The Joint Standing Committee on Defence convened a virtual meeting to receive a briefing from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Department of Defence on the implementation of the recommendations of the forensic report on 1 Military Hospital and progress with the RAMP project and related matters. The Committee was also briefed on SANDF support for government’s Disaster Management Response to the natural Disaster in KZN, EC and NW.
The Committee also considered the President’s Letter of Employment of the SANDF for relief operations in KZN and EC provinces.
The Committee heard that the internal capacity that the Defence Force built comprised 13 built environment professionals, seven partially qualified professionals, as well as 1 255 facility support staff and artisans.
The capacity for building included training of staff and recruitment of new staff. The internal built environment staff is assigned to do first line repairs, day-to-day maintenance, less complex refurbishment and capital works projects, lease contracts, municipal services, as well as rates and taxes.
There is still capacity to be created in terms of built environment professionals, programme and project management and other supporting disciplines.
On the feedback about 1 Military Hospital, the Tectura contract was ceded from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to DoD in 2015, and due diligence was done before any payment of invoices could be made, some of which were rejected to avoid double payment.
The medical equipment that was bought included one CT scanner, 2 x-ray machines, and one mammogram machine. These could not be installed due to non-completion of the first floor, and the CT scanner could not fit in the rooms, as they were only partially completed.
The investigation done as part of a board of inquiry recommended by AGSA found that the machines were outdated and the x-ray tubes were beyond repair, and BOI recommended disposal.
The Committee was not pleased with the presentation from SANDF, as they felt that it was a repetition of what was said in previous meetings.
Members said they did not see any real progress between Public Works, the Defence Works, and the DBSA as an implementing agent, and were not confident that the project was moving forward.
Members wanted to know about the progress in terms of the disciplinary processes, the number of people that had been charged inside the Department, as well as the cost of the medical equipment that had become obsolete.
The Department told the Committee that they were ready to begin the project, and the cost of the infrastructure will be R1.4 billion, including the medical equipment. He said that they destroyed their own capacity when they handed over this function to DPWI in 1996, as they had the internal capacity to do the work, but construction was not their core business.
The DBSA was appointed as an implementing agent to also help them with professionalising the people that they had recruited through job training. The DBSA is also subject to the rules of the PFMA, and is also evaluated by the AG. The R1.4 billion is also inclusive of the cost of DBSA support.
In terms of the SANDF support for government’s disaster management response to the natural disaster in KZN – Operation Chariot - the Committee heard that SANDF is involved in the assessment of the situation on the ground and providing the necessary expertise and advice. SANDF conduct their activities together with role-players and stakeholders, including entities outside of government, as informed by the prevailing situation on the ground.
The deployment of Force Elements on the ground commenced on the 13 April with the first Airforce Elements deployed in Ethekwini District Municipality on the 19 April, with Airforce Elements and assessment teams working together with the provincial leadership. The Force Elements in the EC has remained on standby and have not been utilised. Deployment in the NW commenced on 23 April with Force elements on standby and assessment teams working with provincial leadership. The current force levels active on the ground as of 2 May 2022 is 3 001.
The Committee applauded the response by SANDF to the natural disaster in the KZN, EC and NW provinces. They wanted to get an understanding of the frustrations that the Defence Force experienced with aging emergency transportation for equipment as well as how the reduction of the number of Defence Force members affect their response to natural disasters such as the one in KZN.
The Chairperson welcomed all the Members of the Committee to the meeting and said that none of the members from the Department was on the platform.
He said that there is an amendment on the agenda of the meeting, as they would receive a presentation of the President’s letter of Employment and a briefing on the SANDF support for government’s Disaster Management response to the natural disaster in KZN, EC and NW.
He noted the apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister of the Department of Defence (DoD) and the Secretary of Defence, as they were not going to be part of the meeting. He asked the Committee Secretariat if there were any other apologies to be noted.
The Committee Secretary said that she had not received any apologies and had also requested the list of the delegation, which she had also not received.
Mr Sanele Monakali, PLO, said that the delegation from the LOC Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was on the platform and would be led by Gen [Joseph] Ledwaba. He said that the rest of the members from DoD would join the meeting shortly, as some of them were experiencing technical difficulties because of load shedding.
Admiral Mokgadi Maphoto, Head of SANDF Military Police, said that the Chief of General Operations, Gen [Lucky] Sangweni, would deal with the presentation of the President’s letter as well as the Briefing on SANDF involvement in the recent natural disaster in KZN and the EC, and The Chief of Logistics was sitting with Gen Ledwaba.
Mr S Marais (DA) was concerned that the Minister, Deputy Minister, and the Secretary of Defence were not in the meeting. He said that the Minister’s response on the RAMP and Forensic report on 1 Military Hospital was still outstanding and that the President’s letter was normally presented by the Minister. He was concerned that the Minister is regularly not available in these engagements and said that it is not acceptable.
The Chairperson said that the Minister was in the meeting when the RAMP report was discussed and made comments that she had discussed the matter with the Chief of the Defence Force and SANDF, whom she was expecting to implement the recommendations of the forensic report. He said that the purpose of the briefing in the meeting was to hear the progress on the implementation of those recommendations and that there was nothing that needed the Minister’s presence in that regard.
He said that Mr Marais was right in that the Committee prefers that the President’s letter of employment should be read by the Minister and the details of the rollout of the deployment presented by the Joint Chiefs or any other senior member of the defence force.
Lieutenant-General Jabulani Mbuli, Chief Logistics, SANDF, said that their delegation can address the progress on RAMP implementation and the forensic report.
Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) said that he agrees with Mr Marais and disagrees with the Chairperson because this was not a presentation on the progress of implementation of recommendations on a normal project, but it is a 16-year old project.
He said that the Committee is bound to have political questions to ask, but there would be no one to answer them, which would be unfair on the presenters to have to answer those questions without any political backup. He said that it is a problem that the Minister was not in the meeting, especially considering that the Minister was the Speaker in the National Assembly and should understand the oversight role that Parliament has to play over the Executive.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) said that it would not be ideal not to take the briefing on the progress of the implementation of RAMP and the forensic report on the basis of the absence of the Minister. However, it is also not ideal that both the Minister and Deputy Minister are not available at the meeting.
Briefing on the implementation of the recommendations of the Forensic Report on 1 Military Hospital and progress with the RAMP and related matters
Admiral Maphoto said that in terms of the status of the investigation, the case was referred to the Inspector-General of the Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Anti-Fraud for forensic investigation in October 2019.
The report was received in December 2020 and one of the main recommendations was that those who were implicated and the companies that were implicated in fraudulent activities should be reported to the SAPS’ Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) Unit, who were understood to have enough capacity and resources to do the investigation.
The Defence Force held a meeting with the Head of the DPCI where he called the senior investigators and they reached an agreement that they would take the case. The issue was that the Defence Force could not prosecute the members and some of the companies that were implicated because it had no jurisdiction. The members who were implicated had since left the Defence Force, and the right organisation to deal with the investigation was the HAWKS.
A case was opened with the HAWKS and it started as Inquiry number 2 of 9 2021. After that, a team between DPCI and the Military Police Investigators was established, and the company that conducted the forensic investigation was visited.
Mr M Shelembe (DA) wanted to know if Admiral Maphoto’s remarks were part of the presentation.
The Chairperson said that it was feedback on the interaction with the HAWKS and the presentation would follow.
Mr Marais said that the Committee had requested in previous meetings that any information relayed by presenters should also be forwarded in writing to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the meeting is recorded live on Parliament’s YouTube page and everything that Admiral Maphoto had said would also be written down in the minutes of the meeting.
Admiral Maphoto said that the DPCI and Military Police Investigators visited the company that conducted the forensic investigation to clarify some aspects of the report, and the clarification was given to them and the matter is currently under investigation.
Gen Ledwaba presented the progress on capacity building as part of the recommendations of the forensic report. He said that the internal capacity that they built consists of 13 Built Environment Professionals, seven partially qualified professionals, as well as 1 255 Facility support Staff and Artisans.
He said that capacity building includes training of staff and recruitment of new staff.
He said that the internal built environment staff is assigned to do first line repairs, day-to-day maintenance, less complex refurbishment and capital works projects, lease contracts, municipal services, as well as rates and taxes. There is still capacity to be created in terms of built environment professionals, program and project management and supporting disciplines.
Genl Ledwaba said that the Defence Force is using the Development Bank of SA (DBSA) as an implementing Agent, and they assist them in executing complex capital works and refurbishment projects with immediate effect on targets to ensure quality and that they are on budget. They also assist in executing specialised repairs and maintenance, providing system and specialised resources for emergency response and repairs, training built environment professionals, project managers and supporting disciplines. The MoU between DoD and DBSA requires DBSA to provide mentorship and coaching of DW Formation members to be registered as built environment professionals. In order for this to be achieved, funding for structure and staffing of the Defence Works Formation with built environment professionals must be in place. Funded projects are also required for skills transfer used as workplace exposure to qualify members for professional registration.
On the feedback on 1 Military Hospital, he said that the Tectura contract was ceded from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to DoD in 2015, and due diligence was done before any payment of invoices could be made, some of which were rejected to avoid double payment. The medical equipment that was bought included one CT scanner, two x-ray machines and one mammogram machine. They could not be installed due to non-completion of the first floor and the CT scanner could not fit in the rooms, as they were only partially completed. The investigation done as part of a board of inquiry recommended by AGSA found that the machines were outdated and the X-ray tubes were beyond economic repair, and BOI recommended disposal.
Mr Ryder said that the presentation provided by the SANDF was a hatchet job on DPWI and that he and Mr Marais had foreseen this at the beginning of the meeting. He said that he wanted to know what was being done to fix the problem.
Gen Ledwaba said that he was merely giving a background of why there was an issue with DPWI in the first place.
The Chairperson said that in a June 2021 meeting, Gen Ledwaba reported that following the agreement between DPWI and DoD that they would devolve the function to the DoD. The condition was that DoD must build capacity so that when the function is finally devolved to them, they would be able to run with it.
Gen Ledwaba was presenting progress regarding the building of capacity to take over the RAMP project and other infrastructural or built projects. He said that Gen Ledwaba had previously said that they would be able to roll out the project once the contractual and funding issues are resolved and that the contractual issues would be cleared once the forensic report had determined which way to go.
Gen Ledwaba had also said that the project would take up to 29 months to conclude, consisting of one month for project implementation, four months for procurement, and 24 months to complete the construction.
He said that Gen Ledwaba had concluded by saying that the Defence Works Formation had concluded plans to finalise the 1 Military Hospital First Floor Project, however, the plans could only be executed if two outstanding matters were resolved, the funding, and the outcome of the forensic report.
Gen Ledwaba had also said that the current professional team may be suspended if it is found guilty of corruption and may be allowed to continue with the project if they are exonerated.
The Chairperson said that now that the report had been presented, he wanted to know if it clears the DoD’s way to suspend or terminate the contracts that were standing in the way and move on with the project.
Gen Ledwaba said that the 29 months of the project still stands if the money can be made available, and if the money can be made available in small chunks, they have a plan of doing the project according to the available funds. He said that they are waiting for the finalisation of the contract with the professional team and once that has been finalised, they will be able to do the work.
Lt Gen Mbuli said that they were currently engaging their Legal Department to find a solution to the matter and find a way forward in finishing the first floor of 1 Military Hospital.
Mr Ryder said that he was feeling hopeless because what he heard from the presentation was just a continuation of the blame game between the two departments that led to the current predicament. He said that he did not see any real progress between Public Works, Defence Works, and the DBSA as an implementing agents and that he is not confident that the project is moving forward. He said that as much as the report was noted, it should be dismissed.
Mr T Mafanya (EFF) asked for the case number of the Hawks pending case and said that in previous engagements with the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of Defence, there were no conclusions and contingent reports to show that there was an understanding between DPWI and DoD, it was like they were moving in circles. He said that the intent to do something does not make it a report, because it shows that the work still needs to be done, which means there was no progress at all, and this has been the case for the past 15 years.
He said that the equipment that was declared obsolete was discussed before and it was said that those who were responsible needed to be held accountable because this constitutes wasteful expenditure.
Mr Shelembe wanted to know if there would be any cost implications coming with the appointment of the DBSA as an implementing agent and whether DoD is not risking having the same situation that is happening with DPWI should there be a failure to implement the project. He said that there should be clear timeframes in terms of consequence management so that there can be a follow-through on when the projects are expected to start and on how soon the implicated parties can be held accountable. He asked for a clear framework on how they plan to sort the problem on the 1 Military Hospital first floor.
Mr Mmutle said that he was more concerned about the timeframes in terms of reallocating the responsibility to the DoD and when they expect to have the full capacity to complete the project.
Mr Marais said that the presentation was disappointing because everything that was said had been discussed in the past and that this was totally unacceptable.
He wanted to know the progress in terms of the disciplinary processes, the number of people that have been charged inside the Department, as well as the cost of the medical equipment that has become obsolete. He also asked for a copy of the presentation of the Board of Inquiries. He wanted to know if there was any confirmation of funding available for the RAMP project.
The Chairperson said that Tectura was not one of the companies that were implicated in the forensic report. Tectura is a company that the DBSA worked with to fix the sixth or seventh floor and was commended for that task. The companies that were mentioned were Multiprof, SSI, Fast Move, Super Way, and Baboreki.
The Department reported previously that it would require R1.4 billion to complete the Hospital and that it was outsourcing services to service providers at a huge cost, and the was an agreement in the meeting that the sooner 1 Military Hospital is back on track the better so that the money that is spent on outsourcing can be saved.
In 2019/2020, the cost of outsourcing was R182 million, and in 2018/2019 it was R130 million, and the total over a period of ten years was R1.1 billion. “The Department is admitting in this meeting that they lack capacity and they are working towards building capacity and expertise and that they will work with DBSA to assist them in doing so”, he said.
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) said that he was disappointed with the Department’s presentation because he was expecting a report on the number of people who had been arrested and charged since money was spent recklessly and corruption was clearly at play. He said that he did not understand why the Minister or Deputy Minister would not be present in the meeting when such a burning issue was being discussed.
Gen Ledwaba said that when the Minister of DPWI was presenting in the previous meeting, SANDF was never given an opportunity to respond and correct her on Section 97. Section 97 is irrelevant in terms of the powers that the Defence Force has, and the Defence Force would be happy to debate this issue with DPWI.
Both the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure agreed on the handing over of the projects to the DoD in their joint presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the Standing Committee on Appropriations.
He said that they were ready to begin the project, and the cost of the infrastructure will be R1.4 billion, including the medical equipment. He said that they destroyed their own capacity when they handed over this function to DPWI in 1996, because they had the internal capacity to do the work, but construction was not their core business.
He said that in 2018, they were instructed by the Minister and the Standing Committee on Appropriations to form a task team between themselves, Treasury, and DPWI so that they could assist them to build capacity.
DBSA was appointed as an implementing agent to also help them with professionalising the people that they had recruited through job training. DBSA is also subject to the rules of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and is also evaluated by the AG. The R1.4 billion is also inclusive of the cost of DBSA support to the Defence Force. The contract with DBSA is in its fourth year and the Defence Force wants to ensure that when the contract expires, the professional engineers will have already been registered.
Gen Ledwaba said that the narrative that the Defence Force had misused government funds is incorrect and that he can prove that since they took over this project, they have produced some efficiencies.
He said that they had lived up to their promise of saving up to R100 million and saved R355 million.
He said that DPWI did not pay rates and taxes in the City of Cape Town for about R100 million, and the Defence Force had to pay that amount.
He said that they wanted to take over the day-to-day maintenance of state facilities where DPWI is struggling because they believe that they can do better than them.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the formation had quantified the amount that they will need this year to start the RAMP project.
He said that if the Department was allowed to take over the function of paying the rates and taxes, it would go a long way in effecting some savings that could be utilised by the Department.
Lt Gen Mbuli said that when issues were referred to external parties for investigation, the only thing that they could do within the Department is to inform the implicated parties and then await the results of the investigation.
Admiral Maphoto said that they forwarded the case to the DPCI and it was assigned an inquiry number “02 of 9 2021”.
He said that the forensic investigation was instituted because of the uncertainty that the formation had with the reports that were received before, and the forensic reports uncovered some criminality in their findings. It was recommended in the findings of the forensic report that criminal investigations should be instituted by the HAWKS.
Mr Ryder said that until the Committee receives a project plan with deliverable milestones linked closely to dates of completion, there is no progress at all.
Mr Marais added that the project plan also needed to include funding to show that the plan could be executed because if it did not include funding, it would mean that it was theoretical.
He said that the forensic report, on pages 39 and 41, shows that Tectura was directly implicated in the corruption and this shows that there has been no progress in the issue since 2016, which is why it makes it unacceptable for the Minister to not be present in the meeting to account for this.
Mr Mafanya said that the disappointing issue is that both the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure are to blame because there was consensus amongst them in the previous meeting and they reached a conclusion that never came to fruition.
The Chairperson said that both the previous Ministers of Defence and Public Works had agreed on the handing over of the functions to the DoD, and it shows in all the supporting documents that the members of the Committee received.
He said that the Committee needed to receive a project plan that shows clear timelines as well as an indication of how much each stage would require in any financial year until completion.
On the Tectura issue, he asked Gen Ledwaba to clarify whether the company was implicated in any wrongdoing.
Gen Ledwaba asked to submit a report of the project plan to the Committee by next week Wednesday and said that they did not put a beginning date for the project, as that would depend on when they received the funds. He said that they will also attach the legal framework so that the Committee can be able to link the report to relevant legislation.
He said that the support of the Committee in their pursuit of taking over the rates and taxes would go a long way, as it would assist them in saving money and taking over the day-to-day maintenance of facilities.
He said that Tectura was still being investigated on whether they were implicated in any wrongdoing and in the case that they were involved, their contract would be terminated. He said that the only thing that bound them with Tectura was their contract which has not ended yet.
Briefing on the President’s Letter of Employment of SANDF for relief operations in KZN and EC
General Simphiwe Sangweni, Chief: Joint Operations, said that he was not aware that he had to present the President’s letter of employment as in previous occasions when the letter was submitted to Parliament, the Committee would deliberate and then adopt it, so he did not prepare.
The Chairperson wanted to know if there was anything in the President’s letter of employment that the Committee ought to know about, aside from what was written in the actual letter.
Genl Sangweni said that there was no additional information that he could provide beyond what was written in the President’s Letter.
Briefing on SANDF Support to Government’s Disaster Management Response to the Natural Disaster in KZN, EC & NW
Gen Sangweni presented the support provided by the DoD to government’s Disaster Management response to the natural disaster in KZN and parts of the Eastern Cape and North West.
He said that DoD responded as part of the whole of government’s effort and it deployed resources to contribute towards tackling the disaster.
The disaster management response is led by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) through its inter-departmental effort driven by the PROVJOINTS structures through the direction of the NATJOINTS. SANDF is part of the NATJOINTS and the PROVJOINTS and participates accordingly.
SANDF was involved in the assessment of the situation on the ground and with providing the necessary expertise and advice. SANDF conduct their activities together with role-players and stakeholders, including entities outside of government, as informed by the prevailing situation on the ground.
The deployment of force elements on the ground commenced on the 13 April with the first Airforce Elements deployed in EThekwini District Municipality on the 19 April, with Airforce Elements and assessment teams working together with the provincial leadership.
The force elements in the EC have remained on standby and have not been utilised.
Deployment in the NW commenced on 23 April with Force elements on standby and assessment teams working with provincial leadership.
The current force levels active on the ground as of 2 May 2022 comprise 3 001.
Mr Marais said that he is proud of the work that the SANDF has done in KZN, EC and the North West provinces as they have proven to the country that whenever they are called upon, they are able to do their work in a disciplined manner.
He asked for confirmation of the number of the soldiers on the ground. He also wanted to know which of the seven airforce platforms had been deployed by SANDF and lastly, he wanted to know how the Defence Force and Joint Operations prepared for the disaster and mitigated the challenges that would result from it later in the year.
Mr Mafanya wanted to know how the Defence Force mitigates the inability to train members of the force according to the required standards due to poor infrastructure and equipment.
He wanted to get an understanding of the frustrations that the Defence Force experiences with aging emergency transportation for equipment as well as how the reduction of the number of Defence Force members affect their response to natural disasters such as the one in KZN.
Mr Mmutle wanted to know about the wellbeing of troops deployed to the three provinces and how they were taken care of in terms of food rationing, medical support and all their other needs.
Mr Shelembe asked for the latest update on the success that they had achieved in the provinces.
The Chairperson said that SANDF has under-represented themselves and the work that they had done in the provinces and its magnitude.
He said that they could have perhaps included pictures of their work and should be proud of their efforts.
He said that they should not undersell themselves and should speak of the work that they had done as well as the lessons that they were learning along with the support that they needed.
Response by SANDF
Gen Sangweni expressed gratitude on behalf of the Defence Force for the encouraging comments made by the Committee.
He said that the number of troops that were on the ground on the 2 May was 3 001. There are seven aircraft that are on the ground and there is no C-130.
He said that he does not have an answer to how they will be able to manage the finances in the current year because of the disaster, but at the moment they use funds where they are needed and work with what they have.
On the mitigation against inability to train members as well as aging infrastructure, he said that they make ends meet by providing basic training and it helps with improving the capabilities of the soldiers. In the current situation of reduced training because of reduced funding, they use the approach that “a soldier must do what a soldier needs to do”, where soldiers are trained with basic skills, and they combine those skills with their own personal experiences in a given situation. There is no dedicated training and expertise in disaster management.
On mobility and unserviceability, he said that there is currently no mitigation as soldiers have to walk long distances in situations where they are supposed to be using vehicles, which affects their efficiency. He said that they could have done much more and covered more ground quickly and effectively if they had more aircrafts and vehicles.
He said that there were measures taken to support soldiers on the ground in terms of food, medical supplies and other forms of support, but the measures are only taken where there is capability.
There are medical teams embedded with the soldiers and three ambulances, but that is not enough.
On feeding and accommodation, he said that they use the same field accommodation that is used by people and for feeding; they use ration packs in the field.
On other challenges, he said that they did not have stock levels and reserves because of the lack of capacity and capability.
He said that they only have food when there is an operation, which is not how it is supposed to be, but they have been forced to live through this situation.
They were affected heavily in KZN because the roads were destroyed by the floods and there was no water and food, and they did not have their own reserves.
On noticeable successes, he said that the air assets made a difference and they received assistance from the Virginia SAPS and some private companies who assisted with their small aircraft in search and rescue. When there were more aircraft from the SANDF Air Force, they were able to increase their capacity and their assets were involved in several situations where bodies and people were recovered. It was not only an effort from SANDF but also various stakeholders who chipped in to assist.
He said that water supply had been the scarcest resource in Durban and they took a decision to move some water tankers from the North West province to Durban to assist. They also established a water distribution point for tankers to help with purification and distribution. He said that the Reserve Force is there to augment the numbers that they have, and they assist by being in the offices and in operations when the numbers are cut.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the emergency provisions that were in the Disaster Management Act had helped them in procuring assets or services faster to deal with the situation.
Gen Sangweni said they did not help at all.
Mr Mmutle said that the lack of ration packs on the ground should be taken seriously and asked General Ledwaba to also comment on the struggles they are facing. He said that in the past, SANDF used to have service providers supply them with ration packs and that perhaps the lack of service providers contributed to the lack of rations.
He wanted to know what had been done by the LOC division since the expiry of those contracts and when they were intending to close the gap.
Gen Sangweni said that the main challenge is the status of the Defence Force in terms of its operational capabilities so the system of support is weakened by the fact that the Defence Force is not able to fund its own interventions.
Chairperson’s concluding remarks
The Chairperson said that the view of the Committee is that the President acts on the advice of the Defence force on their assessment of the situation on the ground and then he makes a deployment.
He said that the Committee would always support the peacekeeping missions in the continent by the President provided that they are given information in terms of the reasoning behind an extended deployment.
He thanked the representatives from the SANDF for their presentations and the members of the Committee for their attendance and participation in the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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