Those tasked with overseeing finances at the Department of Defence (DoD) to ensure the national defence force effectively contributes to the National State of Disaster were shown short shrift with a R3 billion allocation coming from National Treasury – R1.5 billion less than requested.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) was this week briefed on the impact of the adjusted national expenditure estimates – the budget – on Operation Notlela (“lock up” in Sotho).
The committee heard over R763 million of the allocation to the Department of Defence will be used to pay soldiers deployed in support of police, tasked to enforce regulations ranging from the ban of sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to inter-provincial travel and ensuring social distancing is adhered to.
This puts the military wage bill for the current financial year at R31.9 billion of the R53.3 billion total defence budget. “Expected expenditure on compensation of employees for the current year is R34.9 billion with an estimated shortfall of R3 billion,” the PCDMV heard.
The SANDF will use R1 billion of the reduced allocation for unspecified goods and services with R1.2 billion going to machinery and equipment. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) is the main beneficiary.
Of the R3 billion, R65 million will be spent on drugs and laboratory services, R424 million on personal protective equipment, R16 million on aircraft charter, R1.1 billion on main equipment and R56 million on minor assets.
To meet at least some of the extra demand brought about by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the military and agencies under its control, the DoD reprioritised R1.1 billion of its budget in line with a National Treasury instruction.
R3 million of this goes to the Castle Control Board “as per their request to accommodate expenses during COVID-19”. Visitors and functions provide a large portion of income for management of the Castle of Good Hope. These are non-existent during closure of tourist and other attractions in the coronavirus lockdown.
The PCDMV, according to a Parliamentary Communication Service statement, “applauded Armscor for reorganising its budget to effect savings to absorb the impact of the R120 million budget reduction” with a warning.
Concern was expressed as regards the impact of the reduced budget on acquisitions as Armscor will get R120 million less from the DoD.
“Armscor runs the risk of having to terminate key projects such as projects Biro and Hotel, on which massive amounts have been spent. The committee heard risk associated with termination of these contracts could attract penalty payments.”