DoD briefing on 1, 2 and 3 Military Hospitals upgrades, with Ministry; Mid-term Report Committee Report on SANDF


15 September 2022
Chairperson: Mr V Xaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tabled Committee Reports

The Joint Standing Committee on Defence (the Committee) convened virtually for a briefing by the Department of Defence (DoD) on the Repairs and Maintenance Project (RAMP) plan at 1 Military Hospital and on the background, status and challenges with upgrades at 2 and 3 Military Hospitals.

The Committee welcomed the completion of repairs and maintenance work at 2 Military Hospital but the incomplete status of upgrades at 1 and 3 Military Hospitals remained a source of concern. Services were being outsourced to private health care providers at huge costs due to the dysfunctionality of facilities and equipment at 1 and 3 Military Hospitals. The Committee resolved to engage the Surgeon-General on solutions to remedy the delay in the projects in an attempt to reduce the escalating project costs and the increasing expenses for outsourced health care services.

The HAWKS investigated the case of officials involved in a corrupt relationship with the service provider of the RAMP at 1 Military Hospital. The investigation contributed to the delay in finalising the project. The Committee raised concerns about lengthy court processes to hold officials implicated in wrongdoing to account instead of conducting internal disciplinary procedures. The DOD was urged not to rely on the police and courts because of the unwillingness of senior management to discipline their colleagues. The Committee argued that if taking action depended on the HAWKS finalising the case, then the law must be amended to provide for internal disciplinary measures.

The state of most DOD properties deteriorated over time despite the transfer of the annual maintenance budget to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). As a result, the DOD expressed willingness to take over some of the functions from the DPWI but was cautioned by the Committee and the Minister of Defence to build capacity before taking over tasks which the Department would not be able to execute. The DOD acknowledged the Department's lack of capacity and developed a roadmap in conjunction with the DPWI to gradually devolve functions as the capacity is increased. A task team of senior officials from both departments was overseeing the devolution process.

The Committee received a comprehensive draft report on the SANDF mid-term strategic review. Members felt that a dedicated meeting was needed to discuss the content of the report. It resolved to schedule a meeting on this in the next quarter.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
Chairperson Xaba remarked that the last report on the review of the Repairs and Maintenance Project (RAMP) at 1 Military Hospital was received from the previous Minister. The report showed that Department officials who had been implicated in wrongdoing needed to be called to account. The Committee was informed that the Department did not have jurisdiction over some of the implicated officials who had since left. He expressed hope that the law would take its course concerning those officials. It was reported that a budget was needed to return the hospital to functionality. He expected to be briefed on whether the money had been made available. He was aware of the problem posed by the binding nature of the DPWI contracts and called for a briefing. The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure (MPWI) confirmed that she received the report and was taking action to hold implicated officials accountable. He expected to be updated on the refurbishments undertaken at 2 and 3 Military Hospitals. He asked for a report on the ICU that had not been operational. Although the ICU is fully equipped, it has been closed due to a lack of doctors and nurses at the hospital. Patients were transferred to private hospitals for specialist care and treatment at huge costs. The ICU is meant for the treatment of SANDF members and pensioners, military veterans, and VIPs. The outsourcing of services at high costs was a concern. He expected to hear more information on the situation at 3 Military Hospital.

Minister’s opening remarks
Ms Thandi Modise, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, called on the Secretary of Defence and SANDF generals to proceed with the presentation. She was not feeling too well and said she might leave early.

DOD presentation
Ms Sonto Kudjoe, Secretary of Defence, SANDF, said the illegalities related to the RAMP at 1 Military Hospital had been referred to the HAWKS. She was seeking a legal opinion on the matter. She was hoping Adjutant General Mnisi of the Legal Services Division and the delegate from the Military Police Division could provide more information.

Chairperson Xaba asked if Adjutant General Mnisi was available to brief the Committee on the SIU referral.

Ms Kudjoe replied that the delegate from the Military Police would be joining the meeting a bit later and would respond to the matter. She suggested that Major General Joseph Ledwaba proceeds with the presentation.

Major General Ledwaba felt it was important to first address a few issues. In the last meeting held in December 2021, the MPWI asserted that her department was the custodian of DoD facilities. Following that meeting, the Secretary of Defence and acting Director-General of DPWI convened to address issues before the next appearance before Parliament. In a Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) meeting on 2 September 2022, the MPWI continued to assert ownership of DoD facilities. She wanted the DoD to provide her with a list of projects for approval and offered to provide professionals to assist the DoD. She asked the Minister of Defence to join her in approaching the President to discuss the transfer of powers between executives in terms of section 97 of the Constitution. The DoD was not in agreement with this position. The Minister of DPWI failed to disclose that the DoD was planning to take ownership of the projects. According to his knowledge, the President has never transferred powers from one executive to another. He explained that the infrastructure function was outsourced as per the Deloitte and Touche recommendations. The Minister of Defence directed the DoD to not take over functions that it was unable to execute. He proceeded with feedback on the status of projects at the three hospitals.

3 Military Hospital
After six years, the leaking roof of the hospital and storm-damaged roof of the Emergency Ward had finally been fixed. The passage connecting the Children’s Ward to the Operating Area had not been constructed for more than six years. The X-ray door installed by the DPWI was never able to close properly. Hot water storage vessels had been replaced.

Chairperson Xaba asked what was achieved in the RAMP within the six years. He wanted a summary of what it was supposed to do, what had been done and was not done.

Major General Ledwaba said the DPWI completed repairs to the two roofs and the hot water storage vessels. Areas not completed included the connection between the Children’s Ward to the Operating Area and the replacement of the X-ray door which was not done in compliance with standards. The DoD was ready to take over and complete the outstanding work in the migration process. Due diligence would be done to ensure that projects involving conflict with contractors are not taken over.

2 Military Hospital
The DPWI wanted to hand over the project to the DoD two years ago. Before signing it off, the DoD compiled a snag list which the DPWI managed to sort out. The DOD signed off the project as complete in 2022. The DoD engaged the DPWI and agreed that continued repairs, maintenance and support would be done in terms of the Total Facility Management (TFM) Service Level Agreement (SLA). The DPWI is finalising the SLA.

1 Military Hospital
Due to delays by the DPWI part of the RAMP was transferred to the DoD in 2016. The take-over of the First Floor Project included the renovation and refurbishment of the first floor. The scope was changed to include second-floor areas, i.e. the pharmacy, histology laboratory, medical equipment and technology. The DPWI remain responsible for the remaining areas of the RAMP including the repair and maintenance of mechanical and electrical infrastructure, waterproofing and sealing of the roof, replacement of the sluice system and repair and refurbishment of the rehabilitation pool. Problems with the UPS system, which had been dysfunctional for seven years, had been fixed. According to the logistics division, areas covered as part of the First Floor Project could be made fully functional within 29 months.

Chairperson Xaba requested that the report on the status of investigations be presented at this stage.

Adjutant General Mnisi attributed the problem of litigation matters to the lack of contract management capabilities within the Department. The direction of the Minister is to utilise internal lawyers from the Legal Services Division to sign off on service provider contracts. Despite the direction from the Minister, the responsibility is transferred to another government department in most cases. The contract management responsibility of the 1 Military Hospital RAMP was transferred to the DPWI. The Secretary of Defence advised the Department to approach the court on this matter. The existing contract between the DPWI and the service provider was preventing the DOD from approaching the court on an urgent basis. The HAWKS did not yet respond to the request for a status update on the investigations.

(See presentation)

Chairperson Xaba accepted that the HAWKS was working on the criminal case but sought an explanation on the department's disciplinary procedures to hold military staff to account. He asked if it meant that the SANDF did not have powers to place staff under cautionary suspension and that no action could be taken until the HAWKS investigation was finalised. Under normal circumstances, an official could be suspended if charged.

Mr S Marais (DA) said the SANDF did not conduct any investigations other than the two people that the Committee identified and provided information on. He found it unacceptable that the Defence Force did not take any disciplinary steps and that military staff could get away with murder if not charged in a civilian court.

Chairperson Xaba asked the Secretary of Defence to respond to the matter.

Ms Kudjoe said with the transfer of the project to the DoD, eight DPWI officials and the contracted service provider were ceded to the DoD. The company commissioned to do the investigation, was present during the previous engagement with the Committee. She understood that four or five and not two officials were being investigated. The DoD referred the matter to the HAWKS because of the scale of the problem. All implicated officials were interviewed. The Military Police subsequently opened a case involving the service provider. As a result, work on the first floor of 1 Military Hospital could not proceed. The DoD sought legal advice to clarify the position of the service provider because it was unclear whether another company could be appointed to complete the work. The contract with the service provider was valid based on the legal opinion. The report was shared with the DPWI to permit action against the company and officials for being involved in a corrupt relationship. The case had been opened with the HAWKS as recommended in the report. A lengthy legal process might delay the finalisation of the project. To prevent a similar situation in future, the SANDF was reviewing the capacity deficit to deal with contract management issues.

Mr Marais remarked that his question about the process for disciplinary action in the Defence Force had not been addressed. He asked if taking disciplinary action depended on feedback from the HAWKS. Should it be the case then the law must be changed. It was concerning that nobody could be placed on suspension despite prima facie evidence. He asked for an indication of the general occupancy at all three military hospitals in terms of finance, equipment and staffing resources.

Chairperson Xaba advised that the discussion was about infrastructure and suggested that operational issues such as staffing and finances be parked.

Mr Marais disagreed on the parking of operational issues because the presentation provided details of money spent.

Chairperson Xaba replied that the team was called to brief the Committee on infrastructure issues and might not have answers on operational matters.

Mr Marais opposed the position taken by Chairperson Xaba and advised him against the warning on what questions he was supposed to ask.

Chairperson Xaba insisted that the meeting was dealing with infrastructure-related matters and that a delegation from the Military Health Services, under the leadership of the Surgeon-General, would be invited to respond to matters of an operational nature.

Mr Marais replied that it was senseless to present input on money spent and unable to justify the expenditure. He continued with a different line of questioning and wanted to know if SANDF properties were owned by the DoD or DPWI. The Defence Works Formation (DWF) indicated that it would be taking over all functions which now appeared to not be the case. It is reported that only the first floor at 1 Military Hospital would be taken over and the rest of the work would remain with the DPWI. He asked why the DoD was unable to do the work itself. He wanted to know why the SLA had not been finalised and what the impact thereof was. The Committee never received the full 1 Military Hospital investigation report as promised. He asked if any meeting occurred between the DoD and consulting firm Tectura to prevent a court case. He wanted to know if the police case number could be provided to the Committee. Based on his own research, some information was contradictory because the HAWKS denied that they were investigating Tectura. A court case should be prevented because it might result in a big financial loss should the company win the battle. He found it confusing that the legal processes had been outsourced and asked why the Parliamentary Legal Services was not involved in the matter. He wanted to know how the costs to complete the project were calculated. In his view, nothing would get done if the money was not made available. The DoD highlighted the risk of the shortfall in the Lease Portfolio. He drew attention to the leasing of the St George Hotel at a monthly rate of R10 million plus capital and infrastructure expenses. He questioned how this expense could be justified considering the spare capacity at some government facilities.

Chairperson Xaba observed that Mr Marais was still posing questions on operational matters. He undertook to arrange a meeting with the Surgeon-General to deliberate on these issues.

Mr Marais replied that officials must come prepared and not rely on being given the opportunity to return to respond to questions.

Chairperson Xaba said officials came prepared according to the items on the agenda.

Ms Kudjoe confirmed that the Department came prepared to respond to questions raised regarding the three Military Hospitals. She would obtain occupancy data from the Surgeon-General. She indicated that officials were available to respond to the issues of cases that have been opened.

Chairperson Xaba directed the DoD to first respond to the questions raised by Mr Marais.

Ms Kudjoe explained that a DoD/DPWI Task Team was formed in 2020 to work on a roadmap for the devolution of functions. The devolution was proposed in a 2018 Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) meeting. She acknowledged a sloppiness on the part of the DoD because the state of most properties had deteriorated over time. The DPWI was given R1.2 billion for maintenance but the facilities worsened even further. Capacity building formed an important part of building the roadmap. The DoD did not have the capacity to take over all functions at this stage. The intention is to devolve functions as the capacity increases.

Major General Ledwaba said the DOD/DPWI Task Team had been engaging since 2017 and had presented a joint presentation on devolution at a SCOA meeting. There was an agreement to devolve functions to the DoD but matters unravelled with the reassignment of the Task Team co-chairperson and the DPWI wanting to appoint its own Task Team. The idea was for the two departments to speak the same language. There was no dispute that the Minister of Defence was the owner and should determine any devolution to the SANDF.

Chairperson Xaba noted that Major General Ledwaba wanted to convince the Committee that functions must be returned to the DoD. The Committee did not have a problem in this regard because the DPWI also wanted the transfer to occur. There was an agreement that all departments should do their own maintenance due to the shoddy work of the DPWI. However, the Minister of Defence cautioned the DoD against taking on work that the Department was unable to do.

Major General Ledwaba replied that the direction from the Minister was to build capacity and to take over functions that the Department was able to manage. Her guidance is to perform due diligence on all functions before taking it over. The DoD started taking over functions where no DPWI contracts were involved such as municipal services and the day-to-day maintenance functions. It is envisaged that all functions would have been over by April 2023. He reported that all work at 2 Military Hospital had been completed. The DPWI would be responsible for maintenance in terms of a TFM SLA.

Major General Ledwaba confirmed that the Tectura issue was being investigated and would be resolved. He had personal meetings with the HAWKS and was able to determine that the Military Police was cooperating with the HAWKS. He advised that a plan was in place to address the run-away lease portfolio. The DoD engaged the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Council for Geoscience to investigate the stability of areas in preparation for building office blocks on government-owned land. He cautioned that a lease injection was required and that money from DPWI must not be used to cover lease payments. The continuous subsidy of leases was unsustainable. The CFO must engage National Treasury to agree on the three-year rollover of money for the water and electricity bills. The R280 million maintenance budget could be used to fund projects including the Thaba Tshwane facility, where dolomite, caused by the underground bulk water system resulted in sinkholes. In response to the question about the TFM SLA not being finalised, he said it might be a typo. The DPWI had the go-ahead to finalise the SLA for 2 Military Hospital similar to the SLA for 1 Military Hospital. Costs for the 2 Military Hospital Project had not been provided.

Chairperson Xaba remarked that errors in the report should be corrected unless it was fatal.

Colonel Molamo, Military Police Division, SANDF, reported that case number 02/09/2021 was opened and the matter is being investigated.

Chairperson Xaba thanked the Secretary of Defence and the generals for fielding the questions.

Mr T Mafanya (EFF) anticipated that Chairperson Xaba was about to close the meeting and requested an opportunity to raise further questions. He said answers were directed to questions raised by Mr Marais, who was the only one who had been engaging with the presentation up to this point.

Chairperson Xaba replied that Mr Marais was the only one who raised his hand when the platform was opened for questions.

Mr Mafanya said Members were allowing the Chairperson and Mr Marais to deal with the matter on which there was disagreement. He proceeded by asking which budget was being used when the DPWI attended to DOD projects. He sought clarity on whom and what the HAWKS were investigating on cases related to fruitless expenditure at the Military Hospitals. He requested a proper explanation about the R10 million rental and suggested that a probe was needed on these types of decisions. He observed contestations between the two departments and sought clarity on which department was responsible for funding DoD projects.

Ms Kudjoe drew attention to audio problems that she was experiencing. She was missing out on some of the detail of the question.

Chairperson Xaba replied that, in summary, Mr Mafanya wanted to know which department’s budget was being used for work done by the DPWI on behalf of the DoD and how funds are transferred between the two departments.

Mr T Mmutle (ANC) questioned the responsibility and role of the end-user in the project. He found it worrying that the DOD was behaving like a complainant even though it was funding the project. He wanted to know what the DOD intended to do in terms of not being in control of the implementation of the projects. On a visit to 2 Military Hospital, an officer complained about not being consulted about technical aspects of medical equipment being replaced. He argued that the project had not been running smoothly because the Department was disengaging. The DoD would have to monitor processes because they remain accountable for resources allocated to the Department. He wanted to know what mitigating measures were put in place to prevent another agency, e.g. the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) from causing similar problems.

Mr M Shelembe (DA) said he might have missed out on some deliberations due to network problems. He sought clarity on a payment of R14 million instead of R4 million. He asked what was preventing the Department from recovering the money incorrectly paid. The account of the receiving company must be put on hold until the matter is resolved.

Ms Kudjoe acknowledged that the Department dropped the ball. The project dates back to 1996 and was ceded to the DOD in 2016. Things went wrong from a facilities management point of view. The Department should have been more hands-on from the onset. Responding to the question on devolution, she explained that the DOD had taken over the municipal services function, i.e. payment of rates and taxes, in 2021. R1.2 billion is budgeted annually for regular maintenance. The plan is to devolve from the DPWI up to R600 million as capacity is being built especially in terms of contract management. The Department was cautioned to no devolve in haste without capacity. The Task Team was formed to oversee the devolution process with the help of agencies such as the DBSA that assisted in creating the DWF.

Major General Ledwaba agreed with the Secretary of Defence that the Department took its eyes off the ball. The DWF was established because the DPWI was underspending the money from the DoD. The DWF developed artisans who are able to deliver good work. Upon noticing the work at 1 Military Hospital, the matter was referred to the HAWKS. The Military Police was in the process of picking up the pieces. He learnt that the HAWKS investigator had resigned and that the Surgeon-General was asked to name the officials involved in wrongdoing. The DoD did not supervise the project because of a lack of capacity. The Minister was resolving the capacity problem. The DoD was not outsourcing functions to the DBSA. Structural engineers employed by the DoD were working under the supervision of the DBSA. The Department was able to install the UPS in the theatre and restore the kitchen with the cooperation of the DBSA. He was optimistic about the capacity of the DBSA to account. The DOD would keep its eyes on the ball and account for every cent spent. He was not aware of the R14 million incorrect payment and requested more information to follow up on the matter.

Colonel Molamo (sp) remarked that the Directorate was investigating the whole RAMP matter at all three military hospitals for Priority Crimes Investigations.

Chairperson Xaba noted that services were still being outsourced to private health care providers at high costs. The Department reported to be satisfied with work done at 2 Military Hospital but 1 and 3 Military Hospitals remained a source of concern because of the spending of unnecessary resources. The Committee would need to meet with Military Health Services to engage on the challenges reported at 1 and 3 Military Hospitals and to discuss operational matters.

Mr Marais wanted to know if he should submit his questions on operational matters in advance so that it could be addressed at the proposed meeting with Military Health Services. According to his information, this would be the last meeting with Major General Ledwaba. He thanked Major General Ledwaba for his service and said his legacy would remain.

Chairperson Xaba sought confirmation that Major General Ledwaba was leaving the Defence Force.

Minister Modise confirmed that Major General Ledwaba would be retiring soon. She was planning to bid him farewell at a particular meeting. She agreed that his contribution would always be remembered. She acknowledged that the Department woke up a little bit too late and lost critical skills over the years. There was unease about the Deloitte and Touche report at the time but the Department should take responsibility because it did not do the basics such as ensuring warm bodies were available to build capacity and scrutinise budgets. This might still be a problem in the long term because critical skills take time to develop. She was concerned that the Military would run into difficulties by taking over functions without the required capacity. She felt that the DOD owed Mr Marais an explanation. She had not had the privilege of being briefed by the HAWKS but did receive an interesting letter from Tectura on which she was seeking legal advice. She was of the view that the DPWI issues would remain unless people in the Department were trustworthy or could be held accountable through an internal disciplinary process. The meeting, in her opinion, was not easy but she was determined to improve the situation. Individuals involved in the R10 million debacle would be followed up. She asked the Committee for space to deal with housekeeping matters. She planned to invite the HAWKS for information about the investigations and would return to brief the Committee.

Chairperson Xaba said that was a good note to end the meeting. He was concerned that matters were being taken through lengthy court processes instead of dealing with issues through disciplinary measures. The Department needed to tighten the screws and not rely on the police and courts because senior management was unwilling to discipline their own colleagues. He was satisfied that the matter was receiving attention. He thanked the Minister and the SANDF team for the engagement.

Consideration of SANDF mid-term report
Mr Peter Daniels and Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg, Content Advisor and Researcher respectively to the Committee, presented a comprehensive draft report on the SANDF mid-term strategic review, from the beginning of the 6th Parliament in July 2019. Joint Rule 120 (d) prescribes a mid-term strategic review of the following key issues; transformation, integration, equity, morale and defence readiness. An assessment of activities during the review period delivered the following observations as summarised below:

Integration efforts had been managed appropriately by parliamentary structures except for minor issues such as the use of dated force numbers and queries about military promotions;

Although the SANDF was more representative, the skewed nature of recent intakes as it related to equity targets, raised concerns about maintaining proper representation;

Efforts to boost morale needed to be enhanced;

Defence readiness was in a critical state of decline with inadequate attempts to address ongoing challenges;

An increased reliance is placed on the SANDF for domestic deployments in addition to the conventional external peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations;

The defence budget allocation was not in line with increasing operational demands;

The declining defence allocation impacts negatively on long-term defence sustainability;

The domestic defence industry and defence-related research and development are negatively impacted by the reduced defence allocation;

The misalignment of defence spending and the increasing spend on employee compensation is a major concern;

The decreasing availability of Prime Mission Equipment due to maintenance constraints and the lack of new acquisition initiatives are flagged as matters of concern;

Decreasing training efforts in the SA Air Force and SA Navy were observed; and

The level of defence readiness is in urgent need of redress to prevent the loss of capabilities and conventional use.

Recommendations to address the identified shortcomings would be presented to both Houses of Parliament for consideration. The observations and recommendations were drawn from the work of the Committee.

Chairperson Xaba thanked the staff for the good work and for enabling the Committee to look back at the ground that had been covered and to plan for additional work in the remaining years.

Mr Marais remarked that the staff had done exceptional work by covering all aspects that the Committee had been referring to. He sought clarity in terms of procedure considering that the NCOP did not have a Defence element.

Chairperson Xaba asked when the report was required to be tabled in Parliament.

Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) said the Committee was blessed with a good administrative team. He commended the team for their exceptional work. He found the report quite complex and would have appreciated more time to analyse the content. Sharing this comprehensive report at the end of a meeting was not doing justice to the effort that went into compiling it. He did not feel that he owned the report although it was based on some of the work of the Committee. He was not satisfied with the rushed job and said a dedicated meeting was needed to consider the content of such a good quality report before the Committee could accept it.

Chairperson Xaba noted Mr Ryder’s concern and requested the staff to indicate when the report must be tabled.

Mr Daniels replied that this was the first draft of the report. He suggested that the report should be added as an agenda item for the next quarter.

Chairperson Xaba was satisfied that the report would not be adopted in this meeting. He agreed that Members needed to spend more time analysing the report considering it contained a review of activities from the beginning. It would be an agenda item when the Committee returns for the next quarter.

The Chairperson thanked Members for the engagement.

The meeting was adjourned.


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