans were assessed by a panel of experts before they could be compensated, who had fallen within the body now involved in the court dispute. However, ARMSCOR had its own panel of experts and was assisting. A psychologist had been hired, and all the reports should be able to be finalised when the additional panel members were in place. The litigation would be resolved by the second quarter.

He noted that there was also progress on the issue of the database, which identified who the military veterans were. There were instructions that this list should not be changed, because it had been adopted by Parliament, but there had been some instances of fraud and different organisations, and so the DMV had written letters to indicate who was listed, on databases of the MK and APLA. What was still outstanding was that the TSI must give the Department its certificate of satisfaction.

He commented that the EduLoan was a loan. When DMV was established it did not have systems to facilitate payments to support learners, and so EduLoan was called in to facilitate the payments for period of three months. NSFAS was the government entity that assisted student at higher education level. The Department was transferring funds to NSFAS in line with the number of students under the auspices of the Department, and with NSFAS now based in tertiary institutions, payment was quicker. The DMV was engaging with the Department of Transport, but again the issues arose because it was dependent on outside stakeholders. It was using an American system of giving military veterans cards that would allow them to travel to town or any other location to resolve the matter. He hoped that in the second quarter there would be improvements.

Mr Esau said that  questions still had to be answered about the ministerial turnaround strategy and the post of the Director General. He raised two additional questions regarding the communication strategy and vacancy rate. He said that the communication marketing strategy was not effective enough in reaching military veterans, particularly in rural areas. The Committee had not done road shows as it was mandated to do. He thought that the DMV should be investing at least half of its budget to a communication marketing strategy to inform Military Veterans about the benefits. He was still concerned about a 22% vacancy rate; although the DMV had 237 employees its performance was not convincing.

The Acting Director General said that the DMV would respond in writing on the TSI report, the vacancy for the Director General and the list of agencies on whom the Department depended, within 14 days.

Mr Mahapa said the Minister was dealing with the Director General appointment as a matter of urgency, and he suggested that the Committee should engage on this matter at the Cabinet level. Speaking to military veteran cooperatives, he agreed that not many veterans had established cooperatives and the DMV would have to go in actively to help them build their businesses. DMV was working with the Department of Trade and Industry and other agencies to fast track the processes of the registration. He admitted that communication had not been at an optimal level, and this was a challenge. He indicated that the existing Regulations were limiting the capacity of the Department to fulfill its mandate adequately and therefore the restructuring was under way. The restructuring would ensure that the service delivery model of the Department was being actively pursued at national and provincial levels. Many of the provinces had huge geographical distances which made outreach difficult. The structure as designed did not make the Department accessible from rural areas but it was trying to address that, by having DPSA set up decentralised offices for the DMV. The DMV currently had only six permanent members of the communication staff, who were based in headquarters, and who had to serve 278 municipalities, 9 provinces and also the national space. DMV had trained its provincial coordinators, to add capacity in communication, marketing and media so that they could be the footprints of the Department. However, that was not sustainable since the coordinators had other responsibilities within the Department. In order to make it sustainable the Department would have to increase the budget for communication. It had so far carried out two road shows in seven provinces, where it took the opportunity to register military veterans on the database, advise them about health and education support.  The Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans had accompanied the DMV personnel. Executive issues could then be dealt with on the spot. Veterans appeared to appreciate these road shows, and they were engendering some success.

Mr Ndlovu noted that Mr Esau made an important comment in terms of the head count  and this was a concern shared by management. The DMV had challenges in terms of the ratio of the benefits delivery to head count of the administrative staff. Management had a plan to do a scale audit to make sure that people were place in the right positions. Management would change to ensure that the ratio of the benefits delivery corresponded with the head count of the administrative staff. The Department had engaged with the DPSA to have an appropriate structure.

The Chairperson asked that the written answers be submitted within the next 14 days.

The meeting was adjourned.

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