Castle Control Board 2006/2007 Annual Report Briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

19 March 2008
Chairperson: Mr F Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted that recent media reports had misquoted Members’ remarks in a previous meeting. In addition the reporter had made reference to the “Committee Minutes” when in fact it was the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) Minute being relied upon. The Chairperson emphasised that the PMG Minutes were not the official minutes of the Committee and that in fact the Committee’s own Minutes had not yet been adopted. Reference was also made to an advertisement that had appeared in a Sunday newspaper, in which the Department of Arts and Culture called for nominations of members of the Castle Control Board, which was placed while the parliamentary process was ongoing. This was a serious matter to be raised with the Departments of Arts and Defence, and the Department of Arts and Culture would be called to a meeting.

The Annual Report of the Castle Control Board (CCB) for 2006/07 was presented. The presentation covered the internal control environment and other issues reported upon by the Auditor General. The questions raised by Standing Committee on Public Accounts were addressed, as also those raised by the Defence Portfolio Committee at its meetings on 4 and 12 March 2008. The issues of concern had been an inadequate asset audit trail, lack of physical stocktaking, and lack of critical appointments. Many of the issues were being addressed and deadlines had been set. Members commented that many of the same items were appearing in subsequent Annual Reports and more care should be put into their compilation. There was also a need to link the strategic plan and budget, and to give clarity on the transitional arrangements relating to the transfer of the Castle. Questions addressed the quarterly board meetings, the reason it had taken so long to establish an audit committee, why there were still vacancies on the Board, who was running the commercial aspects of the Castle, why the Castle Control Board did not appear to be self-sustaining and whether the timeframes now set out were realistic. Further queries related to how long the present manager had been in office, what had inspired the lifting of the moratorium on some appointments, the need to identify the predecessors to the current manager, whether it was possible to undertake the stocktaking, and the terms of reference of the task team. Further comments were made around the transfer of immovable assets and their maintenance, the sources of funding, the vacancies, and estimates for the costs of repairs and maintenance. The Committee noted that matters would need to be carefully considered, and perhaps the two Departments should work together. Brig-Gen Navratil was commended for the work he had done.

Meeting report

The Chairperson,  in his opening remarks, noted that the media, in a recent article, had misquoted members. During the last meeting the Committee had discussed a Bill and he had suggested a way in which this Bill could be interrogated. He had, in that suggestion, raised the issue whether a particular function relating to administration and management really needed legislation. A debate had ensued, and Members had then gone directly to the bill. Questions had been asked on what had informed the Department’s decision. Members had also made reference to other museums, and to Robben Island. The Committee had expressed a wish for the Department of Arts and Culture to address the Committee.

The Chairperson stressed that this Committee had yet to adopt the Minutes of that meeting.

However, a reporter had written an article, making reference to what had been recorded  “in the minutes of the meeting”. The Minutes to which the reported referred were those of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG). The Chairperson noted that the media article should have stated that the Minutes were those of PMG and not the Committee. The reporter should also have stated that the discussions had only been deliberations and there had been no final conclusion on the issue.

The Chairperson asked that PMG minutes reflect accurately what transpired in Committee meetings.

The Chairperson also referred to an advertisement that had appeared in a Sunday newspaper, in which the Department of Arts and Culture called for nominations of members of the Castle Control Board. Such advert had been placed whilst the parliamentary process was still ongoing. The Chairperson said that the Committee wished to know what the transitional arrangements were.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) said that the correct reporting of Committee minutes was important.

Dr Koornhof also said that for the Department of Defence (DOD) and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) to go ahead whilst parliament was considering a Bill was a failure to show any respect for the legislative process. The Committee should nevertheless have a meeting with DOD and DAC. Dr Koornhof said that forces outside the Committee’s control were delaying the process.

Dr M Schoemann (ANC) agreed that the DOD and DAC needed to address the Committee. He added that he had always found PMG’s minutes to be fairly complete. Dr Schoemann stated that he would be hesitant to take PMG to task as the media had perhaps interpreted the minutes of PMG in a manner that looked as if the Committee had taken a decision. He said that the Committee would perform the task before them and would never be a rubber stamp. It was correct that the DAC should be called to address the Committee. There was no way that the Committee would be steam rollered into adopting a Bill. Dr Schoemann said that the statements in the media article were unacceptable. He further expressed his concern about the advert placed by the DAC.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) referred to the advert placed by the DAC and said that there was no way that the Committee could be made into a laughing stock. The Committee was well aware of its responsibilities.

Mr R Shah (DA) suggested that the Chairperson should communicate with his counterpart in the Arts and Culture Portfolio Committee, as well as with the Minister of Arts and Culture and the Minister of Defense. It should not be allowed that decisions be made outside the framework.

The Chairperson said that the DAC would be called before the Committee. The Committee could not be dictated to. It was the responsibility of parliament to pass legislation. The Departments had only to implement it.

Castle Control Board Annual Report 2006/07: Department of Defence (DOD) Briefing
The Castle Control Board (CCB) Annual Report 2006/07 was presented to the Committee. Brigadier General Ernest Navratil, Director: Defence Facilities, DOD, conducted the presentation. The scope of the Annual Report covered the internal control environment and other issues reported upon by the Auditor General. The questions raised by Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) were addressed, as also those raised by the Defence Portfolio Committee at its meeting on 12 March 2008. Furthermore the issues raised at the Committee’s meeting on 4 March were addressed (see attached presentation for details

Some of the issues relating to the CCB’s internal control environment were an inadequate asset audit trail, lack of physical stocktaking, and lack of critical appointments. Many of the issues were being addressed and deadlines had been set. The presentation also contained responses to questions that had been asked by SCOPA and the Committee over issues relating to asset management, the transfer of the Castle to DAC and governance issues. The recommendations made by SCOPA and the committee were listed (see presentation).

Dr Koornhof said that he had looked at this Annual Report and of those of previous years. He said that the CCB should be careful when cutting and pasting. It was pointed out that for the last three years the management reports had been the same. Dr Koornhof made a friendly appeal that more effort should be put into compiling Annual Reports. An Annual Report should set out what was happening with the strategic plan of the DOD, how it related to the Castle and set out clearly how the strategic plan’s objectives were linked to the budget.

Brig-Gen Navratil noted the comments on the quality and repetitiveness of the Annual Report. He agreed that it should be specific to each financial year. It would be corrected.

Dr Koornhof said there was a need for more clarity on the transitional arrangements relating to the transfer of the Castle.

Brig-Gen Navratil noted this comment.

Dr Koornhof referred to the quarterly board meetings of the CCB and asked whether these had been held. The minutes of those meetings were requested. He additionally asked why it had taken three years to set a deadline for the establishment of an audit committee. Dr Koornhof further referred to the office bearers’ vacancies on the board, with reference to the City of Cape Town, Tourism Board and others, and asked why for the last two years these vacancies had been shown as the same.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that quarterly board meetings of the CCB had been held and that the minutes would be forwarded to the Committee. He noted that the issue of office bearer vacancies was included in the CCB interim business plan.

Dr Koornhof asked whether the DOD or the CCB managed the commercial aspects of the Castle.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that the commercial aspects of the Castle were run by the CCB.

Dr Koornhof did not understand how the CCB managed the commercial aspects of the Castle, when it had had vacancies on the board since 2004. He said that it was not acceptable to have vacancies for four years.

The Chairperson asked why the CCB was not self-sustaining.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that he did accept responsibility for why certain things had not been done. He considered this to be an interesting task that could be done. Brig-Gen Navratil said that a CCB meeting was scheduled for later in the day and that the vacancy issues would be discussed.

Mr Shah said that it was heartening to hear that efforts were being made to address issues. He referred to the timeframes set in the Annual Report and asked whether they were realistic, given that for long periods of time nothing had been done. Mr Shah also referred to the appointment of an interim Chief Executive Director and asked what had led the Minister to lift the moratorium and allow the appointment.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that deadlines had been set because things needed to be done. The idea was now to ensure that matters were handled, and to move issues along as a reality. He felt that the timeframes as set out were possible and noted that any assistance by the Committee would be appreciated.

Mr Shah said that Brig-Gen’s Navratil’s predecessor could use the excuse that there was a moratorium on the filling of board positions, hence certain matters were not possible.

Mr Shah asked for how long Brig-Gen Navratil had been in charge of the CCB.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that in 2007 he had attended a meeting and had since then been in charge. He said that he had requested to be formally appointed to the position. Brig-Gen Navratil said that he was unable to find confirmation in writing in the CCB’s files of the moratorium on filling board positions. He had felt that the positions needed filling in the meantime.

Mr Shah felt it unfair to hold Brig-Gen Navratil accountable for the last three years. The person who had held the position previously should be held accountable. That individual needed to be identified.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) agreed that the individual should be tracked down.

Mr Ntuli referred to the need for a task team to do the transference of the Castle to DAC and asked who would be on that task team. Mr Ntuli wanted clarity on the role of the DOD at the Castle if and when the transfer took place.

Mr Ntuli made reference to the fact that 80% of assets had been captured on a database but that stocktaking could not take place due to a lack of qualified personnel. He asked whether there were qualified personnel at present, and whether the figures were able to be verified.

The Chairperson said that the entire CCB should address the Committee, and not Brig-Gen Navratil alone.

Brig-Gen Navratil said that the task team would comprise of members of DAC and DOD.
The DOD would still have an oversight role at the Castle in terms of its reserve force. The DOD would not surrender its endowment property but it would have no role in terms of maintenance.
He stated that the capturing of assets from manual to an electronic database was 80% complete. The Auditor General had required the CCB to have an acceptable asset management system in place. However, there were no suitable personnel, neither in the past nor at present. However people were being recruited from the DOD, and the process should be complete by the end of March.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) stated that the CCB should compile an interim business plan. She said that nothing had happened in the Board for a long time. Ms Daniels asked how the DAC was intending to deal with the issue differently from the way the DOD had done.

The Chairperson asked what were the actual inputs made by the Board. The DOD should be informed by the inputs made. He asked if there were challenges, weaknesses and strengths taken to the DOD that informed their decision.

The Chairperson said that the Committee appreciated the interventions made by Brig-Gen Navratil.

Mr N Fihla (ANC) said that there were many military museums controlled by the DOD that were supposedly not going to be transferred to DAC. He said that the Castle was military, and asked why then there was an intention to transfer it to the DAC.

Dr E Schoemann (ANC) said that the task team was established in terms of the Castle Repeal Bill, which had not yet been adopted. He then asked what was the locus standi of this Team.

Mr Siviwe Njikela, Deputy Director: Legal Support, Department of Defence, said that the joint task team was not established in terms of the Bill.

Dr Schoemann noted that if immovable assets were not to be transferred, the maintenance of them would fall on the DAC. He asked what assurances there were that the property would be properly maintained. If the Castle was not commercially viable, he questioned from where the funding would come. He felt that the Committee should follow up on the issue of vacancies. He asked whether persons serving on the Board were remunerated, and if not, whether this was the reason for the vacancies not being filled.

Dr Koornhof asked for estimates of costs of repairs and maintenance to the Castle. He referred to the Annual Report, which suggested a surplus and asked if the surplus was linked to future maintenance. Dr Koornhof asked that if the CCB was only responsible for its own assets who were responsible for other assets.

Brig-Gen Navratil responded that he honestly felt that the Committee was doing its job, given the quality of questions asked and inputs made. He wished to be sincere and committed and said that much of the questions needed a great deal of thought.

The Chairperson said that there were indeed some shortcomings. The Castle was the DOD’s responsibility and it was up to them to see to it that things got done. He stated that ad hoc arrangements were put in place to save a situation, and this had included the appointment of Brig-Gen Navratil. Members remained unclear of exactly how the Bill had come about and some of the issues were still under debate. He emphasised that there was no quick fix and matters would need to be carefully considered. He had said that the issues of heritage of assets should be protected. He asked why the DOD and the DAC could not work together on this, and why there must necessarily be a separation of responsibility. The issue was about joint management and there should be attempts to come up with a solution. This was part of the debate.

The Chairperson asked whether submissions were made outside the DOD. He also asked whether the DAC had made a submission.

Mr J Phungula (ANC) was concerned that not much had been said about what was happening at the Castle. He asked Brig-Gen Navratil how long he had been in charge.

Brig-Gen Navratil stated that he had been in charge for seven months.

The Chairperson said that it was clear that Brig-Gen Navratil was still new in his position and that the full Board should address the committee.

Dr Schoemann said that the intensity of the interrogation reflected the concern of the Committee. There was generally appreciation that Brig-Gen Navratil had committed himself to an immense task.

Brig-Gen Navratil thanked the Committee for their sense of responsibility and their feeling of support.

The meeting was adjourned.


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