On the positive side of the ledger the Department of Defence (DoD) can point to spending 99% of its allocated budget, meeting most targets and getting an unqualified audit from the Auditor General.
On the debit side, Democratic Alliance shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, who has delved deeply into the DoD’s 388 page annual report, points out a number of problems, or “challenges” in government speak.
These include an inadequate budget allocation that impacts – and will continue to do so – on South Africa being able to sustain its defence capabilities.
“This will affect the execution and support of ordered commitments, both internal and external.”
Marais sees implementation and proper funding of the latest Defence Review, ordered by former Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in 2012 and finally tabled in Parliament last year, as being the absolute number one priority.
“As long as this doesn’t come to fruition all the wonderful plans will remain ‘pipe dreams’,” he said pointing out implementation of Milestone One of the Review needs R1,8 billion.
“This was not approved by National Treasury and the DoD is considering two alternative packages for Milestone One, the first being interventions that can be pursued in the current defence budget. A resolution requiring a reprioritisation of budget allocations has been agreed to by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the DoD will report back as soon as possible.”
The second package will cover interventions needing additional funding and improve the operational performance of the SANDF.
Marais would like to see a complete reconsideration of the planned acquisition of another VVIP aircraft.
“If the Minister is serious about serving the best interests of the SANDF this will make way for, among others, the acquisition of new aircraft for 28 and 35 squadrons,” he said.
AFB Waterkloof-based 28 Squadron is the SA Air Force’s sole air transport squadron and operates Hercules C-130BZs that have been in service for more than 50 years. 35 Squadron at AFB Ysterplaat operates modified C-47TPs that are more than 70 years old in the maritime patrol domain, an important component of the blue economy sector of Operation Phakisa.
As far as budget spend and achievement of targets is concerned Marais points out the Navy spent close on 1 300 hours less at sea than planned and the force employment hours logged by the SAAF were 4 785 – 1 715 less than budgeted and planned.