The Department of Defence and Military Veterans briefed the Committee on the implementation of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and service level agreements (SLAs), and the challenges that impeded service delivery to military veterans. The Committee was updated on the progress on the implementation of the MOUs and SLAs between the various departments and agencies, provincial governments and municipalities. The overriding request from Members was what it could do to assist the Department in addressing the challenges were that was holding back service delivery.
The Committee heard that the Department wanted to prioritise the key service delivery functions that were derived from the regulations and also answered to the demands of military veterans. In terms of finalising the SLAs, the Department would look first at the provision of housing, transport, healthcare, education, economic empowerment and job creation opportunities. This would be part of the process that had begun to turnaround the Department’s delivery.
Members asked what legislative amendments were required to facilitate service delivery to military veterans; the role the South African Military Veterans Association (SAMVA) played in delivering service to veterans; the indigent policies of municipalities that needed to be addressed for effective service delivery; why few Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) had been approached to assist in the education of veterans; the DMV’s involvement in the provinces; what was happening with the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT); whether military veterans were benefiting fully from the Works Formation; what the situation was with regard to business opportunities for military veterans; what was happening at the Castle Board; if military veterans were included in the R20 million allocated to the Elands Bay project; and what the Department was doing in district municipalities.
Members expressed concern about the housing of military veterans. Houses had been allocated in Blue Downs, but the veterans had rejected this because the area was considered too far away and not familiar to them. Concern was also expressed about education, because some military veterans were abusing the system by using the money for their dependents to go to very expensive private schools. It had been found that the health systems were also being abused because some veterans were in collusion with medical practitioners and would sometimes attend hospital three times a day. The Department expressed its commitment to investigate and address these matters.
The Chairperson said the Department had been asked to concentrate on identifying service providers with whom challenges were being experienced, because the Committee was thinking about contacting them next week for a meeting and further discussions.
Mr Max Ozinsky, Acting Director-General: Department of Military Veterans (DMV), said that the Department welcomed the oversight and assistance provided by this Committee to the Department and other entities, as it would make its task easier. In the process of preparing this presentation, he had learnt a lot about the issues at stake and therefore appreciated the oversight even more. The pressure the Committee put on the Department actually helped it to do its work better. If the Department had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with another entity, there should also be a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to implement that MOU. So the MOU would be the legal document about the partnership. The SLA would be for the particular project under the MOU and should indicate the expectations for that particular project, targets, approach and implementation dates. It would be seen in the presentation that there were a number of MOUs that did not have SLAs.
The Department had had a number of Acting Directors-General (ADGs), of which he was the current one. However, the other ADGs had had other responsibilities. For instance, the Secretary for Defence had been the ADG and then had to run the Defence Force and this Department, so he had not been able to focus in the way that was required. What the Department wanted to do immediately was prioritise the key service delivery functions that were derived from the regulations, and also answered to the demands of military veterans. In terms of finalising the SLAs, the Department would look first at the provision of housing, transport, healthcare, education, economic empowerment and job creation opportunities. This would be part of the process that had begun to turnaround the Department’s delivery and to focus on expenditure. It was just over halfway into the financial year, and the Department did not want to be in same position as last year, where it had returned over 40% of its budget. There were plans to meet with executive management to ensure delivery, and this would incorporate signing of the SLAs.
Department of Defence and Military Veterans: Briefing
Mr Moses Ramphele, Director Planning: DMV, said the aim of the briefing was to provide progress on the implementation of the MOUs and SLAs between the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and the national departments and agencies who had presented their initiatives on the support of Military Veterans. The MOUs entered into with national departments and the MOUs/SLAs entered into with agencies, provincial governments and municipalities were reported on.
Cognisance had to be taken of the following:
- that the Department was in the process of concluding all outstanding SLAs in order to implement the MOUs for the benefit of military veterans; and
- that the Department needed support to ensure the implementation of these partnership agreements.
(see presentation document)
Mr Ozinsky said that the Department appreciated this meeting with the Committee and were keen to build this partnership. This was his third week in the Department and he wanted to stress that even his executive team were new in the Department. It was the decision of the executive authority to first put in place the DDG, and he had been brought in as the Acting DG. So there was a new team in the Department who were trying to implement a new approach to get the Department moving forward.
He expressed his appreciation for the document that the research team had prepared. He wished that the Department had received it last week, as it was very useful and could have informed the Department’s presentation to some extent. Before next week’s meeting, this document would be discussed with his team to enhance its preparedness for the meeting.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) said that at a meeting with the Department, information had come to light that it was having problems with support from other entities, and this situation had not changed. There were delays in procurement from other offices; failure by the Department of Human Settlements to meet the target on housing; a slow rollout was reported for the previous financial year; and the Department of Transport had failed to sign the MOU. Many of these issues were of a recurring nature, and she felt the Department should clearly state the exact nature of these challenges and what the Committee should do to assist them.
The Acting DG replied that in terms of delays in procurement from the department’s side, there might have been those problems in the past, and he knew that at some point some of the officials had raised problems with about them. He was surprised that at a meeting on Saturday, the Treasurer of the SA Military Veterans’ Association (SAMVA) had said that he did not want to hear anything about the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). He did not take that approach, as the Department worked on the basis of the PFMA. Procurement processes could not be used as an excuse. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was on top of this process. What he was aware of was that there were some procurement projects that were in process and had not been finished yet. This was not a problem with policy and the law; this was related to internal processes in the Department, which was trying to get on top of this. With regard to the Department of Transport, he was not sure what the problem was with that MOU, but he would get back to the Committee about it next week.
Ms Mnisi asked if there was any specific kind of legislative amendment required to streamline this intervention required by the Committee, because service delivery was needed for military veterans.
Mr Ozinsky replied that in terms of the legislative amendments, he did not want to comment on this at the moment. Actually, legislative amendments were in the realm of the executive authority, the ministry. He would like to deal with these issues on an administrative government level, and maybe sometime early next year it could be said what the restrictions were in terms of the law. He did not want to blame the law now, when the problem might be with the Department. In terms of the legislative review, there were the beginnings of a process in the Department and the Committee would be kept up to date on the matter.
Mr S Esau (DA) asked for clarification about the actual role of SAMVA (the South African Military Veterans Association) versus the Department. He asked this because some of the arrangements were made by SAMVA, and not by the DMV. Was the SAMVA given some leeway when it came to other entities, besides national line departments?
The Acting DG said he was also raising this issue, because SAMVA could not sign MOUs that were binding on the Department. Only the Department could sign MOUs. He still wanted to have an engagement with SAMVA on this issue. He had hoped that SAMVA would have looked at the issues itself already. The Department would engage the executive of SAMVA on this matter to see where the gaps where.
The Department was busy trying to engage with entities that fell under the Military Veterans Act, so he was talking about the SAMVA Advisory Committee and the Appeals Board. He was in a an advisory meeting yesterday as an ex-officio member, where he had made it very clear that the relationship needed to be sorted out, and what he understood the relationship to be. The Appeals Board was functioning, but there just were not many appeals. However, the other two entities had to engage formally with the Department -- in other words, they could not be part of the Department’s operations. Common agreement was reached yesterday in the advisory committee meeting about that approach. He still had to meet with the SAMVA executive on this matter.
Mr Esau asked about the indigent policies of municipalities which needed to be addressed, because whenever there was a deviation, like with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), problems arose. There were set tariffs that were being paid to workers and when an exception to the rule was made, he needed to know how this affected the parties, because it meant that additional money was spent from the DMV that had to be added. When it was an EPWP project, there was supposed to be a transfer of skills in the short-term contract and that was supposed to lead to further employment, because the person acquired additional skills. One needed to know how that was facilitated.
Mr Vernon Jacobs, Chief Director: DMV, said that Mr Esau’s comment about considering the indigent policies of municipalities was important, because there were spaces where the Department was unable to provide a full service when military veterans had issues with water and lights or arrears. This could happen when there was only one member of the family working, or it might be the children of deceased military veterans, and this also had to be taken into the SLAs to see how to get that kind of assistance where it was needed.
Mr Esau said that very few Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) had been approached. Construction was taking place, but he felt that no liaison was taking place with the construction SETA. Maximum use should be made of government institutions established to further education to assist disadvantaged people.
The Acting DG replied that the issue with the SETAs was very important, and it was understood that resources had to be unlocked from the SETAs to facilitate changes for military veterans. He had had a meeting with the South African Safety and Security Education and Training Authority (SSASETA).
Mr Jacobs said that the Department did have an MOU with SASSETA. There was also a draft SLA with the SSASETA, so the meeting with the Acting DG and the administrator was important. because at a stage a question had been raised about the SETA’s status under administration, so that situation had to be worked through. There was interaction between the DG and the SASSETA, so a positive move had been initiated in terms of working together. The Department was also looking at the other SETAs working jointly with SAMVA. There were approximately 800 military veterans on the Construction SETA, as well as with the Services SETA. The skills development unit had assisted in that particular space and as a result, a number of projects had been put together. This was a SAMVA-initiated project, so there was a relation with those two SETAs and the Department would want to work very closely with them and look at projects there. The Department also had a relationship with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), which had done training for some of the senior military veterans, and to translate this into the construction sector would require a MOU in that particular space.
Mr Jacobs added further that the presentation had mentioned the relationship with the Metal Engineering and Related Services SETA (MERSETA), which was a short-term relationship given that the SETAs were going through some uncertainty during the financial year. Now that the status of the MERSETA had been extended, it had expressed the desire to extend the project so the MOU with them would be revised and a new SLA would be done around the project, with 50 learners. This project was related to the automotive sector. As the Acting DG had said, military veterans came in with skills but did not necessarily have the accompanying educational qualifications, and on this project the veterans would go through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process. This initiative would be extended to other SETAs through an engagement with the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA). There was an engagement with SAQA directly with the National School of Government, looking at the policy on RPL, which was still in the early stages. It had been ascertained that there might not be a need to develop a new policy, and this would give the Department the strength to deal with other SETAs, based on the policy paradigm.
Mr Esau said with regard to the targets for actual houses built and the cost attached to them, the Committee was asking for those figures to be reconciled, as they were not aligned.
The Acting DG replied that the area of housing was one where the Department was asking the Committee for assistance. Basically what had happened in the last financial year was that the Department had transferred R46 million to provincial departments of housing. Of that R46 million, accounting for R38 million was still outstanding from the provincial departments. Their understanding was that this money might have gone back to the National Treasury. He did not think the Department had handled the situation –giving the money to the provincial departments – very well. The whole purpose of giving money was in order to monitor this programme. This pointed to the importance of SLAs in this process, because when money was given with an accompanying MOU, the SLA had to be used to monitor the implementation. If this money had been handled properly, then this money would not have gone back. There has been continued engagement with the Department of Human Settlements (DHS). The Department was moving towards not giving money to provinces any more. Money would be given to the National Department of Human Settlements and would be allocated to specific housing projects, or to specific veterans who had been verified from the DMV’s and DHS’s database, which should confirm their eligibility for this kind of support. Those specific veterans who were verified would then be linked to specific projects, and even to specific erfs (plots of land). This would allow the Department to locate a veteran to a specific erf, and this would also be monitored. He asked the Committee to engage with the DHS at the meeting next week on this matter. He hoped that at the meeting, he would be able to meet with the DG of the DHS so that they could come up with a joint position. He also felt that the provinces should be spoken to, because the DMV really needed the R38 million and he was not sure that the Treasury would give the money back to it.
Mr Esau asked about the Department’s involvement in the provinces, and why the Western Cape was not getting much attention.
The Acting DG replied that as far as engagement with provinces was concerned and the lack of attention in the Western Cape; 80 houses were available in Blue Downs. Some military veterans did not want to go to Blue Downs because it was too far from places they were used to. The Acting DG said he would go there and take the Military Veterans’ Association along to see the houses.
Mr Esau said that the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011 stated that any agency that did work with the Department in the interests of the DMV had to give a report on what had been done for military veterans. He asked whether the reports were received from government departments and agencies that were actually doing work with military veterans. He wanted more information about those figures, because he had heard that certain military veterans had been abusing the system.
The Acting DG said that in terms of Section 6 of the Act, and the need for agencies to provide reports, the Department would come back and report on this.
On the issue of healthcare and wellness, Mr Esau asked for clarity about the 14 666 military veterans that currently had access. When it was said they had access it meant that they had a card and could use the facility if they chose to do so. He wanted to enquire about those figures, because it had come to the attention of the Committee that certain military veterans had been abusing the system. Some of them had been to doctors three times a day and there must have been collusion with those doctors. He asked how many had been to doctors and if there were recurring invoices coming through. The contract with Dr Vasi had come to an end, and some were disallowed from going to day hospitals and day clinics. There had been complaints but nothing had been done for those in rural areas who did not have easy access to public hospitals. Transport issues also impacted on this situation.
The Acting DG said that In terms of health and wellness, Mr Esau was correct about the 14 666 who had been issued with cards and had access, but might not have used the facility. Regarding the abuse of the system, he asked the Committee to give the Department this information so that they could investigate it.
The Acting DG said that the issue of the contract with Zeal Health Innovations was sub judice, in the sense that the Department had indicated to the company that it had legal problems with the contract. He was not going into get into the detail of the problem with the contract at the moment. The Department had severe problems with the supply chain management (SCM) process that had been followed in the awarding of this contract. The matter had been referred the Public Service Commission, which was investigating it. The Department had engaged with a counsel who was providing advice. He was meeting with a Senior Counsel to get a briefing on the status of the situation. The officials of the Department who were involved in the awarding of the contract also had to be dealt with. In a matter of days, news would be forthcoming about this situation. Although there were three main medical facilities, there were others dotted around the country. The Department was dealing with the situation as a matter of urgency
Mr Esau said that with regard to education, some military veterans were also abusing the system by using the money for themselves and their dependents to go to very expensive private schools.
Mr Esau said that the CAT (Centre for Advanced Training), which was with the Department of Defence (DOD), now resided with the DMV. The DMV had said they wanted to use that Centre, and asked if they could be part of it. The Works Formation played a key role in that regard. He asked what was happening with the CAT.
Mr Esau raised the issue about Works Formation as it was well known in the DMV that when people reached their plateau, the suggestion was that those people got into the Works Formation. Some of them had done very good work there. He asked what the relationship between DMV and the Department of Defence (DOD) regarding the Works Formation was. In some cases, it was the people from the DOD who were taken on board, and not the military veterans. He asked what could be done so that the military veterans could rightfully benefit.
Mr Jacobs replied that there was a direct relationship between the Works Formation and the Centre for Advanced Training, because they were one entity. The Centre for Advanced Training had been renamed the Works Regimen School, which had its main centre in Attridgeville and was where a meeting had been held about transferring the centre to the DMV. When the Department had engaged with the Chief of Logistics, he had indicated that the Works Formation and Centre for Training were a key entity of the DMV, and therefore a co-utilisation approach should be looked at. This approach would be discussed further and formalised. There was a draft SLA in place and there were discussions about where the different regimens operated around the country. So the draft SLA needed be integrated into the MOU with the DOD so that it would be an extension of the current MOU, which focussed only on health at the moment. He told Mr Esau that the Works Training School had been visited on a number of occasions.
Mr Esau said that the Elands Bay project, to which about R20 million had been allocated, had to include military veterans. He asked if this was the case, because most of them were from Cape Town and the project was in Hermanus. This was also an EPWP programme, so he asked if the Department could explain how it would work.
Mr Jacobs said the Eland Bay project had identified 14 military veterans, and the remainder were those who had been through verification and were awaiting process. That was the challenge to them, because when the Department engaged with them they had said they were all military veterans (all for one and one for all). The Department would be engaging with the two DDGs, because apparently there were other developments and the project would run until the end of the financial year and they were appointing a new Implementing Agent, but there were things that needed to be cleaned up in that particular space.
Mr Esau said that there were some issues about the situation with business opportunities that needed some more information. Military veterans had to be positioned correctly so that they could benefit from these opportunities.
Mr Jacobs replied that business opportunities would definitely be looked at, and training in this regard was being done by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) with whom the arrangement was that it would be run on their timetable, and there was no transfer of funds between the two. At the moment there was a project in Newcastle funded by SEDA. Close to 600 military veterans were being trained on basic business principles through the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), a small enterprise development agency. Out of this had come one the remaining parts of the deliverables, and that was the issue of the registration of the co-operative. The Department had realised that there was a high dependency on external funding sources, so it was reviewing the approach.
Mr Esau said that the Castle Board had a memorialisation focus, but some of the military veterans were part of the security there as guards. They had been visited because this was just around the corner.
The Acting DG replied that in terms of the Castle Board, there were some issues with the MOU, so the Department had had to adjust it. The Department had also signed an SLA with the Castle Board. This SLA dealt only with one issue, that of memorialisation. It did not deal with the issue of guarding.
Mr Jacobs said that five people had been employed in security at the Castle. One of these people was a Mr Conradie, whose life circumstances and general state of wellness had improved vastly with this employment opportunity.
On the issue of the district municipalities, Mr Esau asked if the Acting DG could indicate if there was a project implementation team that would cater for this. He asked what the nature of the work was that was going to be done, with things like skilling and re-skilling, for example. In a rural or district setting, what opportunities would be offered to military veterans? What was behind all of this, and could this be used as a precedent to address other municipalities? What did the Department want to achieve with skills-based voluntary (SBV) organisations that had been discussed at length before?
Mr Jacobs replied that with regard to municipalities and district municipalities, the head of communications at the Department had had meetings with the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) with regard to engaging at municipal level. The Department had also had a meeting with SALGA in Limpopo and projects had been identified, particularly for the training of military veterans in road rehabilitation. With regard to looking at key projects in all district municipalities, the DMV was engaging where there were set-asides that could benefit military veterans. The Department wanted to engage in particular areas of procurement and training of military veterans so that it suited the requirements on the ground, and that was something that had come up very strongly when the Department engaged in the Polokwane Limpopo meeting with SALGA.
Mr Jacobs added that to look at what was happening in Sedibeng and Ekululeni, it was now taken down to the conclusion of SLAs in those areas. Job opportunities that were in the security cluster, had come up in Ekurhuleni. There were urban marshalls and a number of military veterans employed in the metro police in Ekurhuleni. The DMV concurred that it did have to look at capturing SLAs, so it would hasten to put those down properly. In Sedibeng there were also a few jobs and the Department had been asked to supply a database of military veterans so that they could do set-asides in the procurement space as well. The urgency on the side of the Department was to get the details through the provincial co-ordinators, particularly in Gauteng, and to make sure to get the SLAs concluded and be able to report more constructively to the Portfolio Committee in those particular areas.
Mr Esau said that in discussions with ARMSCOR, they were looking at bursaries and providing training. They had only given out 4 500 blankets. This was not the opportunity that ARMSCOR had spoken to the Committee about. They had spoken about real opportunities within ARMSCOR for military veterans.
Mr Esau asked about the allocation of farms and empowerment.
The Acting DG replied that the allocation of farms and empowerment was an area that needed a lot more work. There was currently an engagement with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). It should be noted that not all farms were in a state of collapse, and there were quite a few success stories which the Committee was welcome to visit, like the one in Phillipi.
Mr Esau said that from the last meeting up to June, he was not happy with the progress of the Department. The Committee should be told where it could help so that it could take action and provide support. The Committee could not wait for another year to hear that the no SLAs had been signed. The Committee had not received any correspondence about what support was needed and how it could provide support.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that when he compared the current report with the previous one, he saw no difference. This for him meant that there was a slow pace of service delivery. The challenges were all still the same. Assessing work and listening to the presentation, it was clear that there was no clear co-ordination in the Department, with the Committee as politicians. So the desired destination could not be reached. The only path forward was that a political solution was needed here, so that the political work could be dealt with. The administration had to be dealt with as administration, then the two could join hands and a clear programme of service delivery could be put in place for this Department. He asked the Department to point out clearly the challenge to signing MOUs between the Department of Military Veterans and other departments.
The Acting DG said that the point was taken, and the Department was trying to tighten up on issues. There was agreement that political solutions were needed in some areas, but it was preferable at this point to deal with the issues administratively. This would allow the Department to deal as best it could with the administration, and allow it to be able to say that by the 31st March it had handled the finances in the best way possible – it had spent the money and could account for it.
Mr Jacobs replied that the area where assistance was needed was in the speeding up of processes by the DPW. To date, offices had been procured in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The contract had been concluded with Public Works in those areas. It was acknowledged that this had been a long process, hence it was there that assistance was needed. The DMV had been procuring furniture and providing human resources for those offices so that services could be provided from them as well. At some stage, there had been a commitment to have procurement in place in all provinces, but there were challenges in the Department of Public Works
The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee had identified 29 agencies, and on 10 June last year had called in a few, like the Department of Human Settlements, the Department of Transport, DMV, ARMSCOR, DENEL, PRASA and the Castle Control Board. The Committee now expected a report from these agencies. It wanted to meet the entities and departments and the DMV next week so that it could be told where and with whom the challenges lay.
The Acting DG said he was planning a tour with the executive management team to go to the various provinces to engage with staff. A detailed report was expected next week about the situation in the provinces. After this report was gone through, it would be tested on the ground. The Department would also engage with SAMVA in the provinces, and also with the military veterans themselves. As per the agreement last week, it would like the Committee to be part of this process. Key to this was to look at the resources available for each of the offices in all nine provinces.
Mr Skosana said that he was happy with programme of action outlined by the Acting DG. The Department had to submit a progress report to make a sure that it worked with the Committee administratively and politically.
Mr Esau said that on the issue of monitoring progress, one of through the quarterly performance reports, which unfortunately had not always been delivered on time, so these needed to be delivered on time.
The Acting DG said that the quarterly performance report was ready, so it would be sent to the Committee.
Mr Esau asked if the tour that the Acting DG was suggesting was part of a roadshow, and whether the Committee could join this venture? The Committee Secretary should be liaised with to assist.
The Acting DG replied that the Committee was welcome on part of the roadshow, as there was a section that only the Department would do.
The Chairperson said the Department had to let the Committee know what assistance it required.
Mr S Marais (DA) asked for more information on the Marine Anti-Poaching programme, in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
The Acting DG replied that he had heard that when veterans had been deployed in the Overberg, the poachers were actually scared. He did not have any reports about veterans getting money from poachers. In his previous portfolio, he had heard that the veterans had actually made a difference in the Gans Baai and Hawston areas. He would check this out further.
Chairperson asked where it was that the Department required assistance. He asked if it was with the Department of Human Settlements mostly, and which departments and agencies should be invited to the meeting on Wednesday.
The Acting DG said that the departments and agencies the Department required assistance from were the Department of Human Settlements, PRASA, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Transport, and the Department of Defence with regard to health care. In terms of provinces, the DMV would appreciate assistance with regard to housing and the Department of Human Settlements in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, North West and the Free State.
He said that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) wanted to meet with the Department on Wednesday. He asked the Committee to speak with them about the other meeting that the Department would have to engage with on that day.
The Chairperson said that the DMV would have to decide if it wanted to to deal with the Department of Human Settlements on the housing question first. The Committee would deal internally with the clash of meetings, and it would talk to SCOPA. The meeting with the DMV and some agencies would still be on Wednesday at 10am until further notice.
The minutes 24 August and 31 August 2016 were adopted without amendments.
The apology of Mr Marais was added in the minutes of 11 October, which were adopted with amendment.
The apologies of Mr Mncwabe and Mr Skosana and the discussion with ARMSCOR was added to the minutes of 12 October, which were adopted with amendments.
The minutes 18 October and 19 October were adopted without amendments.
In the minutes of 26 October, the apology of Mr Skosana was added, and the issue about petty cash was added on page 3. The minutes were adopted with amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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