Preliminary 3rd quarter performance report: Department of Military Veterans, Deputy Minister present
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC) Date of Meeting: 09 March 2016
The Department of Military Veterans (DMV), in the presence of the Deputy Minister, briefed the Committee on the progress made in the third quarter of the 2015/16 financial year. Although a full summary was contained in the attached document, the presenters focused only on the non-achievement of targets, to allow the Committee more time to ask questions. In this quarter, there had been 19 targets, but only 10 had been achieved, and the performance of the DMV to date was thus only at 53%. There was better performance in relation to the Administration programme generally, which was at 70% achievement to date. Particular areas where there had been underperformance included the provision of decent housing, the provision of relevant training and skills development and erection of memorial sites. The DMV was working with provisional offices to try to enhance skills development, and it was working with the Ministry of Arts and Culture, which was trying to formulate a heritage policy. In the administration programme, there had been some difficulty in securing the performance management agreements, and payments were not always made within the required number of days. There was only a 40% achievement on the Social Economic Support report, and the Military Veterans Database project was falling short, because of insufficient staff to increase the pace and capacity of recording military veterans, although there were ongoing discussions on improving this. The DMV was also in talks with the Ministry of Transport to try to finalise a policy for public transport for Military Veterans. Only two of the four targets for Empowerment and Stakeholder Management had been achieved. There were problems in setting up systems of engagement in other countries. There had been a 21% vacancy rate in the Department at the start of the quarter but some lower level positions had been filled in the meantime. 35% of the approved budget was spent, which the DMV described as “dismal” but hoped that improved payment systems for the programmes under way would improve this. Members were disappointed in the performance, and several urged the DMV to undertake a full turnaround strategy, not only to improve its own systems, but in order to isolate and tell the Committee of any problems so that the Committee could assist it. They commented that the programmes dealing with socio-economic concerns and education were vital to empowerment and service delivery to the military veterans. Members asked what exactly was being discussed with the Ministry of Transport, how far these talks were, and wanted to know what was happening about the engagements with the Department of Human Settlements on housing, which had not been mentioned in the presentation, and what had happened to the proposal that a Special Purpose Vehicle might be used to allow veterans to build their own houses. They suggested that the DMV should proceed with its own work on memorials as there had been budget allocated to this, and it was not necessary to wait for policy at the Ministry of Arts and Culture to be finalised. Members were disappointed that despite the appointment of extra staff, there was still so much under-performance and suggested that the employees were simply not working properly and that consequence management should be applied. They asked what the problems were specifically with the verification database, which was preventing many of the most deserving veterans from accessing assistance. One Member cited a problem in having a veteran's body released from the mortuary, and the Department noted that many veterans did not know what assistance was open to them, prompting Members to then suggest that the DMV must urgently go on roadshows to make sure that people were apprised of what options were open to them. Members asked what internal monitoring was being applied, and commented that if there was inconsistent application of policy by other departments in relation to veterans, the Committee should be kept informed so that it might assist.
Preliminary 3rd quarter 2015 performance results of Department of Military Veterans:
Department's briefing Gen (Ret) Lifeni Make, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Department of Military Veterans, noted that the Department of Military Veterans (DMV or the Department) had fallen short of its targets for the 3rd quarter in many respects. He said that he would not go through his entire presentation but would focus only on the areas where there was under-performance. Of the 19 targeted performance indicators, 10 had been achieved, bringing the performance of the Department to 53% overall in the 2015/16 financial year. Particular areas where the Department had failed to deliver included: - providing decent housing - providing relevant training and skills development - erecting memorial sites. In relation to the skills development, he said that his offices were working with the provincial offices to enhance skills development applications. In regard to the memorial sites, he noted that the Ministry of Arts and Culture was trying to formulate a military veterans' heritage policy. He said that the Annual Performance Plan (APP) required the Department to deliver on ten targeted performance indicators with regards to administration, and here it had managed to achieve seven, bringing the overall performance in Administration to 70% so far. There had been difficulty in securing performance agreements submitted to the Human Resources Management directorate. There were also delays in the number of days taken to settle outstanding payments. For the Social Economic Support (SES) Report, five targeted performance indicators had been set, but two had been achieved, giving a 40% success rate. The Military Veterans (MV) Database project would require additional staff to increase the pace and capacity at which MVs were recorded. There had been ongoing talks to come up with a database management system to ease the process, including talks with the Ministry of Transport to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would secure access to public transport for military veterans. In relation to Empowerment and Stake Holder Management (ESM), there were four targets, but only one had been achieved, resulting in a 25% overall performance. Problems in setting up systems of engagement with other countries through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and other entities had been a large contributing factor to the low success rate in this area. On the Human Resource front, he noted a 21% vacancy rate at the beginning of the relevant quarter but added that new appointments had been done at lower levels. Speaking to the financial matters, he said that 35% of the Department's approved budget had been spent. He said the DMV recognised that this figure was “dismal”. However, he fully expected that with the introduction of improved payment systems for the programmes under way, the situation would improve.
Discussion Mr S Esau (DA) noted the underperformance and underspending, and requested that the DMV must address this by providing a turnaround strategy and fulling expanding on the reasons for the poor performance and the efforts to change this. In particular he listed Programmes 2 and 3, which dealt with the socio-economic concerns, and stakeholder management respectively. The ongoing education of the military veterans had been seriously undermined as service delivery was not taking place. Mr Esau thought that the Ministry of Transport would not be likely to respond on the MOU which was proposed in the interests of the MVs. He was concerned that clearly, work was not being done by the employees of the Department, yet performance contracts had been signed. With respect to the HRM, he was shocked that of the 169 positions, 132 had been filled, but that there were still 98 additional positions listed; and the work was still not being done despite these numbers. He was greatly concerned with the very slow rate of verification being done on the database, and said that many of the most deserving veterans were not even included. He appealed to the Ministry and Department to amend this immediately; he as an MP was ashamed at this slow rate of progress. Mr B Bongo (ANC) thought one of the most immediate concerns was the issue of finalising inter-government agreements, noting that transparency needed to be improved, and this would be done by putting in place consequence management. He also requested a turnaround strategy to be presented. He enquired as to the progress on the MOU to be signed with the Department of Human Settlements, the type of houses to be built and engagement with municipalities; all this information was needed to empower the Committee to carry out effective oversight on the issues. He noted the comment on the memorials but thought that it was impractical to wait for the Department of Arts and Culture to come up with a policy as this would be very time consuming. Money had already been set aside for that specific function and it would negatively affect implementation if the DMV were to wait any more. Whilst he recognised the constraints faced by the Department, he stressed the importance of working through them properly and systematically, in order to achieve the benefits that the veterans needed.
Mr B Nesi (ANC) was worried about reports of suffering still being experienced by military veterans. He noted that recently in Grahamstown, a MV had died, and his body remained in the mortuary for two months. When Mr Nesi had made enquiries with the relevant offices to assist, he was confronted by a lot of bureaucracy. He too emphasised the necessity for the DMV to have a turnaround strategy. He felt that a number of government employees were lethargic and were not working to full capacity. He cited that government workers were lethargic in their capacities. He requested clarity on the targets achieved and not achieved in the SES performance overview, and the appointment of staff. He too was concerned about the slow rate of progress regarding the provision of houses and wondered if the Department was properly integrating the veterans into society.
Mr N Khoza (EFF) enquired as to the cause of the under performance and under spending, and specifically whether there were any internal monitoring mechanisms set up by the Department to aid the situation. He also requested that the Department should tell the Committee what help it might need. The Chairperson noted the comment that underperformance was due to a lack of capacity and failure to fill the staffing needs of the Department, and suggested that the presentation of the turnaround strategy should be hastened and included in the Committee's programme, so that it would be able to review the situation Mr Vernon Jacobs, Deputy Director General: Empowerment and Stakeholder Management, DMV, clarified that in regard to the MOUs with other departments, the Portfolio Committee had already received a list of all MOUs currently in place and concluded. The entities had been summoned already to present to the Committee. There had been a marked improvement in the collaboration and opportunities presented for the military veterans. With specific regards to the MOU that was to be signed with the Ministry of Transport, he indicated that discussions had taken place at the highest level, and he expected tangible progress soon.
The Chairperson noted that the Department should take on consequence management and the issue of job contracts immediately. He noted that all the Members had expressed concerns about the lack of achievement on the targets set by the Department and the lack of effective process of identifying veterans who had educational and housing needs.
Mr Jacobs clarified that the matter of the veteran who had been left at the mortuary was brought to the attention of the Department. It then became apparent that there were were still many military veterans who had not been made aware of the facilities that were available to them through the DMV.
The Chairperson said that in that case, the DMV must hold road shows urgently, in order to raise public awareness for those veterans who might still be unaware of what they could access.
Mr Esau enquired why there seemed to be so many problems in setting up the database. Mr Kebby Maphatsoe, Deputy Minister of Military Veterans, responded that the main difficulty in this regard had been the number of military veterans who had been in exile, and who only returned to South Africa after the certified persons register had been closed. He mentioned that he could verify 15 000 credible military veterans and the Ministry was working very closely with the various associations of military veterans, to assist in drawing up a final listing. There had also been an identification process done on those individuals who wanted to take advantage of the facilities offered. In relation to the housing queries, he described what had been done to date with the Department of Human Settlements. He highlighted that there was some skewed performance between the provinces in regard to housing provision specifically for MVs. Mr Esau asked for an update on the options of using a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that would allow for MVs to build their own houses, which had at one point been discussed between the Departments of Military Veterans and Human Settlements. This question does not appear to have been answered. The Chairperson noted that there were inconsistencies in policy implementation. This made it difficult for the Committee to assist and the Committee would like to have more insight into methods that could be used by the Committee to provide assistance to the DMV in meeting its objectives. The meeting was adjourned.