DMV taken to task by Parliamentary committee

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“Under-performance” and “serious concern” are among words used by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in the wake of an annual report briefing by the second constituent of Thandi Modise’s Ministry.

“The committee reminded the department [of military veterans] its under-performance and failure to deliver on one of its critical programmes – socio-economic support which includes education, healthcare, pension and housing benefits – is extremely concerning,” reads a sentence in a Parliamentary Communication Services statement released after this week’s briefing by the Department of Military Veterans (DMV).

“The committee remains seriously concerned with continued poor communication between the department and its military veteran stakeholders. The DMV reported in 2021/22 it targeted six performance indicators, mainly aimed at socio-economic benefits for military veterans and their dependents.

“On the issue of housing, the DMV said in the period under review, it handed 71 newly built houses to military veterans, due to a rollover of some projects from previous financial year by the Department of Human Settlements. The committee further registered concern about continued under-performance on the delivery of houses to military veterans with veterans forced to face the frailties of old age without their benefits,” according to the statement.

Other areas of concern were the Auditor General again not giving the DMV a clean bill of health and the suspension of officials – “some for long periods of time” – without being charged with misconduct or having suspensions finalised.

PCDMV co-chair Cyril Xaba points out the DMV “continuously fails to spend allocated budget – a serious concern needing ministerial attention” repeating an earlier call for director general Irene Mpolweni’s department to “speedily address its challenges, so it can assist military veterans”.

According to the most recent DMV annual report, close to 2 000 primary education pupils were offered bursaries and over 700 were approved for tertiary education. The department provided 3 711 bursaries (2 920 for basic education and 791 for tertiary education) to military Vveterans and their dependents from April 2021 to 31 March 2022. This compares to 4 449 bursaries in 2019/20 and 8 089 in 2018/19.

Nineteen thousand one hundred military veterans are presently supported with healthcare, up from 18 500 in 2020/21 and this is planned to increase to over 20 000 a year.

The military veterans’ pension benefit is being finalised. Payments to eligible and deserving military veterans is reaching a conclusion, with National Treasury engagement on the budget for this.

Modise, in the DMV annual report foreword, notes “As the Ministry, we remain concerned about reports of the Auditor General SA regarding lack of internal controls, accountability and consequence management, to mention but a few. In addition, the continued lack of finalising filling of posts established to ensure the DMV’s full capacity to ensure expenditure flow. Speedy finalisation of officials placed on special leave or suspension during the reporting period must be attended to. The accounting officer must as a matter of urgency attend to these matters.”

Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla in the annual report stated: “While we applaud the DMV where progress and success has been achieved, we must highlight areas of concern identified in the report and the risk factors identified in the auditor general’s report. The identification of these areas serves as motive force and galvanising factors which will invigorate us to find solutions to these challenges.

“The one that comes immediately to mind which has been a perennial challenge of the DMV is the continual roll over of funds back to treasury every financial year. According to this year’s report under expenditure for the financial year 2021/22 stands at R91.7 million compared to R51 million for the 2020/21 financial year. This has been a concern to political and parliamentary oversight authorities. It is matter of grave concern that the highest figure in the under expenditure is the critical area of socio-economic support at R71.3 million or 23% of the amount allocated to this category.

“It is fact the budget of the DMV is miniscule and has been subject to cuts during the pandemic. Representations were made to National Treasury about this, but it is difficult to argue against the decision of Treasury when it subjects the DMV to budget cuts every year,” according to Makwetla.

DMV under-performance was brought to the PCDMV’s attention before and in May, the DMV told the committee it achieved “only” 42% of objectives for the final three quarters of 2021, including verifying veterans and building houses.