A briefing scheduled for today for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, with defence acquisition and defence materiel the only agenda topics, has been postponed with no reason given.
“What makes it even worse is that the meeting would have been the first in four years,” said David Maynier, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow minister of defence and military veterans. He added that no new date has yet been given for the briefing to take place.
When the meeting was announced as a closed meeting due to “the sensitive nature of information,” Maynier objected. It should have taken place at Armscor’s Pretoria headquarters, also home to the Defence and Military Veterans Ministry.
Maynier maintains that Defence Secretary Dr Sam Gulube “consistently” refuses to answer questions on defence acquisition from portfolio committee members.
“This is bizarre because there is a significant amount of information about existing defence acquisition projects such as “Hoefyster” (infantry fighting vehicles), “Saucepan” (maritime surveillance aircraft) and “Biro” (offshore patrol vessels) already in the public domain.”
The almost last minute postponement of the meeting also drew exasperated response from the former submariner.
“It has highlighted the Department of Defence’s (DoD) spectacular failure to comply with its own policy on armaments acquisition by not providing detailed reports on defence acquisition programmes,” he said from his Parliamentary office.
“The DoD’s own policy clearly requires parliament to receive biannual and ad hoc reports on all defence acquisition programmes. However, this has never happened. The defence department is thus failing to comply with its own policy on defence acquisition.
“The fact is that for the past four years parliament has been kept in the dark about defence acquisition despite billions of Rand spent every year acquiring armaments through the Special Defence Account,” he said.
Maynier gives six examples where he is of the opinion the DoD is “trying to cover up” with regard to defence acquisitions. These are the new VVIP aircraft for the Presidency (which Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament had been approved by National Treasury), prioritisation of programmes on the strategic acquisition master plan; failures experienced in the development phases of certain acquisition and development programmes; major schedule slips and significant overspending; poor planning and performance by Denel and the rollover of billions of Rand in the Special Defence Account.
He intends to submit Parliamentary questions on the issue because “we need to know exactly who is responsible for blocking Parliamentary oversight on defence acquisition”.