Police stations & 10111 call centres: performance audit by Auditor-General

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

30 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr T Godi (APC)
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Meeting Summary

It was noted at the outset that the Auditor-General had noted, in his audit report for 2007/08, that the financial reporting of the South African Police Service (SAPS) had reached an acceptable level. However, the 2008 performance report highlighted many challenges, which the Committee would address.

Members asked various questions of the SAPS team of Deputy Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners. These included questions around the existence and implementation of the draft Sector Policing policy, questions around vehicle management, including the use of vehicles for private purposes, and monitoring of whether vehicles were being taken home at night. Questions also related to the provision of proper infrastructure at SAPS Community Service Centres, compliance with the Domestic Violence legislation, whether all SAPS members had and were wearing bullet-proof vests, and problems that had been reported at the 10111 call centres, including questions on a specific incident in which the call had not been answered in a satisfactory way. Members several times expressed their frustration that the questions were not being addressed specifically or in detail. They concluded that the SAPS team was poorly prepared for the hearing and did not appear to be aware of some of the problems, as the quality of their answers was also poor. The Chairperson ruled that the hearing be suspended, and that written responses be provided to some of the key questions. The Chairperson expressed the misgivings of his Committee about the ability of the SAPS management to carry out their mandate.

Meeting report

The Chairperson reminded the meeting that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) had previously dealt with the 2007/2008 Annual Report of South African Police Service (SAPS). Although the Auditor-General (AG) had noted then that SAPS’s financial reporting had reached an acceptable level, after many troubled years, the present performance audit highlighted numerous challenges. He asked that Members address the focus areas of the report.

Sector policing:
Mr N Singh (DA) stated that the SAPS had acknowledged that there must be a partnership between SAPS and communities in order to win the war against crime. Sector policing was seen as an enabling mechanism. He asked whether there was a clear policy that was being implemented and implemented effectively.

Commissioner (Comm) Timothy Williams, Acting National Commissioner, SAPS, responded that since the time of the audit in 2008, 169 police stations had been selected to be part of the Sector Policing Programme, because more than 50% of crime occurred in those areas. The intention at the time was not to adopt sector policing as a national policy, as SAPS did not have the personnel required to follow this strategy in every area.

D/Comm Gary Kruser, Divisional Commissioner: Training, SAPS, added that the policy remained in draft form as it could not be applied as a one-size-fits-all approach for all stations. The aim was to review the policy and then provide guidelines for the stations to follow.

Mr Singh reiterated his earlier question as to whether there was actually a clearly defined policy and whether it was backed by sufficient resources.

Comm Williams replied there was neither a clear policy, nor were there resources specifically allocated for this purpose. Instead the intention was to adopt a set of minimum Sector Policing guidelines that could be adopted nationally. A prescriptive Sector Policing policy would place excessive demands on resources and personnel.

Mr Singh and the Chairperson persisted that it seemed contradictory that such an essential policy could remain in draft form for seven years, without any minimum standards being set and seemingly also without any monitoring system in place to ensure that minimum standards were complied with. They did not regard the response given as substantive.

The Chairperson added that there were inconsistencies in the allocation of resources to the stations, which must be explained. He asked when these inconsistencies would be resolved so that there would be equitable allocation of resources.

Comm Williams answered that there was a major shortage of personnel and this was being addressed by sending all available members to stations. He noted that 14 700 members had been redeployed and areas had been done away with.

D/Comm Stefan Schutte, Divisional Commissioner: SAPS, added that the allocation of resources was conceptual rather than prescriptive. Further, the allocation of personnel resources was guided by a software programme called the Resource Allocation Guide (RAG). On the basis of this, funds and staff were allocated to each station. 

Mr Singh referred to page 7 of the AG’s report. He wanted to know how the areas for improvement noted in point 4.4 would be addressed; especially in terms of defining and implementing Sector Policing policy.

D/Comm Arno Lamoer, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, SAPS, explained that historical factors had led to certain imbalances in the allocation of resources and that other priority stations had also received relatively more. The draft policy would be finalised before the end of September 2009, after consultation with the provincial Commissioners.

The Chairperson asked whether there was a monitoring mechanism to ensure that policy would be implemented at station level.

Comm Williams replied that there was a monitoring system, which was reflected in SAPS’s Annual Reports. Evaluation was done at both national and provincial level.

Ms L Mashiane (COPE) was not sure what the stations were actually implementing. It seemed to her that if disbursements were made in terms of Sector Policing they must amount to unauthorised expenditure, as it was not obvious where the money was being spent and how the amounts had been arrived at.

The Chairperson added that the policy seemed more rhetorical than practical.

D/Comm Schutte answered that the disbursement was not irregular because the funds were spent on crime prevention.

The Chairperson rejoined that this may be so, but that it still did not explain how the amounts were arrived at. If SAPS was convinced of the value of Sector Policing then the policy must be finalised. This Committee would never condone disbursement without proper cause.

Vehicle management:
Ms M Matladi (UCDP) raised the question that there were numerous SAPS members without a driver’s license, and that there was only one ‘K53’ training centre.

D/Comm Kruser answered that since 2004/2005 a programme had been running to address the backlog. There were still 5 200 members without licenses, but this was being addressed. The Bishop Lavis centre had recently been given the authority to license drivers as well. In addition the length of the driver’s training course had been increased from two to three weeks, which had a positive effect on the pass rate (currently 86%). In three years the backlog would be eliminated.

Ms Matladi noted the increase in the vehicle compliment of SAPS, asking what controls existed in terms of vehicles being taken home by members, and what levels of personnel were allowed to do so. Also, she wanted to know how long vehicles took to be repaired and how this impacted on costs.

D/Comm Matthews Siwundla, Divisional Commissioner: SAPS, replied that on average it took about five and a half days to repair a vehicle, but 16 days if it was damaged. Members were allowed to take some vehicles home if they performed their duties either very early in the morning or very late at night. Commanders were allowed to garage vehicles at home, but this was strictly controlled. He corrected himself, when challenged by the Chairperson on this point, to say that the controls were being intensified.

The Chairperson rejoined that the AG’s report noted a no evidence of monitoring of garaging of vehicles.

D/Comm Siwundla did not answer this point.

The Chairperson continued that on page 11 of the AG’s report it was noted, in one instance, that 21% of a station’s total number of 18 vehicles were out of service for 200 days or more.

D/Comm Siwundla responded that there were exceptions to the averages.

The Chairperson noted that former National Commissioner Jackie Selebi had mentioned the Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system last year. The fact was that not all vehicles were fitted with the system.

D/Comm Siwundla replied that 22 000 vehicles were currently fitted with the system and that operational and response vehicles were given priority in this regard. 

Ms Matladi asked what was being done to ensure the proper use of vehicles. She had received many reports of vehicles being used to run errands for SAPS personnel.

The Chairperson added a question as to whether the AVL allowed other abuses to be detected because it appeared that there were many systems in place but no monitoring was actually done.

Comm Williams admitted that abuses did occur, but said that SAPS was committed to implementing the monitoring of AVL. Currently only the Western Cape and Gauteng had centrally monitored AVL systems.

The Chairperson could not understand why only two provinces had monitoring of the AVL system when a monthly fee was being paid for the entire system. This seemed to him to be wasteful expenditure.

Ms Matladi requested a list of vehicles that were being serviced for more than 200 days, with the name of the service provider, numbers of vehicles and costs involved.

The Chairperson instructed the Commissioner to provide the list within 14 days.

Mr Singh stated that there was the AG had reported that there was serious collusion between parts suppliers, service providers and police. He asked if the Commissioner had any evidence of this and whether there were clear guidelines for transporting members to work. He pointedly asked that SCOPA be provided with receipts from members paying to be transported to work.

As the Commissioner looked uncertain, the Chairperson directed the question to the three ladies from the Office of the Auditor General. 

Ms Alice Muller, Corporate Executive, Office of the Auditor General, answered that the AG had found instances where members were transported without the necessary authority. 

The Chairperson was adamant that there was a total lack of control over vehicle use. He wished to underline that the monitoring in this regard was not effective.

Training:
Mr M Steele (DA) said that the AG’s report noted that the effectiveness of training programmes was not audited by SAPS itself. He suggested that this be done. He referred to the tables on page 12 of the AG’s report, which showed that very low numbers actually attended courses, and noted that better attendance could improve service level outcomes. Further, he asked if members were actually receiving training that improved their effectiveness, and whether this was assessed in terms of outcomes.

Comm Kruser answered that the numbers were actually much greater, because individual modules attended had not been reflected. In fact 8 201 detectives had been on some form of training in the previous financial year. The courses attended were accredited by the Sector Education and Training Authority, SASETA, and SAPS was in the process of producing a report on their effectiveness. He also explained the discrepancies in figures by saying that in the past the provinces captured the training done on a manual system, which was not captured on the national personnel (PERSAL) system. Currently, SAPS was only working with the PERSAL system, and was updating its records.

Mr Steele referred to the deficiencies identified on page 15 of the report, under six points. He required some detail on how these would be rectified and how SAPS management would ensure more training was done. In addition, there was the problem of non-attendance and non-completion of training courses.

Comm Kruser answered that training needs were determined at station level, and thus he was convinced that the training was effective because it addressed these needs. There was an attendance monitoring system in place and the small number of SAPS members who did not attend courses would be charged. He stated that there were currently 182 000 members and that statistics indicated 200 000 had attended courses; in other words, some attended more than one course.

The Chairperson noted how statistics could be misleading and asked whether the system could extract exact numbers of attendees.

The Commissioner undertook to supply this information to the Committee.

Community Service Centres:
Mr R Ainslie (ANC) referred to page 16 of the report, listing deficiencies in terms of the layout of police stations and a lack of basic infrastructure, including a lack of electricity in some cases. He asked how widespread these problems were, and whether there was a structured plan to solve them.

Comm Siwundla acknowledged that there were problems in older police stations, and that a process of revamping old stations could compromise the building of new stations. SAPS had contracted architects to improve the infrastructure and layout of older stations.

Mr Ainslie persisted that the deficiencies were unacceptable and compromised the ability of SAPS’s members to perform their functions. The requirements for rooms to report rape, facilities to hold identity parades and the like were not theoretical. He looked forward to substantive plans to provide for these, as well as access for disabled persons. It was also of great concern that numerous stations had telephones that did not work. In his own constituency there was a regular problem of telephones not working, which was blamed on Telkom.

Comm Siwundla assured Mr Ainslie that cubicles for taking statements were being provided, that there were ramps for disabled access in all new stations, and that SAPS was in the process of providing them in older stations.

Comm Williams affirmed that the telephone problem was indeed caused by Telkom. 

Domestic Violence Act requirements
Mr J Gelderblom (ANC) referred to page 18, reporting on compliance with the Domestic Violence Act, which had reported instances of failure to keep a proper register, instances where assistance was not rendered to complainants, where the language of a victim was not used and, in another case, where officers failed to obtain the signature of the complainant. This non-compliance with the provisions of the Act was not only a dereliction of duty but was also contributing to the inaccurate recording of domestic violence figures.

D/Comm  Lamoer replied that since 2006 an additional 47 000 members had been trained to deal with domestic violence. Station Commanders and Provincial Commanders were supposed to check registers and act against any non-compliance.

Bullet-proof vests:
Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) remarked that R3 million had been spent on bullet proof vests over the last three years and there were now 180 000 vests available. He required an explanation as to why many members still did not have vests and why so many female members similarly did not have their own vests.

Comm Siwundla confirmed that there were enough vests for all members, indicating that he had lists for each station and province. The instruction had been issued that vests were to be regarded as the property of each member until he or she left the service.

Ms Muller (AG) replied, in response to the Chairperson’s prompt, that the AG had found that out of 74 members in one station, only 45 had vests, and,  further, that there was no evidence that the other 29 possessed or had been issued with vests. In that specific case a shortage was acknowledged and an order was placed for more. 

Comm Siwundla undertook to investigate the matter if provided with particulars.     

Comm Williams added that it was not historical practice that vests be supplied to members. Only recently did it become practice to supply all members with vests on completion of basic training. There were, however, enough vests at stations to supply members who had not received them previously.

10111 Call centres:
Ms M Mangena (ANC) asked whether 10111 call centres had skilled personnel, and what the cost of installing the AVL system in Gauteng was. She also queried the effectiveness of the monitoring of the system as an incident of police officers drinking on duty at Nel Mapius seemed to indicate the contrary. 

Comm Lamoer affirmed that the personnel of the Midrand centre had been specifically trained for their function and that the AVL installation cost R600 million. He said that action had been taken against the officers in the Nel Mapius incident but an investigation would have to be undertaken as to why the monitoring centre did not respond timeously.

Mr N du Toit (DA) asked whether there were set time frames.

Comm Lamoer said that there was no particular timeframe in which the centre should respond to a stationary vehicle, as the discretion was left up to individual stations, and it also depended on what type of call SAPS members had responded to. 

Mr G Thobejane (ANC) expressed his disgust at the hands-off style of management of the SAPS, pointing out that any system would be useless if it was not monitored properly. It seemed to him that the SAPS management did not have the ability to carry out their mandate.

Various members agreed, commenting that there seemed to be either wholesale ignorance on the part of the SAPS management, or deliberate misinformation. They lamented the Commissioners’ inability to provide proper answers.

The Chairperson pointedly asked whether action was taken in the Nel Mapius incident.

Comm Hamilton Hlela, Deputy National Commissioner, SAPS, replied that he had given instructions that three members be suspended. Unfortunately, he could neither say whether his instructions had been carried out, nor could he remember when he had given the instruction.

The Chairperson expressed that Committee Members’ seemed to feel that no new answers would be provided by the SAPS members present and he again expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of responses to the Committee’s questions.

Members agreed to suspend the hearing at this point, in view of the patently obvious fact that the Commissioners had not prepared properly for the hearing and were seemingly unaware of the real problems in SAPS.

Mr Singh proposed that specific written responses be provided to certain questions. 

The Chairperson exhorted to the Commissioners that he expected energetic and enthusiastic leadership to come from them in the future.

The meeting was adjourned.

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