DMV underspend slammed by Portfolio Committee

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The perennially under-performing Department of Military Veterans (DMV) was lambasted by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) for spending less than half its annual budget in the first three quarters of the current financial year.

PCDMV co-chair Cyril Xaba is quoted in a Parliamentary Communication Services statement as saying the underspend is “a glaring and gross indictment as it will be impossible to spend the remaining 52% (of its budget) in the last quarter”.

“This is a huge disservice for people who are waiting for service. The budget, which was cut, could not be finished and the money will go back to National Treasury [which] is unacceptable,” he said in response to a presentation by DMV Director-General Irene Mpolweni yesterday (Wednesday, 9 February).

The DMV’s budget was reduced by R50 million from R654 million to R607 million; cumulative third quarter spending was R290 million versus a targeted spend of R455 million.

Xaba also told the woman now heading government efforts to provide a better life for military veterans following a pair of acting directors-general, “the poor spending record will have an adverse on the lives of military veterans, who sacrificed years of their lives in the fight against apartheid”.

The DMV presentation on its activities during the second and third quarters of the current financial year included an updated on the budget review and recommendations report. A progress report on finalisation and updating of DMV policies as regards services and benefits, among them public transport, pensions, housing and bursary benefits was also tabled.

In the meeting the PCDMV called for the DMV to “devise clear and translatable timeframes for programmes to empower military veterans and fast track their implementation”.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, according to the statement, admitted the DMV budget report was “unimpressive”. She assured the committee problems in the DMV will be corrected adding the PCDMV would be invited to a departmental retreat, allowing Mpolweni’s department to benefit from the committee’s input.

The DMV has an annual target of verifying 3 000 veterans for inclusion into the military veterans database, as well as building 355 houses, approving 100 veterans for compensation benefits and putting 200 veterans onto the pension benefit pilot project. It also aims to provide 3 500 bursaries annually; provide healthcare to 19 100 veterans and counselling to 500 veterans and their dependents. Most of these annual targets were missed according to the presentation. As examples, the DMV approved 2 650 learners and students for education support in 2021 and counselling for 308 veterans and dependents. Overall, only 50 to 60% of DMV targets were reached in the first three quarters of the last financial year.

From 1 April this year the DMV plans to start disbursing pension benefits to veterans as directed by the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans, but it is unclear if this will go ahead as the pilot project was not implemented.