SANDF in ICU, shadow defence minister claims

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A National Treasury (NT) presentation to one of Parliament’s defence oversight committees exposes “a shocking picture of the sad state of affairs in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)”.

This and other scathing comments came from Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. The NT presentation this week (Wednesday, 17 May) he said showed “continued irregular expenditure”, “a lack of strategic leadership” and a less than prudent use of the defence budget.

Concerns raised by NT, where Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana holds sway, include overspend of close to R3 billion on personnel and increasing overtime payments. On these findings Marais notes “despite a drop in headcount there is still a yearly Compensation of Employees (CoE) overspend of R2.9 billion – not budgeted for”. He gives no detail on overtime saying the increase “growing steadily over the years could indicate a lack of control over this particular expenditure item”.

Still on personnel, Marais takes Minister Thandi Modise and her management in the Department of Defence (DoD) and the SANDF to task for the number of defence attaché offices. The latest available DoD annual report has it there are 44 defence attaché offices.

Countries hosting South African defence attachés are Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, South Sudan, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Non-residential defence attachés kept a weather eye on comings and goings, military-wise, in Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Other pertinent points on what Marais sees as unnecessary expenditure are Armed Forces Day (AFD) and merging Armscor and Denel. This merger, he maintains, will save corporate service costs while there is, according to him, no legislative provision to stage AFD annually.

“The national defence force is in ICU and there is no leadership to turn it around, either from the Minister of Defence or the armed forces command element,” he said.