SA Defence Force Under Fire for its Enron-like Accounting
MP's, defence journal argue SANDF is in no state to meet mandate.
Members of Parliament and a local defence journal are accusing the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) of "Enron-style" accounting, and say it can no longer be considered ready to discharge its constitutional mandate.
MP's say they were shocked to hear at a recent SANDF briefing only four tanks and eight Rooikat armoured cars were in operation. SANDF updates and publications had given them a different impression.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies believes the army has 168 Olifant tanks and 242 Rooikat armoured cars. It also lists the army as fielding one tank regiment and another with Rooikat armoured cars. Each should have more than 40 vehicles in operation.
The briefing, held at Saldanha from June 21 to 22, was called by Parliament's portfolio committee on defence to answer its members' disquiet on the state of the military's reserves. It was attended by MPs from the African National Congress, the New National Party (NNP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Under the 1996 defence white paper and 1998 defence review, the SANDF's reserves are meant to provide the bulk of its manpower in case of war or national calamity. But it has been so underfunded in recent years many battalions that should be able to field several hundred troops can barely manage a few dozen.
DA defence spokesman Hendrik Schmidt, who attended the briefing, says the present state of affairs was shocking. His deputy, Roy Jankielsohn, is equally concerned: "Taxpayers are paying large sums towards defence," he says, referring to the SANDF's R18,4bn budget.
"They must know they are getting value for money. This means having an operationally ready defence force," he says.
NNP defence spokesman Adriaan Blaas says while SANDF personnel and capital spending has climbed in recent years, given integration and the defence acquisition package, funds available for operations have decreased. Of the army's annual allocation, 70% now goes to salaries.
This means the SANDF can only project one battalion abroad for peacekeeping and deploy a few hundred troops at home in support of the police. However, this too came at a cost inadequate training time, the mothballing of equipment and cutting back on maintenance of that still in use.
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has already told Parliament the Air Force has too few pilots to fly all aircraft and helicopters it will get later in the decade and lacks the funds to train sufficient numbers.
The navy will receive three submarines, but it is not clear whether it will be able to fund the required crews.
African Armed Forces Journal publisher Peter McIntosh believes the root of the problem is not, however, lack of money but a lack of responsibility and accountability on the part of the SANDF's leadership.
"A recent SANDF internal bulletin reveals a shocking state of affairs in respect of SANDF vehicles. In any commercial organisation the same facts would have led to immediate demands for the resignation of those to blame or instant dismissal and probably the pressing of criminal charges."
There is clearly a lot wrong, but they publicly give the impression that all is well, similar to what Enron did in its balance sheets prior to its collapse, he says.
In the bulletin, available on the military's website, the SANDF all but admits it has no idea how many sedan and light vehicles it possesses or where they are.
Unless problems of this nature are resolved, McIntosh believes taxpayers will remain saddled with a bill for a 60000 strong SANDF, which will be unable to defend them.
With acknowledgements to Leon Engelbrecht and Business Day.