The Defence Force Service Commission reported that the main challenge was lack of funding in relation to the Defence Review, as well as the limited power of the Commission.
The essence of the Military Ombud’s presentation was to illustrate the institutional independence of the Ombud. The operational challenge was the unfilled post of the Deputy Ombud.
The Department of Defence challenges were in relation to the implementation of the Military Skills Development Systems.
Members of the Committee probed in relation to the vacant post of the Deputy Ombud.
The general consensus was that the Minister and President should be involved to ensure that issues raised were dealt with sufficiently.
Defence Force Service Commission (DFSG)
Professor Edna Van Harte, Chairperson of the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC), said the Commission was inaugurated on 10 October 2013 and mandated in terms of section 62 A - L of the Defence Amendment Act of 2010, which was to make recommendations to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. The Commission’s recommendations would be on an on-going process over a five-year period. She highlighted recommendations such as a new Defence Review. However, the Defence Review was not funded by Parliament and the South African Defence Force was in an accelerated decline because of the unfunded mandate.
The Commission had undertaken benchmark visits to four SADC countries. The Commission endeavoured consultative visits to 30 Military Bases and Units. The conditions of serviced had improved. The Commission had limited power and there was a need to amend the Defence Act of 2002 with the objective of providing more jurisdiction to the Commission.
Mr Siviwe Njikela, Chief Director Operations: Military Ombud, said the crux of the briefing was on the Institutional Independence of the Office of the Military Ombud. As per section 6(4) of the Military Ombud Act the "Ombud must investigate a complaint fairly and expeditiously without fear, favour or prejudice". The latter formed the basis of institutional independence of the office. In relation to the organisational structure a total of 89 posts were approved by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans during June 2012, with a total of 59 posts within Corporate Operations.
On key complaints received by the Ombud, the office received complaints that were largely due to service termination, service benefits and working environment and promotion, demotion and rank review.
He emphasised the Own Initiative analysis where the Ombud would have the capacity to investigate cases thoroughly to ensure the Ombud could make informed decisions. The recommendation of the Ombud was the repositioning of its office as a Schedule 3 A unit as per the Public Finance Management Act. The key challenge was the unfilled post of the Deputy Military Ombud. The Ombud was dependant on the Committee to fulfil its mandate and objectives as envisaged by the Military Ombud Act.
Department of Defence on Military Skills Development Systems Intakes (MSDS)
Major General M Sitshongaye, Chief Director, HR Strategic Direction Policy and Plans: Department of Defence, said the MSDS was developed to be the primary human resource supply for the regular force and reserve force. The department was not, according to the Defence Review of 2015, due to the fact that the impact on the reduction of personnel had not yet been analysed and that an attractive exit mechanism was not yet funded.
The main challenges of the MSDS were the budget of the department not increasing gradually; there was beginning to be a continuous aging workforce; and a need for revitalisation. As a way forward, National Treasury should lift the HR budget ceiling. The department had no intention of increasing the MSDS intake unless the MSDS received funding separately.
Mr T Motlashuping (ANC) referred to the table and noted the that Ombud concentrated only on the vacant post of the Deputy Ombud and disregarded other vacant posts. He asked why the concentration on the Deputy Ombud?
Mr B Bongo (ANC) said this was not the first time the Committee had received such presentations and recommended that the Committee elevate these issues to the President. He supported the view of the recommendation for the Ombud to be a Schedule 3 unit in order to strengthen its Institutional Independence. He had a slightly different view on the Own Initiative analysis, if the Ombud was directly involved in the investigations then the Ombud would have to restructure its position.
Mr S Esau (DA) probed the impact of the Commission in relation to percentage and asked when the Commission would implement the MOU. The Committee had not received any report as to when the Deputy Ombud post would be filled. He asked when the pending cases of the Ombud would be completed.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC) asked about the statement by the Commission that the Defence Review was not funded by Parliament. In addition, she asked the Commission whether there was any priority on appointing women to senior positions; and requested clarity as to the Ombuds Own initiative analysis.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) said it was clear that there were operational challenges. The Committee should escalate the issues to the Political Head.
Mr S Booi (ANC) said the Committee had the responsibility to ensure the success of the institutions.
The Chairperson proposed that the answers should be submitted in writing and concluded that the presentations were clear. However, the key problem was implementation and agreed to the recommendations to pursue the issues with the Minister and the President.
Meeting was adjourned.
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