The Committee met to be briefed on the status of the implementation of recommendations made by the Defence Force Service Commission. The Committee heard that on the issue of medical support services, there are insufficient numbers of Health Care Practitioners (HCPs) including medical doctors, and not enough female HCPs deployed in operational areas. There are inadequate chronic and emergency medical supplies and medication at Military Hospitals; Military Medical Clinics; Sick Bays and in operational areas. There are delays in the confirmation of Concurrent and Comprehensive Health Assessments and the issuing of the required DD12 for acceptance on courses and deployments. Medical practitioners are conducting Comprehensive Health Assessments (CHA) without physically examining patients. Only three Military Hospitals are available thus members and or dependants need to travel extensive distances to Military Hospitals to receive specialists and medical care or surgical procedures.
On the moral of the defence force, it was said that irrespective of the neutral and in some areas positive findings stemming from the morale survey, a negative sentiment is expressed towards the leadership of the SANDF and that the moral of intelligence services are declining due to the fact that the Intelligence Sections are mandated to do only liaison and collection of data, whilst specialised intelligence is centralised in Pretoria.
One of the recommendations on the issue of uniforms was that the subsequent development of a consolidated Uniform Policy should be completed by a date as determined by the MOD and MV. SANDF was encouraged to initiate the exploring of long term contracts at parastatals for the manufacturing of standardised SANDF uniform items e.g. Universities, i.e. Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Correctional Services and the DOD Reserve Force. Committee members also raised their concerns on the lack of inclusion of young entrepreneurs in the making of uniforms but they were told that it is because of the procurement processes which must be followed but there is a need to change them so that they accommodate young entrepreneurs.
Members were also briefed on the annual activities report for the 2020/21 financial year for the Defence Force Service Commission.
The Committee praised the Commission on the work that they have done and encouraged them to continue working hard and being results oriented. Another concern raised by Members was the issue of sending personnel to be trained in Cuba and Russia yet there are competent local training facilities and Admiral Kubu highlighted that they still need to get accredited for some of the courses and for now they were working with the Cubans and hope to transfer the skills and hopefully be in a position to have the trainings done locally.
The Committee heard that the DFSC took part in 104 activities and engagements during the 2020/21 financial year in order to achieve its objectives as per the Strategic Intent of the Commission. This included two virtual meetings with parliamentary Committees.
There was no unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure that took place during the 2020/21 financial year. The DFSC does not own any public, capital or infrastructure assets exceeding the amount of R500 000. The DFSC did not receive any gifts that require recording and inclusion in the DFSC Gift Register during the 2020/21 financial year. The Commission did not request for any exemptions or deviations from the National Treasury during the reporting period.
Status on the Implementation of Recommendations made the Defence Force Service Commission
The Chairperson invited Admiral Asiel Kubu, Chief Human Resources Officer, SANDF, to give his presentation. The presentation provided the Committee with a status update on the implementation of recommendations made by the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC). Upon analysis of the findings it was observed that the majority of the recommendations have financial implications. In the current stringent economic climate, the DOD is unable to address these recommendations but took note of them for the future
The presentation touched upon several categories, including:
• Accommodation, Infrastructure and Facilities
• Allowances and Occupational Dispensations
• Border Protection
• Career Development
• Command and Control
• Department of Defence Policies and Instructions
• Education, Training and Development (ETD)
• External and Internal Deployments
• Fraud and Corruption
• Funding – Budget
• Human Resources
• Medical Support Services
• Mess Facilities
• Occupational Health and Safety
• Reserve Forces
• Specialised Occupational Groupings
• The X-Factor
• Tools of Trade
[see presentation attached for further details]
The Chairperson invited Members to engage with the presentation.
Mr S Marais (DA) welcomed the presentation and appreciated the work that was being done by the human resources team. He was concerned about the lack of coherence from the Department. He was of the view that there are parallel structures within the Department because it seemed that there were no in person meetings, and they have different views that they present to the Committee. He said that there was a need to tackle the issue of human capital within the Department and everyone must come together instead of working individually as teams. The lack of togetherness can lead to ill-discipline in the defence force and ultimately failure. He said that the information presented on Project Thusano is totally different to what the Committee is aware of. He asked about the cost of employees within the Department and wanted to know if there have been any meetings to try and resolve some of these issues since they were on the rise. He asked Adm Kubu about the status of the local training bases and why they were not being utilised instead of sending pilots to Cuba where they are being forced to cut grass. He was concerned why money was being spent abroad instead of investing back home and helping the country at large by using the local training facilities because there are competitive personnel within the defence force.
Mr W Mafanya (EFF) acknowledged the presentation and was of the view that some of the items presented were repeated and did not have much substance. He commented on the issue of border management and said that the soldiers who were deployed around the borders did not have ablution facilities and also the issue of the fence needed to be resolved because the corrupt soldiers within the defence force end up assisting border jumpers and smuggling. He wanted to know if there has been any consequence management to ill-disciplined soldiers. He asked if there are any cases that have been resolved from the reserve forces. He asked if the Committee could be provided with the exact figures on the medical facilities and how much was spent.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) welcomed the presentation, she asked for clarity on how the Commission derived the R1.5 million for the website and that in 2019 there was a monitoring and evaluation committee, but the Committee has not been furnished with the work that has been done by this committee.
Ms A Beukes (ANC) applauded the Commission for the work that they have been doing, considering that it might have been difficult to conduct such research under Covid-19. She acknowledged the presentation and said that there were some difficulties to implementation because of the financial constraints. She wanted to know where the department was purchasing the uniforms and if they were working with any young entrepreneurs to help with the unemployment by allowing them to supply uniforms. She suggested that the recommendations be provided within a timeframe so that it would be easy for the committee to track the progress.
The Chairperson asked Admiral Kubu to respond to the questions that were asked by members.
Response by Defence Force Service Commission
Adm Kubu said that he had noted some of the questions and that they would provide detailed feedback to the Committee. He mentioned that maybe the fact that the Commission had not been able to make a presentation to the Committee might have caused misunderstanding on Project Thusano, but he was comfortable that the Department had done so now, considering the amounts that they are paying for services. He said that he had also visited some of the sites where the Cubans were deployed and maybe at a larger scale it can be said that the work has not been impactful, but a better picture would be painted by a presentation by the chief of logistics. He added that the Department was happy with the work that had been done.
The Committee heard that there had been discussions about inflating ranks at the top structure and the possibility of retrenching some staff, but there must be reasons to justify any decision that would be taken because it is the appreciation that goes into the decision that is important. It is not wise to just retrench soldiers and put them on the street during such difficult times. More discussions must be done to avoid the retrenching of 11 000 soldiers and causing a nightmare for the country. He said that HR was doing their best to avoid job losses.
He told the Committee that the Cubans and Russians have good training facilities, so the Department would like to continue working with them and those that have been trained must bring back the skills so that they can transfer them. The local facilities are affected by the budget constraints and accreditation of courses is important because all systems must be completed, the Department is working hard to make sure that everything is accredited so that they can have some of these training locally.
Responding to the question by Mr Mafanya, Adm Kubu said that there is no proper memorandum of understanding that can deal with the challenges around the border security so at this stage the defence force is stepping in as a helping partner for the Department of Home Affairs and other stakeholders. They do hope that all the challenges will be addressed soon and that soldiers will have the necessary services.
He said that most of the money allocated to the Department was used for Covid-19. 1 Military Hospital was prioritised, and a presentation was done to the Committee on how the money was spent. More than R150 million was used on 1 Military Hospital. The money was used wisely.
On the matter of consequence management, he said that maybe the Department was not dealing with the issue efficiently because they are dealing with matters via courts and the legal system is not helping the Department because the normal due processes must be followed and at the same time it costs money for the Department. He said reprimanding does not work and maybe this also reflects as if there are no serious efforts for consequence management. He said that because of court decisions, HR cannot deduct certain amounts from the salaries of staff who would be implicated in irregular expenditure because they end up paying small amounts as compared to the amounts that would have been misused.
He said that the Department would love to work with young entrepreneurs on the issue of uniforms, but the problem is that they will be bulk orders, and this means that the procurement process must be followed. Young entrepreneurs do not fit into the system so maybe the policies must be changed to assist them because it would be a good thing to work with them.
He also added that the department does not have timeframes on when the recommendations would be implemented because they have just started some of the work and there is more to be done but they can always come back to the Committee and provide feedback on the recommendations.
The Chairperson thanked Adm Kubu for his engagement with the Committee and said that it is always good to have the Department for discussions. He highlighted the importance of transferring skills that are being acquired from Project Thusano.
The Chairperson asked for the next presentation.
Defence Force Service Commission Annual Activity Report 2020/21
The Committee was taken through the annual performance of the DFSC for the financial year under review. The performance addressed financial aspects, governance, HR management and general performance information.
[See presentation attached for further details]
Mr Marais welcomed the presentation and said that it was always good to see that there was no irregular and unauthorised expenditure. He asked for a comment on the challenges that the defence force is facing due to the budget constraints considering how a defence force structure should look. He asked if there had been any considerations on the high cost of employment on the budget. He also asked if there had been any discussions to address the challenge of high costs within the defence force.
The Chairperson thanked the Commission for a good job that they had been doing and said that the Committee had requested a report on the investigation conducted at 1 Military Hospital and that the Committee had decided to schedule a follow up visit to the hospital.
The Chairperson also said that he was of the view that the report had been submitted to the Minister, and requested that the Committee be supplied the report so that it would assist in their oversight role.
The Chairperson asked that the Commission keep the committee informed on the matter of the website since there was money set aside already for the development of the website.
The Chairperson asked the Commission to provide a response to the questions asked.
Response by the Commission
Mr Hugh Robertson, Chairperson, DFSC,said that the Commission was of the view that some of the people in the National Treasury are not familiar with defence related matters and the Commission has had discussions on how they could engage the Treasury.
Ms Sebina Hlapolosa, Deputy Chairperson: DFSC, said that the issues that are faced with the defence force especially about funding and cost of personnel is concerning and the commission is aware of the issues and how it has also affected the morale of the soldiers. The Commission was doing its best and its recommendations come from research, and they have brainstormed on how to deal with the current matters. The Commission was looking at the different alternatives that can be explored but were affected by Covid-19. Some of the work had not been presented to all the stakeholders because some of the stakeholders had opted for face-to-face engagements and the engagements are still ongoing on how solutions can be found to assist the Department and solve the issues. The Commission is working tirelessly to make sure that the desired results are achieved and that the defence is in a better financial position.
Commissioner Hlapolosa told the Committee that the Commission would deliver on its mandate to turn around the Department and they will provide the Committee with feedback.
Mr Marais thanked Commissioner Hlapolosa for the response and asked if the committee would be furnished with more information on the work of the Commission.
Mr Robertson said that they would provide the committee with a detailed document on how they have progressed.
Dr Ziyaad Essop, Commissioner, DFSC, gave a comment on 1 Military Hospital’s status and said that within the defence force there are system issues that cut across and they lead to secondary costs and if this is looked at the operational level it is a problem especially when it comes to procurement systems. One of the problems is that in some instances the person who is tasked with buying the medical equipment does not have a medical background and will in most cases go for the cheapest equipment. He said that there is a need for career development, especially in the ICU department there is more work that needs to be done because this increases the costs if a patient is referred to a private institution.
Ms Salome Mabilane,Commissioner, DFSC, said that it was worth mentioning to the Committee that the Commission had managed to have a meeting with the Minister, and they agreed to have a retreat for the Department and the other partners included and they would hopefully discuss the issues that are affecting the defence especially the procurement issues. The Commission had not been able to implement some of their plans because of the delays.
Mr Robertson added that the Commission was concerned that some of the recommendations for 1 Military Hospital had been written before and it would be important to have a look at the report that was provided a few years back.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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