Modise given a plus for peacekeeping, scores minus for irregular expenditure

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise did not do enough to eliminate wasteful, fruitless and irregular expenditure in her department which, apart from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), includes five “institutions”.

Modise’s poor performance in the portfolio since being appointed to succeed Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in August last year is one of 28 ministerial evaluations in a Democratic Alliance (DA) report that seeks to evaluate the performance of ministers against their own targets (performance agreements were signed by each minister in October 2020 under pressure of the lack of accountability in government).

The party identified 757 “measurable interventions” or targets for all 28 ministers across 27 departments. Of these, only 241 were achieved by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s top team. The 241 represents, according to DA leader John Steeenhuisen, an achievement score of “just 32%”.

The “institutions” resorting in the wider defence and military veterans portfolio are Armscor, the Castle Control Board, the Military Ombud, the Reserve Force Council and the Defence Force Service Commission.

While not the worst ranked Cabinet minister, with that appellation reserved for, among others, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Modise scored 33% for interventions achieved, seven percent for partial intervention achievements, 47% for no intervention achievement and 13% in the category for no information available.

Other Ramaphosa Cabinet ministers rated badly are Mmamoloko Kubayi (Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation), Senzo Mchunu (Water and Sanitation), Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (Communications and Digital Technology) and Mondli Gungubele (The Presidency).

On not doing enough to curb unnecessary expenditure, the report notes a failure to improve audit outcomes in the Department of Defence. This saw R2.18 billion irregularly spent and a further R4 million gone on fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Another non-performing score against Modise is non-delivery of houses for military veterans. The veterans component of her portfolio undertook to provide 710 new houses for veterans in 2020/21. Three hundred and fifty-five – exactly half – were built and transferred to old soldiers, according to the DA report.

A plus for Modise came in her utilisation of the SANDF for continental peacekeeping operations via Operation Mistral in the Democratic Republic of Congo, specifically MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). She was also rewarded with a tick for promoting regional and global integration to improve peace, security and stability in Africa.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan came under fire for escaping accountability with regard to fighting corruption in state-owned enterprises and metrics in annual reports, including irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

On paper, Police Minister Bheki Cele achieved just on 56% of his measurable targets, which at first glance, looks like an accomplishment, the DA said. “When one delves deeper into his performance agreement, serious concerns arise,” the report notes. This includes several targets met simply by submitting a report; increased visible policing does not include the number of boots on the ground; and some targets so low they will automatically be met, for example a 7.48% reduction in contact crime levels in the 2020/21 financial year – the figures can potentially be skewed by COVID-19 lockdowns.