Department of Defence performance declining, annual report reveals

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Mainly due to funding constraints, South Africa’s Department of Defence (DoD) is missing more of its performance targets.

In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) earlier this month on the latest DoD annual report, for the 2022/23 financial year, the Department revealed that it only achieved 15 of 29 key performance indicators, or 52%.

This represents a notable decline in performance over the years, with a year on year comparison showing the DoD in the 2018/19 financial year achieved 69% of its targets, increasing to 73% the following year before falling to 66% in 2020/21, 67% in 2021/22 and just 52% in 2022/23.

Resource constraints were the main reason the DoD did not reach its targets in 2022/23 (42%), followed by ‘internal factors’ (29%) and ‘external factors’ (29%).

The DoD told the PCDMV that the most prominent challenges experienced during the 2022/23 financial year relate to the baseline funding reduction “which poses serious financial constraints on the ability to rapidly intervene during crises on the continent. The baseline reduction also impacts the contribution to the SDA [Strategic Defence Account], which in turn impacts on arresting the decline, by replacing and maintaining the ageing assets.”

Other challenges include the continuous compensation of employees (CoE) underfunding since the 2017/18 financial year, and legacy information technology Systems “which are not integrated and do not contribute towards good governance and accountability.”

The compensation of employees remains a thorny issue – overspending on salaries resulted in irregular expenditure of R7.398 billion from FY2017/18 to FY2020/21. The Department of Defence said it incurred a further R2.708 billion in irregular expenditure for FY2021/22, bringing the total compensation of employees-related irregular expenditure to R10.105 billion as at the end of FY2021/22.

In order to reduce the wage bill, the DoD implemented human resources cost-saving measures from April 2021. A total of 14 504 vacant posts were deactivated; a force reduction of 2 186 officials materialised through natural attrition; capped allowances resulted in a saving of R30 million; and 1 490 personnel exited by means of the Military Exit Mechanism (MEM), and Employee Initiated Severance Package (EISP) applied to Public Service Act Personnel (PSAP).

The DoD hoped to further cut personnel costs by reducing Reserve Force mandays utilised, but this did not materialise as Reserve Force members were needed to “augment military operations, execute administrative compliance tasks and to continue to effectively secure military installations.”

In the 2022/23 financial year, the SANDF exceeded its reserve force mandays allocation by 142% (2.8 million versus the target of 1.9 million).

During the 2022/23 financial year, the Department of Defence received an appropriation of R51.6 billion, a 5.75% increase on the FY2021/22 appropriation, but it spent R54.6 billion (105.8%), with this extra R2.9 billion, driven mainly by personnel costs, being flagged as unauthorised expenditure.