A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 August 2005
DEFENCE SECRETARIAT REPORT AND DEPARTMENT RESTRUCTURING: DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS
Documents handed out:
Defence Secretariat First Status Report: Financial Year 2005/2006
Department Work Group on Restructuring briefing
Department programme for 16 Days of Activism briefing
The Chairperson exonerated Members of responsibility for leaking a Department report circulated at a closed session of the Committee to Beeld newspaper on 22 August. However, the Chairperson would inform the Speaker that a serious breach of Parliamentary procedure had taken place.
The Department briefed the Committee on the Secretariat’s first status report for 2005/2006, focusing on selected projects in each division of the Secretariat. Members were mainly concerned about the delays in the application procedure of the National Conventional Arms Control Council (NCACC); the lengthy appointment process in the Secretariat that left posts vacant for up to six months; and the Secretariat’s R500 million contract with the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA). The Chairperson requested a Department report in 2006 on the Secretariat’s application process.
The Department briefed the Committee on the discussions of its work group on restructuring, which aimed to clarify the role of the Secretary for Defence as both Head of Department and Accounting Officer. The Chairperson suggested that the work group should help the Minister decide whether the role of the Secretary for Defence should be subject to legislative change.
The Department also outlined its programme of activities to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism and to address the problem of gender-based violence in the Department.
Chairperson’s statement on leaked Department report
The Chairperson noted that a Department report circulated to Members at a closed session of the Committee was leaked to Beeld newspaper on 22 August. As all of the documents circulated to Members were collected at the end of the closed session, Members and staff of the Committee were ‘beyond reproach’ in this matter. However, the leak was an ‘unparalleled departure from Committee procedure’; and, contrary to the article in Beeld, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was not ‘in crisis’, but was able to fulfill its national obligations. The ability of the Committee to exercise jurisdiction over Department activities depended on a relationship of trust, whereby the Department would provide the Committee with comprehensive information on the capacity of the SANDF to carry out its duties. The Chairperson would inform the Speaker that there had been a ‘serious breach of Parliamentary procedure’.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) commented that the announcement in the media of the lack of military preparedness in the SANDF was a serious matter, and the source of the leak should be investigated. Mr M Booi (ANC) stated that, although the leak had taken the Committee by surprise, the Committee retained confidence in the Department. Dr G Koornhof (ANC) added that Members should not debate the contents of the leaked document in a public forum. The Committee’s function was to oversee Department activities, and it would fulfil this constitutional duty through oversight visits.
Defence Secretariat briefing
Mr A Visser (Department Chief Director: Strategic Management) presented the Secretariat’s first status report for 2005/2006, focusing on selected projects in each division as fuller details of the Secretariat’s work would be provided in the Department’s annual report. The function of the Secretariat was to effect civil control over the Department of Defence through the management of the Secretary for Defence.
The Policy and Planning division of the Secretariat aimed to align Department policy with government policy by, for example, regulating the manufacture of conventional armaments in accordance with the Conventional Arms Control Act. This division had approved the implementation of the mobility exit mechanism that was an important part of the Department’s 2010 Human Resources strategy. However, the division staff was stretched by the additional workload created by the Department’s restructuring programme; and implementation of the Conventional Arms Control Act was being hampered by delays in the application procedure of the National Conventional Arms Control Council (NCACC).
The Policy and Planning division had also drafted an implementation instruction for the Anti-Personnel Mines Prohibition Act. The Chairperson observed that this Act had been passed by Parliament four years ago and implementation was taking too long.
Mr Visser continued that within the Acquisition and Procurement Division of the Secretariat, the Directorate for Naval Acquisition had arranged the SA Navy’s launch of its second type 209 submarine at Emden. The Directorate for Army Acquisition was evaluating Denel’s proposal for a ‘new generation infantry combat vehicle’ and also producing a study report on Project Warrior.
Dr Koornhof asked for a description of Project Warrior. Mr Visser replied that Project Warrior looked at the soldier ‘as a system’, assessing factors such as body weight in relation to weapons carried, in order to optimise the soldier’s operations in the field. Dr Koornhof claimed that the most frequent medical problem for soldiers was hearing loss, and asked whether Project Warrior included a system to protect soldiers from noise damage. Mr Visser was unable to provide this information.
Mr Visser stated that the strategy of the Secretariat’s Financial Management Division was to translate the Department’s financial management system from a cash-based to an accrual-based system. However, this division was struggling to fill vacant posts and to meet staff equity targets due to a lengthy appointment process of six months.
The Chairperson interjected that an appointment process of more than three months resulted in government departments relying on consultants. Therefore, the Secretariat should consider bypassing some of the interview committees and should request that the Minister review the appointment process. Mr J Masilela (Secretary for Defence) said that he was holding monthly meetings to monitor the process of filling posts in all divisions. The Chairperson requested a Department report in 2006 on the appointment process as well as on the composition of the interview committees with regard to gender.
Mr Visser pointed out that the Financial Management Division was holding discussions with the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) on the improvement of the Department’s electronic payment system for Department officials. The Chairperson enquired whether the Secretariat was getting ‘value for money’ from SITA. Ms M Ledwaba (Chief Director: Human Resources Policy and Planning) responded that the Department was currently reviewing its service level agreement with SITA with the aim of reducing the amount of money spent on SITA (currently R500 million).
Mr Visser continued that the Defence Inspectorate had recently appointed a new Inspector General and Chief Audit Executive to work alongside the Department’s Audit Committee. One of the Inspectorate’s significant projects was the implementation of an electronic framework for internal audit reporting that provided the context within which each item (such as leave forms) was used within the Department.
Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked what the Secretariat budget for personnel was. Mr Masilela was unable to provide these figures, and the Chairperson requested that the Department provide a budget for personnel costs for each division of the Secretariat.
Mr Sayedali-Shah asked why the National Conventional Arms Control Council (NCACC) delayed processing applications. Mr T Motumi (Deputy Director-General: Chief Policy and Planning) responded that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was responsible for the process of application to the NCACC and required many government departments to participate in the process, thereby extending it.
Mr O Monareng (ANC) requested the Secretariat’s performance agreement reports and Ms X Makasi (ANC) asked which Department facilities were to be improved according to the performance agreements. Mr Masilela offered to supply Members with the performance agreements, but the Chairperson requested that the Department rather provide a description of how the performance agreements would be implemented with the heads of divisions. Mr Masilela added that the Department facilities referred to in the performance agreements were all the SANDF bases.
The Chairperson enquired whether the policy proposals made by the Department to the budget committee were aligned with government priorities. Mr Masilela replied that the Department made eight proposals to the budget committee, all of which were aligned with government priorities; and, subsequent to the budget committee meeting, a special meeting was to take place between the Minister and the Minister of Finance.
Department Work Group on Restructuring
Mr T Motumi (Deputy Director-General: Chief Policy and Planning) briefed the Committee on the Department Work Group on Restructuring that was established by a resolution of a strategic work session between the staff of the Secretariat and the SANDF. In its most significant work session, the Work Group discussed the Minister’s directives of 25 April, which were as follows:
- The Secretary for Defence, as Head of Department and Accounting Officer, should delegate specific powers to the Chief of the SANDF with regard to financial accountability.
- The Chief of the SANDF must account directly to the Secretary for Defence for all the resources at the disposal of the SANDF.
- The Chief of the SANDF must command and control the SANDF, including essential resources required for operational effectiveness.
- The Secretary for Defence should not interfere in the direct command and control of the SANDF.
The Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the SANDF had since provided their own interpretations of the Minister’s directives. Mr J Masilela (Secretary for Defence) added that he was holding the Chief of the SANDF accountable according to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Mr Booi suggested that the Committee should assist the Department in complying with the PFMA. Mr Monareng noted that the Minister’s directives implied that the Secretary for Defence should not ‘interfere’ with the work of the Chief of the SANDF. He enquired whether there had been any change in the relationship between the Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the SANDF since the directives were issued. Mr Masilela responded that the directives had initiated a restructuring process in the Department; however, the problem was that the accounting and human resources structures in the Department were ‘fragmented’.
Mr Ndlovu asked how the Minister’s directives would be ‘interpreted’ by the Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the SANDF and yet retain their authority. The Chairperson responded that the Minister’s directives were not effective, as they did not address the problem inherent in the Department hierarchy: the combined role of the Secretary for Defence and the Accounting Officer. As Head of Department, the Secretary was to provide civil control over the Department; yet, as Accounting Officer, he was overseeing his own work: was this effective civil control? The working group should help the Minister decide whether the role of the Secretary for Defence should be subject to legislative change, and it should report back to the Committee by the end of September.
Department programme for 16 Days of Activism briefing
Colonel E Langa (Senior Staff Officer: Gender) outlined the Department’s programme of activities to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism, an event observed internationally at the recommendation of the United Nations to address the problem of gender-based violence. The Department’s gender focal point, established by the Minister in the Presidency in 1994, had compiled the programme.
The Department would convene the African Women’s Peace Table Conference on 25 November in order to support the African Union (AU) and New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) peace initiatives by allowing women in the Department to discuss gender-based violence in relation to conflicts in Africa. In October, the gender focal point would launch a ‘hotline’ for reporting cases of gender-based violence in the Department.
Mr Sayedali-Shah asked about the incidence of gender-based violence in the Department, and how this was dealt with by disciplinary structures in the Department. Colonel Langa replied that the purpose of the hotline was to centralise the reporting of cases of gender-based violence, especially sexual harassment, in the Department. The hotline would be staffed by 60 clinical psychologists who would transmit the information received to the Equal Opportunities Directorate.
Mr Ndlovu enquired whether the delegates at the African Women’s Peace Table Conference would include Department officials. Colonel Langa answered that the Department leadership would attend the conference along with 300 other guests.
Mr Monareng asked whether the Department would revise its labour relations policies in order to mitigate gender-based violence. Colonel Langa replied that Department policies were currently being reviewed to assess their sensitivity to gender; and the Department would present revised policies to battalions prior to their deployment.
The Chairperson commented that sexual harassment was a problem in defence forces worldwide. For cases of sexual harassment, the Department should review its grievance procedure, as this could not operate according to the Department’s hierarchical structure.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.