Funding shortfall hampers border protection and safeguarding

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In auditing the Department of Defence (DoD) annual report for 2022/23, Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke’s budgetary review and recommendations report (BRRR) specifies funding as the root cause of South Africa’s deteriorating border security.

“Funding to address deteriorating defence capabilities at the DoD (including border security) has declined. Lack of economical and efficient use of resources, along with internal procurement delays, negatively affected DoD’s ability to fully implement border control initiatives,” the Auditor-General told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) earlier this month.

Furthermore, in reviewing the 2022/23 financial year, the Auditor-General found that “capabilities needed to conduct certain operations could not be fully deployed as required, (e.g., Op Mistral [in the Democratic Republic of Congo], and Op Corona [border safeguarding]), impacting on the departments’ ability to support peace support operations and operations conducted to protect the country. Even though the department was able to perform some of these operational requirements, challenges and risks were experienced which could be attributable to insufficient funding.”

The border protection tasking Operation Corona is executed mainly by the SA Army, with regular and reserve units the backbone of the 15 company deployment. This will stay the same with President Cyril Ramaphosa pointing out the military will remain “responsible for border protection and safeguarding” when he launched the Border Management Authority (BMA) – South Africa’s third armed service – earlier this month.

The Auditor-General found that budget constraints leave the Department of Defence unable to deploy 22 companies planned in 2023-24 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).

“We, however, also observed that DoD is not preventing/recovering losses swiftly so that funds can be used economically and effectively. In 2022-23, DoD was allocated funding for border security, but did not procure required equipment in time due to internal delay,” the PCDMV was informed.

On how to improve, the Auditor-General recommends Defence Minister Thandi Modise and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief General Rudzani Maphwanya implement “effective control measures” and “processes”.

The control measures should ensure the “efficient, effective and economical use of resources to assist the DoD to use available funding to better support the key performance areas.”

This would apply to the R700 million allocated by National Treasury to improve the national defence force’s border protection and safeguarding capability.

New vehicles are being acquired to replace off-the-shelf Toyota Land Cruisers with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), a number of which will be demonstrated at the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) during the upcoming Exercise Vuk’uhlome. R500 million has been budgeted for the vehicle replacement. Additionally, R200 million worth of sensor technology will be acquired for Operation Corona in 2025/6 including a geographic information system (GIS) capability (R22.5 million); intelligence collection and processing capabilities (R47 million under Project Baobab); upgraded Chaka command and control system (R7.2 million); Reutech RSR 903 radars (R57 million); 60 observation posts (R16 million under Project Dominate); 16 quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (R16 million) as well as a pair of long-range UAVs (R24 million).

The Auditor-General’s BRRR points out several cases have been identified where there was lack of effective use of resources which included elements such as material financial losses, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, procurement not always done in a cost effective manner as well as the lack of timely consequence management (giving prolonged suspensions as an example). If funds allocated are not utilised optimally it may impact negatively on South African citizens “since the funds could have been used for other critical needs”.