Finance minister nixes defence committee budget recommendations

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has shot down calls by the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) for more funding for border security, the Special Defence Account and the mid-life upgrade of SA Navy vessels.

In the 2021 Budget Review published on 24 February, the minister responded to the PCDMV Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR).

The PCDMV had recommended the Minister of Finance consider an additional ring-fenced allocation to gradually increase the number of sub-units from 15 to at least 22 sub-units for border safeguarding by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). “This increase will assist the SANDF in countering cross-border crime and adhering to its legislated function to effect national border control.”

National Treasury responded by stating that “border security remains a government priority. Over the 2021 MTEF period, R3.2 billion is earmarked to safeguard borders. As noted earlier, there is little scope to provide additional funding at this time and fiscal constraints require departments to identify opportunities for reprioritisation.”

The Committee also asked the Minister of Finance to consider an additional ring-fenced allocation to fund the midlife upgrades of South African Navy vessels in need of such upgrades. “The upgrade of the South African Navy’s frigate and submarine fleet is essential to ensure that the Navy maintains its patrol capabilities and thereby fulfil its constitutional requirement to ensure the territorial integrity of South Africa.”

National Treasury said, “as noted at the beginning of this section, there is little scope for additional funding and departments are advised to identify areas of reprioritisation, including by improving their internal efficiency.”

National Treasury also said “there is little scope to provide additional funding at this time” for salvaging the Special Defence Account, which the PCDMV believes “will be essential to ensure that the Department of Defence can continue to maintain critical capabilities and provide continued indirect support to the defence industry.”



Another item the PCDMV wants adequately funded is an exit mechanism for SANDF personnel over the medium term. National Treasury responded by saying “The National Treasury agrees that the department requires a long-term plan to manage compensation spending pressures. In the 2019 Budget, the National Treasury provided funding to implement early retirement without penalties, as part of an effort to reduce the growth of public-service compensation. Unlike other departments, the Department of Defence chose not to participate in this initiative. As noted at the beginning of this section, there is little scope to provide additional funding at this time.”