Parliamentary committee hears veterans’ department not meeting targets

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“Challenges” along with “low performance” and “major misalignment” made regular appearances in a Parliamentary Communication Services statement regarding a Department of Military Veterans (DMV) presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) this week.

The PCDMV noted – among others – it was informed the DMV targeted 16 “performance areas” for military veterans’ benefits in the 2022/23 financial year while achieving only five. This is, according to the DMV presentation, “a mere 33%” accomplishment.

This drew specific comment from PCDMV chair Cyril Xaba. The parliamentarian is quoted as saying: “it is concerning that out of its 16 targets, the department only managed to achieve five. The low performance is in sharp contrast to the department’s 92% expenditure of its allocated budget for 2022/23, indicating a major misalignment in terms of spending and achievements”.

Going further, the committee expressed “specific concern” over the DMV’s “continued under-performance in the delivery of housing to military veterans”. The lack of delivery related socio-economic support programmes also rated specific mention.

PCDMV committee members heard the DMV experienced “many challenges” as regards “distribution of the housing benefit” it is tasked to provide for old soldiers. Solution seeking includes “engagements” to “unlock some of the challenges” by way of co-operation with provincial departments responsible for human settlements.

On veterans’ housing, the PCDMV heard two provinces – Eastern Cape and Gauteng – “made progress delivering” the housing benefit. The DMV presentation shows 90 houses “delivered” in the 2022/23 year – 53 allocated to former non-statutory force soldiers and the remaining 37 to “statutory”, probably former TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei) defence force personnel. At provincial level 34 were built in Gauteng with Eastern Cape a distant second on 18. Other provincial veteran house builds are KwaZulu-Natal (13), Limpopo and Northern Cape (10 each) with Western Cape (five) bringing up the 90 total.

The dearth of housing for veterans prompted Xaba to say it was not the first time the PCDMV was informed of a lack of suitable sites for this purpose. He endorsed the DMV approach to contact and engage provincial housing authorities.

The thorny issue of the military veterans’ database was part of the presentation and showed “confirmed veterans” registered as 1 184 for the 2022/23 year. This is, again, as per the presentation, 184 over the departmental target of a thousand.

PCDMV members heard the verification process for veteran database registration saw 1 211 old soldiers invited for verification but not attending. Twenty-two applications were not verified due to death, not choosing to appear, unable to attend due to “relocation or other commitments” and in three cases the applicants were already database registered.

Counselling benefits, including for psychological and neuro-psychiatric trauma, were provided for 697 veterans from nine former non-statutory and regular forces. On the list are APLA, Azanla, MK, SADF (SA Defence Force), SANDF (SA National Defence Force) and the former TBVC militaries. Men – at 631 – are the bulk of counselling beneficiaries with 308 SADF pensioners also approved for this benefit.

On healthcare benefits, the DMV presentation has it “about 19 475 military veterans are approved across all nine provinces”. In contrast it lists 375 covering gender, former force and province.

Three hundred and forty-four military veterans and their dependents were approved for skills development programmes, while 4 114 bursaries were provided to veterans and dependents. Business facilitation programmes were provided for 105 military veterans’ businesses. No veterans received access to employment placement opportunities and no memorial sites were facilitated in the year due to capacity and other challenges.

DMV underspend included just short of R21 million on socio-economic support benefits, identified as mainly housing and pensions. This saw Xaba comment the PCDMV “needs to know the actual challenges the department is experiencing as there are funds allocated that end up being surrendered to National Treasury (NT) due to failure to deliver services”.