The Department of Military Veterans presented a briefing on its performance and progress for the first quarter of 2018-19. The targeted spend in the first quarter had been R138m (22%) from the allocation of R627.1m. Actual expenditure had been R93.2m -- a variance of R44.8m. It had achieved none of its five performance targets in administration, and only two of the remaining five targets split between socio-economic support and empowerment and stakeholder management.
Members were particularly concerned at the slow progress in meeting military veterans’ needs for housing, saying the situation was critical, but were told that some of the problems were related to infighting within the South African Military Veterans Association (SAMVA) itself. Members said there were reports of non-compliant businesses doing business with the Department, and this had to be addressed. There seemed to be challenges in making empowerment opportunities available to veterans. Other issues raised included the lack of targets in the quarter for some crucial indicators; the models used to capture and monitor performance; the challenges faced with overcharging on properties by Public Works; the difficulties faced in paying for school fees, and the school preferences of the veterans; and on the yet to be filled vacant senior positions in the Department.
Department of Military Veterans: Performance report
Lt Gen (Ret) D Mgwebi, Acting Director General: Department of Military Veterans (DMV), said the Department’s mandate was to provide national policy and standards on socio-economic support to military veterans and their dependants, including benefits and entitlements to help realise a dignified, unified, empowered and self-sufficient community of military veterans.
The targeted spend in the first quarter had been R138m (22%) from the allocation of R627.1m. Actual expenditure had been R93.2m -- a variance of R44.8m. The cost of employment (CoE) was marginally ahead of budget by 1%, mainly due to the imbalances in the DMV organogram. To overcome the imbalance in structure and to ensure continuous delivery of service had necessitated the utilisation of contractors and interns, and hence the noticeable cost pressure on CoE. Overall spending on goods and services, as well as transfer and subsidies was behind budget, mainly driven by less than expected performance against key benefits such as skills development, compensation for injuries, and social relief of distress. Despite the overall under-spending in the socio-economic support budget, cost pressure on the education support and healthcare support were noted. Slower expenditure on housing continued to exist
Spend vs Budget- Key Benefits
Mr Sibongiseni Ndlovu, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DMV, said the budget for compensation for injuries on military veterans was R5.2 million, but none of it had been spent because there was presently no clinical psychologist in the present structure, but through the intervention of the Director General (DG), one would be provided and there would be expenditure going forward.
Only 4% had been spent on social relief. There were beneficiaries who had exceeded 12 months, and accordingly the money could not be disbursed to them unless they applied again. The Department was busy processing the reapplications and the new applicants’ bank details still needed verification.
Spending on education and healthcare support was on track at 20% and 29% respectively, though a challenge was to be expected due to increased demand.
Housing remains a challenge due to dependencies, but the Department was considering other service delivery methods. There was also an issue on accruals.
Skills development still had a challenge of disbursing the benefits. A strategy was being developed in which the Department was being more proactive instead of having military veterans come to the Department. It had planned to achieve 10 performance target areas over the quarter under review, but had achieved only two.
The Department had planned to achieve five targets, but had achieved none. No target had been set for the percentage representation of women at senior Management service (SMS) level because this would be assessed at the end of the year. Communication strategy activities were not achieved because of capacity constraints. The percentage of cases from the Presidential Hotline resolved on time had shown a deviation of 11.6% because the position had been vacant. The Department was partnering with the state information technology agency (SITA) on a fully integrated benefits management system, and the team working with Department and were reviewing the matter and going live. Other targets missed related to the payment of legitimate invoices within 30 days, where the challenge was the manual systems in the DMV; and the number of liberation struggle history research outputs where the field work had not been completed, because of time constraints and the underestimation of the complexity of the interviews which needed to be conducted in all nine provinces. The field work had been conducted in only three provinces., The percentage representation of persons with disability was to be assessed on an annual basis only.
The Department had planned to achieve two targets, and had achieved one. The total number of military veterans with access to healthcare services had had a deviation of 126 due to the high demand, and an over-achievement had been brought forward from 2017/18 FY, as the target was cumulative. The number of military veterans provided with newly built houses per year would be reported in Q2, Percentage of military veterans who were verified and captured on the National Military Veterans’ Database had a deviation of 54%, which had been due to challenges with manual systems, authentications of applications, absence of senior management to enforce oversight and capture of applications already vetted by junior personnel, since authorisation was at the level of SMS. The total number of bursaries provided for military veterans and their dependants per year had no Q1 target, but a report would be given in Q2.
Empowerment & Stakeholders Management
The Department had planned to achieve three targets, and had achieved one. No target for the number of private sector companies and state of organs in agreements with the DMV had been set, and the report would be given in Q3. There was a deficit of 900 military veterans and their dependents provided with approved funding for skills development programmes, because a backlog of applications was currently being addressed. The number of military veterans’ businesses provided with access to empowerment opportunities had a deviation of 20 because of reduced seasonal demand due to the prioritisation of needs by military veterans. The approval of burial claims paid within 30 days of receipt had a 100% achievement rate. There were no quarterly targets for the number of military veterans’ memorial sites erected per year, and would be reported on in Q4.
Human resource status
There was an approved structure of 169, of which 130 posts were filled. The Department had 121 African employees, 2 Coloureds, 1 Asian and 6 whites. There were also 73 non-permanent employees.
The Chairperson said that the Department was living up to expectations, because the Committee had requested that they do quarterly reports on time, and that was exactly what the Department had done. If the trend was continued, then there would be progress.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) referred to the number of military veterans’ businesses provided with access to empowerment opportunities, and said that this was very critical, so she was not comfortable with the report being provided because they had requested a report on the veterans assisted, and the type of businesses provided. There was no information on the previous developments that had been happening. Could the DMV give an indication whether they had started a skills audit? How far were they if they had started? How many senior managerial positions were vacant, and how many were acting positions, and what was the reason for that? The issue of the advertisement of posts had also been presented at the last meeting, and the one currently presented was scant on details. The Committee needed the details so that progress could be followed. What was the role of provinces in the issue of profiling the military veterans? Why were they not assisting with this information, since they were the closest -- were there any other stakeholders who were assisting in collecting the required information?
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said that three years ago there had been a lot of positions not filled in the Department, and the Committee had asked the DMV to fill them. That had been done except, except for the position of DG. Lately, other positions been advertised for both senior and middle management, so the DMV was taking three steps forward and four steps backward because the positions had been filled and there was a need to move forward. On housing, there had been an issue with delivery of service to the veterans, and there had been no progress. It was an issue he had raised and they had gone several times to meet the veterans personally, but still there were no houses. Companies owned by veterans, have so many military veterans that dealt with the Department were having a problem with the 30 days payment issue, and some were even closing. The CFO had not set quarterly targets for the houses to be build, which was quite strange. It seemed that while military veterans were taken care of well when they were dead, there was no way the DMV could show that it served them when they were living. There were many sites that needed to be erected across the country, but there were no quarterly targets, only three-yearly targets, and this was a major concern.
On the human resource status, where Africans were mostly employed, could this be reconciled with the services which were rendered? Africans veterans needed to received more health and education services. On the issue of education, a policy had to be developed because the Department overspends on this because some veterans take their children to private schools and others to public schools, and there was no policy guide, so there was always a problem with payment of school fees.
Mr G Skosana (ANC) asked what the exact number the DMV wanted to be captured in the military database so that the figure behind the percentages may be known. On the total number of bursaries being provided, there was no target for first quarter, so would this not mean a lot of work for the other quarters? On the number military veterans provided with new houses per year, there was no target for the first quarter, so was this also not overloading the Department for the other quarters? On the number of veterans and their dependents provided with skills, the actual output had been only 10% of the first quarter target, the reason given that there was a backlog of applications. How would the Department achieve the annual target given the great backlog it now had? How would it ensure this backlog was finalsed, because the workload would pile up as the quarters progressed?
Lt Gen Mgwebi replied concerning the business opportunities, where it seemed that they were not meeting the target. The DMV had realised that it was because they were not proactive and needed to find a more efficient model, because some of the veterans would come to them and receive the forms to fill in,and later leave because they did not understand them, and some because they did not feel comfortable. The other challenge was what it meant when they said they would provide people with business opportunities as a Department, as that could be done only when there was an interaction with other stakeholders, involving them in helping people to set up their businesses.
Regarding the skills audit, the Department had started with its skills audit, but they had to look for a service provider.
In terms of key positions that were vacant, the first was that of the DG, where there was an acting DG in place. The second was the Deputy Director General (DDG) for economic support, and that had been advertised. It had been advertised the previous year, but nothing happened so they had looked at the documents and re-advertised it.
On the issue of the provincial offices, it was a challenge in terms of office space, as there were only three offices in three of the nine provinces. In other areas they had cars, and it was an issue of orientation and them knowing what was expected of them, how far they could go and what was it they did. In terms of information required, there were no other stakeholders involved -- they were the only source of information.
Mr Ndlovu added that in respect of offices, the Department had engaged with the provincial governments starting with Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, and in September it would be KwaZulu-Natal. The provinces would discuss with the DMV how they could help -- for example, in terms of health, how best to utilise provincial hospitals rather than an over-reliance on military hospitals, and the use of transport within the provinces. On KZN housing, only one show house could be reported, and the problem was mainly within their stakeholder, the South African Military Veterans’ Association (SAMVA). The Department had transferred around R7 million for housing, and to date there was nothing tangible because of the internal politics within the association. The provincial government had assured the DMV that the money was still safe somewhere to build the houses, but they were still facing challenges in the political sphere -- there was a lot of political interference in providing services in the DMV. On the 30 days payment, the DMV had noted the remark.
Lt Gen Mgwebi said that another challenge alluded to had been the DMV’s ability to come up with performance indicators and target settings. This was particularly relevant when it came to providing housing, because the Department knew full well that these houses would be built on human settlements, where it would have to work with provinces who delivered at different rates, and therefore it became a challenge. In some provinces, there could be a lack of water and electricity, but the Western Cape was doing well, having decided to make a project of two or three houses by the end of September, and had delivered up to about 80 houses. There was therefore a model the DMV was taking from the Western Cape.
The DG said the DMV was trying to assist the veterans while they were still alive in terms of health services and skills development, although the spaces were insufficient. The model and structures were a challenge as well, as the people delivering the services had admitted that they were not doing very well, and were coming to understand where the challenge was. Most of the beneficiaries were from the black community.
Part of the reason for the struggle with the payment of the school fees was that the Treasury required schools to be tax compliant, which some schools were not concerned about, and therefore the school fees could not be paid and the children were chased away.
Some of the DMV’s policy rules and regulations were outdated, and needed to be reviewed and given the gained experience. There was a big drive for the policies to speak to the mandate of the DMV. The DG conceded that the way the Department set targets and the key performance indicators was mind boggling, but going forward they would try to formulate them in an understandable fashion. The same was the case in respect of bursaries and skills issues, and the method of service delivery. They were trying their best to computerize their system and working through the provinces for ease of access and being proactive.
Mr Ndlovu replied that on the rationale of using percentages instead of the actual numbers, saying it was because they wanted to measure the turnaround time -- how quickly they could resolve an issue -- which was not easily captured with an absolute number. However, starting from quarter two they would still keep the percentages but capture the absolute terms in brackets, to enhance reporting.
In terms the 10 700 students, he conceded that they may well be overstretching themselves. However, they already had a base of the current number of approved students, which was 7 702 recorded in the 2017/18 annual report, so this year’s target was intended to show that they targeted to improve to 10 700, which was cumulative over a period and could be measured only once new applications had been received. The application should be open by now, but due to internal challenges this would now be done by September, and therefore this report would be available by Q2.
The Chairperson gave the opportunity for follow up questions.
Mr Gamede appreciated the DMV’s responses, but said that they needed to have a report as a Committee that from 2014 to 2019, this was what had been achieved for military veterans. The other issue was education -- given that the applications were on hold till the next year, what plans were there for the veterans, and how were they communicating with them?
Ms Dambuza said that they accepted the explanations, and did not want to be hard on the acting DG because he had been in office for a short period, and it was his first time before the PC. She was tempted to ask the Chairperson to invited Department of Human Settlements with their provincial Heads again, because they had made a lot of commitments and had not done a lot about service delivery in the provinces, which was why the veterans were suffering. On the issue of provincial offices, she advised the DG to contact the provinces that had started the service delivery to give them office space, because without offices service delivery would be affected. If the DMV had an alternative plan/model for service delivery, it should present the layout of the plan at the next meeting.
She said it was important that the Committee be appraised of the issues raised in the hotline number because there might be issues the Committee was not aware of. They also needed to know the number of calls that come through. She asked for an understanding on programme six and what it entailed -- was it the medical equipment outsourcing, or the doctors, and what was the plan for alleviating the problem? On the issue of SITA, were there any problems that the Committee needed to address with them? Regarding the issue of Public Works, from the Department of Defence (DOD) the Committee knew of an overcharging problem, so had the DMV also had any such challenges, and if so, what was the way forward for solving it?
Mr D van Rooyen (ANC) saidthe second quarter report should be more detailed on the performance gaps, because the Committee deserved a more comprehensive report, especially on the key benefits, because what was happening on the ground was painful. The failure to touch on all the beneficiaries was conspicuous and a mockery of the democratic dispensation, so it would be good to get a more detailed report. It had come to the attention of the Committee that some businesses doing business with the government were not compliant, and while he appreciated that the DMV was fighting some of these businesses, the details were important from a transformation and empowerment point of view, and these did not seem to be there in the annual performance plan. The Committee needed the details of the companies providing services to the DMV and their compliance, because they must not undermine their own legislative position. Another missing detail was stakeholder management, where a lot of money was given to them, and as a public representative the question was whether there was value for money. Where was the monitoring model, because some activities were consuming a lot of money from the Department and being allocated to the stakeholders? How could the Department ensure value for money. because this money may be used for other things aside from the DMV’s objective.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) was concerned about the housing issue, which was really serious because the Members were on the ground with the veterans who were suffering. She recalled the meeting called by the Chairperson of all stakeholders, including Human Settlement, where they were all trying to understand the challenges and blockages, and she was surprised that there was still nothing coming forth. She requested the Chairperson to call another meeting so that could get direct information from the stakeholders, because they had made promises and there was nothing to show for it, and the Committee’s tenure was nearing an end.
The DG responded the achievements since 2014 they would be compiled correctly. Regarding the Hotline, most of the issues were general, but the problem with SITA was that they were also challenged in certain capacities, and this was why the DMV was working with them to try to computerise the applications, but it was taking time. The challenge with health care was that SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) were the ones providing healthcare for DMV, and they had only three hospitals and therefore the veterans had to be transported and accommodated, which made it more expensive.
Mr Ndlovu answered that they had not experienced issues with Public Works overcharging, except for the current contract ending in November for the current headquarters, where the rates were over the market related rates.
The DG said that the DMV would look at the issues raised concerning reporting in the second quarter.
Mr Nlovu noted the remark on the compliance of businesses working with the DMV, because they had not done any analysis of the issue as part of their reporting, but they would compile a report for the Committee on the matter. They would also do a report on how they funded the stakeholders, and would present it to the committee.
Lt Gen Mgwebi said that going forward they would look at their policies, systems and procedures and service delivery models, and thanked the Committee for their input.
The Chairperson said that they needed a full feedback from the stakeholders, not just the Human Settlement Department.
As for the Defence Amendment Bill, the state attorney and the Parliamentary legal advisers would be there the next day for the meeting, and they have applied for a meeting from 12.30 to 1.30 pm.
The Chairperson told the DG that on a management level, he would advise him to professionalize the Department, because he was aware of unanswered calls and a lack of payment of school fees. He needed to instill a work ethic, otherwise the image of the office would be dented daily. He must fill the vacancies, otherwise he would not achieve anything.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.