Committee Business Plan and Draft Budget: adoption

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Defence and Military Veterans

09 August 2005
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Meeting report

DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 August 2005
COMMITTEE BUSINESS PLAN AND DRAFT BUDGET: ADOPTION

Chairperson: Professor A Asmal (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee Business Plan 2005/06
Committee Draft Budget 2006/07

SUMMARY
The Committee reviewed its Business Plan which examined objectives, the composition of the Committee, the Departments overseen by the Committee, key issues and planned visits. The vision statement was then redefined, and other minor technical amendments were made. The legislative framework would be brought up to date in the next three to five years. Key issues included oversight of the Department budget, and retraining staff exiting the Defence Force.

The draft budget included allocations for meetings, specialist support, oversight visits, conferences, public hearings, visitors, military exercises, and a study tour to the United Nations in New York. The Chairperson recommended that the amount allocated for Specialist Support be increased, and that the proposed study tour to the United Nations in New York be scrapped, along with allocations for visitors.

MINUTES
The Business Plan defined the vision and the mission of the Committee. It examined objectives, the composition of the Committee, the Departments overseen by the Committee, key issues and planned visits. The vision statement was redefined to read that it was "a Parliamentary Committee dedicated to effectively overseeing the Department of Defence to ensure that it met the constitutional, and political needs of the country, with the appropriate level of professionalism". The mission of the Committee was to develop relevant legislation, conduct oversight of implementation to ensure defence preparedness.

The Chairperson recommended a number of minor changes to the wording of the document. Discussing key issues, the Chairperson noted that the Committee should ensure that the budget of the Department met the agreed strategic plan. The legislative framework should also be brought up to date in the next three to five years. A further addition to key issues was the retraining of staff exiting the Defence Force.

To increase attendance at meetings, the Chairperson suggested the amalgamation of Committees, as often Members served on more than one Committee and could not attend all meetings. He instructed Mr Kampher and Ms van Niekerk (Researcher) to finalise the alterations and submit the revision by the following afternoon.

Mr G Kampher (Committee Secretary) presented the Draft Budget (see document). This totalled R1 310 335. It included allocations for meetings, specialist support, oversight visits, conferences, public hearings, visitors, military exercises, and a study tour to the United Nations (UN) in New York. The Chairperson requested an increased allocation for Specialist Support, and the scrapping of the study tour to the UN.

Discussion
The Business Plan of the Committee was discussed. The Chairperson suggested that the vision statement be amended to read "the Portfolio Committee is dedicated to effectively oversee the Department of Defence to ensure that it meets the constitutional and political needs of the country, with the appropriate level of professionalism". The phrase "expertise, dedication and resources…" should be omitted.

The Chairperson noted that the vision statement was the aspiration, and the mission was its implementation. The Committee’s primary function was legislation, oversight and implementation for preparedness.

Discussing long-term key issues (Point 6.1), the Chairperson added that it was the job of the Portfolio Committee to ensure that the three-year budget of the Department met the agreed strategic plan. The Committee should ensure that adequate preparation was made in advance to allow the tasks of the Department of Defence to be supported by the budget allocated to it. A further long-term issue was to ensure that the legislative framework in all areas was brought up to date in the next three to five years.

Another long-term issue that should be added was the retraining of people exiting the Defence Force so that they were provided with new skills. Further long-term issues were the organisation, in advance, of workshops to enable Members of the Committee to have insight into the work of the Department. The political aspects of the rationalisation of the Defence Force should also be examined.

Discussing the internal deployment of the SANDF (Point 6.2.1(g)), the Chairperson requested the addition of "and rationalisation of the commandos".

The Chairperson asked what was meant by the consolidation of large training areas (Point 6.2.1(h)). Mr G Kampher (Committee Secretary) replied that because of the downsizing of the Defence Force it no longer used some areas of land that it owned. It was therefore necessary to consolidate and dispose of unused land.

Regarding interoperability of equipment (Point 6.4.3(c)), the Chairperson pointed out that while the Committee could not tell the army how to fight it could ensure that there was adequate equipment for different situations. This was part of the Committee’s oversight function.

To promote a close working relationship between African countries (Point 6.4.4(b)), the Chairperson proposed requesting permission and resources for a Member to attend an European Union (EU) peacekeeping operations conference scheduled for September. This would focus on countries south of the Sahara.

The Chairperson pointed out that there should be adequate research provision (not "facilities") as stated in Point 7.11. As the Committee now had a researcher, Members should put forward topics requiring research, for instance, research was needed into the tendering process. The researcher should make appropriate use of the Internet to circulate articles of interest to the Members.

Discussing the need for all Members to attend Committee meetings (Point 7.4), the Chairperson commented that there was a need for the amalgamation of Committees. Often Members served on more than one Committee, and could not attend all meetings. Amalgamation would improve attendance, especially for smaller parties.

The Chairperson requested that Mr Kampher and Ms van Niekerk (Researcher) finalise the alterations and submit the revision by the following afternoon.

Mr Kampher presented the draft budget which totalled R1 310 335. The Chairperson said that this was a large amount and he was concerned that the Committee would not spend a tenth of this. He also commented that the catering allocation should not be placed at the beginning and that more important issues should be dealt with first.

The Chairperson requested an increase from R40 000 to R100 000 for Specialist Support as the Committee would be doing much more in the next year. He asked why it was necessary to go to the Defence Industry in Pretoria. Mr Kampher replied that the Committee Members needed the oversight visits to receive demonstrations and background on why certain equipment needed to be bought.

The Chairperson said that public hearings were very important and should be held systematically, especially for Defence legislation. Hearings were envisaged for four Defence Bills and the Defence Review. He added that the Committee would have one meeting/workshop in Johannesburg on the Foreign Military Assistance Bill. He again emphasised the importance of military base conversion, especially as much of the land was prime real estate. He instructed that the allocation for Visitors be removed.

He requested that a covering letter be compiled which would accompany this budget. The letter should point out that this was the first time that the Committee had gone through the budget systematically, and that it was planning to hold hearings and do oversight visits. This would be the first full Committee session in three years (last year was the general election, this year the local government elections) so while the amount requested might appear large, the Committee’s plans justified the budget.

Regarding the oversight visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he asked Mr Kampher and Ms van Niekerk to report on the possibility of a trip towards the end of September, and present it at the next meeting. They should check on the feasibility of a visit at this time of the year and plan for taking one journalist, a senior Defence leader, and not more than seven Committee Members.

He recommended that the United Nations Study Tour be removed from the budget. It was using more than half the total budget. He felt that a trip to somewhere in Africa, possibly Nigeria, would be more justified. Members could associate with the Parliamentary Committees in that country, and discuss peacekeeping efforts.

Mr Ndlovu (IFP) pointed out that it was sometimes necessary to visit overseas in order to learn and network. The Chairperson replied that much information could be obtained from the Internet. The Committee would need to justify to Parliament and the public the need for the visit to New York. A possible alternative would be to request a small budget to send a Member to an international conference. This should be discussed at a study group meeting. He agreed that representing South Africa abroad was important.

He also observed that the West appeared to be moving towards Africanising peacekeeping efforts on the African continent, and disassociating itself from this. There was a need to discuss whether this was acceptable. He reiterated that he felt the New York trip was irrelevant. Mr Kampher was responsible for making recommended changes to the document but no deadline was set.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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