The Committee was briefed by Armscor. The Committee heard that during the 2018/19 FY, Armscor had managed and executed contracts to a total value of R11.764 billion for the Department of Defence (DOD): this consisted of R7.442 billion for technology and capital acquisition projects as well as R4.322 billion for procurement and maintenance support contracts.
Members noted that there were some transactions done through the Armscor accounts that had not been accounted for in the last two years and the AG had given a qualified opinion because of this. Members expressed concern that the entity was heavily reliant on the SDA account for funding and asked what alternatives the entity would consider should the National Treasury decide to stop funding the SDA; and further, what impact would that have on Armscor.
The Members raised the issue of concern in the AG’s report on the entity’s irregular expenditure over the last two financial years. Members asked what caused the delays in the investigations regarding punishing the perpetrators; was it due to a lack of cooperation from the accused or a lack of capacity or commitment on the part of management.
The Members pointed out that the entity had not sufficiently included youth participation in its human capital, within the organisational structure. The Committee encouraged the entity to drive more public awareness about its industry; by doing roadshows to schools around the country, teaching learners about Armscor and other related entities.
The Committee was briefed by the Castle Control Board. Members heard that the entity had received an unqualified audit opinion from the AG. The findings were related to how the entity accounted for its office space and the transference of the multipurpose conference centre into the entity’s financial books.
The entity had set a total of 18 annual targets for 2018/19 FY and managed to achieve 16 of them. Members heard that there were minor challenges concerning the preservation, interpretation and showcasing of the Castle’s history – one of the six targets was not fully met. This would be addressed in the first quarter of FY19/20.
The Members highlighted that the AG found the Board to be running the entity with a hand-to-mouth approach which was deemed unsustainable the AG. Members asked what the entity’s turnaround strategy to move away from this approach was; and how the Board planned to ensure that the entity will continue to reserve a surplus of funds and make investments.
The Committee was briefed by the South African Military Ombud. The entity indicated that it received a total of 525 cases in the 2018/19 FY, with 135 being inherited from the 2017/18 FY; a total of 246 cases were finalised and the other 279 were still active by FY end.
The entity indicated that it had set 11 annual targets, informed by its three strategic objectives. For strategic objective one, the entity obtained 100% achievement on its percentage compliance with submission dates of Military Ombud accountability documents. Members heard that there were challenges in finalising complaints within the office – only 47% instead of the targeted 75%. The entity did not reach any of its targets for strategic objective number three.
Members asked which method the entity used in communicating with the public during its outreach programmes in the different provinces because some members of the communities they visit could not afford to even travel to the venues for these initiatives. Member enquired further as to how the entity drives public awareness about its existence and role.
Members applauded the entity for being able to address about 88.6% of the complaints it received in the year and noted that the current method of deferring cases to the following financial year was somewhat effective but stated that it would still be ideal to resolve them promptly. Members noted that the statistics presented by the entity did not give a clear indication of the ages of the cases.
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed all the Members and the delegations of the entities present at the meeting. He asked all the guests to introduce themselves and thereafter introduced the meeting agenda.
Annual Report: Briefing by Armscor
Mr Solomzi Mbada, Acting CEO of Armscor, indicated that a new Armscor vision was developed and a new organisation structure was adopted with the aim of reducing the executive committee. Also, supply chain management, business enablement and enterprise programme management divisions were established. The entity’s turnaround strategy called ‘on time, in time – towards a sustainable future’ – had proven to be productive, with the organisation responding positively to the ongoing challenges within Armscor. It had brought about greater efficiency in the manner in which the organisation operated.
During 2018/19 Financial Year, Armscor had managed and executed contracts to a total value of R11.764 billion for the Department of Defence (DOD): this consisted of R7.442 billion for technology and capital acquisition projects as well as R4.322 billion for procurement and maintenance support contracts. However, the contract value of capital acquisition projects for the year was reduced by R2 billion in October 2018. This was due to the re-phasing of the order values of the project for New Generation Infantry Combat Vehicle Products System to later years. The development of this vehicle was currently behind schedule by 43 months due to severe liquidity and technical challenges being experienced by Denel Land Systems - the main contractor for the programme. In December 2018, Denel formally notified Armscor and the DOD that it was unable to deliver against the current contract baseline in terms of technical specifications, delivery schedule and price as contracted. The way forward with the programme was being addressed within Armscor and the DOD; possible alternative approaches were being investigated to mitigate the financial and capability risk to the DOD. Recommendations would be made to the appropriate forums within Armscor and the DOD early in the 2019/20 financial year.
As part of the succession planning, 71 key positions were identified and there were 82 successors. For skills development, four employees were studying internationally through the International Training Programme. There were 48 learners registered into the Adult Education and Training Programme. Through the Talent Development Programme, 45 graduates were recruited while a total of 35 students were awarded bursaries during the year. The Apprenticeship Programme saw 15 apprentices qualifying in trades such as welder, fitter and turner, electrical and mechanical.
The 2018 financial statement figures were restated mainly to align to the change in accounting framework – the South African Statements of Generally Recognised Accounting Practice (SA GRAP). Investment revenue increased by 9.8%; other operating income increased by 181.3% due to partial settlement of long outstanding rental by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). On the other hand, revenue from sale of goods and services decreased by 19.6%. Expenditure decreased by 7% of which 1.7% was a decrease in employee related costs. The surplus for the year was mainly due to increase in income and reduction in expenditure.
The Chairperson pointed out that the AG found that there were some transactions done through the Armscor accounts that had not been accounted for in the last two years. The AG gave a qualified opinion to the entity because of this.
The Chairperson noted that the entity had acquired R3.7 billion from the SDA account of the DOD and R1.8 billion from the DOD’s general account. He expressed concern that the entity was heavily reliant on the SDA account. ‘What alternatives would the entity consider should the National Treasury decide to stop funding the SDA’? ‘What impact would that have on Armscor’?
Mr S Marais (DA) recounted that Armscor’s mandate was traditionally to be an acquisition agent for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) He pointed out that the entity’s budget allocation for capital acquisitions had been drastically reduced. This could potentially raise questions about the entity’s relevance and ultimately lead to the rationalisation between itself, CSIR, Denel and other related state organs.
Mr Marais also asked if there were any acquisition instructions issued by the DOD. ‘Are there any programmes that would be rolled out for project procurements over the next few years’? ‘What are the statuses of these projects’? ‘How would the closing down of Denel Aerostructures affect any cooperation of projects with the entity and the associated job’s?
Mr Marais asked if Armscor’s eight facilities across the country were fully owned by the entity or if some were owned by the private sector.
Mr Marais asked what caused the revision of the entity’s vision and what was wrong with the previous one?
Mr Marais asked for an indication of the exact percentage of DOD capital requirement that was converted into orders. He said he was under the impression that all of the capital was converted.
Mr Marais pointed out that the acquisition of R5.6 billion received from the SDA and the DOD were less that the total value of the contracts which were reportedly managed and executed by Armscor during the financial year. He asked the entity to clarify this contradiction.
Mr Marais said that Armscor’s core obligation was land and border protection and not conventional warfare; because of this, the entity should focus more on acquiring armoured patrol vehicles than badger vehicles.
Mr Marais recounted that the DOD had identified the undersupply of airlift and maritime patrol capabilities for cargo; also, the Chief of the South African Airforce, Lt Gen Fabian Msimang, had reported that the SA Aurex platform was outdated.
Mr Marais asked if the entity had made recommendations to the appropriate forums within the DOD and Armscor, as indicated on page 18 of the slide presentation.
Mr J Maake (ANC) pointed out that the way the entity would respond to some of the questions asked by the Members would be critical. He reckoned that the meeting platform was not suitable for some of the detail given by the entity; that if some of the information they disclosed somehow became publicised, it could potentially endanger state security.
Mr Maake asked how the entity used the profit revenue it generated.
Mr Maake asked for a clarification about the purpose of the entity’s dockyards.
Ms M Modise (ANC) expressed concern about the public perception of the condition of government departments as well as state-owned and public enterprises. People believed that these institutions were being looted from within.
Ms Modise asked the entity to indicate the progress of its ongoing projects and their timeframes. She supported Mr Maake’s view about the sensitivity of how the information would be disclosed in consideration of preserving state security. ‘How will the entity clear the information in the public’?
Ms Modise pointed out that the entity had not sufficiently included youth participation in its human capital within the organisational structure. She encouraged the entity to drive more public awareness about its industry; by doing roadshows to schools around the country, teaching learners about Armscor and other related entities.
Ms Modise recounted that during the Committee’s oversight visit to the entity, the uniformed members of the SANDF complained about the quality of the boots they were issued. She asked if the entity was responsible for checking the quality of these boots.
Ms A Beukes (ANC) disagreed with Armscor’s claim of receiving an unqualified audit opinion because the AG gave an unqualified opinion with material findings, particularly related to noncompliance. She said that the AG found that there were problems in the entity’s inadequate recordkeeping, governance, internal control and other processes such as oversight of financial reporting. ‘What is the Board doing to address these findings’?
Ms Beukes also raised the AG’s report on the entity’s irregular expenditure over the last two financial years. There were investigations conducted on those who were allegedly responsible for this expenditure. ‘What has caused the delays in the investigations’? ‘Could it be due to a lack of cooperation from the accused’? ‘Is it lack of capacity or commitment on the part of management’?
Mr Mbada said that there was nothing wrong with the previous Armscor vision statement but the Board and the executive felt that there was scope, capacity and opportunity for the entity to do more work with other countries and the broader industry.
Mr Mkhwanazi explained that the DOD had crafted a five-year masterplan that outlined tasks that were required of Armscor and how those tasks would be funded. The reduction of the capital budget led to a few of the projects being deferred; more priority was to be placed on projects that had already been contracted. The full effect of the reduction was expected by 2021 and would reduce the total budget from R11bn to R9bn. The alternative funding required by Armscor would be determined by the DOD.
Mr Mkhwanazi recounted that in December 2018, Denel formally notified Armscor and the DOD that it would be unable to deliver against the current contract baseline according to the technical specifications, delivery schedule and price as contracted. Subsequently, Denel submitted a recommended revised schedule and specifications to Armscor. Armscor then conducted an analysis and engaged the DOD on the way forward for the project. The onus was with the Department.
Mr Mkhwanazi explained that Aerostructures was division of Denel which was developing subcomponents for the aircrafts; it was mainly supplying Boeing and Airbus and not Armscor. In 2017, Denel merged Aerostructures with the Aviation division and formed Denel Aeronautics – a Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO). Armscor would be affected by the MRO but not by the closing down of Aerostructures because it was not directly doing work for the entity.
He confirmed that the project of the building the new generation infantry combat vehicle was behind schedule by 46 months. This was due to severe liquidity and technical challenges being experienced by Denel Land Systems, who were the main contractor for the programme.
He said that the airlifting capability, air-surveillance and cargo fleets were all deferred to the right because of the DOD five-year masterplan which led to the reduction of capital budget for Armscor.
He explained that Armscor usually received the requirements from the South African Navy (SAN) concerning the planned maintenance for the dockyard vessels. This would typically be a three-year plan. The planned and unplanned maintenance projects listed on slide 26 of the presentation were undertaken according to a schedule given by the SAN. He indicated that in the long term, the entity was considering the commercialisation of the work it did at the dockyard. This would necessitate more capacity from the entity; he said that a floating dock would be a tool to capitalise on the potential market presented by the vessels sailing past the dockyard area.
Prof Mkaza explained that the entity only had two considerations that informed its Research and Development (RnD) – sovereign capability and strategic independence. He added that the entity did not just do research for the sake of it; some of it would arise from acquisition projects and through internal operations.
Prof Mkaza confirmed that Armscor’s eight facilities across the country were under the entity’s control; the DOD had other facilities were under the CSIR’s control.
Mr Mkhwanazi said that all the projects were classified and strictly handled according to their required security detail; this was coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Division of Armscor. Low-level classification information could be openly disclosed; secret to high-level classification information was only disclosed to individuals who obtained the necessary level of security clearance. Even the auditors would have to be cleared accordingly.
Mr Gerhard Grobler, CFO of Armscor, indicated that the generated profit was not surrendered to the DOD; it was retained and then allocated for specific purposes. For the 2018/19 Financial Year (FY) it was allocated for the maintenance of the Armscor building, which had not been done for a few years.
Mr Grobler explained that the entity had just restructured its accountancy framework into SA GRAP. He then indicated that the material findings were not all found by the AG. Armscor submitted its financial statements to the AG on 31 May 2019 and the audit outcomes had some inaccuracies - some findings on the financials were not an indication of the financial position of the entity but were due to a misclassification between different line items. These errors were largely because the entity was trying to consolidate three different financial systems and there was hardly any time to proofread the financials in detail. Also, the entity did not receive the property evaluation reports timeously from its supplier, hence why it submitted them late to the AG.
Mr Grobler said that the entity spent time reviewing the causes of irregular expenditure; action was currently being taken against the managers who were responsible for the mismanagement of the finances.
Follow up questions and comments
The Chairperson instructed the entity to clear its pipeline projects with the DOD. He asked the entity to give more detail on these projects, including their complete timelines and the ones that were pushed to the right. He reckoned that constantly delaying projects could escalate their associated costs beyond feasibility, relative to the entity’s budget.
The Chairperson asked the entity to resolve the material findings reported by the AG and expressed that he hoped that these findings would not reoccur. He added that the Committee would strictly hold the entity accountable for the findings, on behalf of the state and its taxpayers. The entity should have a clear action plan by the time it meets with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).
The Chairperson asked how it was possible for the uniformed members of the SANDF to be wearing boots of inadequate quality in Armscor’s watch.
Mr Grobler indicated that the entity had already agreed with the DOD it would be the Department’s responsibility to disclose the progress of the ongoing and pipeline projects. Armscor’s role was to supply all the necessary information to the DOD.
Mr Mkhwanazi said that the entity did do quality tests. The entity received specifications of the quality and ergonomics requirements from its Quality and RnD units. The Research and Development had a population profile that informed how the boots and protective clothing should be designed. The Quality department enforced quality assurance but would sometimes do its own procurement and Armscor would not intervene in those processes.
The Chairperson appreciated Armscor for its presentation and account for the matters raised by the Members. He said that the committee would leave the resolutions to the entity.
Briefing on the Castle Control Board
Mr Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of the Castle of Good Hope, indicated that the entity received an unqualified audit opinion from the AG. The findings were related to how the entity accounted for its office space and the transference of the multipurpose conference centre into the entity’s financial books. This had an impact on the financial performance of the entity.
The entity managed to increase its total revenue by R35 476 but no longer had a surplus by the end of year; the reduction in expenditure resulted in savings of R1 734 039. The salary bill for the Financial Year (FY) 2018/19 was R4.901 million and this was largely due to the fact that the entity did not have any direct state funding. However, reductions in the bill – through the freezing of posts, reduction in internships – saved a total of R892 190.
The entity had set a total of 18 annual targets for FY 2018/19 and managed to achieve 16 of them. All four targets on administration and corporate governance were achieved; the four targets on increasing public access and perception were also met. There were minor challenges concern the preservation, interpretation and showcasing of the castle’s history – one of the six targets was not fully met. This would be addressed in the first quarter of FY19/20. The entity could also do better in maximising on the tourism potential of the castle; the current revenue optimisation plan set out for this was showing significant returns.
The entity lost three managers and two junior staffers and this caused a bit of a disruption within the organisation. There were still 26 full-time employees and 35 part-time contracts and paid internships. The entity also provided casual and temporary job opportunities linked to commercial events. The entity maintained unprecedented media coverage, reaching about 365 million viewers.
Mr M Shelembe (DA) asked the entity what led to the material findings in the audit outcomes by the AG as well as its plan of action to address these findings and to ensure that they do not reoccur.
Mr Shelembe asked for an indication of the demographics of the visitors at the castle. He said it was unacceptable for tourists to be more knowledgeable about the Castle than SA citizens were. ‘How does the Castle ensure tourist security both inside and around the facility’?
Mr Shelembe welcomed the entity’s reduced expenditure but asked how this could be translated into job creation.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) welcomed the presentation and appreciated that it was concise and direct.
Mr Mmutle highlighted that the AG found the Board to be running the entity with a hand-to-mouth approach; the AG deemed this unsustainable. ‘What is the entity’s turnaround strategy to move away from this approach’? ‘How does the Board plan to ensure that the entity will continue to reserve a surplus of funds and make investments’?
Mr Mmutle encouraged the entity to consider making the Castle an attractive destination choice for tourists. ‘How is the Board planning to improve public awareness about the Castle’?
Ms T Legwase (ANC) noted that the entity had frozen some posts. ‘How critical are these posts’? ‘Were they of junior or senior positions’? ‘Was the reduction of internships based on experience requirements or the different fields on offer’?
Ms Beukes asked the entity to account for the AG’s report on the entity’s poor financial statements. She also asked for a status update of the investigation about the reported irregular expenditure.
Ms Beukes commended the entity on the quality of supply chain management, as there were no material findings by the AG about this aspect of the entity.
Ms Beukes suggested that the entity should improve the Castle’s footprint through initiatives such as roadshows across the country.
Mr Shelembe asked if he must book an appointment to be able to visit the Castle in his political capacity. ‘What does one have to do to visit the Castle’?
Mr Gilfellan said that the entity was close to obtaining a clean audit opinion instead of an unqualified one. The AG found that the entity did not account for the office space it was using at the time of the audit; this constituted a cost of R230 000. Another finding was the unaccounted donation of R3.1 million from the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) towards the transfer of the multipurpose conference at the Castle to the entity’s financial books. He indicated that these two findings had since been resolved by the entity.
Mr Mandla Ngewu, CFO of Armscor, said that the entity had to modify the agreement terms with the AG from the previous year in the interest of limiting recurring audit costs.
Mr Ngewu indicated that the Armscor’s suppliers would sometimes ask the entity to hold deposits for functions because of the final pressures; when the entity hosted events, this would sometimes be offset from these deposits.
Mr Ngewu explained that the quality of the financial statements was affected by limited human capital for creating them. If there were any discrepancies in the statements they would sometimes go undetected until they were escalated to the Board. Microsoft Excel was used as a tool to prepare them, in order save costs.
Mr Ngewu affirmed that there were no irregular expenditures within the entity and this was cleared up with the AG.
Mr Gilfellan indicated that only between 5-8% were international guests; the rest were local. Out of about 201 000 visitors in 2018, 35 000 of them were school learners and most of them were from the Western Cape. The entity was looking to urge the provincial departments to subsidise the transportation of the learners when they visit the castle. The learners were charged an entry fee of R8 and it would be wavered if they did not have it. If the Members wished to visit the facility on an incognito basis they would each have to pay R50; alternately, the visit could be formally arranged through the committee secretary communicating with the castle secretariat.
Mr Gilfellan claimed that the Department could solve a lot of the entity’s problems with an operational contribution of about R750 000 for the first three months.
The plan was to review the statutory costs of both internal and external audits. The biggest expenses were attributed to the wage bill and the AG’s account. Even a clean audit outcome has to be referred to an external audit for further review and this would cost an additional R6 000.
Mr Gilfellan agreed that the castle could be a destination of choice; with effective marketing tools, including roadshows, it could easily host up to 500 000 visitors yearly.
Mr Gilfellan acknowledged that the frozen posts were critical. There were marketing, heritage and events managers that had resigned. The entity hired about 15 interns hired years and they would offset some of the responsibilities of the frozen posts. He indicated that the Board would soon have a strategic planning meeting to launch recruitment for the filling of the vacancies and resolve towards stabilising the entity.
Follow up questions and comments
Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked if the entity charged the learners individually or as a group, when they visited the entity. Are international guests charged the same amount as locals given that they usually have a stronger currency?
Mr Maake questioned why the Committee scheduled its meetings with Armscor at the Cape Town Lodge-Hotel and Conference Centre when it could have arranged to have it at the Castle’s multipurpose conference centre. He reckoned that the money spent on booking the hotel could be put to better use.
The Chairperson agreed that the Castle should be a venue of choice for Committee meetings with the entity. He said the Control Board would be responsible for determining whether the facility would have the capacity to host the committee for a meeting or not.
Mr Gilfellan indicated that the Castle had 32 part-time SANDF members guarding the castle inside. He said that the facility contained genuine, high-value sports medal that needed extra security; there was a tender put out for security infrastructure for this purpose and the matter was being finalised. The external patrol was done by the South African Police Services (SAPS), Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the SANDF. Although this collaboration was effective, it sometimes caused problems related to a power struggle. Petty crimes, particularly on international tourists, were still a concern but the security was looking to address it with more grit.
Mr Gilfellan said that the students were only charged R8 if they visited on a structured field trip as a school; if they visited individually they would be charged R25 when they present some form of identity, such as their IDs or student cards. Pensioners were also charged R25. International guests were charged higher than standard rates.
Lt Gen Jabu Mbuli, Chief of Logistics, SANDF, indicated that the SANDF were planning to erect a fence around the facility. Security was guaranteed for tourists and general visitors only on the inside; external security was still a matter under discussion and would be finalised at a strategic planning session on 17 October 2019.
The Chairperson thanked the Castle Control Board for its presentation and its response to the questions posed by the Members. He said that there were matters that were still outstanding from the current annual report and had to be resolved: the need for one Control Board controlling one Castle; and the decreasing surplus in the entity’s finances.
Briefing on the South African Military Ombud
Adv Dinkie Dube, Chief Director: Operations, South African Military Ombud Office, indicated that the entity had set 11 annual targets, informed by its three strategic objectives. Strategic objective one was for the entity to ensure strategic direction for the office, in line with government’s intent and expectations. For this, the entity obtained 100% achievement on its percentage compliance with submission dates of Military Ombud accountability documents. The entity fell short of its targets of compliance to organisational requirements. Strategic objective two was to enhance and maintain corporate operations within the office. For this objective, the entity exceeded its target of the degree to which it timely, effectively and efficiently provided legal services to the Military Ombud, operations and support. However, there were challenges in finalising complaints within the office – only 47% instead of the targeted 75%. The entity did not reach any of its targets for strategic objective number three – administrating the Military Ombud Resources as prescribed in the regulatory framework. There were a few setbacks on compliance with the HR plan, ICT plan, security policy and allocated budget.
There were a total of 525 cases received in the 2018/19 FY, with 135 being inherited from FY17/18; a total of 246 cases were finalised and the other 279 were still active by FY end. In geographical terms, Gauteng registered the highest number of cases; this was followed by Western Cape (WC), Limpopo and then Free State. The balance was spread amongst the remainder of the provinces, with Mpumalanga (MP) being the lowest. This could be as a result of the population density as well as the presence of bases for the various Arms of Service in the respective provinces. In gender terms, there were 280 male complainants who lodged complaints with the office, constituting 72% of the total caseload; the other 28% was the 110 female complainants.
The office was involved win seven litigation matters, four of which related to complainants seeking orders in the High Court for the implementation of the Military Ombud findings and recommendations. The other three were for reviewing the findings and recommendations of the Military Ombud. These matters remained sub judice at the time of finalising this report.
The budget vote for the office for 2018/19 FY was R56.458 million. The office had a total expenditure of R49.134m, of which R37.445m was spent on the wage bill and R11.689m was spent on operating costs. This means that 70% budget allocated was used for compensation of employees, while 30% of was spent on operating costs. The entity was engaging the SecDef to have the allocation adjusted to cater for the high wage bill. A total of R900 000 was used for the hosting of the 10th International Conference of Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF). The entity was able to limit expenditure to R870 000 for the event.
The Chairperson noted the number of ports rejected and referred back by the Minister and that the entity considered the reviewability of the decision made by the Ministry. He asked the entity to clarify if the recommendations were reviewable or still subject to the Minister’s prerogative.
The Chairperson noted that the entity received a total of 2 444 complaints over the past seven years and a brief status update on their progress. He said that he thought the entity would give its analysis of the complaints it received from the different provinces and categories in order to give the Committee some insight about the profile of the issues raised. ‘How can the common problems be resolved heading into the next financial year’?
The Chairperson noted the problem statement made by entity: “The Military Ombud Act did not address the governance and the accountability framework, hampering the office in obtaining institutional and financial independence.” He said that this view had been brought up in the Committee’s previous engagements with the entity and a legal opinion on it was sought. He asked the entity to elaborate on its action plan, in light of the legal opinion.
Mr Mmutle recognised that the entity had been able to address about 88.6% of the complaints it received in the year; he said the entity should be applauded for this feat. He noted that the current method of deferring cases to the following financial year was somewhat effective but reckoned it would still be ideal to resolve them promptly; there might be unresolved cases from several years ago that kept getting postponed. The statistics presented by the entity did not give a clear indication of the ages of cases.
Mr Mmutle reckoned that the number of complaints lodged in the different provinces should be inversely proportional to the complaints received from each of them. For instance, there were 15 outreach programmes done in Limpopo – the most in the country – but the province still had the third most lodged complaints. He then asked what caused the number of complaints to be concentrated in particular provinces.
Mr Mmutle asked the entity to indicate the extent of youth participation within the organisation.
Mr Shelembe pointed out that most of the complaints lodged were against the SANDF. He asked what some of these cases were about. ‘Are any of them related to brutality’?
Mr Shelembe asked which method the entity used in communicating with the public during its outreach programmes in the different provinces. He pointed out that some members of the communities they visited could not afford to even travel to the venues for these initiatives. ‘How does the entity drive public awareness about its existence and role’?
Mr Shelembe asked how the entity prioritised its cases. He felt that some conditions imposed on the complainants could be detected only after some time, if the cases were not resolved immediately. The delays could lead to the further detriment of the complainants.
Mr Maake asked about the research and development unit of the entity. ‘What are some of the research studies that are being conducted by the entity’?
Adv Simphiwe Damane-Mkosana, Acting Military Ombud, South African Military Ombud Office, explained that procedurally, the entity could not review its own reports. She said that the entity always ensured to tell the complainants that they reserved the right to review the outcome of the reports in a High Court.
There were a few reports that were not implemented because the entity noticed that some of the recommendations were not implementable. For example, if the accused was suspended from office for some time and was replaced by another person, it would typically be hard to reinstate them; this would result in another complaint either from the replacement or the rightful office bearer.
The Chairperson interjected during Adv Damane-Mkosana’s response and said that the entity was only responsible for issuing the reports and not to implement the recommendations; how the DOD dealt with the matter was not the entity’s problem.
Adv Damane-Mkosana responded by indicating that the entity had had cases where it reported that an individual had been unduly terminated from the job and had to be reinstated to their position, only to find that there had been a replacement working for about two years. This recommendation caused problems for the DOD because the person who would was the current incumbent who could not be removed and the defendant would refuse to be reassigned to a different post. The Military Ombud Office came up with a resolution to include, in its future reports, that people should either be restored to their rightful position or any other position that would be designed and/or allocated by the DOD to be an equivalent.
Mr Mmutle echoed the Chairperson by saying that the entity’s role was to deal with disputes and make recommendations; the implementation of the said recommendations was the responsibility of the DOD. The implementers should not influence the entity on the basis of their challenges. By succumbing to this, the entity would lose its independence and legitimacy.
Adv Damane-Mkosana said that the Research and Development unit of the entity was responsible for doing trend analysis of the cases that were being reported across the different provinces; the unit was also responsible for reviewing the impact of the outreach programmes. However, the entity did not have the analysis on hand at the meeting but past trends showed that the amount of complaints was typically proportional to the population densities in the provinces and the proximity to Military Ombud Offices.
Adv Damane-Mkosana indicated that the entity had developed a new system for handling complaints. The entity had been working hard in clearing the backlog of cases; none of the outstanding cases were older than two years. The last batch of the cases were finalised in September 2019.
Adv Damane-Mkosana explained that the entity did not have governing structures because it was a line item within the DOD. It thus did not have a financial and internal audit departments or a risk management because these factions were handled by the Department. The entity had sought advice from the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) on how to gain autonomy; the agency pointed out the lack of the aforementioned structures hindered the entity from being trusted to handle large amounts of finances. She said that the Committee’s opinion on this matter would be appreciated by the delegation.
Adv Damane-Mkosana said that the delegation did not have the exact statistics on the age demographics of the organisation but indicated that the majority of the staff body was youth.
Adv Damane-Mkosana clarified that most of the cases against the SANDF were in relation to promotions, training and other service benefits of its members. The percentage of cases was expectedly against the SANDF because it was mostly larger than other institutions. She also said that there were a lot of cases by public servants that were relating to the several discrepancies in their occupation-specific dispensation payments. The Minister had called for a general audit to be done on these discrepancies but it was taking some time to be finalised. The entity engaged the Secretary General and he said he would pressurise the Chief HR Manager to fast-track this process.
Adv Damane-Mkosana said that the entity mainly targeted community radio stations for promotions. The programmes would usually be hosted in locations near military bases but the entity had recently started reaching out and communicating with the public directly. The entity was in partnership with the management of the Regular Force Medical Continuation Fund (RFMCF) in doing outreach to retirees.
Adv Dube explained that the outreach programmes were concentrated in Limpopo because trends from the previous financial year showed an inverse correlation between the complaints lodged and the number of outreaches that were conducted. The analysis would now be done quarterly.
Follow up questions and comments
Mr Maake asked the entity to clarify whether it was seeking autonomy or independence. He recounted that the Committee recommended that the entity should review its Act, then propose and justifies the necessary amendments to the Committee.
Mr Maake asked if the entity’s funds were ring-fenced.
Mr Maake asked if the entity could initiate investigations on its own, without being prompted by any lodged complaints.
The Chairperson responded to Mr Maake’s inquiry about autonomy by indicating that the Committee had sought a legal opinion on the matter. He suggested that the Committee should discuss the matter once the opinion had been presented to it.
Adv Damane-Mkosana indicated that the entity had received three complaint cases from members of the general public. They were submitted on behalf of members of the SANDF. She said that the entity had not received any complaints against SANDF members, regarding the execution of their duties.
Mr Mpho Makhalemele, Chief Director: Corporate Support, South African Military Ombud Office, said that the budget of the entity was featured in the legal services budget of the DOD. However, Section 10 of the Act stipulated that the entity should be funded out of money appropriated by Parliament; the entity was not state-owned and therefore could not be funded by government. The entity then settled for being a line item within the DOD budget while seeking for autonomy.
The Chairperson thanked the entity for the presentation and the Members for attending the meeting session. He said that the Committee would continue to work closely with the entity in exercising its oversight duties.
The meeting was adjourned.
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