The Department of Defence (DOD) and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) briefed the Committee in a virtual meeting on the progress made regarding the devolution of infrastructure maintenance functions.
The DOD said they had the capacity to implement the projects they would be taking over from the DPWI. It aimed to ensure that the right people were trained to make decisions, and it planned to cut ties with corrupt businesses. The DPWI said that they believed the DOD had the capability to perform infrastructure maintenance operations. The DOD admitted to having problems in providing adequate quality infrastructure, but assured the Committee that this would be worked on.
Some Members indicated that they were not entirely convinced that the DOD indeed had the required capacity. They wanted to know what would happen to the jobs of the people in the DPWI whose functions were being transferred. They also asked for an update on progress at 1 Military Hospital since the Committee's last oversight visit.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone, and acknowledged the presence of the Minister of Defence, Ms Thandi Modise, and the Minister of Public Works, Mr Sihle Zikalala.
The Department of Defence (DOD) and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) had come to brief the Committee on the progress made regarding the devolution of infrastructure maintenance functions.
Minister Modise said she was impressed with the Work’s Formation department in the DOD. The delay in the completion of projects was because of the Department's financial discipline. There needed to be checks and balances on how major progress would be monitored. Until this happened, there would not be a devolution, to avoid putting the DOD in a worse financial position than it was currently. The Department would not be working further with companies that had been found to have been involved in bribery and corruption.
Minister Zikalala said that he appreciated the opportunity to engage. The devolution issue required that both Departments meet and deal with issues together. He pledged his commitment to meeting with the Minister of Defence. He believed it was right that everyone supported the blacklisting of fraudulent and corrupt companies.
Devolution of infrastructure
Maj Gen Fred Kekana, SA National Defence Force (SANDF), said that progress had been made on devolving infrastructure from the DPWI to the DOD.
The purpose of the presentation was to provide feedback to the Committee on implementing the recommendations that the Department had received.
- The manager responsible for the maintenance budget must have line management authority over the staff and service providers who did the work, improving the response time and quality of work by the DPWI through improved Department of Health (DOH) management.
- There must be an initiative to increase the budget and use it more efficiently by developing a provincial maintenance strategy along the lines of the national maintenance strategy and establishing a work procedure to quickly assess and implement maintenance work.
- The use of term service contracts for recurrent maintenance for quick response, especially on health technology and other specialised areas.
- Monitoring of the combined expenditure by provincial infrastructure, district and hospital managers.
- To increase the budget allocation for recurrent maintenance and backlog maintenance.
- Development of a detailed asset management plan for existing and new facilities.
- Use of the updated service transformation plans to guide facility improvement and investment decisions.
Projects transferred from DPWI to DOD
- The DOD had 111 capital projects registered with the DPWI for implementation.
- The DOD had 78 refurbishment projects that were registered with the DPWI.
- The DOD would prioritise a total of 62 projects, and four had been completed.
The total cost of the project was R2.6 billion. Six members were studying real estate management courses with external institutions. 22 members had completed tailored courses between the DOD and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
Maj Gen Kekana said challenges included cooperation by the DPWI to participate in devolution sub-task teams, the DPWI's unwillingness to share critical and valuable information with the DOD, and earmarked funds (accommodation charges) were expected to be paid to the DPWI.
(See attached presentation document.)
Mr E Marais (DA) said he supported the shift in the work and tenders, because the money must follow the tenders. He asked for feedback on the progress that had taken place at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria since the last time the Committee did a site visit was two years ago.
Mr N Kwankwa (UDM) said he was happy to see progress with the devolution. He was concerned that many projects were being transferred from the DPWI to the Department of Defence. He asked if there was internal capacity in the DOD to take on these projects, and if there would be a skills transfer. He asked if there was an improvement in the turnaround time for the co-managed projects. There were 78 projects still in the planning stage -- when would these be implemented? He asked if it would be possible for the existing leases that were transferred to the Department of Defence to be renegotiated.
Mr O Mathafa (ANC) said he was happy that the questions the Committee had previously asked had been addressed in the presentation. Was there a project management unit to ensure that projects were completed within budget and within a timeframe? He raised concern regarding the 78 projects, and asked what measures would be put in place to ensure that all of them would be properly followed through. Would the projects transferred to the Department of Defence be transferred with funds, considering that the DOD had recently experienced budget cuts? He asked the DOD to address the matter concerning the fuel depot at a base that had been engulfed by fire.
Mr Mathafa asked about the leases, as well as what government was doing instead of depending on private infrastructure. Was there an intention to build purpose-built buildings and assets as the government moved away from leases? He asked what was happening currently with the companies that had been mentioned for corruption -- were they still providing services to the government right now?
Mr X Qayiso (ANC) appreciated the Department's progress, and said there needed to be a focus on expenditure control measures. The office of the Auditor-General (AG) needed to be included so that they could monitor the execution of these projects. The Committee should also be given regular reports on the development of the projects. The financial delegation issue needed to be dealt with quickly. He asked for the total value of all the projects to be provided to the Committee.
Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) asked about the criteria that would be applied by the DOD when they chose which projects to prioritise. She asked for the project completion date, and wanted to know why the presentation from the DOD had not mentioned the problem of sinkholes in Tshwane and their servicing.
Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) asked if the DOD had the necessary capacity to implement the projects. What would the cost implications for the Department be? He asked the DPWI what factors they found challenging when implementing building maintenance and repairs. When projects were moved from the DPWI to the DOD, some of the positions in the DPWI would become redundant. Would this result in retrenchments and the saving of money?
Mr Z Mlenzana (ANC) asked the Minister of Defence if there would not be a flood of projects into the DOD, considering the 78 projects put on hold. He expressed his appreciation that both Ministers were present in the meeting. Fixing infrastructure was important, because if a Department did not have infrastructure, it could not do its job.
The Chairperson thanked the Ministers for their attendance and their input. He said that the biggest problem in government was the lack of programme management skills. He asked if both Departments were happy with the management skills and if they were not, what should be done to improve them. He asked the two Ministers to meet with one another as soon as possible. The transfers should be done at a scale and pace that the Department of Defence could take on. He asked the DPWI if the work that they did was done by their staff, or if they used outside contractors. He maintained that the SANDF did not have adequate capacity. He asked if the projects that were being co-managed did not create a problem of accountability. He asked for progress reports on each project, and time frames of when they would be finished.
Minister Modise agreed that a meeting between the DPWI and the DOD needed to happen as soon as possible. The DOD would take on the new projects at a pace they could handle. The people in positions of leadership would need to have financial training, as financial decisions were currently being made by people who should not be making them. The Department was working on developing a structure that would enable it to help deal with disasters. It would be able to defend the country, as it had the best fighters in the world. She said there should be a maintenance group. Every soldier had a skill other than fighting -- for example, electricians and plumbers. She said that the Development Bank sources the companies that the Department uses, and it had a problem with only one company, which was the one that had been flagged.
Maj General David Nyangasya, General Officer Commanding: Defence Works Formation, addressed the question relating to the DOD's capacity. He said it had a department which had all the professionals that could sign off on the work that needed to be done. There was a team of skilled artisans that were placed in all the projects that the Department was executing.
The 1 Military Hospital project which the Committee had visited, had been put on hold, as the Department was awaiting a report which would provide recommendations. The Department had taken disciplinary steps against members who had been found to be on the wrong side of the law. The project was not funded, and once it was funded, the work could start, and it would take the construction company 29 months to complete. He assured the Committee that there was proper project management in the Department, and it had proven itself to be able to do this well.
Maj Gen Kekana said that the Department had developed a lease reduction plan which was being implemented. To date, five leases have been cancelled. The possibility of renegotiating leases was the Department's main aim, and if it felt that the lease did not benefit the Department, they would try to cancel it.
Regarding the reprioritisation criteria, there was a committee that had important stakeholders, and these people gave input on what they believed should be prioritised. This was usually done in November or the next financial year, to ensure a proper budget allocation. He acknowledged that the sinkholes were not included in the presentation, saying that these would fall into the category of water and sanitation. The total cost of projects that the Department had taken was R2.6 billion. Not all of them were funded, but the Department would prioritise as they went along.
Lt Gen Michael Ramantswana, Deputy Chief of Staff, SANDF, agreed that the burning depot at Waterkloof was a problem. The Department had taken steps to decrease the quantity of fuel in this area, and that was all that they had done.
Minister Zikalala said that the Department had had problems for years, but these problems were being resolved. It had been outsourcing without building internally, and this was a problem. He wanted to confirm that some functions were being devolved to some departments, some of which wanted the DPWI to devolve powers on issues that were not part of their core functions. He said that it was important that the meetings between the different departments happened.
Ms Nyeleti Makhubele, Acting DG, DPWI, said the challenges with project implementation had happened over a long period. The Department outsources to construction companies that sometimes struggle with financial issues, and also have to deal with the construction 'Mafia.'. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) was very strong with procurement but faced the same implementation challenges as the DPWI. The Department supports the DBSA.
She agreed that the capability of the DOD to implement its own projects was good enough. It needed to be self-sufficient, and they had the capacity, which was why Public Works did not oppose the change.
She said that government should not lease, especially for security cluster departments -- there was a directive from the Cabinet in this regard.
Follow up discussion
The Chairperson acknowledged that the question of capacity kept coming up, and asked that the Department of Defence provide the Committee with the skills they had for capacity in writing. He asked that the Department of Public Works provide a template on how devolution would happen. Lastly, he asked if the Department of Defence was strong enough to assist with repairs to potholes, and if they had been approved to do this.
Minister Modise responded that the Department was open to assisting with repairs.
The Chairperson thanked the Ministers for their presence and their input. He hoped that there would be continuous interaction between the two departments.
The Committee dealt with the minutes of the meeting on 13 September. Mr Mlenzana moved their adoption, and Mr Qayiso seconded. The minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that this was the last meeting for the term, and thanked the Members for their attendance.
The meeting was adjourned.
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