Budget Hearings with South African Police Service (SAPS) management

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08 March 2010
Chairperson: Ms S Chikunga
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted, at the outset, that since the Soccer World Cup was drawing closer, criminals were also planning how they could use this event to their advantage.

The National Commissioner of SAPS, and his delegation, gave an overview of the Department’s readiness and plans to maintain law and order in South Africa. He spoke to three key areas which had been identified as priorities of the Department, in its quest to create a formidable department that responded effectively to its mandate. Improving infrastructure in order to bring Police Stations closer to communities was identified as a critical element in ensuring that no crime went unreported. There was also a need to constantly improve the skills of the SAPS members to make them ready to match the expertise of criminals who had an advantage because of the resources at their disposal as well as their non-observance of anyone else’s rights. Closely linked to skills development, the Commissioner said his Department had plans in place to boost its Information Technology resources and that it was working closely with business in that regard. The various programmes and their budgetary allocations were set out and summarised. The National Commissioner, in response to a particular question, said that the prevalence of violent crime seemed to confuse the issue as to whether South Africa’s crime rates were actually higher than in other countries. The role of the entire Security Cluster should be considered as problems did not necessarily lie with the Department of Police.

Members took issue with the targets for reducing crime, which had been lowered from the previous 7% to 10% range, down to 4% to 7%. The question of SAPS taking over airport security was cautiously approached by some members, in view of questions as to whether this would not have an adverse impact on visible policing in certain communities. A Member commented that the Strategic Plan looked weak and that more details should have been provided as to exactly how the Department would implement its intended strategies. The reported ratio of vehicles to officers was questioned. Members also asked about funding for the television programme, escapes from custody, the strategy of the SAPS to prevent human trafficking, whether the Department had sufficient skilled personnel to operate the purchased sophisticated equipment, the retention policies in regard to records and samples in forensic laboratories, and the turnaround times for analysis of samples, which was considered too high. Members also enquired if any skilled former SAPS personnel were to be re-hired, how the salary increases worked, whether there was proper spending, the retention strategies, restructuring of ranks and conditions at certain police stations. They questioned how well community safety forums were running, whether informers were being used successfully, whether backlogs, particularly in forensic laboratories, were being addressed, and whether training took account of the new legislation. The issue of suspensions and disciplinary procedures would also need to be explained. Members also asked about identification of those needing protection services, and how many foreign dignitaries were covered by VIP Protection Services. In view of time constraints, the Chairperson requested that questions be responded to in writing.

Meeting report

South African Police Service (SAPS) Strategic Plan and Budget Presentation
CommissionerBheki Cele, National Police Commissioner, announced to the Committee that the Department of Police / South African Police Service (SAPS or the Department) was committed to the government goal of significantly reducing crime and ensuring a safe and crime-free South Africa for all who lived in it. The Commissioner pointed out that the challenges which lay ahead were enormous, but with the energy and vigour of SAPS, he was confident that they would be overcome. One of the greatest challenges was building more police stations, especially in the most remote and rural areas. The distance between police stations and certain areas where people lived meant that certain crimes went unreported because victims of crime did not have the means to go to police stations and report such crime.

Another area which needed to be addressed was improving training for SAPS members. The Commissioner stressed that it was time the Department had under its personnel men and women who were highly skilled and competent to match the level of expertise criminals had. The reality of the matter was that criminals had a much bigger advantage than SAPS, simply because they had no restrictions on their modus operandi. Their budget had no restrictions; they had no constitution and procedures to follow when engaging in what they had decided to do. Therefore, there was a need for more resources to be allocated towards training of officers to make them respond better to criminal activities and be able to detect and thwart crime at its early phases. In addition, Mr Cele pointed out that his department was working hand-in-hand with business to make a shift into relying on latest technology in fighting crime. The airports had also been officially taken over by SAPS and it was important that the members had a thorough understanding of using technology everywhere, including airports. Over 1 600 SAPS had been deployed to Oliver Tambo International Airport as part of the process of deploying more and more members to airports.

Mr Cele then proceeded to set out the expenditure trends and the budget, split according to programmes. In respect of Programme 1: Administration, he noted that the purpose of this programme was to develop policy and to manage the department, including providing administrative support. The expenditure of the programme over the medium term would utilise approximately one third of the department’s overall allocation. The expenditure increased from R10.6 billion in 2006/07 to R15.9 billion in 2009/10.

Programme 5 related to Protection and Security Services. The overall expenditure of this programme was estimated to grow substantially from R1.3 billion in 2006/7 to R2.7 billion in 2009/10. The main sub-programmes under the broader protection and security services programme and their estimated expenditure were set out. These were: Port of Entry (R974 million), static and mobile security (R562.4 million), Rail Police (R503.4 million), operational support (R199 million) and VIP Protection Services (R400 million).

Spending on Programme 4: Crime Intelligence, had grown at an average annual rate of 13.4% between 2006/07 and 2009/10, from R1.2 billion to R1.7 billion. A significant percentage increase (19% in 2009/10) and 10.1% in 2010/11) was seen, as a result of the drive to increase personnel capacity. It was expected that the expenditure under the sub programme would decrease once the personnel capacity backlog was addressed. The capacity enhancement was expected to be completed by the end of the 2009/10 financial year.

The spending trends for Programme 3: Detective Services showed an increase, from R5.5 billion in 2006/07 to R7.6 billion in 2009/10, at an average annual increased rate of 10.9%. The Forensic Science Laboratory sub programme was expected to receive additional allocations and to increase its expenditure at an average annual rate of 20.1% between 2006/07 and 2009/10. The criminal record centre was also expected to increase its expenditure at an annual rate of 59.9% from 2009/10 to 2010/11, mainly due to additional funding requirements to allow for the creation of capacity for the implementation of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill.

Finally, Mr Cele noted that Programme 2 related to Visible Policing. Between 2006 and 2009/10, spending in the visible policing programme had consumed an average of 41.8% of the Department’s budget. It was expected to increase steadily over the medium term to R22.9 billion in 2012/13, at an average annual rate of 5.2%, due to intensified funding levels for new enlistments, vehicles, bullet-proof vests, and general equipment and security requirements for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Other sub programmes such as Borderline Security were expected to increase their expenditure too.

Ms A Van Wyk wanted to know why the set targets of reducing crime had been reduced from the previous target of 7%-10% down to a new target of 4%-7%. She wondered if that would not be sending a message that the police were losing the war against crime. The detection rate was also very low but Members were being told that the Department subscribed to government’s slogan of working harder, faster and smarter.

Commissioner Cele said the decision to reduce the target to between 4% and 7% was a Cabinet decision, in which his Department had no say. It was agreed, by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster, that 4% to 7% was a more realistic and achievable target.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) said the statement made by the National Commissioner in his opening remarks appeared to have been a subtle way of acknowledging that indeed criminals were dictating events, and that the police were losing their control. It also seemed that SAPS were not capacitated to counter the intelligence of drug lords. He asked why it seemed that criminals were able to react faster against any efforts from the police to arrest them.

Mr M George (COPE) said the strategic plan presented by the department looked very weak. He commented that he would have liked to have seen it fleshed out more, so that the Committee had been taken into the Department’s confidence, and could hear exactly how the Department planned to go about implementing what it intended to do. The report that all airports had now been taken over by SAPS was also problematic. He asked what impact the 1 600 police officers deployed at a single airport were going to have on visible policing in communities. He also commented that the reported vehicle: officer ratio of 1: 4 was far from the truth.

The National Commissioner said that while it was true that South Africa had a serious problem of crime, it was not true that it was the worst when compared to other countries. The problem was that people tended to confuse the violent nature of crime in South Africa with the fact that crime was out of control, and was worse than in other countries. As a matter of fact, prisons in South Africa were reported to be overcrowded. That alone was sign that SAPS members were doing their work of arresting criminals. The major problem that the Department faced was that once a suspect was brought into custody, he or she would easily be let out on bail and parole, and immediately would return into a life of crime. Those problems lay somewhere in the Security Cluster chain and not necessarily within the Department of Police.

Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) asked where the funding for the television programme “When Duty Calls” came from. Escapes from police custody increased in the current financial year, but only a handful of SAPS members were charged. It was common knowledge that a significant portion of escapees had managed to escape with the help of SAPS officials.

Ms D Schafer (DA) requested what the strategy of the SAPS was to prevent human trafficking, considering that it was likely to increase during the upcoming Soccer World Cup event.

Commissioner Cele pointed out that a few days ago he had visited Zurich, where he met with all Commissioners of countries that would be participating in the upcoming Soccer World Cup. After the meeting, security heads from different countries approved that South Africa had a crime fighting strategy that would ensure crime activities would be detected and acted upon swiftly.

Ms Schafer said that Parliament often was told that new expensive equipment had been bought to bolster the capacity of the forensic laboratories. She asked if the Department had sufficient skilled personnel to operate the purchased sophisticated equipment. She also enquired what was the policy of the Department in regard to the retention of records and samples in forensic laboratories.

Ms Schafer asked if the Department had any measures in place to hire back skilled former Members of SAPS who had earlier decided to leave.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) wanted to know how the salary increase policy worked on the ground. He said that the impression was gained that the only people who were entitled to meaningful salary increases were the high-ranking officers of the Department. Sunday Times recently reported that the Department had purchased a fleet of boats which were now parked somewhere and were not being used for the purpose for which they were originally bought. He questioned whether that did not amount to a waste of limited resources.

Commissioner Cele said the question Mr Schneemann had asked was currently under intense consideration. The Department did not have the powers to offer market related salaries for some of the positions in the Department. The Department could only work with resources allocated to it.

Divisional Commissioner Manoko Nchwe, Career Management Section, SAPS, said her Department did have a comprehensive retention strategy and had a way of inviting scarce skilled personnel to the Department, through working out their needs and balancing those with what was available. There were also individually signed contracts with certain types of employees in order to make offers that would attract them to work and stay in the department.

Commissioner Cele said one of the interventions which the Department had been considering was to devise a strategy whereby talented and skilled members could now be kept in their positions, doing what they knew best. That would only be possible if those individuals were to be paid more for being kept in their same positions. The restructuring of ranks in the Department, to align them with a military set-up, would also create space for more ranks to be established, making it possible for more people to be promoted.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) said conditions at police stations in certain provinces were simply not plausible. In Mayflower, for instance, a police station was a house, needless to say with no cells in it to hold suspects.

Mr Lekgetho queries how well such initiatives as community safety forums were running.

Commissioner Cele said indeed there were huge infrastructure backlogs in the Department, and Mpumalanga province in particular was identified as the most problematic province in terms of everything from infrastructure, to administration, to corruption. The Commissioner and the entire SAPS top leadership was due to visit Mpumalanga on a three day visit to try and understand how problems in that province could be resolved.

Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) asked how effective the Department was in using informers. There was a feeling that people were scared to give police information, for fear that their names would be revealed to the suspects, who in turn would threaten them with their lives. A lot of money was being injected into revamping forensic labs. She asked what was the current situation in regard to backlogs in forensic laboratories, and whether the equipment purchased at such great cost was being effectively utilised, or whether it was being in fact under-utilised.

The Chairperson asked Assistant Commissioner for Forensic Services to explain why this unit had set a target of 35 days to analyse and complete a sample or request of information. She said that this work, which SAPS believed would take 35 days to complete, would surely take another department a maximum of two days, but more likely two hours, to complete.

The Chairperson asked if there was training of Members that took into account provisions of the newly enacted Child Justice Act.

The Chairperson said the issue of suspensions and disciplinary proceedings needed to be explained properly. There were people in the department who had been suspended as far back as 2008, but until now their cases had not been finalised. Some had since been acquitted, and an order was granted to re-instate them to their positions but the Department had not done so.

Ms Kohler Barnard asked whether it was true that Divisional Commissioner, Legal Services, Ms Lindiwe Mthimkulu, had been suspended. If so, she asked why this had been done.

Commissioner Cele responded that this information was correct. She had been suspended and charged for violating SAPS policy regulations. It would not be in the interest of both parties to disclose the details of the charge, lest it prejudice the ongoing proceedings and investigations.

Mr Schneemann asked what the actual backlog was in respect of bringing infrastructure in line with long term goals and capital asset plans of the Department by 2014. He asked how the current budget would assist the so-called “poorly-performing” police stations which were identified by provincial Commissioners.

Ms Schafer asked how decisions were taken to identify those who needed protection services. Considering that the expenditure under the programme grew from R1.3 billion in 2007 to R2.7 billion in 2009/10, she asked for the reasons contributing to such a substantial rise in expenditure. For instance, she asked how many foreign dignitaries living in the country were being offered VIP protection services.

The Chairperson noted that time did not allow for further interaction. Parliament would be debating the budget of the Department on 23 March 2010. Therefore, the Chairperson requested that the SAPS leadership furnish the Committee with answers to questions that had been asked but not yet answered due to time constraints. It was important that the Committee had those answers before the debate on the Departments’ budget took place.

The meeting was adjourned.


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