Department of Foreign Affairs Strategic Plan & Budget 2008/2009

NCOP Economic and Business Development

03 June 2008
Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Foreign Affairs briefed the committee on its Strategic Plan 2008 – 2011 and its Budget. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs explained that the strategic plan was a three-year forecast of the work of the department in the 2008 – 2011 MTEF. Much of the briefing was spent outlining the key priorities of the department. The Committee was also given insight into the various facets of the Department’s budget.

Meeting report

The Department of Foreign Affairs delegation comprised of: Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe, Mr Mxolisi Nkosi, Acting Deputy Director General, Mr A Moodley, Chief Financial Officer, Ms M  Nompozolo, Mr Chakane Khuzamula, Ms Anna Marie Moulton and Mr Ernest Kgopa.

Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe commenced by stating that the strategic plan was a three-year forecast of the work of the department in the 2008 – 2011 MTEF. Mr Nkosi undertook the briefing and said that he wished to highlight only the key elements of the plan. He noted that the plan covered the strategic thrust of the work of the department in the 2008 – 2011 MTEF. Mr Nkosi spent a great portion of the briefing outlining the key overarching priorities of the department. Consolidation of the African Agenda, strengthening of South – South co-operation, strengthening of North – South co-operation, participation in the global system of governance and strengthening of bilateral and economic relations were explained in great detail. Organisational strengthening, organisational support and the rendering of professional services were activities that supported the key priorities of the department.

Mr Nkosi also gave the Committee insight into the department’s allocation of its budget resources. He noted that in order for the department to do its work there had been a need to align its resources. The Committee was provided with a breakdown of the department’s spending pattern for the past three financial years. A comparison was made between budgeted amounts, actual expenditure and the variances between the two.

Mr Nkosi pointed out that the spending patterns of the Department had improved over the last three years. The 2008 approved MTEF budget allocations figures for 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 were also given. The Department also outlined its 2008 MTEF requested amounts and compared it to amounts actually approved. An overview of the 2008/09 budget was also provided.

Mr Nkosi continued with detail on the department’s property and facilities management in terms of its asset management plan. Detail on the department’s information and communication technology plan was also provided. The Committee was furthermore provided with insight into the department’s attempts at organisational strengthening. A breakdown of the department’s organisational structure and figures on employment equity was provided. Further issues like employee training and employee health etc were also covered. Mr Nkosi concluded by stating that the work of the department was supported by a strong internal audit system.
  
Discussion
Ms Themba pointed out that the presentation document contained many acronyms which members did not know and asked that in the future a glossary be provided. The Chair asked for clarity on the challenges faced on the establishment of the department’s headquarters.

Mr Moodley said that the challenges faced were technical matters. Funding matters with National Treasury were being resolved. Public-private partnerships were in their final stages and were being signed. Mr Nkosi took heed of the Chair’s comments on the acronyms.

Mr W Douglas (ACDP, WC) referred to the department’s global system of governance and asked what the process of support to countries in the Middle East and countries like Iran was. He asked for a document in this regard. He also noted that the presentation was a bit vague on rollout agreements. Mr Douglas further referred to China being the department’s first test case and asked what was meant by it. He referred to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and asked if the department was working closely with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

Mr Nkosi agreed to provide the Committee with a Middle East policy document. He said that SA’s policy on Iran was clear. SA supported Iran’s nuclear enrichment provided it was for peaceful purposes.
He stated that the department was working closely with DTI on the Shanghai Expo.

Mr Nunu (ANC) asked why the department’s expenditure was 98% and not 100%. He referred to memorandums of understandings that were signed and asked how does information flow to the provinces and municipalities.

Mr Moodley responded that the forecasted spending was 98% but that the actual spending was 99%. He noted that DTI had built its own headquarters and the department had learnt from their lessons learnt.
Mr Nkosi said that information on trade was available from DTI. He noted that provinces and municipalities could also enter into co-operation agreements.

Ms S Chan (DA, Gauteng) stated that SA had good relations with China but asked why had SA only sent condolences to Chinese earthquake victims on the 20 May 2008 when the disaster had taken place on the 12 May 2008. She also referred to the 2008 ten-year celebrations on SA -Chinese relations and asked why other government departments were unaware of it. Ms Chan said that greater communication and awareness was needed. Both the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Foreign Affairs had representatives dealing with China and asked how the responsibilities were divided. She referred to earthquake donations made to China and asked from what portion of the department’s budget was it made.

Mr Nkosi agreed to do a follow up on why there had been a delay on the sending of condolences. He however pointed out that China was aware of SA’s support. Mr Nkosi said that there was an interdepartmental Committee in place that directed and managed the celebration programme. The Committee had a provincial and municipal component as well. He referred to the roles of the department and of DTI in the missions itself. Mr Nkosi explained that a business plan would be developed taking into account the strategic plan. Thereafter the roles and functions of various officials would be looked at, both from DTI and the department. 
Mr Moodley said that a disaster fund was by presidential decree. He stated that NGO’s had set up a fund to assist the Chinese earthquake victims.

Mr Kolweni (ANC) said that the presentation was an eye opener on the work of the department. He however felt that the department needed to factor in the role of the provinces. He referred to the establishment of the department’s new headquarters (HQ) to fast track PPP agreements and asked what the involvement of DTI was. Mr Kolweni asked for elaboration on the challenges faced by the HQ project.

Ms L Thembe (ANC, Northern Cape) referred to the department keeping a register of SA citizens living abroad and asked if the department was able to assist persons financially where visas had expired. She also asked for figures on numbers of disabled persons within the department. Ms Thembe referred to observers to be sent to Zimbabwe for the upcoming runoff elections and asked how the department assisted in the process. She also asked whether SA youth were being taught languages of countries that SA had ties with.

Mr Nkosi referred to Zimbabwe and said that first and foremost a political solution needed to be found. He hoped that by 27 June 2008 there would be an outright winner but that all political parties would work together in running the country.
Mr Moodley stated that the department was able to trace SA citizens abroad by way of the visa system. He added that if SA citizens experienced difficulties overseas the department’s missions would assist them. Mr Moodley pointed out that financial assistance by the department was limited to SA citizens that were incarcerated abroad.
Ms Nompozolo stated that there were a total of 33 disabled persons within the department. She noted that overall the percentage was 1.47% even thought the DPSA government requirement was 2%. The department needed to reach the 2% target by June 2009. Measures to address the shortfall have been implemented.
A female department representative stated that the department together with the SABC and others were involved with projects involving young people in relation to requirements of being a diplomat. For example speaking foreign languages. She added that the department had a cadet programme for graduates where they would be employed by the department for a period of one year. The learning of French was a requirement of the programme. Some government schools also offered foreign languages as subjects. She noted that globally, interpreters were scarce.

Ms Nkulu (ANC) stated that life expectancy in SA was decreasing and asked whether the department could not send fliers to schools to educate children to discipline themselves on health, lifestyles etc.

Ms Nompozolo stated that on health and wellness for children the department’s efforts were currently focussed on its employees and their children. Children of employees have been involved in lifeskills projects for the last two years. She pointed out that the Department of Education was offering lifeskills classes at schools.

Mr Kolweni asked whether the spread of disabled black and white employees in the department was deliberate or had it been inherited.

Ms Nompozulu said that the disabled persons numbers might seem skewed in the context of transformation. The disabled white persons had been with the department since before the new dispensation. The disabled black persons had been there since 2003/2004.

The Chair asked about the focus on women and children in peace and security, given that in many countries it was a problem. Ms Themba further asked if the department had a gender focal point and a gender policy.

Mr Nkosi said that the department was revising the white paper on peace missions. Women and children have been factored in. He noted that in the African Union a ministerial Committee was looking into the issue.
Ms Nompozulu said that the department had a gender focal point. In 2006 it had been at director level whereas now it was at chief director level. The department also had a gender policy in place.

Ms Nkulu asked if the department assisted with student exchange programmes. She also asked whether the department could influence countries in Africa to establish buffer zones for women and children. 

Ms Nompozulu stated that the department did not send persons from communities overseas. It did however send its own employees overseas.
Mr Nkosi said that buffer zone issue was one worth considering. It would be explored.

The Chair asked for a document on the department’s gender focal point. She also asked if any bills were to be referred to the Committee and also when the white paper was to be finalised by the interdepartmental Committee.

Mr Nkosi responded that there were no bills to be referred to the Committee. The white paper was being finalised by the interdepartmental Committee. Thereafter it would go to cabinet and end up in parliament. It would arrive in parliament sometime in 2008 or in 2009.

The meeting was adjourned.

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