The rejection of a Private Members Bill by the Portfolio Committee on Defence was this week, inevitably, followed by Parliamentary rejection and signals a complete breakdown of scrutiny and oversight of defence acquisition.
This was how opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier reacted to the rejection of his Private Members Bill (PMB 8 – 2013) yesterday.
He maintains the reasons for its rejection are that the Portfolio Committee “most of all” wants to cover up corruption in addition to it not wanting development failures, schedule slips, cost over-runs and inefficiency at state owned defence company Denel to be made public.
“The victims of the decision to reject the Defence Amendment Bill are ordinary soldiers who are deployed in dangerous conflict zones without the equipment they need to properly execute their missions,” he said, quoting Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
“In August last year, lambasting the Armscor board, she said: ‘the biggest challenge we have right now as we deploy in the DRC is our soldiers do not have tents, our soldiers have no parachute equipment. I mean, there was just a whole list given to me. I can’t have a situation where we deploy our soldiers in a problematic area without the necessary equipment. I think it is inhuman to do that.'”
Explaining his rationale for the Private Members Bill, Maynier said it was an attempt to make the Department of Defence meet its obligations as set out in the “Defence Material Division’s Policy, Process and Procedures for the Acquisition of Armaments in the Department of Defence” publication. This states: “The DoD will submit bi-annual and ad hoc reports to the relevant Committee on Defence on all acquisition activities. The DoD will keep the relevant Committee on Defence abreast of developments in all its cardinal acquisition programmes and will inform the committee at all relevant stages of acquisition”.
This has not happened once in the past five years, he said, adding the Defence Joint Standing Committee had not scheduled a Parliamentary hearing on defence acquisitions in the same period.
“That’s why I introduced the Private Members Bill. It was short and simple and required the DoD to table quarterly reports on all defence acquisition projects; table ad hoc reports on all defence acquisition projects experiencing cost over-runs and those experiencing schedule slips.”