Defence facilities in Bloemfontein: Defence, Public Works, Health, Treasury on challenges; with Ministers

Standing Committee on Appropriations

04 September 2018
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Standing Committee on Appropriations received briefings from the Departments of Defence, Public Works, Health and National Treasury on the infrastructure refurbishment and maintenance challenges experienced at the Department of Defence facilities in Bloemfontein. The three departmental delegations, accompanied by their Ministers, were tasked with finding a lasting situation to long-standing maintenance issues.

The Department of Defence (DOD) traced the background to the Department of Public Works (DPW) taking over responsibility for the maintenance of government assets. However, while they appreciated the fact that the DPW had the responsibility of maintaining the entire infrastructure of Government, they equally believed that the DOD could maintain its own infrastructure, if this were allowed. As a result, it had established what it called the “Defence Work Formation,” which was a structure within the DOD which was able to do small renovations. It cited historical challenges which the DOD had experienced with projects executed by the DPW, such as poor workmanship due to poor vetting of consultants and, contractors, no immediate remedial action against contractors for poor workmanship, the turnaround time on projects was too long, and it had never put maintenance contracts in place for hospitals and strategic facilities.

The Minister of Public Works said the truth of the matter was that while budgetary issues were an issue, there was very poor capacity in the DPW. 75% of its mandate was focused on construction, property management, leasing on behalf of clients, refurbishments and facilities management. However, 90% of the staff were general clerks, administrators and so on. Not even 10% of staff were built environment or property management specialists, and this had long been a problem of the Department. If one talked about civil engineers, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, cost engineers, architects, qualified project managers – they were not there. There was only one engineer in the whole of Public Works. Corruption and collusion between departmental officials and service providers were the biggest challenges, as they led to subsequent deviations and expansions of the budget.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the strategic challenges of maintenance in the public health sector included ageing infrastructure (average age of 40 years), coupled with the number of people it now had to service, who had previously had little or no access. While the infrastructure asset base of the health departments had grown significantly, the infrastructure budgets had been cut for the last three years when the economy started having problems. This had impacted directly on real sustainable benefits of development, expansion, replacement and maintenance of health infrastructure in the country. It referred to the poor state of military hospitals, and said the DOD should be allowed to take over the maintenance of these facilities, as it had all the capabilities required.

Members’ concerns were focused on the need for a turnaround in the Department of Public Works, saying that it needed to employ the relevant expertise to deal effectively with the refurbishment and maintenance challenges. The Chairperson said both the DPW and DOD needed to sit down and exchange their priority lists, and must include the DOH in that engagement. The situation at the DOD’s facilities had to change drastically.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson said this meeting was a follow up from the oversight visit the Committee had undertaken to the Free State Province to assess the state of the infrastructure build and its maintenance. The aim of the briefings was to assist the Committee to engage with the stakeholders in terms of Section 4 (3) of Money Bills Act, which outlines a clear mandate of the Committee that includes consideration of Section 32 National Treasury quarterly reports, including following the money on expenditure to verify the impact on the value of the money, and to make recommendations where gaps were identified. These recommendations were made to the House so that they could be House resolutions and then be binding on the departments to implement them.

The Chairperson said a number of challenges which required urgent attention from both the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Defence (DOD) had been identified during the oversight visit. The role of the DPW and its capacity to maintain infrastructure and was the main concern. The Committee had therefore decided to call all the affected parties to meet and reflect and find the best way of addressing these challenges. This was about the people the Members were representing, so they should be frank and very realistic about their engagement, and honest when they discussed these issues. Time was not on their side they should come up with recommendations and resolutions that result in a turnaround of this situation.

Department of Defence: Renovation of infrastructure

Ms Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to appear in the presence of the DPW, particularly the Minister of Public Works, because in her view there were certain things the DOD had done to try and assist to unlock some of the challenges arising from the fact that there were certain functions that it was not supposed to be performing, but had become the mandate of the DPW.

It should be remembered that in the past, the Defence Force had had the capacity to do the maintenance of its own properties using its own personnel -- there had been a section of the Department solely responsible for that. Then, post democracy, one department had been created, which had the capacity and skills to deal with some of the things which otherwise the DOD would have wanted to do. It had therefore been invited by the Committee to make a presentation, in particular, on the challenges it was facing with regard to the renovations of 1 Military Hospital.

However, as one moved beyond 1 Military Hospital, one would see more challenges which were as bad as those existing at the hospital. She does not want to attribute these to one department, but it was a collective responsibility to deal with some of the issues relevant to the renovation of 1 Military Hospital.

The renovation of the hospital had started probably 15 years ago. When the DOD had received the report, it had decided that the Secretary of Defence, together with the Director General (DG) of the DPW should meet and draft a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which would be signed by herself and the Minister of Public Works so that at least they could do their own renovations, as it related to some of the urgent projects it had. The Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) was then look into, on the basis of which she and Minister of the DPW, Mr Thulas Nxesi, had signed an agreement which would allow for the two departments to consult on a regular basis to develop a relationship so that they could look at how best they could support one another in respect of the DOD’s infrastructure challenges.

In 2014, another MOA had been signed and processed with the sole intention of transferring endowment properties from the DPW to the DOD. This had not been done just because they had wanted to be in control, but in the main it had to do with the challenges of maintenance of their properties and maintenance of their assets.

Minister Maphisa-Nqakula said they did appreciate the fact that the DPW had the responsibility of maintaining entire infrastructure of Government, but they equally believed that the DOD could maintain its own infrastructure, if this were allowed. As a result, it had established what it called the “Defence Work Formation,” which was a structure within the DOD which was able to do small renovations. Of course, they had taken into account the fact that they did not have the budget to do the things they envisaged to do in terms of their infrastructure maintenance, because that budget was currently located within the DPW. It was also cognisant of the fact that the DPW did have the capacity and skills to deal with some of these matters, but they continued to have challenges of infrastructure maintenance.

Brig Gen Siphiwe Sangweni, Military Secretary to the Defense Minister, said that in terms of the process followed to manage projects executed by the DPW, the Defence Works Capability undertook a yearly planning process of updating the User Asset Management Plan (UAMP). The UAMP was a planning document which was informed by the inputs from services/divisions in accordance with their force support, preparation and employment facility requirements for the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF). Services/divisions were required to submit a Certificate of Essentiality (COE) to the Defence Works Formation (DWF) for facilities which needed to be either refurbished, demolished, constructed or leased, in order of priority. Ordinarily projects registered with DPW were of the magnitude which took a minimum of 24 months to complete. To control the projects, the DWF used stages to determine whether there was progress or not. Once it realised that the project was not progressing from one stage to another, it would lodge a formal complaint at the established forums, up to the Director General (DG) level.

He would not go into details in terms of the priority projects under execution by the DPW, nor the planned maintenance in the Free State Province. Members could refer to the report in this regard.

There were historical challenges which the DOD had experienced with projects executed by the DPW which had necessitated an intervention by the Secretary of Defense and the DG of the DPW. These included:

  • In identified circumstances, the appointment of consultants and contractors by the DPW had led to poor workmanship (poor vetting of consultants/contractors).
  • No immediate remedial action against contractors for poor workmanship.
  • Turnaround time on projects was too long.
  • At the time, the DPW had not responded to DOD’s request to allow it to execute projects on GIAMA property.
  • The DPW never put maintenance contracts in place for hospitals and strategic facilities.

 

Brig Gen Sangweni said that accommodation charges was a devolved budget from National Treasury. Annually, the DPW was being given up to R1 billion. The DPW had to use this budget to fund the day-to-day maintenance, planned maintenance and rates and taxes for the DOD. The DPW had annually underperformed on the planned maintenance programme, notwithstanding the budget which was prepaid quarterly.

With regard to the remedial action on 13 April 2017, the Secretary of Defence had met the DG of the DPW to advise on the above-mentioned frustrations. This had result in the establishment of a strategic management task team led by Maj Gen M J Ledwaba (DOD) and Mr S M Thobakgale, DPW (now Mr Maroga), which would oversee and report progress to the two DGs. Since then, the joint task teams meetings were taking place regularly. Cooperation and liaison between the two departments had improved. The DPW had allowed the DOD to work on GIAMA properties. To date the DWF had carried out 100 projects in the Free State Province.

The DPW and DOD had agreed on the following with regard to accommodation charges:

  • The DPW would make visible what planned maintenance programme they were going to undertake for the MTEF in order to allow the DWF to monitor progress.
  • The DWF would continue to carry out some of the projects in order to assist with the reduction of the backlog.
  • The DPW had agreed to improve the vetting of consultants and to act swiftly on defaulting contractors.
  • DPW and DOD had agreed that the hospitals and other strategic facilities like high security fences must be refurbished and have a maintenance contract in place.

 

Discussion

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said he had observed that there were serious maintenance issues with the DPW, and was wondering whether it was perhaps due to the fact that the DPW had no capacity whatsoever, because all of the work was outsourced, and they would always be at the mercy of service providers. If the Government wanted to capacitate itself, it only took political will to do so. The tender process always offered opportunities for corruption, and the ANC government had a good history when it came to corruption, but had a poor history when it came to maintenance.

The Chairperson interjected, saying that they should focus on the work before them and try to find solutions.

Mr Paulsen said he was giving a solution in terms of the government building capacity to undertake maintenance within the department, and not to outsource that capacity. That was his proposal.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) referred to the registration of maintenance projects dating back to 2014 and 2015, and said now it was 2018 and it seemed very little work had been done. He asked whether the DPW and DOD did have maintenance plans, budgets and the implementation capacity, because it seemed those three matters were the ones that were causing problems.

He commented that certain parts of the report referred to maintenance that was required on property, and then it was reported that designs were being done. He asked why designs would hold back maintenance, because designs would indicate that they were starting construction from scratch. What were they designing on maintenance so that they delayed maintenance work to be done on an existing property? What did this maintenance project mean in terms of cost overruns, since the project had been delayed from 2014 until now? Costs increased all the time, and the lack of maintenance would cause further damage.

Mr Gcwabaza said the reason this Committee felt the Minister of Health and his Department should be present at this meeting was that hospital construction was involved here, and from what they had seen and heard it was difficult to understand why a military hospital would be constructed without the direct involvement of the Department of Health (DOH), which would know and understand the design of hospital facilities and ward designs. He asked whether the DPW and DOD Ministers communicated between themselves and got the Minister of Health involved, because the DOH would know better what hospital wards’ designs should look like, so as to help them with such designs. Otherwise, it was money badly spent, and it was the money factor that the Committee was worried about, as well as the health factor.

Ms D Senokoanyane (ANC) said the Minister had made it easier for the Committee when she said in her opening remarks that the DOD had the capacity to do its own maintenance, because that had been the massage they got when they visited the Bloemfontein defence facilities. It seemed the DPW was the biggest culprit, and it was the one thing Members were asking themselves -- whether the DPW did have the capacity. However, they would listen to the DPW when they spoke.

Ms Senokoanyane asked what the DOD had meant when it had referred to the evaluation stage, where the contractor’s price was higher than the projected estimate, because her understanding was that the tender would go out and contractors would be selected. Who was supposed to monitor the construction of the 3 Military Hospital, where buildings were in a dilapidated state and there was underperformance in this regard? Generally, there were so many negatives in the construction of those hospitals in terms of poor design, poor roofing, poor management of projects and beds unable to fit into wards, etc. What could be done to counter such problems?

Ms M Manana (ANC) said the report received with regard to 3 Military Hospital had been so depressing that the Committee had taken a decision that the Minister of Health must be present in these meetings to hear what was happening there. They wished the Minister of Health could go to the hospital and see the horrible things that were happening there. The nurses were complaining about the corridor that linked the maternity ward and the prime ward not being level, and that there was nothing they could do. She appealed that the DOH needed to be involved in the design of the hospital so that the DPW could not just do as it wished. That was why the Minister of Health needed to be at this meeting and also visit that hospital, so that he could see that if a stretcher could not be moved in a corridor from theatre to a ward, then it was a big problem. Who had designed this? What had the consequences of this been? Money had been spent without any consequence management.

Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) said he could hear Members talking about the involvement of the DOH, and that maybe would be a lack of understanding, as here they were talking about the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which had its own medical division comprising of professionals who understood exactly what they expected in terms of the standards of health delivery and all that.

Referring to the MOAs between the two departments, he asked whether the people who were doing maintenance work in the DOD were vetted in terms of the national security of the country so that they did not get a repetition of what had happened at Nkandla, where the same DPW had used an un-vetted architect to do work at the home of the then President Zuma.

He asked who would have breached that MOA in terms of service delivery if the DPW said it had finished the hospital and handed it over to the DOD, yet there were some defects that the Members had pointed out. What were the consequences of that, and what had been done to deal with those consequences? Who had actually deviated from the standards?

He said that the DOD had all the expertise it required at its disposal, and they had capability as an army. He asked if there was not a way where the DOD could manage its own infrastructure responsibility without relying on the incapable DPW. In fact, the DPW was not only holding back the DOD, but also the South African Police Service (SAPS) in respect of infrastructure build and maintenance, because of this demon of consumerism and corruption.

Mr B Martins (ANC) said he recalled there was a time when the DPW had had the entire responsibility for the maintenance of departments, but at a later stage a portion of the budget had been devolved from the DPW to the respective departments. He asked the Minister of Public Works if there was a way where it could be clearly determined that each and every department that had received such a portion of the budget did indeed utilise it for maintenance, and for that purpose solely.

The Chairperson said the presentation had not represented what Members had seen at 3 Military Hospital in the Free State. There was absolutely no capacity in the DPW, because what they had seen there was absolutely horrible. Minister Nxesi needed to visit that facility so that he could see for himself what was going on there. He should not listen to his officials, but go there himself to look at the refurbishment of doors, the maternity wards, as well the married quarters. It was terrible and something needed to happen urgently. How had they allowed a situation like that to happen? Where was the budget, because if there was a budget and capacity, why had that situation happened?

Department of Public Works: Ministers response

Minister of Public Works, Mr Thulas Nxesi, said that this might sound like a joke, but Health Minister Motsoaledi was having a problem with his headquarters, and workers were refusing to work in the building. The technical people who had made an assessment at the building had said the nature of the poor assessment was like buying a 7 series BMW, and then having its first service being given to a bush mechanic. That was how the Committee had described that situation at 3 Military Hospital, but it was not only happening there, it was happening at a number of facilities.

The truth of the matter was that while budgetary issues were one issue, there was very poor capacity in the DPW. 75% of the mandate of the DPW was focused on construction, property management, leasing on behalf of clients, refurbishments and facilities management and so on. However, 90% of the staff were general clerks, administrators and so on. Not even 10% of staff were built environment or property management specialists, and this had long been a problem of the Department. If one talked about civil engineers, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, cost engineers, architects, qualified project managers – they were not there. There was only one engineer in the whole of Public Works. Most of those who had been were trained in public works had been very efficient in the old dispensation, but they had been allowed to leave and form companies, and then come to do business with Public Works. They became private service providers to the government. The question he had asked himself before he joined the DPW was why Defence was allowed to be under Public Works when it had all the skills and capacity. He had been given different answers to that question.

Minister Nxesi said the issue they needed to deal with was that of the budget dilemma, where there was tension between the centralised custodianship and the decentralised budget authority, which was the biggest tension. Minister Maphisa-Nqakula had made a mistake, because all along before 2006, the maintenance budget had been with the DPW, and since 2006 it had been allocated to different departments, except for the government-owned properties. However, for the maintenance for the majority of properties, that budget was taken out of Public Works for different departments. It was something they needed to check with the National Treasury.

They could leave the budget issues, because the money would never be enough. Part of the problems the DPW was sitting with in its projects was the deliberate over-pricing, because even with their model or their strategy on how they dealt with properties, they did the designs separately through consultants. Then, after they had finished, another consultant would join the queue in order to pitch, because they were all in the built environment. Some of them understood that people who got the tenders were the ones with the lowest bid, but they also already knew where they could make money – and this was through arguing for variations and deviations. Over-pricing went with deviations and variations as a result of the lack of skills. How could a mere administrator challenge an engineer or a quantity surveyor as a service provider? So the administrator would end up agreeing to everything. In order to monitor these service providers, the government also needed technical people who understood what was going on, and it had to be ready to pay these technical people.

Another factor that was contributing to this problem was corruption and collusion by syndicates who operated inside and outside his Department. Was the issue of capacity essential just for monitoring service providers, or should the DPW be talking about capacity in order to take things over and do them by themselves?  The fact of the matter was that they could not do that, because there were the large projects which they had to give to the private sector to do, although some projects could be done internally and the DPW would need that particular capacity. Therefore, the issue of capacity and skills, systems and processes were very central. This was why they were experiencing this shoddy and poor workmanship, overpricing, deviations and lot of variations, leading to the fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Minister Nxesi said there was a debate between his Department and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) about properties which were located outside the country. DIRCO had to reach all over the world, but the DPW had no reach to maintain those properties that were outside the country. They had therefore been debating transferring those properties to DIRCO -- but on one condition, which was the same condition they would put to the DOD. The condition was that when the DPW, as custodians of GIAMA, transferred those properties they wanted to make sure that it was done in terms of GIAMA. So that debate was where they could meet, put together a technical committee and come up with proposals, because he had raised this issue long ago.

Members were correct to say there was no consequence management in the Department. Some of the officials behave as if they are politicians -- as if they are protected. Their disciplinary processes take too long, as Members would know, because the law allows them to postpone disciplinary hearings several times and they are able to appeal up to the labour court. In that long disciplinary process, the Department could not appoint anybody to fill the vacancy, but rather put a temporary or acting person in to fill the gap.

Minister Nxesi proposed that the Ministers of the DPW and DOD consider a special investigation into how the same company had got to do this huge work at the hospital, because in 2012 he had refused to hire that company again, and there had been issues about that company, which was currently liquidated.

The DPW had discussed what they called a “short term strategy” to deal with these crisis areas. They had discussed and taken a decision to appeal to the professional councils -- the architects, engineers, and so on. The Department would be meeting with them next week to second people to the main body of the DPW, because the major issue was about skills. It was a matter they would also discuss with National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), because they did not just second personnel. They would stop all the other appointments which did not matter in the current crisis they were in, and focus on the built environment.

Discussion

The Chairperson said what the Committee wanted to hear was what needed to be done and the possibility of transferring the maintenance budget to the DOD, because it had already been stated that the DOD had the capacity and skills. The DOD had to come with a maintenance plan that would talk to short, medium and long term plans. The National Treasury must tell them where the budget was because what they had been told was that the maintenance budget was with the DPW.

Mr George Tembo, Director: National Treasury, said he could confirm that budgets were indeed devolved to client departments. When a department consumed a service, that department should have planned for that service and should also have budgeted for it, which was a requirement of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). It therefore made a lot of sense that budgets would move to departments for consumption in terms of water, electricity and other services.

Regarding where maintenance budgets were located, they were located both in the DPW and in the boards of client departments. Client departments were allowed, in terms of DPW policy, to carry out some of the maintenance work. The whole concept of the Defence Works Formation focused again on the idea that the DOD should be able to do its own maintenance. R300m per year was given to the DWF for the DOD to do some maintenance work, but the DPW had the rest of the maintenance budget. The DPW accessed the maintenance budget through the accommodation charges which it levied client departments. It took a component of the accommodation charges to use for the maintenance of the facilities of the building.

Mr Shaik Emam (NFP) said there seemed to be a serious challenge in respect of the DPW having to maintain and lease government buildings. He asked whether it was not the right time to look and amend the legislation so that they could allow departments to do their own maintenance outside of the DPW, because Public Works had a serious challenge in this regard.  

Minister Nxesi said it was a general problem when they talked about maintenance, although he did not know how much it applied to the DOD, where the DPW had a huge bill with regard to departments not paying, and the amount involved was running into billions of rands.

The Chairperson said that that problem should be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works to look at it, and find ways of addressing it. And also National Treasury should come and assist so as to resolve this problem.

Ms Onke Mjo, Advisor to the Minister: DPW, said there was a failure of maintenance strategy in some of the key facilities that they had, where these facilities required a turn-key all inclusive maintenance strategy, but this had been divided up into segments, which was Members had seen what they had at the military hospitals.  All these facilities must have a turn-key all inclusive maintenance strategy. To resolve the issues, the DPW had to sit with their defence colleagues to fast-track this strategy for 3 Military Hospital, because they could not do it in bits and pieces.

The Chairperson said the problem was not with the 3 Military Hospital only, but also with the air force base and the military base -- the problem was all over. The situation out there was very dilapidated facilities, and was depressing. Therefore, both the DPW and DOD needed to sit down and exchange their priority lists, and must include the DOH in that engagement. The situation at those defence facilities had to change drastically.

Brig Gen Sangweni referred to the budgets, and said they had been building capacity within the DOD and the DWF. They had come across challenges in terms of the budget -- for instance, they wanted to have their own quantity surveyors, technicians and so on, so while they were budgeting for the salaries, nothing much remained now for them to do their own actual work of maintenance.

With regard to what National Treasury had said, the DOD gave R1.08bn to the DPW for planned maintenance every year. However, when they came to the end of March 2018, as Minister Nxesi had already alluded to, because of the limited capacity in the DPW, there was R1.9bn under-spent on maintenance. This had accumulated over four years, not just one year, and this was ongoing each year. However, every year they transferred R1.08bn to the DPW for the maintenance of their facilities.

The Chairperson said Mr Tembo had not told them about this, but he was too quick to say there was a budget and was smiling about it, and did not take them seriously.

DODs response

Minister Maphisa-Nqakula said she welcomed the discussion on this matter, and indeed they needed more time to engage on this issue. The truth of the matter was that as government representatives and officials, the manner in which they approached these problem should not be about who had done what and how they had done it. It should be about finding a solution. She had made this observation because they were trying to find a solution for the whole of government, not only the DOD. She had seen this same situation when she was in Correctional Services, where facilities were also in a dilapidated state, which also pointed to the fact that there was a lack of capacity to deliver in the DPW. When they made such a statement about the lack of capacity, they did not make that statement to accuse anybody, but to point out that there was a challenge of capacity within the DPW. Minister Nxesi had himself confirmed that the majority of their staff was administrators and clerks rather than the technocrats and engineers which were required in the DPW.  

Minister Maphisa-Nqakula said her experience was that of 1 Military Hospital, and she would like to invite the Committee to visit it so that they could see that when she signed that MOA with Minister Nxesi, it had already been a period of nine years, with nothing taking off the ground. Having signed that agreement, the two of them had had the challenge of consultants within their respective departments of refusing to be transferred in terms of accounting to the DPW, and to account to Defence, and that had frustrated the Ministers because there were certain things that needed to be done. For example, the DOD had machines and medical equipment which had been in storage for years, and very soon they would be told they could not use that machinery because it was absolute. The machines were in the warehouses, and there was no way they could move those machines into the buildings because of the manner in which the building itself had been designed. The problem they have in Government was project management.

The Minister said if the Committee could request a report from the DOD in the presence of the DPW, that would give an idea of how much of an effort they would put into dealing with this matter at 1 Military Hospital. She would give them the minutes of the Council on Defence, which would indicate that this had been a standing agenda item at the Council because of the challenges they had. It was a standing item, but the bus was not moving. The biggest problem, according to the last minutes of the Council, was that of medical health technologies. For example, when the DPW builds a hospital, they need medical health technologies, which was going to advise them about the structure and the designs needed for that particular hospital. Right now, at 1 Military Hospital, there was no movement in respect of the medical equipment because they needed medical health technologies to assist both the DPW and DOD.

Minister Maphisa-Nqakula said she did not understand why defence buildings should be renovated by people outside of defence force itself, because the skills and capacity were there inside the DOD. Over the years they had lost skilled people who had gone and set up their own companies and were doing business with the government and were charging a lot of money. Therefore, they needed to find a solution for the DPW, the DOD and for all other government departments who had similar challenges. It was true that corruption and collusion was the biggest challenge that they were facing, as already alluded to by Minister Nxesi.

They had been invited to this meeting to bring solutions to the problems they were facing as affected departments -- what it was they could do to address the challenges they were having. However, these challenges could not be resolved by Ministers, but by officials who were skilled in their respective fields. Ministers could only sign agreements and get very excited about that, but 1 Military Hospital was still where it was because of the challenges the DPW had, and those challenges had been inherited by the DOD.

Mr Paulsen said it was ridiculous of the Minister to come before the Committee and make excuses. These things had been coming on for a very long time. The renovations at 1 Military Hospital had been standing for two years. He asked what the Minister was doing for military veterans who were dependent on going to 1 Military Hospital for medical check-ups. To come and give excuses to the Committee was ridiculous, because people were dying and suffering while the Minister said it was not her responsibility, but the responsibility of the officials. This was gross incompetence from the Minister.

At this stage there was a commotion between Mr Paulsen and Minister Maphisa-Nqakula, which involved personal insults, but the Chairperson quickly intervened to calm things down.

The Chairperson asked what proposal Mr Paulsen was suggesting as a turnaround in this regard. They were all there to find a solution to the challenge they were facing, because they did appropriate budgets, and their mandate was to see where the budgets had gone and whether there was value for money, and if there gaps they should close them in terms of recommendations that would assist the turnaround.

Minister Maphisa-Nqakula requested the Chairperson to protect her from Mr Paulsen, because Members of Parliament should not conduct themselves the way he did, which was not good.

The Chairperson said the Minister was protected, and Mr Paulsen should restrain himself in terms of the manner he spoke, which was not according to the rules.

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, said the Committee had invited them to look for solutions to a problem in their national defence force, which they respected so much. However, later on they would realise that when they came to issues of health, there were problems with regard to the DPW, and he was happy that Minister Nxesi had already confirmed that point.

He said they would not get a solution from the DPW, and the Chairperson could call this meeting for the next 10 years and there would still be no solution in this regard. In fact, Mr Mhlongo, who had said the DOD had its own medical division comprising of professionals who understood exactly what they expected in terms of the standards of health delivery and all that, was very right and he agreed with him wholeheartedly. It was a shame to allow a defence force to be controlled by a civilian department like the DPW. Maybe some years back it would have been like that, but at the present moment it should not.

The first solution to this matter was to free the DOD from the DPW so that it builds its own technical capacity. The DOD were the ones who solved problems when there were disasters, and for them to have to depend on Public Works was very unfortunate. He was not sure whether Members knew that computers started in defence all over the world. Defence was the most technically advanced department anywhere in the world, but here in South Africa they had taken the defence capacity to a civilian department which did not have any capacity. It would take ages to build capacity in the DPW. Minister Nxesi acknowledged the fact that there was no capacity in his Department, and when he had tried to do things right he had been reshuffled and when he came back, things were worse.

Minister Motsoaledi said the DPW had turned into a tender station, where tenders were issued without following procurement procedures, and National Treasury had the tendency of insisting on some of the rules that did not work. The DPW was full of rascals who lied even to their own Minister. As he was sitting there trying to find solutions, he was struggling with his own Department because at the head office he was leading, which had 28 floors and which was supposed to be maintained by the DPW, the workers had been on strike since March because nothing was working in that building, regardless of the meetings they had called with the DPW. Public works officials lied to their Minister, saying they had done maintenance to that building while the building was still in a bad state. Therefore, the DOD must be released from the DPW so that it can build its own capacity in terms of engineers, surveyors, and so on, because they were not there in DPW -- it had administrators and managers, like any other civilian department

Department of Health: Infrastructure challenges

Dr Massoud Shaker, Head: Infrastructure, DOH, said the report focused on the fnancial and delivery contribution of various implementing agents -- mainly provincial departments of Public Works and Health) in the public health facility infrastructure service delivery programme in the current MTEF.

The total MTEF budgetary allocation under the four major categories of new, upgrade, rehabilitation and maintenance, to the provincial departments of the DPW was larger than of the provincial and national DOH allocation -- R 9. 277 billion compared to R 9.199 billion. The DPW managed 908 projects, while the provincial and national departments of health managed 1 100 projects, of which 553 were maintenance projects.

Dr Shaker described in detail the extent to which the provincial and national Departments of Health and Public Works were allocating funds from their MTEF budgets for the categories of new, upgrade, rehabilitation and maintenance.

He described the progress made in terms of the Public Facilities Health Infrastructure Programme as at the end of June 2018. The programme focused on the macro status and condition of health facilities infrastructure; the current maintenance responsibilities; various maintenance challenges; the strategic approach to tackling the prevailing challenges; maintenance guidelines as per the draft “National Maintenance Strategy for Health Facilities” initiated by the NDOH; and the guide action plan for the maintenance system improvement, as recommended in the draft national maintenance strategy.

Referring to the conceptual required budget for the maintenance of health infrastructure in the country, he said the maintenance responsibility was cross functional.

The strategic challenges of maintenance in the public health sector included ageing infrastructure (average age of 40 years), coupled with the number of people it now had to service, who had previously had little or no access. While the infrastructure asset base of the health departments had grown significantly, the infrastructure budgets had been cut for the last three years when the economy started having problems. This had impacted directly on real sustainable benefits of development, expansion, replacement and maintenance of health infrastructure in the country. Asset management strategies and policies had to evolve to deal with the current volumes. The health sector was unique and required sector-specific skills. A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist for commercial buildings would not necessarily have the skills for infection control.

Planning and delivery challenges of maintenance in the public health sector included that when the Infrastructure Programme Management Plan (IPMP) was given to DPW, they had not considered this as a three-year horizon programme, and had immediately appointed professional service providers (PSPs) to design the projects, some of which were not even as yet funded, with no business case, clinical brief or technical brief, since the Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS) did not recognise the special planning requirements of the health sector. In many cases, the DPW had started the project without waiting for the client to provide the brief, thus the scope of the project was changed and a variation order would be put in place, affecting the project time line and cost. The preparation of documents such as the UAMP, IPMP, and IPIP were mainly focusing on compliance, rather than serving their intended purpose. In terms of GIAMA, based on which a UAMP should be prepared, condition assessment of immovable assets should take place at five-year intervals to guide the appropriate intervention/s to improve the functionality and suit for purpose of the assets, and maintain their desired economical lives. Such assessments were seldom or never done for a very long time by health and public works departments.

Dr Shaker said the terms of the guide action plan for maintenance system improvement as recommended in the national maintenance strategy were as follows:

  • The manager responsible for the maintenance budget must have line management authority over the staff and service providers who did the works, by improving the response time and quality of work by Public Works through improved DOH management.
  • There must be an initiative to increase the budget and to use it more efficiently through developing a provincial maintenance strategy along the line of the national maintenance strategy, by establishing a work procedure to quickly assess and implement maintenance work.
  • Using term service contracts for recurrent maintenance for quick response, especially on health technology and other specialized areas.
  • Monitoring the combined expenditure by provincial infrastructure, district and hospital managers.
  • To increase the budget allocation for recurrent maintenance and backlog maintenance.
  • Developing a detailed asset management plan for existing and new facilities.
  • Using the updated service transformation plans to guide facility improvement and investment decisions.

The Chairperson thanked Dr. Shaker for the presentation. She asked Members to make comments on the presentation, but none of the Members of the Committee made comments or asked questions. Members felt that they were distressed and depressed with what had been said about the DPW’s lack of capacity in the first presentation from the DOD.

The Chairperson said a turnaround strategy was needed in the DPW so that the maintenance challenges they were facing were resolved. The DOD, as one of the departments which was affected by the maintenance challenges, should come up with a short to medium-term plan to deal with the issues the Committee saw in its oversight visit to the defence facilities in Bloemfontein as a matter of urgency. The infrastructure maintenance in the DOD and other departments was a matter of urgency, and they had to turn things around in this regard.

The Chairperson thanked the three ministers and their delegations for appearing before the Committee. The Committee would keep on inviting them to such gatherings in order to iron out all the challenges they were facing in terms of infrastructure maintenance and other important matters that affected service delivery in the country.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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