The Joint Standing Committee on Defence convened virtually for briefings by the Department of Transport on South Africa’s National Maritime Security Strategy, and the Department of Defence (DoD) and ARMSCOR on their Service Level Agreement (SLA).
The Committee was informed that the National Maritime Security Strategy had not been finalised but that measures were in place to present a revised draft strategy by the end of February 2023. The plan is to submit the finalised strategy for adoption to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) before the end of March 2023. The Committee was sceptical about the February 2023 deadline and raised concerns about the level of participation of the other stakeholders. It appeared that other entities in the security cluster, including the SA Navy, SANDF and SA Air Force, had not been sufficiently engaged in the drafting of the strategy. The contribution of the SA Navy in the drafting of the National Maritime Security Strategy would be discussed in the meeting scheduled for the following week.
The Committee was informed that the SLA between ARMSCOR and the DoD outlines the scope of services to be provided by ARMSCOR to the DoD. The performance of ARMSCOR is measured against mutually agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on a quarterly basis. The Committee was concerned about the high-performance ratings that vary between 80 and 100% because it was not a true reflection of the level of service delivered to the end-user. The grounded Presidential aircraft and the recently reported illegal landing of a plane in Cape Town are examples of security lapses that were harmful to the reputation and safety of the country. The insufficient detail provided in the presentation made it difficult to do a proper assessment in terms of the actual tasks completed compared to the ratings that were awarded. The Secretary of Defence was tasked to provide a detailed report that would allow for a proper performance review to ensure accountability.
The Chairperson requested the Committee Secretary, Ms Nandipha Maxhegwana, to add the Fourth Term Programme, to item five on the agenda.
Ms Thandiwe Mpondo, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Transport Ministry, drew attention to an email that she submitted on behalf of the Minister and Director-General to apologise for their absence.
The Chairperson said he had not seen the email but thanked the Minister for sending a delegation of the Department to the meeting.
Rear Admiral David Mkhonto, Chief Director: Maritime Strategy, SA Navy, stated that he was accompanied by his team to represent the SA Navy.
Ms Gladys Kudjoe, Secretary for Defence, SANDF, said colleagues were present to cover both items on the agenda.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson introduced the context for the briefing on the National Maritime Security Strategy. The Constitution of South Africa mandates the SANDF to protect and defend the territorial integrity of the country and its people. The SANDF is responsible for the protection of 4471 km land border, the air space and territorial waters covered by a coastline of about 3 000 km from East to West. In territorial waters, South African sovereignty is counter-balanced with the right of foreign shipping participation. The Department of Defence (DoD) is responsible for merchant shipping in terms of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951 which regulates the participation of vessels both foreign and locally registered. In line with its mandate, the DoD reported that a draft National Maritime Strategy was being developed. Beyond port and vessel safety regulations, maritime security is extended to include piracy, illegal fishing, drugs and human trafficking, and environmental offences. Because these areas implicate a number of law enforcement aspects, the Committee found it useful for the DOD to brief Members on which entity is responsible for the security of territorial waters as well as on the strategy of the SA Navy. He was pleased that the SA Navy was represented by a delegation led by Rear Admiral David Mkhonto and by the Secretary of Defence as the overall leader of the Department. He was not expecting the SA Navy delegation to comment in this meeting but only to listen. He had planned for the SA Navy to brief the Committee the following week about their role in the National Maritime Security Strategy.
Department of Transport presentation
Mr Mthunzi Madiya, DDG: Maritime Transport, Department of Transport, stated that he was responsible for maritime transport. He said the National Maritime Security Strategy had not been finalised. The Department was still engaging a number of stakeholders to deliver the final product. The aim for this financial year is to have the strategy signed off by the Minister and approved in Cabinet. He was not planning to discuss the detail because it was still incomplete. He explained that South Africa was receiving about 14 000 vessels annually at its nine commercial ports and more than 230 million tons of cargo are moved through the ports. Almost 90% of global trade is carried by sea. Maritime security is therefore an integral part of the law of the sea which is outlined in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951. The Act is being overhauled and was presented for approval in the last sitting of Cabinet in October 2022. The updated Bill would soon be introduced to Parliament. The Maritime Security Coordination Centre (MSCC) is located in Plattekloof. The primary responsibility of the MSCC is to ensure that illegal activities are not allowed in the territorial waters of South Africa. A system is in place to track the movement of vessels in and beyond our territorial waters including as far as the Horn of Africa and Brazil. The system would be able to detect a vessel that was fishing illegally. The Department was partnering with a team from the Stellenbosch Military Studies Division to strengthen the content of the strategy.
The Chairperson noted that the presentation differed from what had been submitted to the Committee and asked that the revised copy be made available to Members.
Mr S Marais (DA) noted it was the first time that the Committee was interacting with the Department of Transport. He wanted to understand if the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) was reporting to the Department and what the status was of the MSCC and Maritime Security Advisory Committee (MSAC). He asked if their financial statements are being audited by the Auditor-General (AG) and if both entities were operating from the Plattekloof basis. He wanted to know what type of communication technology and vessels are being used to monitor activities in territorial waters. He sought clarity on the operating procedures and the communication process that takes effect when illegal activities are identified. He asked the Department to elaborate on the role of the SANDF, SA Navy and 35 Squadron SAAF and other air force bases in maritime patrol and transport.
The Chairperson was pleased that Cabinet approved the Merchant Shipping Bill to replace the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951 which predated the new Constitution. The Act deals with the recording and regulating of ships and the safety of ships and life at sea. He found the 2004 Merchant Shipping (Maritime Security) regulations developed by the Department limited in so far that it required maritime industry participants, port operators, and port service providers to provide security permits. He argued that the DG may not give security directives unless appropriate to do so in the event that unlawful interference with maritime transport was imminent. The Department should not go beyond what it was mandated to do. Elements of the strategy appeared to be broader than the mandate in terms of the 1951 legislation and the 2004 regulations. He asked the Department to comment on why the principles of the draft strategy were much wider than what was contained in the Act and regulations.
Ms Kudjoe replied that she had concerns from a process point of view about the intention to have the strategy signed off by the Minister by February 2023 because not all departments had been involved from the start of the process. It would be difficult to make changes after the Minister had signed off on the strategy. All departments have specific mandates based on the Constitution. Part of the DoD mandate is to protect and defend, not only the air, maritime and land borders but also cyber borders. It would have saved a lot of time if all departments had been involved from the beginning of the process. She proposed that it would be better to engage at the JCPS cluster where most of the role players meet. The mandates of all departments would have been considered when the strategy is presented to the Minister. She would be uncomfortable if the Minister approved the strategy before major issues of other departments had been addressed. She had a discussion with the acting DG of Transport about the strategy and was informed about three different versions of the strategy in circulation. She wanted all three versions to be made available to identify any overlaps because it was necessary to stretch resources in a period of financial constraints. The security cluster must work together to include all role players in order to deal with potential overlays.
Rear Admiral David Mkhonto observed that after it took ten years get a draft strategy, it still had a number of gaps. He had asked that military and maritime academic experts be roped in for assistance. This request had not yet been fully exhausted. The profession was still waiting on the Minister of Transport for an engagement. He had also requested the Secretary if Defence for an engagement. Maritime stakeholders were not in agreement and were expecting further engagements with the Minister because the process needed to be inclusive. He expressed his frustration that plans to engage academics for assistance had been ignored.
Mr Madiya said the Department had been reluctant to present the draft strategy to the Committee because a lot of work still needed to be done. He suggested that it would be better to present the draft strategy in February 2023 because all consultations would have been completed by then. At the time of reporting, the draft strategy was 60% complete. The military had raised serious concerns about the first draft because it was too operational. This triggered the involvement of academics. He assured the Committee that the Department was not taking over the responsibilities of other departments. But the Ministry needed to ensure that departments take ownership of their roles and responsibilities. He explained that environmental security involves the tracking of vessels, suspected of shipping illegal substances. For example, two years ago the Department became aware of a vessel in Saldanha Bay that was carrying drugs. The SAPS and SANDF were mobilised to arrest and detain the vessel. The Department’s scope of work is limited to merchant vessels and the welfare of seafarers.
Mr Madiya explained that in terms of the SAMSA Act of 1998, the role of the MSCC is to ensure the safety of life at sea and to provide maritime security in terms of its mandate. The MSCC functions as a unit of SAMSA with the responsibility to detect illegal activity and potential loss of life at sea. The unit is managed by trained officials who monitor all movements 24 hours a day and operates beyond our borders as mandated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions. The Department is informed about an approaching vessel, 96 hours before it enters the economic zone of the country. Information about the vessel, including the weight, is obtained and relayed to the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) to do a security screening. The vessel gets the green light if everything is found to be in order. The MSAC is an advisory committee and comprised of representatives from different departments including Home Affairs, Border Management, South African Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority and International Relations and Cooperation. The Department has a coordinating role in terms of the Act. MSAC is situated in Cape Town and uses satellite and radio technology to communicate with the captain of a vessel. The services of the SANDF are activated if a threat is suspected. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) had been signed with Mozambique, Angola and Namibia to arrest suspected vessels when they try to escape from South African territory.
Mr Marais thanked the officials for the informative explanations but felt that a lot of work is still to be done. He was still uncertain about the role of the SA Navy in the process and wanted to understand what the SA Navy was expected to do. It was important for the Committee to understand where the SANDF, SA Navy and SA Air Force fit in. He said the expertise and knowledge have to be coordinated but each stakeholder must be clear about their specific mandates. He identified funding as a major concern and asked whether the Department was responsible for the funding of these entities. He proposed that another session be scheduled for February 2023 to get a progress update.
The Chairperson said he was not suggesting that there was a take-over by the Department. But he was referring to the level of participation by other role players. He was unclear about the funding process and whether it had an impact on the level of participation by other role players. He sensed that the SANDF was relying on the Department to develop the strategy. He drew attention to other countries, e.g. Brazil and India where the responsibility for maritime security is spearheaded by Naval Forces. He planned to discuss the contribution of the SA Navy with them in the meeting scheduled for the following week. He felt the DDG was being too optimistic about finalising the strategy by February 2023 because there was no certainty the Bill would have been approved by then.
Mr Madiya agreed that a lot work was still outstanding. The Department needed R8 billion for new vessels and equipment to properly discharge its mandate. The Maritime Fund Bill is being drafted to provide for the taxing of vessels at 0.5% of activities to capacitate SAMSA over a period of seven to eight years. For example, to have its own helicopter in case of a sinking vessel or to assist a sick seafarer instead of activating the SANDF. His optimism stemmed from the good working relationship with the MSAC colleagues. He acknowledged that it had been difficult to present the draft strategy when the work is incomplete. He would be consulting with the rest of the security cluster but remained optimistic about providing positive feedback in February 2023.
The Chairperson encouraged all stakeholders to expedite the finalisation of the strategy considering that 70% of the economy is dependent on the ports.
The Chairperson called on the DoD to engage the Committee about the SLA with ARMSCOR. The issue of performance indicators had been continuously referred to in all meetings with ARMSCOR. But the Committee did not have clarity on the type of services ARMSCOR was tasked to procure in any financial year. The expectation was for ARMSCOR to report on annual milestones because funding was being made available every year including for multi-year projects. The reason for the existence of ARMSCOR is to procure services on behalf of the SANDF. But it was not clear what services ARMSCOR was meant to procure. In the 2021/22 financial year when projections were below budget cuts, provision was made for 29 capital projects funded by the DoD. But the number of projects dropped to zero after budget cuts and including roll overs. He wanted to understand the drop in funded projects and the reason for terminating significant projects. He questioned the claim of achieving high-performance percentages in light of the grounding of the President’s aircraft. He sought clarity on the tasks that the DoD was expecting ARMSCOR to deliver.
Mr Meshack Teffo, Group Executive, Acquisition and SCM, ARMSCOR, stated that key KPIs are based on the SLA and communicated to ARMSCOR through the office of the Chief Director, Mr Kopano Lebelo. Feedback on KPIs is reported to the DOD on a quarterly basis. The 95% target percentage had been agreed with the DOD. All KPIs and performance outcomes are audited by Internal Audit and by the AGSA.
Mr Kopano Lebelo, Chief Director: Materiel Governance (SCM), DoD, said the ARMSCOR presentation was similar to that of the DOD. He indicated that the Department was ready to answer questions from Members.
The Chairperson asked the DoD to clearly indicate what tasks ARMSCOR was expected to do including the funding that had been allocated in the 2021/22 financial year.
Mr Lebelo replied that the DDG reporting to the Secretary for Defence was responsible for capital projects. He had a supporting role. Due to the challenge of declining funding, the DOD was unable to fund new projects which meant the role of ARMSCOR was limited to the maintenance of old equipment. ARMSCOR had been making use of subcontractors since DENEL was no longer part of the system. The reporting structure had been an issue. He suggested that market research needed to be done in this regard. It is normally too late to do something about performance outcomes by the time that the quarterly report is issued, e.g. when contractors are not delivering the acquired services, as was the case of the Presidential aircraft that was not timely serviced. He said ARMSCOR could not be performing at 100% when other departments in the cluster were failing. ARMSCOR was not reporting on the cancellation of systems that it was unable to acquire. He stated that no one was satisfied with the services of ARMSCOR. He drew attention to the fact that the SLA is valid for three and not four years as reported in the presentation.
The Chairperson said when he was MMC in KwaZulu-Natal he did not approve bonus payments when the department under-performed. He found that officials would claim favourable performance ratings and would not take responsibility for under-performance. He had to change the performance system to ensure accountability.
Ms Kudjoe said most projects were multi-year projects. The Department was unable to execute its plans in critical areas because of budget cuts. The limited budget was forcing the Department to reconsider critical projects. It was no longer viable to allocate money for multi-year projects considering the uncertainty about funding.
The Chairperson reiterated that he was seeking clarity on specific projects that were given to ARMSCOR and on which they needed to report.
Ms Kudjoe replied that she did not have the information readily available but would submit a report after engaging ARMSCOR on the extent to which the entity was able to perform.
Mr Marais said he raised similar concerns about the KPIs in the past. The outcomes of 95% were not reflecting the realities. A number of aircraft, including Gripen fighter jets and Lynx helicopters, were all grounded but judging from the ratings it seemed that there were no problems. He questioned how ARMSCOR was able to achieve high ratings while the performance of the DoD was not at the same level. He needed the Secretary for Defence to measure the performance against the availability of SANDF vehicles, aircraft and vessels. He suggested that to get an idea if ARMSCOR was value for money, the objectives should be compared to that of KRYGKOR, which was the preceding entity prior to 1994. He asked if there was a duplication of procurement, maintenance and leasing agreements between ARMSCOR and the DOD. He felt there was no correlation between the KPIs and the annual bonuses that were paid. He valued their services but found it difficult to determine if ARMSCOR was doing a great job. The performance must be assessed against the needs of the country and not secure bonuses. He requested the Secretary for Defence provide more detail that would allow the Committee to do a proper assessment.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) was concerned that the failure of the Department would be replicated in the other entities. Proper planning in terms of an agreement with ARMSCOR would allow failures to be detected. But it would be difficult to apportion blame if planning is done haphazardly. The Department and its entity should work together to address challenges. The grounding of the Presidential aircraft revealed the gap in contract management. It would be mischievous to hold ARMSCOR liable if it had been given a task for which a solution was not available. It would also be mischievous of the DoD to expect ARMSCOR to perform tasks not contained in the agreement. For example, ARMSCOR was allocated funds to procure PPE from the SAPS but the money was returned because the DoD was refusing to transfer the money to ARMSCOR. He suggested that an issue of mistrust was at play. He found it problematic that the ARMSCOR book was in good standing while the DOD was experiencing difficulties.
Mr Ryder (DA, Gauteng) was uncomfortable about passing judgment on the performance outcomes against KPIs because the assessment of targets fell within the ambit of the Portfolio Committee. The mandate of the Joint Standing Committee was different. He nevertheless said that ARMSCOR was not delivering what was expected. The Portfolio Committee should be requested to interrogate the KPIs to ensure that it is aligned with the vision and mission of the entity and the DoD. The Minister should set the KPIs with the assistance of the Portfolio Committee. Without measurement tools and a budget, nothing would get done. A substantial intervention was required to ensure that performance is assessed against measurable targets.
Read Admiral Mkhonto said his assessment of the KPIs was that it did not include services rendered to the SA Navy. His attempts to engage and address the issue of submarine maintenance had not delivered results.
The Chairperson said it was important to get information about what ARMSCOR was reporting on. He found it difficult to conclude that what was being reported, was a true reflection of reality. He requested the Secretary for Defence to ensure that in the next meeting, information is made available that would allow an assessment of whether the services rendered were value for money.
Ms Kudjoe said concerns about the rate of service delivery at ARMSCOR had always been an issue. The Department had ongoing meetings with ARMSCOR to interrogate critical issues. She undertook to return to the Committee with all the required information.
The Chairperson said the request was for the DoD to make a presentation but instead ARMSCOR was made to deliver the presentation. The Committee was yet to get a presentation from the DoD to ascertain whether the Department as the end-user was satisfied with the services from ARMSCOR. He asked if the Department was delaying the allocation of funds to ARMSCOR so that the entity was unable to deliver and then get blamed.
Mr Lebelo noted the comments from the Secretary for Defence and the Members.
Mr Teffo noted the requests and undertook to work with the Department to address the concerns.
The Chairperson thanked the Secretary for Defence, the DoD and ARMSCOR teams for the discussion.
Study Group Tour discussion
Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg, Committee Content Advisor, reported on the status of the study group tour which was initially planned for early December 2022. But due to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, flights were unavailable. He presented two alternative dates for 2023, i.e. 2 – 13 April which fell over the Easter weekend and 15 – 26 June, i.e. a day before youth day. Good progress had been made administratively. Members were to discuss the feasibility of the proposed dates.
Mr Marais said both dates were good options but Members should bear in mind that April will be the end of winter and June will be during the summer in the areas that the Committee was planning to visit.
Mr Mmutle found April a suitable option.
The Chairperson asked Members to indicate if they had a problem with option one. After no objection to option one was raised, he concluded that the tour should take place in April 2023. He requested the Committee Content Advisor to submit the application.
Mr Ryder said his bags were packed. The pressure was on the Committee Content Advisor to finalise the arrangements.
Fourth Term Programme discussion
The Chairperson said the next meeting with the SA Navy and the DoD is scheduled for 24 November 2023. He felt that it might be too soon to discuss the strategy considering that the draft strategy would be finalised by February 2023.
Mr Marais said it would be good to get an indication of how the SA Navy and the DOD viewed the strategy from their perspectives. He wanted to hear about the challenges from the SA Navy.
The Chairperson advised the Committee Secretary to reword the topic in the notification that would be sent to the SA Navy delegation and other stakeholders.
The meeting of 2 December 2022 would be a closed meeting. It is planned to start in the morning because an evening meeting would not provide sufficient time to deal with all the issues on the programme. He was informed by the Committee Secretary that the Chief of Defence requested the meeting to take place over two days. He was of the opinion that the 2 December meeting would give an indication if a second meeting would be required. The Chief of Defence felt that the previous presentation was not at the appropriate level and wanted to discuss the issue of border security. The Chairperson questioned the level of protection over our air space and territorial waters and said the Department needed to account for the plane that landed illegally in Cape Town.
Mr Marais said the illegal plane landing was the type of deliverable as a measure of whether the Defence Force was able to do the job. He felt strongly that if the Chief of Defence was asking for two days then the Committee should comply.
Mr Mmutle agreed that the two days should be granted because time normally ran out in closed meetings which impact on extensive deliberations. Certain aspects might be missed if the programme is squeezed into one day. He proposed that the meeting should at least be scheduled for one-and-a-half days to allow for an extensive discussion of all issues.
Mr Ryder agreed with his colleagues but cautioned that the National Assembly would be rising on 1 December 2022. Reserving Friday and Saturday would not be too much to ask at the end of the term. It would be good to thoroughly interrogate issues and not do half a job.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to indicate what the logistical challenges would be if another day is added to the programme.
Mr Marais replied that it would depend on the venue.
The Chairperson said the Department suggested a meeting at the Pretoria base but it would not be ideal because Members would be in Cape Town. He proposed that the matter be discussed with the Defence Force and depending on whether one or two days would be required.
Mr Marais said the Defence Force should be requested to propose a base in Cape Town. The Simons Town base had fantastic facilities.
The Committee Secretary was tasked to attend to the transport logistics to and from the venue and to communicate if she encountered any challenges.
The Chairperson concluded that it was a productive meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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