While welcoming additional funding for the national defence force “earmarked for COVID-19 related activities”, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) again notes salaries are “a critical challenge” for the Department of Defence (DoD).
A Parliamentary Communication Service statement reports PCDMV chair Cyril Xaba welcomed a R2.8 billion increase in Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s defence budget as a special adjustment.
“The committee notes compensation of employees remains a critical challenge in the department,” he said, adding the PCDMV was concerned about a R3 billion shortfall “despite an additional R720 million National Treasury allocation”. Xaba and his committee urge the DoD to “engage” National Treasury and “find ways of avoiding irregular expenditure on employee compensation”.
Urging “fiscal discipline” the PCDMV calls on South Africa’s government defence establishment to, given the financial difficulties, “speedily embark on a zero-based budgeting process to enhance efficient utilisation of resources and improve effectiveness in application”.
As far as the other major component of Mapisa-Nqakula’s portfolio – military veterans – is concerned, Xaba’s committee said the “inability” of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) to spend its budget and meet targets meant a R137 million slashing of the veterans’ budget was “no surprise”. In all the past three financial years, the DMV has neither spent all funds allocated it by National Treasury nor, because of under-spend, has it met targets.
“Of particular concern is the R60 million reduction in educational support to military veterans and their dependents, the impact on establishment and funding of provincial offices (given the central role they play to allow military veterans access to the department); and military veterans accessibility to health facilities, especially military hospitals and sick bays, against the background of the pandemic.
“The committee believes the DMV should focus on minimising the impact of the reduction in education funds while prioritising provincial offices to allow military veterans easy access to the department. The committee further encourages the department to ensure it supports military veterans to access health facilities nationally and ensure accessing medical facilities is as seamless as possible,” the statement said.