THE Department of Defence is pillaging its special defence account to keep the South African Air Force flying‚ the adjusted estimates of national expenditure revealed on Wednesday.
With many of the multibillion-rand Gripen jet fighters and Agusta 109 helicopters effectively mothballed‚ there has been considerable speculation about extra funding for the South African National Defence Force in the medium-term budget policy statement.
By using funds from the special defence account for the operational expenses of the air force‚ the amount that can be spent on planned weapons and equipment procurement will be reduced.
The statement said that "the Department of Defence has reprioritised funds away from computer services and the special weapons account for weapons procurement to the operational budget of the South Africa Air Force”.
Despite the fact that the Department of Defence is one of the few departments to get extra funding‚ the air force will still fly fewer hours than planned and the navy will also be at sea less than planned. Much of the extra money will go towards funding foreign deployments such as that in the Democratic Republic of Congo‚ which is allocated R150m.
In February’s main budget it was estimated that the air force would fly 6‚500 hours but Wednesday’s statement says that in the first six months of this financial year only 1‚710 hours were flown.
The navy planned to be at sea for 22‚000 hours but in the first six months had sailed only 5‚105 — apparently as a result of scaling down anti-piracy operations.
The adjusted estimates of expenditure also appear to have made provision for the almost R300m penalty imposed on the department by the International Chamber of Commerce after it failed to fulfil its contractual obligations with a Belgian company. Apparently repeated requests for the advance payments were not responded to‚ resulting in the cancellation of the contract.
In a column called "claims against the state”‚ an amount of R299‚107 is recorded. The money appears to have also been found in the special defence account.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s statement noted that in 2013-14 government would spend R154bn on the defence‚ public order and safety cluster of departments and this is to grow at 6.1% over the medium term to R184.4bn in 2016-17. This means that spending on police‚ defence‚ prisons and justice will just keep pace with inflation.
The statement noted‚ however‚ that the defence‚ public order and safety "function” was highly labour intensive‚ with compensation of employees swallowing 63% of the money allocated. © BDlive 2013