Military Skills Development System & Departmental Budget Timelines: Department briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

05 June 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

5 June 2007

Ms T Tobias (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Military Skills Development System (MSDS) presentation
The Department Of Defence Planning Framework (Timelines)

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Committee was briefed on the Military Skills Development System, which aimed to rejuvenate the South African National Defence Force regulars and reserves as well as enhancing its operational readiness with more young and fit members. It was emphasised that the Development System, in addition to its military skills, also imparted functional and life skills that gave the members a competitive edge in the labour market when they exited their regiments. The future plans included an increase in the annual intakes to 10 000, from 2008 onwards, and this would require the doubling of the budget every two years. The current budget was insufficient to cover the costs per recruit.

A second presentation was given on the planning framework (timelines) of the Department, and how they were informed by and tied in with the timelines of the Cabinet Lekgotla, Budget Speech, and State of the Nation addresses. Departmental planning, Strategic Planning Work Sessions and Planning and Budgeting Seminars were outlined, with an indication of what each would consider. Internal control process were followed through the quarterly and annual reviews and reporting. There was also reporting through the cluster system, and five concurrent processes were included in the National Planning Framework. It was noted that the Department reported on a regular basis to National Treasury and to this Committee. First quarter reports would be presented to the Portfolio Committee on 11 September.

Questions by members related to a break-down of occupations by gender, the financing of the envisaged projects, especially in view of the expected deficit in the next three years, the balance between basic military training, academic study and functional training, the discipline of the privates aged between 18 and 24, the criteria for the selection process, the aims of the three-month training period and the schools visited during the recruitment process. Further questions related to sports participation, psychometric testing, the correlation with priority skills and accelerated shared growth initiatives, the need to indicate the weaknesses in the systems, and discussion of the options presented. Concern was expressed that the forces did not currently rate their career prospects highly, the need for other departments to be involved,
the length of time needed to submit the first quarter report, the need for consistency in the reporting, and apparent lack of synergy between the previous and following year’s business plans. The Committee’s role in monitoring the progress being made and the utilisation of the budget was emphasised.

Military Skills Development System (MSDS) Briefing by Department of Defence (DOD)
Lt-General De Wet and a delegation from the Department Of Defence (DOD) briefed the Committee. The briefing on the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) focused on the background, current status and future planning of the system. It was noted that the MSDS aimed to rejuvenate both the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) regulars and reserves from the bottom up, enhancing the operational readiness with more young and fit members. It imparted functional and life skills that would present members with a competitive edge in the open labour market. It was introduced in 2003 after mismatches were identified, and there was continuing interest from other state departments to employ former MSDS members. Almost 18 000 had completed or were in the process of completing service under this programme. The MSDS relationship with the Human Resources (HR) Strategy 2010 was outlined.

The MSDS currently targeted Grade 12 learners, those learners with a Grade 12 who were out of school, aged 18 to 22, and graduates up to the age of 26. Marketing was done by a number of different methods, including advertising, focused recruiting drives at educational institutions, marketing at careers exhibitions, talk shows and the public. Partnerships existed also with National Youth Commission, Department of Education and Local Governments. The programme was for two years; in the first year basic military training took place, and some recruits were selected for the junior leader training programme and would continue with further academic education. After the two years of MSDS training recruits would be deployed to the Department’s peace missions or reserve system, after the recruits had received training for three months before qualifying as reserves. The statistics of recruits since 2003 were tabled. Migration in 2003 and 2004 necessitated rejuvenation, which began in 2005. Approximately 77% exited to the core activities and 12% exited after 2 years. The progress made in the attempt to rejuvenate the military was outlined, showing a steady increase of rank-age improvement due to MSDS, of privates between the ages of 18 and 24.

The MSDS had portable skills that were provided through the Basic Military Training (BMT). The skills provided included Civic Education, Occupational Health and Safety, and service conditions for future employment. Functional skills were obtained after the three months of functional training. The aim was to provide further technical skills and this was already being done through establishing partnerships with employers, such as Department of Correctional Services, where the skills could be further enhanced. R13 500 was budgeted for each MSDS member for the 2008 intake, and would be put to instilling formal portable skills transfer before exiting the SANDF.

The majority of the MSDS soldiers served in the South African Army, followed in numerical order by the Air Force (SAAF), Navy and Health Service (SAMHS). 6 691 out of 8 461 (79%) of those who completed MSDS service had transferred to the Regulars core service system (CSS). Statistics were tabled of the race and gender balance in the MSDS and the DOD.

The recommended options for annual intakes from 2008 onwards were 5000 individuals, which would require additional funding of R400 million. Annual intakes of 10 000 were recommended with effect from January 2009, to provide more junior leaders as well as building up the reserves This would require a doubling of funding every two years. Most of the R382,3 million received in 2007 went to the South African Army, though it was insufficient. The implications of the 10 000 intakes were outlined fully and it was indicated that the Minister of Defence had signed a Cabinet Memo on 24 May, which was then submitted to the Presidency and Cluster co-chairpersons. The Clusters were to submit comments and there would be a presentation to the Extended Cabinet meeting. If approved, the project would be incorporated into the Government Programme of Action.

DOD Planning Framework (Timelines) Briefing
Ms N Ntseluba, Director Planning, DOD, gave a presentation on the Department of Defence’s Planning Framework (Timelines) and Strategic Direction Process. She indicated that the planning process took into cognisance the government’s medium term policy reviews, Cabinet Lekgotla, Budget Speech, and State of the Nation addresses. Departmental planning would also focus on the previous Annual and National review outcomes, and the environmental aspects. DOD Strategic Planning Work Sessions would consider how to deal with the directives provided by the Minister of Defence. This all led to the planning and budgeting seminar in September. Internal control process were followed through the quarterly and annual reviews and reporting.  The Medium Term planning cycle would begin with the quality evaluation in April, and after plans had been revised and submitted, they were formatted, printed and presented.

Government controls included the reporting through the cluster system, and five concurrent processes were included in the National Planning Framework, as identified on slide 9 of the presentation. This was linked to the ways in which the Department would respond to the national priorities. The short term business plans and analyses were presented to the National Treasury, and presentations were made also to the Portfolio Committee whilst the Department would execute and review its plans. Fourth quarter reporting would also take place. The first quarter performance reports would be completed and presented to the Portfolio Committee on 11 September.

The Chairperson requested a break down of the occupations by gender.

Mr Tsepe Motumi, Programme Director, DOD, responded that a break down of occupations by gender would be provided by the end of June.

Lt General De Wet also added that break downs of occupations by gender would be included in future presentations to the committee

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) welcomed the presentation and plans envisaged through the MSDS. He was however concerned about the financing of the envisaged projects. He felt that the plans were over-ambitious taking into cognisance the current funds being allocated. It appeared that a deficit of R3 billion would be incurred in the next three years. Furthermore the presentation did not appear to explicitly outline how the reserve force was going to be stimulated through the projects. 

Dr Koornhof acknowledged the importance and emphasis given to basic military training in the MSDS training. He requested what percentage of the overall training was designated to functional training.

Dr S Pheko (PACA) requested further clarification on the rejuvenation of the forces mentioned in the presentation and requested more information about the academic programmes that would be provided during the training phase. He also asked what was the discipline of the privates aged between 18 and 24.

Lt-Gen J (Rinus) Jansen van Rensburg replied that the academic programmes were part of the curriculum, though they would not detract from the MSDS commitment to military training. The academic programmes included, for instance, engineering programmes specifically designed around military matters.  He added that the rejuvenation indicated in the presentation was for all occupations and at all levels in the military. He also said that there was need for some international comparisons as to what the best age-categories would be. There had been positive feedback received in terms of the discipline of the 1 500 MSD members that had been deployed out.

A committee member asked what criteria were used for the selection process and also noted that it would be important to know how many women were involved in the programme, and what was the intention of the three months’ training.

Lt General De Wet responded that after the two years of training there would be an assessment of the soldiers’ discipline. Further performance assessments would also be conducted, following which the soldiers would be either be selected as regulars or reserves. Funds had been allocated for each recruit to be utilised in the three months training. This training was meant to meet the challenge of ensuring the employability of the soldiers after they left their regiment.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked which schools were visited in the marketing and recruiting that had been done. He also requested the reasons behind the exits of individuals from the MSDS after two years and how this problem was going to be addressed.

Lt General De Wet responded that the lists of the schools visited were not available at present. He major reason for individuals leaving after 2 years was due to their realisation that the military was not their choice of employment. However, the exit rate had dropped, which indicated that the marketing strategy had improved.

Mr J Schippers requested whether the recruits’ participation in sports included any involvement in national leagues.

Lt General De Wet responded that the inclusion of sports in the curriculum was important to the creation of cohesion and team building. The recruits could also compete at international level in the already existent military sports tournaments.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) requested whether any psychometric tests were included in the recruitment phase, and if so, whether they would be revised in any way.

Lt-Gen Jansen van Rensburg responded that the Sergeant General more acquainted with the recruitment and selection process would best answer the questions on the psychometric tests. That Sergeant General would attend the forthcoming meetings to provide more information on the psychometric tests. 

Mr Monareng asked when the 17 000 soldiers who had already been trained would be utilised. He also mentioned that it was expected that achievements made would tally with the budget.

Mr M Booi (ANC) mentioned that there was need to consider societal issues in the training provided to the young recruits. There was need to take account of the high rate of violence amongst the youth. He also commended the current strategy of utilising the budget to build personnel. The MSDS was certainly congruent with the National Skills Development Framework and Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). He asked whether any other assistance was being provided.

Lt-Gen Jansen van Rensburg replied that there were recommendations made to correspond with the Department of Education, although no feedback had been received yet.

Mr Booi noted that future presentations should not only focus on the strengths but also on the weaknesses in the current system. He further requested why the Chief of Defence had not appeared before the Committee as part of the delegation.

Mr Motumi apologised for the absence of the Chief of Defence and noted that the Acting Chief of Defence was meant to attend the meeting but was committed elsewhere.

The Chairperson noted that the presentation included two options. She requested whether the second option was meant to augment the current system. She also enquired whether there would be any correlation with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), as clearly this was a “proudly South African” initiative.

The Chairperson remarked that if there was going to be any assessment of progress made towards transformation, more figures pertaining to occupations needed to be included in the presentations. She also asked for clarification over the 0% indicated for the technical and support services in the navy. She added that the Chief of Navy also needed to explain the figures.

The Chairperson asked to know how the budget cycle was going to be implemented into 2010. She further remarked that she had not felt any enthusiasm regarding career prospects amongst the forces after having interacted with some of them on a visit to Saldana Naval Base. Some of the recruits remarked that they were not given enough time for academic study. There was a need for balance in the training to ensure that the recruits would have something to do after they left the service and possibly were employed in other government departments. It was however important that the other government departments also played an active role in the training programmes.

Lt-Gen Jansen van Rensburg replied that the Minister of Defence was currently corresponding with the Deputy President on the inclusion of ASGISA initiatives into the MSDS programme and she was delighted about it. There was also a meeting with the Umsobomvu Youth Fund over possible partnerships. He further added that the 10 000 promotions each year were meant to boost the morale and motivation of the soldiers regarding their career prospects.

Lt General De Wet added that the first presentation slides had indicated that R760 million was the funded option that was needed to maintain the intakes. This was the option that had been prioritised. He added that the strategic tasks for the work regiment had been completed, and the focus was to first provide the recruits with the right capabilities, then prepare them for a second career after leaving their regiment.

Mr B Ntuli (ANC) remarked that the recruits’ complaints over insufficient time for academic study was partly due to misconstrued thinking that academics were taking over military training, which was not the case. He agreed that the other departments needed to get involved in the MSDS as it could be a means to rejuvenate the entire public sector. The programmes also needed to be marketed to the private sector to let it know of the contributions that MSDS could provide to their future staffing needs.

The Chairperson remarked that there was need for the discussion to take into cognisance that the report from Simons Town had not yet been received. There should also not be a repetition of what was discussed at Saldana Naval Base.

The Chairperson requested for further clarification over why the first quarter report would only be presented on 11 September.

Ms Ntseluba replied that the first quarter report would only be presented to the Committee in September because of the number of levels it had to pass through, being the Security Council, then Defence Council, following which it would go to the Defence Minister before referral to the Committee.
Lt-Gen Jansen van Rensburg commented that there were also requirements in the internal timelines, and that the reports went to the Auditor-General for consistency checks and approval, and had to be approved by the Minister before they were tabled and printed.

The Chairperson commented that the qualifications in the reporting timelines created a bad reflection of the Committee as the joint budget reports were at times different from the annual report. There was need for consistency in the reporting.

Mr Booi commented that the late submission of the reports compromised the duties of the Committee. There was a need to get the reports in good time so as to allow a thorough analysis of the contents and to ensure that the Committee did not have to engage in fruitless and lengthy discussion. He added that the Committee should not be viewed as a subsidiary arm as it was responsible for the budgets and the monitoring of performance. It was also important to separate the fourth quarter reports from the annual reports in order to ensure effective monitoring of progress.

Mr Ndlovu commented that there appeared to be a lack of synergy and continuity between the previous year’s Short-term Business Plan and the upcoming year.

The meeting was adjourned.


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