DoD making progress in curbing SANDF personnel costs

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The Department of Defence (DoD) has made significant strides in cutting personnel costs in line with the underfunding of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), saving around R1.5 billion in the last year.

This is according to a report presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in March. The report noted that due to continued underfunding, the SANDF has had to introduce a number of human resources (HR) actions to avoid spending too much on the compensation of employees and thus creating irregular expenditure.

One HR intervention has been the deactivation of 14 504 posts, which had been vacant for five years or more and unfunded. Another intervention is cutting the number of personnel from 73 000 to 70 000 over the next three years; by January 2023, 70 866 people were employed by the DoD, with over 2 000 having exited the department. Some people left after taking Mobility Exit Mechanism (MEM) packages and another 470 are expected to leave in the 2022/23 financial year due to normal attrition and exit mechanisms.

Between January 2022 and January 2023, “attrition has reached 3 841 indicating that the Department of Defence has made significant progress to down-manage its HR capacity in order to re-align the HR cost projections and impact,” the report stated.

The SANDF has for some time quite heavily relied on the Reserve Force to meet its mandate, and is consequently cutting Reserve Force man days to 1.9 million per year, down from 2.6 million in the 2020/21 financial year. However, by February this year, Reserve Force utilisation had exceeded planned utilisation by 671 096 man days due to increased demands on the SANDF.

Further cutting expenditure has seen the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) only accept recruits every second year – 1 972 members were accepted in 2022, and 2 564 will be accepted in January 2024.

These HR ‘reforms’ have realised a R1.8 billion saving, “having the effect of reducing the potential compensation of employees deficit from an estimated R4.2 billion in April 2022 to R2.8 billion at the end of February 2023,” the PCDMV report stated.

Further reductions to the DoD’s staff count will come as the Department has been allocated R1 billion to support the implementation of the MEM for 2022/23 and R800 million for 2023/24. (For 2022/23, it cost R906 million to exit 1 290 members).

The PCDMV report noted that the DoD “remains resolute to implement exit strategies which will continue to contribute to the aim of resolving the adverse fiscal dilemma in respect of the persistent under-funding of the compensation of employees’ allocation.”