Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans is one of the most expensive in President Cyril’s Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, an analysis prepared for one of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees has it.
The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) this week heard the cost of Mapisa-Nqakula’s Ministry for the 2021/22 financial year is R125.5 million “significantly higher than the R97.2 million spent in 2020/21” according to author Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg.
The amount spent on the Defence Ministry is no new phenomenon and Parliament was made aware of it as far back as 2019. That was when Professor Jannie Rossouw of the Fiscal Cliff Study Group lamented the exorbitant cost of ministries in South Africa. He noted the DoD Ministry has one of the highest costs of all ministries (R137.7 million for 2019/20), compared to National Treasury (with the then lowest ministerial cost of R4.4 million).
The analysis of the defence budget and annual performance plan opines the PCDMV “might seek further clarity” on the reasons for the high cost of Mapisa-Nqakula’s Ministry. “What can be done to cut this administrative cost amid the Department’s financial constraints? Members may request a detailed breakdown of expenditure on the Ministry for closer interrogation,” it suggests.
Other issues raised and not applicable to the so-called “sharp end” of the Defence Ministry’s capabilities in the form of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) include over R2 billion on advertising and property payments.
The analysis asks: “Why was there a need to increase advertising back to its normal levels of around R75 million? Clarity on this spending is required specifically given the DoD cancelled recruitment drives for 2021, negating the need for advertising to prospective recruits. Similarly, most shows where the DoD partakes, such as the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition will not have physical events in 2021”.
DoD property payments increased R551.5 million in 2017/18 toR1.250 billion in 2021/22. “What resulted in the rise in spending after 2017/18? What is included in property payments? If leases are included, why can more favourable leases not be negotiated for the DoD? Does the DoD plan to reduce its number of leases by developing its own buildings on State-owned land?” The analysis suggests PCDMV members request “a written breakdown of property payments for further inquiry”.
Ownership of property assets used by the Defence Ministry are largely vested in Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). This, seemingly, would not have presented any problems to DoD planners when the concept of asset sweating as a way of raising funds without having to resort to National Treasury was mooted some years ago. In this regard the analysis pointedly asks “why are there no targets related to sweating of assets when this is a ministerial priority?” Committee members “may request measurable targets developed in relation to sweating assets as per the Ministerial priority” according to the analysis.