SANDF struggling to source fuel


In broad terms food (rations), fuel and transport are essential to the functioning of any military force, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) included with the national defence force seemingly struggling to source fuel for operational support and day-to-day use.

“Soldiers require food to be able to conduct operations as mandated and so they also require vehicles and fuel,” reads an October presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).

One of these relates to the provision of fuel, with the Department of Defence (DoD) Logistics Division presentation not separately identifying aviation, bunkering (for the navy) and ground vehicle fuelling, with diesel and petrol seemingly lumped together.

According to the presentation, the DoD, entered a memorandum of co-operation (MOC) with the Central Energy Fund (CEF) for the supply of fuel and “related products and services” in July 2019. Now, three years later, the presentation states, “parties are busy with a service level agreement (SLA) to commercialise the MOC for CEF to supply fuel to the DoD”.

Parliamentarians heard the SANDF Military Command Council (MCC) approved “a fuel model” in three phases which includes CEF as “a strategic supplier”. The phases are to finalise supply maintenance, repair of fuel [presumably installations to store and dispense] on the urgent basis to ensure that current operations are not negatively affected; create new bulk storage to replace current “home-based fuel sites/equipment and develop a fuel capability model able to cater for reserves taking into consideration “military logistics doctrine of lines of support”.

The JSCD heard there is “undisputed common interest” (presumably between the national military and the CEF) which will see “leveraging of each other’s expertise for the interest of South Africa”. It also sees “co-operation in renewable energy production, development and supply to end users as off-grid solutions to the DoD and its associates” as well as “skills development and secondment” of SANDF personnel to work in strategic facilities as part of the national defence force’s human resource “rejuvenation strategy” and the exit mechanism, to cut force personnel strength.

The presentation maintains, once the “fuel model” is up and running the DoD will be a “strategic stock supplier” [of fuel] in the national interest with the military paying less. It apparently currently pays around R1.50 a litre more than the pump price to consumers. Savings from this can be “utilised at other operational areas”.

As background, the Logistics Division explained if a unit exceeded 2 000 litres of fuel consumption a month, a supplier was appointed by the State Tender Board for that unit. Until 2016, KZN Oils held a National Treasury contract to supply fuel and maintain fuel equipment for all state departments, but “KZN Oils only concentrated on supply and neglected the maintenance part of the contract,” resulting in deterioration of some fuel equipment beyond economical repair. That saw the DoD opt out of the contract.

“The DoD then entered into a contract with various suppliers to supply fuel per province on a rotational basis for a period of five years (November 2016 to October 2021). The contract was only for the supply of fuel,” Logistics indicated.

“Since the expiry [of the] fuel supply contract, the SANDF has been struggling to source liquid fuels for its own operational support and day-to-day running of its administration. The contract hasn’t been renewed ever since and the SANDF sources fuel on price quotation,” the JSCD heard. As a result, “the SANDF is totally at the mercy of suppliers, some of who don’t have capacity to deliver efficiently to support military operations. Most of these suppliers are number three or four in the value chain line of the supply of fuels and charge pump price plus R1.50 to R3.00 [per litre].”

This was reportedly the reason for the DoD/CEF fuel supply MoC with work on the service level agreement (SLA) is still under way. The MCC is pushing for finalisation of the fuel supply contract as well as construction of new bulk storage facilities.

The JSCD heard further budget constrains mean replacement of military vehicles, including commercial vehicles, is not being done. As a result the SANDF has a shortfall of 11 729 vehicles with fleet availability declining due to age, which also drives up maintenance costs.

The Logistics Division flagged rations as an area of concern indicating “the cost of living has risen forcing food prices up while the budget is declining in real terms.”