DIRCO & African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund on their Annual Performance Plan, with Deputy Minister

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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund on their Annual Performance Plans.

In his preliminary remarks, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation pointed out that his colleagues in the Executive had expressed concerns about the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund. There was to be a transition from the Fund to the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA). Members of the Executive had felt the process on assistance provided by the Fund to be too bureaucratic. The process was considered undignified as African countries had to almost ask for assistance cup in hand. It was also felt that the process of offering assistance also needed to be speeded up. The Advisory Committee and the Secretariat of the Fund needed to be more proactive. When a disaster happened in Africa the Advisory Committee and the Secretariat needed to approach the relevant country with assistance. The Advisory Committee and the Secretariat should not wait for the affected country to approach them.

In its presentation, the Department reported that it found itself in a dynamic environment within varying foreign legislative contexts and monetary regimes characterised by fluctuation of main currencies which impacted upon its mandate. The focus of the Annual Performance Plan would amongst others be on strengthening economic and political relations through structured bilateral mechanisms. SA would also use its Chairship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from August 2017 to focus on programs which would expedite the regional integration agenda. The intention was further to implement the African Union Agenda 2063 by bolstering continental prosperity with reduced reliance on international cooperation partners. The Committee was provided with an overview of the DIRCO’s 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The 2017/18 MTEF allocation was R5.9bn. Currency fluctuations did have an impact so the DIRCO needed to do more with less.

On the total budget of the DIRCO the 2016/17 adjusted appropriation totalled R6.8bn. The proposed 2017/18 budget allocation was R6.5bn which too was a reduction. Budget pressures for 2017/18 included containing compensation of employees, the funding of unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure as well as dealing with currency fluctuations. Cost cutting measures being considered included the layoff of locally recruited personnel and the deferment of filling some posts of transferred officials. Based on the budget reduction SA’s Chairship of SADC remained unfunded.

Concerning the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, the Department reported the following:

  • On supporting the holding of democratic elections in identified countries in Africa there was 100% approved disbursement to support democracy and good governance.
  • To contribute towards human resource development there was 100% approved disbursement to support capacity building through identified training programmes.
  • There was also 100% disbursement to support the implementation of socio-economic development and integration projects.
  • On providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to countries that needed it there was 100% approved disbursement as well.

In terms of MTEF allocations the indicative baseline for 2017/18 was R412m. However there was a reduction of R390m which only left an appropriated amount of R22m. There was no cause for concern as the Fund had an accumulated surplus of R1.7bn which would enable it to carry out its mandate.

Members suggested that when the DIRCO arranged public diplomacy programmes in the provinces members of the relevant provinces should be informed about it. In this way members could keep provinces informed on what was happening. The Committee expressed concerns about the role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Given what was happening conflict wise globally there was a need to get to the truth. SA had for years been campaigning for the UNSC to be more open. The burning issue was why the so called super powers should still have the powers of veto. There was an imbalance of power because of it. The Committee had the previous day been briefed by the Department of Energy on the Grand Inga Project which it hoped would be a sustainable source of energy. The DIRCO was asked how stable the Democratic of Congo as a country was. What were the possible minefields in the region that could affect the success of the Project? Members felt that they were not getting enough information on what was happening. Efforts by the DIRCO through its Ubuntu Radio Station and other media platforms were not filtering through to members. Members suggested that schools be used as platforms for public diplomacy. Members were however aware that the DIRCO had budgetary constraints. Members were concerned about South African delegations overloading Cuba with visits. This could have been a contributory factor towards the Committee’s planned trip to Cuba not materialising. Delegations from all three spheres of government were regularly undertaking trips to Cuba. As such the Cuban authorities were overrun. There needed to be better coordination between the three spheres of government and between delegations that planned trips abroad. The one sphere of government was not aware of what the other was doing and hence duplication took place. There should be a streamlining of visits to certain popular destinations. It was common practise for mayors from SA to visit popular destinations too. Because of this practise the NCOP had taken a decision to convene a meeting with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to discuss the matter. Another concern for members was that in some instances members were not even aware of overseas/local functions taking place in their respective provinces. Even though members appreciated efforts of the DIRCO to be financially prudent members were somewhat concerned when the briefing spoke about the laying off of staff. The concerns of members were allayed when the DIRCO explained that the staff to be laid off was host country locals that were employed at SA’s missions abroad. The DIRCO had no intention to retrench South African DIRCO staff. Members expressed huge concern and disappointment about how a convicted drug trafficker, Ms Hazel Francis Ngubeni could have been appointed as SA’s High Commissioner to Singapore. Was SA’s vetting processes flawed? It had been the Singaporean authorities that had picked up on Ms Ngubeni’s drug trafficking conviction. The DIRCO was asked how it intended to prevent such things from recurring. The Committee was concerned about the DIRCO’s budget shortfall. The DIRCO was assured that it had the Committee’s support and that the Committee would assist where it could.
 

Meeting report

Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Llwellyn Landers honoured the meeting with his presence.

The Chairperson at the outset thanked Deputy Minister Landers and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) for the excellent treatment that the Committee had received from its mission in Malaysia and Singapore.

Opening remarks by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation
Deputy Minister Landers appreciated the kind words expressed by the Chairperson and said that it had been a while since he had addressed the Committee. He did not wish to say much as the DIRCO would undertake the briefing itself. He did wish to point out that his colleagues in the Executive had expressed concerns about the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund. There was to be a transition from the Fund to the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA). Members of the Executive had felt the process on assistance provided by the Fund was too bureaucratic. The process was considered undignified as African countries had to almost ask for assistance cup in hand. It was also felt that the process of offering assistance also needed to be speeded up. The Advisory Committee and the Secretariat of the Fund needed to be more proactive. When a disaster happened in Africa, the Advisory Committee and the Secretariat needed to approach the relevant country with assistance. The Advisory Committee and the Secretariat should not wait for the affected country to approach them.


Briefing on by Department of International Relations and Cooperation & African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund on their Annual Performance Plan

Mr Kgabo Mahoai Director General had extended an apology for not being able to attend the meeting. The delegation comprised of amongst others Mr Caiphus Ramashau Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Ms Delores Kotze Chief Director: Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation, Ms Dineo Mathlako Head: African Renaissance Fund Secretariat, Mr J Moroe Director: Office of the Director General and Ambassador Mohammed Dangor.

Mr Ramashau undertook the briefing duly assisted by his colleagues where necessary. The implementation of the 2017/2018 Annual Performance Plan had to be viewed against the performance and operational environments that DIRCO and SA found itself in. From a performance perspective tectonic changes in the global order revealed the uncertainty of the current global landscape which was compounded by sluggish economic growth. Sharp decline in commodity prices had greatly dissuaded investment and adversely impacted upon socio-economic development. On the operational side, DIRCO found itself in a dynamic environment within varying foreign legislative contexts and monetary regimes characterised by fluctuation of main currencies which impacted upon its mandate. The focus of the Annual Performance Plan would amongst others be on strengthening economic and political relations through structured bilateral mechanisms. SA would also use its Chairship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from August 2017 to focus on programmes which would expedite the regional integration agenda. The intention was further to implement the African Union Agenda 2063 by bolstering continental prosperity with reduced reliance on international cooperation partners. The Committee was provided with an overview of the DIRCO’s 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The 2017/18 MTEF allocation was R5.9bn. Currency fluctuations did have an impact so the DIRCO needed to do more with less.

Programme 1: Administration
The 2017/18 target was to reduce the vacancy rate of the DIRCO within the minimum national average of 10%. The vacancy rate at present sat at 9%. The 2017/18 target was also to obtain an unqualified audit report.

Programme 2: International Relations
On strengthening SA’s political, economic and social relations the 2017/18 target was to utilise 30 structured bilateral mechanisms and 40 high level visits in pursuit of the country's national interest particularly the five national priorities and the nine point plan whilst pursuing the interests of the African continent and the global south.

Programme 3: International Cooperation
On global governance with a view to enhance international responsiveness to the needs of developing countries and Africa the target for 2017/18 was for SA to hold 60 positions on identified influential multilateral bodies. On continental and regional cooperation with the idea of consolidating the African Agenda the target for 2017/18 was to pursue Africa’s Vision 2063 through participation in amongst others two African Union and two African Union Peace and Security Council meetings as well as in two Pan African Parliament sessions.

Programme 4: Public Diplomacy & State Protocol and Consular Services
On public diplomacy the 2017/18 target was to implement DIRCO’s Public Diplomacy Strategy by utilising targeted partnerships and platforms. These included 12 media briefings, 120 media statements and12 public participation programmes. On state protocol and consular services the 2017/18 target was to provide the services on request which could include coordination of international conferences and state protocol lounges.

Programme 5: International Transfers
The Committee was provided with insight into the international transfers. For 2016/17 the adjusted appropriation amount totalled R788.4m. The proposed 2017/18 budget allocation totalled R617.8m which was a reduction.

On the total budget of the DIRCO the 2016/17 adjusted appropriation totalled R6.8bn. The proposed 2017/18 budget allocation was R6.5bn which too was a reduction. Budget pressures for 2017/18 included containing compensation of employees, the funding of unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure as well as dealing with currency fluctuations. Cost cutting measures being considered included the layoff of locally recruited personnel and the deferment of filling some posts of transferred officials. Based on the budget reduction SA’s Chairship of SADC remained unfunded.

The second leg of the briefing continued on the Annual Performance Plan of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund. Mr Ramashau provided brief background on the Fund itself and on its governance.

Ms Mathlako undertook the actual briefing which spoke to performance against targets set. On supporting the holding of democratic elections in identified countries in Africa there was 100% approved disbursement to support democracy and good governance. To contribute towards human resource development there was 100% approved disbursement to support capacity building through identified training programmes. There was also 100% disbursement to support the implementation of socio-economic development and integration projects. On providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to countries that needed it there was 100% approved disbursement as well.

In terms of MTEF allocations the indicative baseline for 2017/18 was R412m. However there was a reduction of R390m which only left an appropriated amount of R22m. There was no cause for concern as the Fund had an accumulated surplus of R1.7bn which would enable it to carry out its mandate.

Discussion
The Chairperson suggested that when the DIRCO arranged public diplomacy programmes in the provinces members of the relevant provinces should be informed about it. In this way members could keep provinces informed on what was happening. The Committee had concerns about the role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Given what was happening globally conflict wise the issue was about getting to the truth. SA had for years been campaigning for the UNSC to be more open. The burning issue was why the so-called super powers should still have the powers of veto. On the previous day, Members had been briefed by the Department of Energy on the Grand Inga Project and wished for it to provide sustainable energy. How stable was the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? What possible minefields existed in the region that could affect the success of the Grand Inga Project? In relation to the DIRCO’s Ubuntu Radio Station and its other media, members felt that they were not getting enough information on what was happening. Members were aware that there were budgetary constraints. The Committee had a while back planned a trip to Cuba that did not happen. The problem was that all three spheres of government ie local, provincial and national were overloading Cuba with visits. There needed to be better coordination amongst SA’s three spheres of government. The one sphere was not aware of what the other was doing and hence duplication was taking place. There should be a streamlining of visits to certain popular destinations. Mayors of cities in SA often visited popular countries too. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had made a decision that it would convene a meeting with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to discuss the matter. The visit to Cuba had not happened and in the end members visited Singapore. Whilst the Committee was there the Singaporeans had invited members to a function that was to be held in Sandton, Gauteng. He was from Gauteng but had not known about the function.

Deputy Minister Landers, on the overloading of Cuba and the streamlining of visits, said that dealing with the issue was part of his responsibility. He had visited provinces and had also met with mayors on the issue. He impressed upon both provinces and mayors to coordinate visits. He gave an anecdotal example of how SA’s embassy in Cuba had been overloaded. There was a period when there was one delegation after the other that was visiting Cuba. The staff at the mission were exhausted. South African embassies were not always informed about delegations arriving. The consequence was that host countries started approaching DIRCO about too many delegations from SA arriving in their countries with the same purpose. The host countries asked whether there was communication taking place in SA as many of the delegations had the same aim. It was a problem that needed addressing. He asked that when the NCOP met up with the SALGA the issue be brought up with them. SA needed to streamline and coordinate its visits abroad. Being a former member of Parliament, he was well that members often demanded to go on overseas visits. The fault did not only lie at local government level with mayors visiting countries abroad. The National Assembly and the NCOP were also to blame. Was it really necessary to undertake overseas visits? Information could be obtained via the internet or even libraries. The fact was that SA’s missions were exhausted from hosting delegations from SA. He agreed that DIRCO’s public diplomacy efforts required consultation with provinces. The Director General of the DIRCO could liaise with the Committee over the issue.

Deputy Minister Landers said he was well aware of the risks attached to the Grand Inga Project and that stability in the DRC needed to be ensured. As long as there was instability in the DRC then SA’s investment was at risk. Diplomatic means was used to try to maintain stability. On the UNSC, he stated that President Jacob Zuma at one point in time had asked him if the Ezulwini Consensus was still relevant. He had to date not yet provided an answer to President Zuma. He personally felt that the Ezulwini Consensus was no longer relevant. The five permanent members of the UNSC would never give up their veto rights. In his view, the Ezulwini Consensus was flawed. It was simply adding regions to the UNSC whilst the five permanent members still had veto rights. It was not solving the problem. The right of veto was worsening things. In Syria there was a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Russia and Britain had also come on board. A total of £250bn worth of arms had been sold to Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump had announced a $110bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. These arms were used in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. He asked with all the conflict that was going on where the UNSC was. The UNSC was quiet. Its members wished war to continue so that the arms sales could continue. What was the solution? The question that needed asking was what gave the UNSC its authority. It was something to think about. If the authority of the five permanent members of the UNSC was perhaps taken away then they might be willing to engage in talks. The five permanent members would fight to the death to maintain their veto powers.

Mr Moroe stated that he could not comment on whether Radio Ubuntu was effective. It was however a 24 hour radio station that was broadcast in 45 African countries. The station was launched in 2013. It was the first government radio station in Africa. The station could be accessed via the internet. The station covered many relevant issues like the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. He noted that students in Provinces like the Free State and Limpopo had been engaged on foreign policy education programmes.

Mr B Nthebe (ANC, North West) appreciated the briefing and understood that DIRCO had to implement measures to be fiscally prudent. Job creation was a huge priority for SA so he was concerned when the Department spoke about staff being layed off. Was the DIRCO saying that laying off staff was not the same as retrenchment? When the private sector wished to implement fiscally prudent measures then it was always staff numbers that was cut first. He was concerned that the DIRCO might be following in the same vein. Jobs should be protected at all costs.

Mr Ramashau clarified that the layoffs by DIRCO was locally employed foreign staff at missions. For example Chinese people working at a DIRCO mission in China. DIRCO had discussed the matter with National Treasury. It would not contribute towards unemployment. There was no intention to retrench South African DIRCO staff. DIRCO conformed to National Treasury requirements.

Mr L Magwebu (DA, Eastern Cape) pointed out that in 2016 Ms Hazel Francis Ngubeni was SA’s High Commissioner in Singapore. It came to light that she was a convicted drug trafficker. The Singaporean authorities had picked up on this. If the DIRCO had a process of vetting people how did she manage she get through it. There was after all internal and external vetting. Ms Ngubeni had been employed by South African Airways (SAA) and had been fired due to the drug trafficking conviction in New York, USA. How could the DIRCO prevent such things from recurring? He appreciated the Department’s efforts when it came to public diplomacy and the platforms used but suggested that schools too could be used as a platform. Competitions and debates could be held at schools. He too was concerned about the DIRCO laying off staff as unemployment in SA was already high. He asked what the process on the layoffs was.

Deputy Minister Landers agreed that the debacle with Ms Hazel Francis Ngubeni was a disgrace. He believed that the process of vettng her was flawed. He was convinced that no reference check with the SAA had been done. He pointed out that Ms Ngubeni had only received her vetting certificate three months after taking office. It was the Singaporeans that had done the check and had raised hell. He believed that the matter needed further investigation. He reiterated that it was a huge disgrace to SA.

Mr Ramashau said that DIRCO welcomed the suggestion that schools should be used as platforms for public diplomacy. He noted that China had one message on different platforms. Chinese youth were well versed on Chinese foreign policy.

The Chairperson stated the Committee was concerned about the DIRCO’s budget shortfall. The Committee was perturbed by the DIRCO’s budget cuts. Currency fluctuations were a challenge that continuously affected the DIRCO. SA found itself in a globalised world and still needed to have economic transformation. The DIRCO was assured that it had the Committee’s support and the Committee would assist where it could.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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