The first sitting of Parliament this year starts in less than a fortnight with the Presidential State of the Nation Address (SONA) but committee programmes have not yet been adopted.
Many portfolio committees meet before the official opening by President Cyril Ramaphosa, also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). This sees two meetings scheduled – but not confirmed – ahead of SONA for the two defence oversight committees.
As matters stand at present the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) is scheduled to meet on 3 February with the Joint Standing Committee on Defence’s (JSCD) first meeting of the year set for a day later. Both meetings, if they take place, are to discuss provisional programmes and – hopefully – adopt them.
With no certainty as to what agenda items will be, one that should make it to a committee meeting sooner rather than later is a Department of Defence (DoD) presentation on the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) “action plan” for its single major component – people – and over-expenditure on human resources, primarily salaries which take up the bulk of the national defence budget. A Parliamentary source told defenceWeb “there is a possibility” the defence human resources and salaries presentation will be tabled at the 3 February PCDMV meeting.
Another issue on the agenda of the PCDMV is the national veterans’ database. Problems and delays in its compilation and checking for correctness hamper Department of Military Veterans (DMV) efforts to properly roll-out benefits to veterans. PCDMV co-chair Cyril Xaba noted late last year the DMV would be masking use of Department of Home Affairs (DHA) expertise in ensuring all the necessary requirements for a credible database were met. The oversight committee indicated it would request a progress report in the first quarter of 2021.
According to the Parliament website, oversight committees have a number of functions. These include monitoring and overseeing the work and budgets of national departments and holding them accountable.
Also relevant to defence, the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises will meet on 10 February tol be briefed by the Department of Defence (DoD) and Armscor on how government can support the financial sustainability of Denel.
On 24 February, post SONA the committee will be briefed by Denel on its annual report and financial statements for the 2019/20 financial year.