Parliamentary Diary: Budgeting billions for VIP protection
In the coming days, MPs will have to chew on some interesting morsels in the 759-page Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) tabled on Budget Day, dedicated to cost-cutting and reprioritisation in a tough low-growth economy. For example, the police’s Vote 23 shows the SAPS protection services, including VIP protection, receive R2.6-billion for the 2016/17 financial year. By MARIANNE MERTEN.
The numbers on page 410 show VIP protection services alone received raises well above inflation, amounting to an almost 50% increase over the past three years: from R748.2-million in 2012/13 to R1.12-billion in the 2015/16 financial year. In the current 2016/17 financial year the allocation increases by 14% to R1.26-billion. In addition, R967.2-million is allocated for mobile and static protection — jargon for looking after dignitaries in transit and at venues, be it their homes, offices or elsewhere. That’s a total of R2.23-billion this year.
In addition, the police protection services allocations include R254-million for operational support, or administration, and R124.1-million for the government security regulator, which checks on national key points. According to the ENE, this brings the total to R2.6-billion for the 2016/17 financial year.
It’s a small percentage of the police’s overall R80.9-billion budget, but compare the protection services allocation to the R1.87-billion given to forensic services, the laboratory services to process DNA, test drugs and other evidence needed for criminal cases from murder, rape, housebreaking and others. Or the R1.43-billion allocated to specialised investigations, including national priority crimes such as criminal syndicates, serious violent crime and corruption. Or the R2.2-billion allocated to the criminal record centre, to provide effective and credible records of crime scene management and criminal records.
Parliament since 2009 has the power to amend, or even decline, budgetary allocations in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act. To date MPs have not exercised this right.
According to the narrative of the ENE’s Vote 23, VIP protection services provide security to the president, his deputy, former presidents, their spouses and other identified dignitaries. The SAPS annual report adds ministers, deputy ministers, and foreign heads of state and, at provincial level, premiers and MECs to those getting VIP protection.
This VIP protection service includes the presidential protection service, with its own logo and even lapel buttons, although there is no specific reference to its finances in either the ENE or the SAPS 2014/15 annual report. Therefore it’s impossible to say how much of the protection budget is specifically earmarked for the presidential protection service in all its facets, including the counterassault unit which accompanies the president even to the parliamentary precinct.
However, the SAPS 2014/15 annual report, the latest available, talks of the presidential protection service’s performance: there were no security breaches. And there’s a general reference to the counterassault SAPS unit: “The counterassault team, which deals with high-risk situations that require specialised, skilled members, was involved in 900 local movements and 71 foreign deployments, which were managed without any incidents.”
While the ENE may have different allocations for VIP protection services and mobile and static protection, the SAPS 2014/15 annual report shows the presidential protection service also has a static protection service. The four static presidential protection units covered 19 identified VIP residences and four offices (not identified in the report) and provided “16,790 protection services”.
Other presidential protection services included in-transit protection to 16 presidential dignitaries, who made 180 visits “outside the borders (including refuelling) of South Africa”, protecting 108 (unnamed) foreign heads of state/government”, while providing operational protection at the ANC January 8 statement and birthday celebrations, the state of the nation address and last year’s two special official funerals to rebury the remains of struggle stalwarts Moses Kotane and JB Marks.
Under the wider protection and security services programme, the SAPS 2014/15 annual report shows in-transit protection was provided to 96 national, 163 provincial and 56 foreign dignitaries, while operational support was provided at 41 major events.
It is these numbers and allocations, against departmental strategic and performance plans to explain how rands and cents are spent against determined targets, that now will come under scrutiny at the national legislature. The first round of budgetary departmental briefings unfolds from mid-month, according to the parliamentary schedule of committee meetings, although the detailed hearings are set to take place only after the Easter recess.
However, the police VIP protection service allocations have already raised eyebrows in last week’s public hearings on the budget held by the two parliamentary finance committees. Trade union federation Cosatu said the expenditure was a concern. “People are molested by criminals every day… Let’s use the money to fight crime, not on bodyguards,” said Cosatu parliamentary liaison Matthew Parks. “We are not saying no bodyguards, but let’s be reasonable.”
Police committee chairperson Francois Beukman said a week in April had been set aside for interactions with the SAPS top management. “We will look at everything. What is goods and services? What are the staffing costs? And break down the allocations,” he said.
It’s a process that will unfold in all of the 32 parliamentary committees overseeing government departments. Parliament since 2009 has the power to amend, or even to decline, budgetary allocations in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act. To date MPs have not exercised this right.
It’s a long process culminating in the individual budget votes, and then the whole R1.46-trillion budget, usually in May and June to meet the legislative deadline. Following the parliamentary finance committees’ hearings last week, on Wednesday MPs vote on the fiscal framework, the overall budgetary proposals and priorities. The vote on the Division of Revenue Bill, which formalises the allocations to provincial and local spheres of government, has been postponed for a week to 16 March.
Then the spotlight focuses on departmental budget allocations. But departments have left it very late to table their strategic and annual performance plans. The submission deadline is Thursday. By last Friday, none of these documents had been tabled. DM
Photo: President Zuma surrounded by bodyguards in Parliament, 12 February 2016. (Greg Nicolson).