Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GCIS
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GCIS

The department of defence continues to be hard hit by the Treasury’s budget cuts. According to the budget review, the special defence account, which manages the acquisition and upgrading of main weapon systems and technology for the department, will be reduced by R5bn in 2021/22.

The department has been allocated  about R50bn in the 2019/20 financial year. Its budget allocations have been declining in real terms, a situation that is not helped by rising military personnel costs and poor financial controls.

In 2018 the department warned that budget cuts would hamper the military’s defence capacity at home and its ability to participate in foreign peacekeeping operations.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula previously highlighted that the  budget allocation had declined in real terms for 20 years, by 5% a year to a mere 1% of GDP. She said the appropriate funding level, as articulated in the defence review, would require a steady increase to at least 2% of GDP.

“Some of the countries in SADC [Southern African Development Community] are injecting resources to build their military capacity through acquisition programmes. Conversely, SA is on a path of reduced defence expenditure, placing serious constraints on the effective and efficient execution of the defence mandate,” the minister said at the time.

However, in recent times the department’s financial management has been called into question. In 2018 it again received a qualified audit, with the auditor-general finding there was complete mismanagement of its assets.

The department has over the years been hit with a string of negative audit reports, ranging from qualified to disclaimer, which is the worst possible audit outcome.

It received a qualified audit in the previous financial year, after submitting error-ridden financial statements and incurring more than R400m in irregular spending.

Meanwhile, according to the budget review goods and services budgets in public entities are lowered by 1%. Baseline adjustments proposed in the 2018 medium term budget policy statement focus mainly on slow and underspending programmes,  such as the capital programme in the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.

“These resources have been reassigned to other programmes that require immediate funding. Over the MTEF period, the majority of reprioritised funds are moved to improve infrastructure, which enhances the ability to deliver services or increase production. These include allocations to maintain roads, eradicate pit latrines at schools, and expand the integrated public transport network,” the budget review states.

More broadly, spending in the entire justice, crime prevention and security cluster will increase by 4.6% over the MTEF period, driven largely by employee compensation.

“The integrated justice system modernisation programme is a key component of the integrated strategy to fight crime. Over the medium term R853m is shifted from the SA Police Service to the department of justice and constitutional development, where the programme is currently governed,” the document reads.

To enable the state capture commission of inquiry to continue with its work, which has been extended to February 2020, an additional R272.9m has been allocated.

Over the period ahead, R84m will be reprioritised to establish a border management authority under the department of home affairs. The authority will facilitate and manage the legitimate movement of people and goods across borders and through other ports of entry.

An additional R309.2m has been allocated to Legal Aid SA to retain public defenders to ensure access to fair court representation.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za