The increasing level of attention given to military veterans and, in many instances, their plight, is evident in actions of both The Presidency and a Parliamentary oversight committee.
Last year the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) undertook to follow-up on the military veterans’ database. Various accounts have it this is in a “shambolic state” with, in some instances family members of dead veterans listed and in others, men and woman far too young to have participated in what is generally termed “the liberation struggle”, on it and supposedly qualifying for benefits.
This week, military veterans and management of their affairs again came under the PCDMV microscope.
“The PCDMV noted with concern an admission of underspending by the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) of below 50% of its budget for the current financial year,” according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement.
Committee chair Cyril Xaba pointed out the issue of “structural and systemic challenges” in the DMV was previously raised and until addressed there will be no improvement and “reported underspending will continue”.
“We are concerned about DMV underspending. This means targets are not met. The DMV, by its own admission, said its performance is under 50% and attributes that partly to the COVID-19 pandemic. We accept that but it is also testimony to a deeper problem. At this time of the year the DMV should be over 75% spending, but it is still under 50%, an indication of under-performance.”
A “history” of underspend by DMV as well as it returning funds to National Treasury has seen its budget reduced again.
Xaba welcomed the involvement of The Presidency in the form of a military veterans’ task team headed by Deputy President David Mabuza.
“It is good the DMV is receiving attention from The Presidency with work streams established to investigate weaknesses in the DMV,” the statement quotes Xaba as saying.
Mabuza’s task team, including the Minister (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) and Deputy Minister (Thabang Makwetla) of Defence and Military Veterans, this week announced seven work teams to deal with problem areas. The teams are tasked with (in no particular order) a legislative review; an organisational redesign for the DMV; database verification, cleansing and enhancement; socio-economic support; pensions and benefits; communication and heritage, memorialisation and burial support.
The national military veterans’ database is being “cleaned” by DMV personnel working with State Information Technology Agency (SITA) specialists. It was reported last year that Department of Home Affairs (DHA) personnel would also assist in database clean-up.