Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says “severe” budget cuts are making it difficult for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to take over the function of maintaining its own facilities.
Currently, this function lies with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).
The budget cuts, however, also impact facilities repair, maintenance and refurbishment.
This limits the department’s ability to ensure the current and future sustainability of the SANDF’s “immovable assets”.
Department officials presented progress on transferring the infrastructure development function from the DPWI to the Department of Defence (DOD) during a virtual sitting of Parliament’s committee on defence and military veterans on Wednesday.
Mapisa-Nqakula said, with the problem of funding, it would become increasingly difficult to take over the infrastructure functions.
“The Defence Force Works Formation has the will to do things, but when we negotiated for us to do some of the projects, like renovations, it did not come with the budgets. In the beginning, these functions were taken away from the defence, including the budget. Now that we have it (the budget), we are trying to create capacity in the defence force,” she said.
Should infrastructure functions be transferred, the SANDF will become responsible for maintaining its own infrastructure as opposed to it being the domain of the DPWI.
In March 2019, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) instructed the DOD to take over the infrastructure functions from the DPWI.
The DOD agreed to take over, but Mapisa-Nqakula indicated that, to be able to take over, a financial injection was needed for projects and the capacitation of the Defence Force Works Formation.
According to figures, there is a R613 million shortfall on the 2020/21 budget for facilities expenditure.
That shortfall is expected to continue, and will top R651 million in 2021/22 and R554 million in 2022/2023.
According to Mapisa-Nqakula’s presentation, funds as agreed to during the SCOA meeting of March 2019 have not been made available as yet.
“What should have happened, in my view, as we create capacity, there should have been considerations for us to get part of the budget, which was transferred to the Department of Public Works,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula also the raised issue of 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
“When we decided to sign an MOU (memorandum of understanding) to take over the renovation of the hospital, we encountered, for almost a year or two, challenges because of the consultants who had been contracted by the DPWI. They wanted to continue work, despite us having the capacity to do it,” she said.