The continuing lack of answers and accountability from the Department of Defence (DoD) on its acquisition programme has frustrated opposition Democratic Alliance party shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier to the extent he is going to submit a private members bill.
He said there were at least two instruments which made provision for regular updates on equipment acquisition.
“The department’s White Paper on National Defence for the Republic of South Africa (1996) requires it to publish an annual acquisition master plan to indicate all new acquisition projects required for political approval from the Minister (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) and to inform the Joint Standing Committee of Defence and to publish medium to long term defence requirements statements to guide long term technology and industrial planning.
“Moreover, the DoD’s Defence Material Division’s Policy, Process and Procedures for the Acquisition of Armaments in the Department of Defence (DAP 1000) is clear about Parliamentary oversight.
“It states: ‘The relevant parliamentary committee(s) on defence will have an oversight function to provide guidance to the DOD with respect to the relevant facets of its acquisition programmes. The oversight function will include guidance to the DOD with respect to timing of tenders, counter trade obligations, and acquisition prioritization. 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 relevant Committee on Defence at all relevant stages of such acquisition.'”
Maynier has decided to go the private member bill route because none of these reports has been produced for the last four years.
He maintains the DoD is “desperate” to withhold information on armaments acquisition decision-making bottlenecks, development failures, schedule slips, cost over-runs and other failures.
“There is a complete lack of transparency on current DoD armaments acquisition programmes and we now know less about arms deals that we did a decade ago,” the former submariner said.
With Judge Willie Seriti’s Arms Procurement Commission having today finally started its first round of public hearings Maynier said the political fall-out from the multi-billion Rand arms deal has been such that the DoD now refuses to disclose any detailed information about arms acquisition to Parliament.
“South Africa spends billions every year on arms deals. The money is channelled through the secret Special Defence Account and Parliament is kept in the dark.”
He hopes his private members bill will compel the DoD to table its strategic acquisition master plan in Parliament; table quarterly reports on all armament acquisition programmes in the House of Assembly and give the same legislative body access to ad hoc reports on acquisition programmes where there are cost over-runs exceeding 15% and schedule slips of more than six months.
Apart from allowing Parliament to properly perform its oversight function Maynier sees his bill as another tool to provide South African airmen, medics, sailors and soldiers with the proper equipment to execute the various tasks assigned them.
He cites the so-called Battle for Bangui in March, which saw 15 South African soldiers killed in action, as an example of South African soldiers going into a deployment without proper equipment and support.
In this regard a local military watcher points out the South African element deployed as part of the UN intervention brigade in the DRC is a light infantry force, made up of airborne/air assault troops and Special Forces, armed with only light infantry weaponry.
“The only different from Bangui is that our force now has Mambas with .50 weapons, is theoretically supported by Malawi and Tanzania and that M23 is a much better fighting force – with overt Rwandan support. So much for any lessons learnt from Bangui,” he said.