Police Portfolio Committee's draft Strategic Plan: deliberations

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31 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms L Chikunga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to discuss its Draft Strategic Plan for 2009-2014. The important elements were highlighted by a coordinator, who mentioned that 2009 was already congested with potential legislation. Currently the Committee was already considering two Bills. Some other issues had been mentioned as “pending legislation” for some time. It would be necessary also to include mention of the Hawks in relation to the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (Forensic Bill). Many of the discussions planned for 2009 would impact directly upon legislation to be introduced in 2010. The oversight role of the Committee was highlighted. It was suggested that focus should also be directed to effective policing of crimes against women and children. The performance of the various divisions would need to be evaluated. There were continuing concerns, both in respect of South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) about the vacancy rate and statistics dealing with compliance of police officers to the requirements of the Domestic Violence Act, which again linked to the need to lessen crime against women and children. The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority was another body in respect of which oversight must be done.

discussed the reference to ‘other entities’ in the mission statement, discussed whether one of the objectives should not be “to pass laws that decreased crime”, but decided not to be too limiting in the wording, and noted what had been done in the past to call the SAPS to account. Two tools for oversight, that needed to be specifically mentioned, were physical visits to police stations and monitoring tools used for oversight. Oversight should include the Independent Complaints Directorate report. There should also be mention made of the various international organisations, under Core Objective 4. The Committee discussed briefly what stance it would adopt if the Department were to bring forward legislation with which the Committee disagreed, but agreed that this would need to be dealt with at the appropriate time. Members expressed their concerns over definitions in  the Dangerous Weapons Act, and the fact that much cyber crime, especially child pornography, was not controlled. A Member made the point that the intelligence unit also must be asked to account for its methods and performance, as it was central to prevention of crime. Members asked that more detail should be accorded to the anti-rape strategy, which again linked to implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, and whether there was proper implementation of the firearms legislation. Others point that were suggested for inclusion in the Strategic Plan were investigations of the capacity of station managers and managers at higher levels to hold people to account, the budgets of the provincial Secretariats, the need to hear what the Secretariat for Safety and Security’s national vision was and how it would deal with its task, and the need to follow up on training of and oversight over metro police, who fell within this Committee’s mandate. Members noted that the regulations scheduled for this session would take up a great deal of time, and suggested that the Chairperson should ask the Department and entities to provide their plans, and ask the Secretary of Police what policy issues were dealt with. The Committee should also plan to visit all provinces at least once and preferably twice before 2014. Skills retention and remuneration were issues of continuing concern, and Members suggested that the Committee should find out the SAPS position on wage negotiations each April, and should also be asking searching questions about salary scales, and whether the increases and Occupation Specific Dispensation were properly implemented.

Meeting report

Committee’s draft Strategic Plan: deliberations and adoption
Mr Sean Tait, Coordinator, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, tabled and outlined the key facets of the Committee’s draft Strategic Plan for the next five years. He said that the first page was identifying the vision and the mission of the Committee, its oversight role and the tools that would be used in the oversight role. He asked that, on page five, the word “prevention” should be added, so that the reference was to the “National Crime Prevention Strategy”.

In addition, he identified the key issues and he mentioned that 2009 was very congested with potential legislation. The two Bills that were currently being considered were the Safety in Sport and Recreational Events Bill and the Criminal
Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (the Forensics Bill)

Mr Tait said that one of the issues, while developing the Strategic Plan, concerned the extent to which the Department should be held responsible for the timely processing of legislation. Some of the issues had been on the Committee’s agenda for a long time, and it was very difficult to develop a strategic plan when legislation was constantly being highlighted as in the course of preparation, but never appeared before the Committee.

Mr Tait mentioned that the regulations to the Forensic Bill would involve the Hawks, the investigating unit of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, and this was not mentioned by the South African Police Service (SAPS) during the Strategic Planning session. However, it was now captured in the draft Committee Strategic Plan document, as this was one of the aspects that the Committee would be monitoring during consideration of regulations.

Mr Tait said that amendments both to the SAPS Act and the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) legislation were to be considered in 2010, and that many of the reviews, interactions and assessments taking place in 2009 would directly impact upon the consideration of those pieces of legislation to be brought forward.

Mr Tait said that under the Policy Review section of the document, mention was made of the Sector Policing Policy, the Partnership Policing Policy, the Reservist Policy, the Review of the National Crime Combating Strategy (NCCS) and the Review of the Criminal Justice Strategy (CJS) and all these would also have an impact upon the draft Bills.

Mr Tait said that the oversight role of the Committee was documented in relation to the various agencies. It started with the oversight over the Secretariat for Safety and Security, followed by the oversight over SAPS, then the oversight over the ICD. Oversight would identify the issues which needed to be considered by the Committee on an annual basis.

Mr Tait said, in regard to the oversight of SAPS, that this must include an annual Performance Review of the Hawks. The Police Restructuring Programme was another issue. These would be carried through each year, as one of the central tools, for the five year term of the Committee. The Committee would have to evaluate the process of the current restructuring at local level.

Mr Tait referred to the specialised units, and said that one that received considerable emphasis during the Strategic Planning Session had been the
Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS). One of the points raised concerned whether there was a specific focus group area promoting effective policing of crimes committed against women and children. The function of the Women and Children’s Special Offence Unit was highlighted.

Mr Tait said that the other key issue which emerged from the Strategic Planning Session was the performance of the Sector’s divisions, particularly the units dealing with intelligence, forensics, communication, skills retention and fraud prevention (see attached document for details). The oversight over the ICD followed the same pattern. The specific issues that were raised were concerns about the vacancy rates and the statistics on compliance with the ICD recommendations. The extent of the ICD’s reporting on complaints relating to compliance of SAPS officials with the requirements of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), and whether the ICD’s recommendations were implemented, was another key issue that linked back to what was being done by the SAPS to try to lessen crime against women and children.

Mr Tait referred to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), and noted that there was also a need to restructure and oversee that authority. Particular areas requiring to be checked were compliance was the Firearms Control Act, the vetting of security guards, partnerships with SAPS (which linked back to the policy on Policing Partnerships) and also the streamlining of administration, which was linked to concerns about the bureaucracy within which the security industry operated.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) said that the mission statement spoke of scrutinising and overseeing the Executive action. He wanted to know which ‘other entities’ were being referred to.

The Chairperson said that the point of referring to ‘other entities’ was to accommodate the section in the Constitution that allowed for the Committee to invite any person, individual or organisation to come before the Committee.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) said that using the words ‘any other entities’ also meant that the mission statement was more fully inclusive. For instance, it would ensure that the Committee could, where necessary, consult also with other departments such as the Department of Sport and Recreation, or the Department of Defence.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) indicated that nowhere in the Strategic Plan was mention made of the objective of decreasing crime. She assumed that that was in fact the prime objective of every one of the institutions over which the Committee exercised oversight. She also said that SAPS constantly laid out that its aim was to decrease a crime by a certain percentage each year. The Committee had not, in the past, in fact conducted any oversight over whether that had been done, or called upon the SAPS to set out its precise objectives. Certain crimes were not even being dealt with, and this was because the Committee had never held SAPS accountable as oversight really required. She suggested that the core objective of passing laws should in fact be aimed at laws decreasing crime, which she thought was the main thrust.

Ms A van Wyk (ANC) said that she did not have a problem with that in principle, but she did not think that the Strategic Plan should be limited by the wording, for the Committee might have to pass laws that dealt with oversight, for example over the Secretariat, or the ICD. Having stated that, she would not have a problem with including the words “laws to reduce crime” in some way that made the objectives broader.

Ms van Wyk stated that she did not agree with Ms Kohler- Barnard that the previous Committee had not called SAPS to account. She stated that in the previous year, the Committee had not done a full review of the Annual Report, but that this was the usual opoportunity for the Committee to call SAPS to task if it had not achieved the goals.

Ms van Wyk said that she believed two aspects of tools used for oversight were missing. One was physical visits to police stations or to the training institutions, and the other related to the monitoring tools used when conducting oversight.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) said that with regard to Core Objective 4, International Relations, one of the key areas that had not been covered in the draft was mention of the various organisations such as Interpol.

The Chairperson noted the suggestion to include international organizations under Objective 4.

Ms Kohler- Barnard said that she needed guidance when looking at legislation in relation to the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, particularly in regard to certain legislation that had been subject to a ruling by the Constitutional Court. She asked if the Committee would have any right to overturn a Constitutional Court ruling.

The Chairperson said that this was not the right time to deal with such an issue. The Committee would have to consider what the Department put before the Committee. Whether or not the Committee agreed with the Department’s draft was something that would need to be settled at the appropriate time.

Mr Lekgetho said, in relation to the Dangerous Weapons Act that he would like to know how a dangerous weapon was defined. He pointed out that he would regard a dangerous weapon as anything that could be used to cause harm or death to others, and that many people had such weapons, not for purposes of self-protection, but actually to harm others.

Ms Barnard said that the Department had given a presentation in which it described a dangerous weapon as potentially everything from a paint gun to toothpicks. This was an issue for debate, as Members felt that they could not legislate on items or activities that were usually used during essentially harmless children’s games.

Ms D Schafer (DA) said that with there was a huge problem with cyber crime and it was not being dealt with properly by SAPS. The main problem lay with child pornography and the Committee needed to look into the fact that there was no control over that.

Mr Ndlovu asked whether it was possible to assess the performance of intelligence, and how this would be done.

Ms van Wyk said that it was possible. The Dommittee could call the relevant unit in to find out what it was that they did, what successes they had and how many informers they were using. It was a very important question because it had financial implications as well.

Mr M George (COPE) supported this remark, saying that there were indeed many questions that could be asked. For example, in relation to xenophobic attacks, the Committee would be within its rights to ask why crime intelligence had not picked up that there was trouble brewing, since its role was to help in the prevention of crime.

Ms Barnard said that there were two other aspects of the Strategic Plan that she thought required more detail, in terms of oversight. There was an anti-rape strategy, and that also related to the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, and it must be followed up by oversight. The second was that the Committee needed to track the implementation or lack of implementation of the provisions of the firearms legislation.

The Chairperson said that a point that had been repeatedly raised was the ability of the managers, particularly those managing institutions such as the police stations. The Committee must also investigate the capacity of their SAPS managers, and SAPS’s ability to hold people to account. That was needing also to be included in the Strategic Plan.

Ms van Wyk said that the Provincial Secretariats also needed to be examined, when dealing with the Secretariat for Safety and Security. Some of these were receiving budgets four to six times higher than the National Secretariat’s budget, and were showing no outputs linked to their allocations.

Mr George said that the Committee also needed to find out exactly what the job of the Secretariat entailed, because money was being allocated to it, but did not see what the responsibility was.

Ms van Wyk believed that the Committee should call in the new Secretary who had recently been appointed, to hear what the Secretariat’s vision for the future was and how the Secretariat intended to approach it.

The Chairperson asked where in the Strategic Plan the Metro Police issues should fall.

 Ms van Wyk suggested that this should be added to the list of entities.

Ms Barnard asked what the mandate of the Committee was in relation to metro police, as she would have thought that it was a provincial or municipal mandate.

Ms van Wyk said that nothing stopped the provincial legislature from also looking at Municipal Police. It was definitely one of the competencies of this Committee. This was because all the training standards of metropolitan police were supposed to be established by the South African Police Service Act (the Act).

Mr Schneemann asked whether that would then include operational issues.

Mr George replied that there were operational areas that fell under this Portfolio Committee. He added that one of the reasons why the Act was amended in the past was to address the difficulties being caused by metropolitan police, especially at crime scenes. The problem was that sometimes a metro officer would be the first one at the scene, but would not have investigating power. That was the purpose of the provisions in the Act requiring the Metro Police to be involved in training, so that they would be aware of what they had to do at crime scenes.

Mr Ndlovu argued that when that Act was amended the operational side was left with the provinces and the municipalities to direct.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was generally in agreement that it was necessary to include the metro police as one of the areas of concern and oversight of this Committee.

Mr George noted that there were many regulations scheduled for the session. He said that this took a lot of time as Members needed to apply their minds. The regulations around the controversial areas of the Hawks would, by themselves, occupy substantial time. He thought that the Committee would have to seek practical solutions.

Ms van Wyk said that she supported Mr George. She said the fact of the matter was that the activities of the Committee were not set solely by the Committee but depended upon what the Committee received from the Department and the entities. She suggested that the Committee should wait for the documents to arrive and then prioritise.

Ms Barnard said that she did not think the Committee should allow the different entities and the Department to lead the Committee, but rather that the Committee should be guiding them as to which issues the Committee believed should be dealt with first.

Mr Schneemann said that perhaps the Committee must then ask the Department and entities to provide their plans, including an indication of what they would be doing for the remainder of this year and next year. The Committee could then also hold them accountable.

Ms van Wyk referred to the Policy Review and suggested that the Chairperson should find out from the Secretary of Police what the policy issues were that were currently being dealt with so that the Committee could then prioritise its own policy issues.

Ms Barnard said that she would like to add, into the section dealing with oversight, consideration of the ICD Report. ICD did issue very detailed reports on the implementation of the DVA and crimes committed by SAPS members.

Mr Schneemann said that Committees had previously discovered, towards the end of their terms, that they had not managed to visit some of the provinces in the past five years. He felt that the Committee should, in its Strategic Plan, specify the number of provincial visits to be undertaken per year, to ensure that it at least visited all the provinces, and ideally also tried to do a second round of provincial visits as well before 2014.

Mr Ndlovu raised the issue of skills retention and remuneration, which included the bargaining councils. He said that that was a very important issue to raise when the National Commissioner briefed the Committee. He noted that wage negotiations and bargaining generally took place from April to July, and the same applied to the SAPS. Prior to April of each year, the Committee needed to find out the SAPS position.

Ms van Wyk agreed with Mr Ndlovu. She suggested that the Committee also needed to look at the salary scales of SAPS, because the Committee had a somewhat skewed impression of those scales. The SAPS salaries were significantly better than other State departments’ scales. The Committee should be asking management what was happening with the money which was allocated for salary increases and for the Occupation Specific Dispensation. She suspected that the money might be staying at management level and was not reaching the police officers on the street.

The Chairperson said that the relevant suggestions would be carried forward and incorporated into the Strategic Plan.

 The meeting was adjourned.


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