The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans considered and adopted the Defence Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report.
Members discussed whether it was a good idea to engage with National Treasury directly on gaps that were in the budget of the Department. They reasoned it was an area they never got a feedback on. They proposed the Department should talk with National Treasury first and the Committee would intervene, if there was a need, after the Department has discussed matters with National Treasury. They further indicated they were not getting feedback from the Department on BRRR matters and suggested this should be on the agenda for when the Committee interacts with the Department next time. Lastly, Members also proposed the Committee together with the Joint Standing Committee on Defence should request from parliament to undertake a study tour to learn how other countries manage their special defence budget.
Defence and Military Veterans Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report
The Chairperson asked Members to comment and ask clarity seeking questions on the draft report before it is adopted because it was circulated to them in time to go through it.
Mr S Marais (DA) wondered if the Department would be able to look into the request by Armscor that there would a four year delay in Project Hoefyster.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) stated the Department should indicate finances which would take into account the developments in technology regarding Project Hoefyster seeing that Armscor indicated the project would delay by four years because technology was something that changes every year.
Mr Peter Daniels, Committee Content Advisor, replied that Members concerns are addressed on page 16 of the draft report.
Mr S Esau (DA) remarked the Committee does not always get responses it requested from the Department, especially on BRRR matters. He suggested these outstanding matters should be put on the agenda of the Committee and that the Department should engage with the Committee on these matters.
The Chairperson stated he wanted to see gaps in the budget of the Department because that was something the Committee was not getting a feedback on. Hence he suggested the Department should give feedback to the Committee after it has engaged with Treasury.
Mr Marais said it was important to look at other funding modes to see what could be done with the current budget and how to spend other available funds.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) said the Committee needed to be made aware of the gaps that were in the internal audit of the Department.
The Chairperson said what was important first was to get from the Department its feedback from Treasury instead of the Committee going straight to Treasury. Then once the Committee gets the feedback, it would then decide if it needed to intervene and ask for a dialogue with Treasury.
Mr Esau warned the Committee that Treasury has a cycle where it considered adjustments for budget. The Committee needed to stick to the MTEF budget cycle. By November, according to the cycle, everything is ready to be published. He noted the Committee was not usually in sync with the MTEF budget cycle. The timing for addressing Treasury was not good for now.
Mr Marais suggested the recommendations of the Committee should be considered during the February 2019 budget because it appeared it was too late to talk with Treasury.
Mr Mhlongo stated the Committee was there to assist the Minister and should not try to be like a cry baby that wanted to do things but it could not because the Minister was not always available. The Minister should also try to avail herself to help the Committee to be in sync with things happening around it.
The Chairperson indicated they had never had problems with the Minister. The Committee should rather try to optimise the time it engages with her.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) proposed the Committee should undertake a study tour to learn how other countries manage the special defence budget or account.
Mr Marais supported Ms Dambuza’s idea, saying the country has a defence with an ageing infrastructure and the Committee has a significant role to play in the special defence fund.
The Chairperson said the benchmark study tour was a necessary thing to be done with the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. Both Committees should indicate to Parliament how important and necessary this study tour was for the country.
Mr Gamede reminded the Committee there was also a Vietnam study tour that has not yet happened.
The Chairperson said the study tour to Vietnam would be done in early December 2018.
Mr Mhlongo stated these upcoming study tours should provide a comparative study between socialist and commonwealth countries on codes of good practice. The country would be able to take a middle ground after these study tours.
Ms Dambuza moved for the adoption of the report.
Mr G Skosana (EFF) seconded the motion.
The report was adopted without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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