Budget briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

31 May 2004
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Meeting report

Chairperson said that the committee would focus on interacting with soldiers in 2004 to better understand disturbing trends of

31 May 2003

Mr M Booi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department Strategic Plan 2004/05
Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2004/05

Mr A Visser, Chief Strategic and Planning, briefed the Committee on the Department's business strategy plan. Mr B Engelbrecht, Chief Budget, briefed the Committee on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2004/05. The Chairperson said a complaint of insufficient funding in all areas of the Department ran like a 'golden thread' through the briefing.

The Chairperson said the Committee would focus on interacting with soldiers to better understand disturbing discipline trends mentioned in the Department's Annual Report. The Committee had a constitutional right to demand transparency in order to play its role as overseer. A three-week workshop on the budget would begin on 9 June. Only two Members could presently attend but in the interests of transparency, he had asked that all Members be allowed to attend.

Mr A Visser briefed the Committee on the Department's Business Strategy Plan. He noted that the Department's vision had changed on March 2004 to "Effective defence for a democratic South Africa". He said the Minister's outcomes were defence against aggression; promoting peace and security; and collateral utility of the SANDF. The Department would carry out the Minister's priorities and align itself with Cabinet priorities.

Budget allocations to all areas had been inadequate and this had hampered the effectiveness of the Department. A 20 % rise in medical costs, for example, had been met by a budget increase of 5%. He said Operational Funds were used to cover these costs, to the detriment of those Operations. The SANDF had continued to deploy troops internally and externally despite budgetary constraints.

The SANDF would continue to withdraw support from the SAPS. Military skills development would be increased; strategic Defence Packages would be integrated; the HIV/AIDS pandemic would be addressed by projects like Masimbambisane and PHIDISA.

Mr B Engelbrecht then briefed the Committee on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The Departments allocation would be R 20.3 billion for 2004/05, increasing to R 22.4 billion by 2006/07.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) asked how the Department had transformed representivity in management and if they had specific targets.

Mr Masilela, Secretary of Defence, said a specific transformation project to ensure manageable transformation had been put in place. Progress had been made in terms of their goals. Middle management and specialised jobs had been problem areas. Implementation of policy had been an ongoing problem.

Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) said the Department had done feasibility studies on the purchase and operation of the Corvettes and submarines. He asked why the operation of this hardware had been listed as a financial problem.

Mr Masilela said there had always been a programme for operating the Corvettes, but like all military programmes, it made allowances for future risks. The lack of logistical support to the Corvettes would be temporary.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) said the Rooivalk helicopter programme had not proceeded fast enough and that it would become difficult to market the programme. Mr Masilela said the Treasury had allocated Rooivalk R200 million for each of the MTEF years, as opposed to higher recommended allocations. The Airforce would complete a feasibility study on Rooivalk. This would be presented to the Minister. Marketing Rooivalk had been difficult because there were no operational aircraft.

Mr Schmidt asked for clarity on the rumoured sale of the various items of hardware. Military hardware should be conserved in light of budget reductions. Mr Masilela said no formal decision had been taken regarding the Outeniqua, a support ship that had been expensive to run. The new Corvettes required little support. The Chairperson called for immediate clarification of all rumours in the future in order to raise the credibility of the Department. Mr Masilela was not prepared to discuss the matter further. Details would be supplied soon.

Mr Schmidt asked why there were public auditing requirements for foreign visits listed under the Special Defence Account. Mr J April said only the Minister approved foreign visits and that this process took six weeks. The Intelligence Division had to respond faster than standard processes allowed. The Head of Intelligence had been delegated power to authorise visits in a shorter time. These activities were paid for by the Special Defence Account. The sensitive nature of this process required more vigorous auditing than applied to standard programmes.

Mr M R Moulana Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked what impact new pharmaceutical regulations had had on the Department.

Dr Van Wyk said the Public Sector purchased pharmaceuticals directly from the industry. New pharmaceutical regulations apply to the private sector only

Mr C Burgess (ID) asked what had been covered by the legal services budget. The court system within the Department had been a problem. Discipline had been an area of concern reflected in the Annual Report. Mr Masilela said high-ranking Members of the Department would report to the Committee soon.

Mr M Mncwango (IFP) was concerned that the impact of HIV/AIDS on combat-readiness had not been mentioned. Mr Masilela said HIV/AIDS had been a major focus for the Department. Almost 20% of the Department was infected with HIV. Project Masimbambisane and Project Phidisa were in place to assist.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) expressed concern about the SANDF's inability to recruit sufficient medical staff. Dr Van Wyk said there were incentives for civilian doctors to move to rural areas, but none for military doctors.

The meeting was adjourned


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