Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) strategic plan & budget 2010; SAPS on its new rank structure

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15 March 2010
Chairperson: Ms S Chikunga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) presented its strategic plan and budget for 2010 to the Committee. It outlined that a major priority was to improve the efficiency of the entity through initiating a number of measures ranging from personnel capacity, to giving adequate training to its investigators, to building new offices to improve visibility and accessibility. It also reported that measures were in place to strengthen working relations with other stakeholders who had a pivotal role to play in the work of the ICD. In order to improve the turnaround time of investigating complaints, the ICD had decided to prioritise three categories of complaints to be investigated. Those were identified as deaths in police custody due to police action, case of sexual violence, and any forms of criminality allegations against SAPS members. The budget for the current year was just over R129 million, set to slightly increase over three years 3. Of the three programmes in the department, Programme 2- Investigations - consumed the bulk of the allocated budget (49%), being channelled to services such as purchasing of Machinery and equipment necessary for carrying out investigations, compensation of employees and acquisitions of goods and services.

Members expressed the concern that the budget allocation for the ICD was very small, and wondered if it was sufficient to fund its activities. Members were also very concerned that the prioritising of investigations to the three identified classes of complaints meant that other less serious offences by SAPS would go without being investigated and properly dealt with. They were also concerned, in principle, that complaints about service officials should not be investigated by the service itself. The question was asked how many SAPS officials were investigated for failure to comply with the Domestic Violence Act. Members also asked why Gauteng was to receive satellite offices, and whether it would not have been preferable to establish these in more remote areas, asked if the public was sufficiently aware that complaints against Metro Police could also be referred to ICD, what criteria were used when determining which cases to investigate, how long the process would take, and how suspensions within ICD were being managed, including the time taken to conclude the case. Members also asked whether the work of the Forensic Science Laboratories were impacting upon the ICD, and felt that the relationships with other entities should have been put on a more formal footing. Members also asked when the amendment legislation was likely to be tabled. ICD was asked to give written responses.

The Head of Personnel at the South African Police Service (SAPS) briefed the Committee on the new rank structure, in terms of which the National Police Commissioner would be the General, the Deputy National Commissioners would become Divisional Commissioners and Provincial Commissioners would be Lieutenant-generals, while Assistant Commissioners would be Major-Generals. Directors would soon be addressed as Brigadiers, Senior Superintendents as Colonels and Superintendents as Lieutenant Colonels. Captains would remain Captains, and two new ranks of Lieutenant and Major would  be introduced. Inspectors would become Warrant-Officers while Sergeants and Constables would remain the same. This was in line with the military structures. These changes did not impact upon the Constitution, and were in line with it, because the National Commissioner’s title would remain the same. Changes would be required to the Police regulations, but these would be effected by the Minister of Police. The new ranks would further allow for promotions and discipline to be effected. Some Members were not convinced that there was any proven or researched link between promoting discipline and fighting crime, and wondered what the real reasons were. Other Members supported the decision, and said that Members should not be too quick to criticise strategies that could result in reduction of crime. Members expressed concern that this was a political process, and they should have been addressed by the politicians, asked if the “demilitarisation” of the police was being reversed, and said that this might exacerbate public fears about police brutality. They asked how the changes would impact upon the budget, what the salary structures would be, and commented that there was very late engagement with the Committee on this point. Members also asked about the use of the coat of arms as the insignia.

Meeting report

Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) Strategic plan and budget briefing
Mr Francois Beukman, Executive Director, Independent Complaints Directorate, said that the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) was undergoing various forms of restructuring to make it function more effectively and efficiently. Programme 1 (Corporate Services) dealt with general administrative functions ranging from staffing, employment equity status, to discipline and improving capacity of the ICD. On staffing matters, it was reported that 16 vacancies were still yet to be filled. In relation to issues of equity, he reported that out of a total staff of 271, there were 133 females and 138 males. The ICD remained committed to promoting a 50/50 gender balance, especially at management level. In respect of disciplinary matters, he reported that five ICD members were currently on suspension and proceedings against them were under way. The ICD was further revising its staff retention strategy through implementing measures such as constant offering of training and offering bursaries for employees to improve their skills. It was also putting in place a sound internal promotion policy framework, together with a formula for rewarding overtime work done by its investigators.    

The activities under Programme 2: Investigations were identified as the driving force behind the entire department. All reported cases of police misconduct were being investigated under Programme 2. The Programme Head reported that ICD had decided to prioritise three classes of complaints, which would include deaths in police custody as a result of police action, allegations of criminality (complaints of serious nature) by SAPS members, and sexual offences. ICD had taken a decision to scale down, and would only focus on investigating these three classes of complaints. The ICD was to remain committed to improving its turnaround time for finalisation of investigations. The challenges encountered involved promptly receiving notifications from the police, logistics of liaising with victims or families of the victims, and the need to improve relations with other stakeholders, such as the Department of Health, and the Forensic Science Laboratory. The skills development component of the programme meant fostering relations with other departments and sectors to build capacity of the ICD. At present there were plans in place to set up investigative conferences, involve South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) in the training of investigators, and accreditation of various service providers by the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) to train ICD investigators.

Ms Noluthando Sihlezana, Information Management and Research Programme Manager, ICD, said the focus of Programme 3 was ensuring that complaints were registered within 24 hours of reporting. The ICD would also strive to increase the number of community awareness programmes, through engaging and marketing the ICD in various forms of media. Other priorities of the programme were e making regular visits to police cells to identify cell conditions, and addressing any queries jointly with the relevant SAPS management. The research unit identified three priority incidents which were to be given priority: namely, rape, torture and deaths in custody.

Ms Elise Verster, Chief Financial Officer, ICD, said the proposed budgetary baseline allocations were for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for 2010/13. A commitment was made to improve on the areas which were flagged by the Auditor-General in the previous audit reports. During the 2010/11 financial year, the budget was R129.3 million, and was set to increase to R144.1 million in 2011/12, and to R152.3 million in 2012/13 r. Programme 1 was to consume 38% of the current budget, Programme 2 was to take 49% of the current budget, and the remainder was allocated to Programme 3.  The percentage increase trend reflected a slightly over 10% increase, year on year, from the 2009/10 to the 2012/13 financial year for programmes 1 and 2, although programme 2 was set to achieve a 1% increase in 2012/13. From the R129.3 million allocated, R54 765 was to be used by the National office and the remainder would  be equitably allocated to nine provinces, with KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Gauteng taking the highest allocations of just over R9 million each.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) expressed disbelief that SAPS did not comply with almost 90% of the Auditor-General’s recommendations, for instance, around reporting to the ICD of any incidents that could necessitate an investigation. She asked if this suggested that the SAPS were actively taking part in harbouring criminal elements within its ranks. She also found it problematic that the ICD had decided to prioritise investigation of certain cases of misconducts, leaning more in favour of serious offences. She asked what, in that case, would happen to minor complaints that may be levelled against the police (such as abuse of authority).

Mr Beukman said the main reason which led to the decision to prioritise was a commitment to fully focus on investigating and finalising more serious crimes within a reasonable period of time. The issue of capacity also played a role in streamlining the cases to be dealt with. In regard to the public reporting other forms of misconduct, he was satisfied that there were enough measures and processes within SAPS to handle reporting of such misconducts, and the ICD would be maintaining its oversight of all such proceedings, to see if proper procedure was being followed.

Ms D Schafer (DA) expressed concern that some forms of misconduct by Police officials were now to be investigated and dealt with by the very Service in which the misconduct was being committed. She found it inconceivable, especially in the light of the poor management and capacity problems within SAPS, that the ICD was satisfied that these less serious complaints would be properly investigated, and that ICD was proposing that the matter rest there. It would be interesting to find out how many SAPS members had been investigated for not complying with the Domestic Violence Act.

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) asked why Gauteng Province continued to be identified as one of the beneficiaries to receive satellite offices. It would have been better if priority, in terms of establishing satellite offices, was given to the most remote areas and not to a province like Gauteng, which already had existing offices where people could go and lodge their complaints.

Mr Tommy Tshabalala, General Manager: Investigations, ICD, said the reason why ICD was seeking to expand the capacity of dealing with investigations in Gauteng was that this province had the highest number of complaints and incidents, and a higher population.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) said one thing that came out clearly during the presentation was that the ICD was under-resourced. He asked whether its budget allocation from National Treasury was sufficient to fund its projects. It also seemed that the increases from year to year were not very significant, which led him to wonder if the correct issues were being raised with the National Treasury when making budget presentations.

Mr Schneemann asked who was responsible for investigating complaints or cases of misconducts against metro police officials. If indeed it was the ICD, he asked if this information was conveyed to the general public.

Mr Tshabalala conceded that more needed to be done to raise public awareness that Metro Police officials could also be reported to the ICD. At present the ICD had a handful of cases involving Metro Police officials, and was busy with them.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked what criteria were used by the ICD to determine which cases to investigate and which ones to refer to SAPS management for investigation. He asked how long that process would take.

Mr Beukman said there were no hard and fast rules that were followed to determine which cases to investigate. All cases involving elements of criminality and deaths in custody were obvious incidents that would warrant an investigation. The Committee that decided on whether or not to investigate had a target of 48 hours to make a decision.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) wanted to know exactly how suspensions within ICD were being dealt with. Rumour had it that a lot of suspensions were being done recklessly, with some being manifestations of ego and personality clashes. He asked what evidence the ICD would need in order to suspend a person for alleged misconduct, and how long a person would remain suspended before his or her case was completed.

Mr Beukman said that ICD remained committed to speedily resolving all disciplinary hearings. The problem came, however, when proceedings were conducted against senior employees, because on those occasions, ICD needed to outsource people from outside to come and conduct the proceedings, since it would be untenable to have those senior individuals’ proceedings being conducted by their peers.

The Chairperson remarked that it was puzzling that while there were plans in place to improve the Information Technology database, the budget was decreasing. It was an open secret that the Forensic Science laboratories were swamped with analysis work. She asked how the work of the Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) affected the work of the ICD. It also seemed that the stakeholder relationship that was mentioned, particularly with the Department of Health, was too casual for anybody to rely on actual cooperation. She would, at the least, have expected there to be a Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities.

Mr Beukman said it was true that there were huge backlogs in FSL but thanks to healthy communications between the head of the FSC and ICD, certain cases were able to receive priority depending on the agency and seriousness of the matter.

The Chairperson said that the Committee also needed to know when the ICD Amendment Bill was likely to be tabled before Parliament so that the Committee could make space to accommodate its deliberations.

Mr Beukman said that the amendment Bill was being fine-tuned and was on course to be tabled before Parliament in the first quarter.

The Chairperson asked ICD to respond, in writing, to all questions that were not answered and submit them to the Committee Secretary before 25 March 2010.

South African Police Service (SAPS) new rank structure briefing
Divisional Commissioner Julius Phahlane, Head of Personnel, South African Police Service (SAPS), told the Committee that with the coming into operation of the new rank structure, which followed the structure of the military ranks, the National Police Commissioner would become a General, the Deputy National Commissioners, Divisional Commissioners and Provincial Commissioners would be lieutenant-generals, while Assistant Commissioners would be Major-Generals. Directors would soon be addressed as Brigadiers, Senior Superintendents as Colonels and Superintendents as Lieutenant Colonels. Captains would remain Captains. There were two new ranks of Lieutenant and Major that would be introduced. Inspectors would be referred to as Warrant-Officers, while Sergeants and Constables would remain the same.

Comm Phahlane stressed that the changes did not offend against the Constitution. National Commissioner Bheki Cele’s title would remain as National Commissioner. The Constitution empowered the President to appoint a National Commissioner to head the Police Service, so and there was no need to change the Constitution or the South African Police Act. The only changes envisaged involved changes to the Police Regulations, which the Minister of Police was given authority to effect. The new ranks would further allow for promotions and discipline to be effected as part of the “the realisation of the department’s objective to become a force in the fight against crime”.

Mr George said the issue of changing of ranks was a highly political matter hence it would have been better if politicians had come to address the Committee.

Mr George asked why former President Mandela’s “demilitarisation” of the Police was being reversed and how the new changes would improve service delivery and discipline. He remarked ironically that most breaches of discipline were at the lower levels of Constables and Sergeants, whose titles remained the same, and remarked that this assumed that their discipline would not change.

Rev Meshoe agreed with Mr George, saying the argument of discipline was fallacious.

Rev Meshoe also said that since the Constitution would not need to be amended to change the title of National Commissioner, there was a likely possibility of confusion being created if one person was to be addressed by two titles.

The Chairperson pointed out that this was not first time that one individual could be addressed by two titles. It was also common practice in the Health profession for one person to be addressed with two titles.

Ms van Wyk wanted to know what research had informed the decision to make the changes and how many generals in total there would be. She also questioned how the changing of ranks would improve the wayward discipline of some police officials.

Ms Schafer said it was beyond comprehension that the new changes would bring discipline. She asked what the real reasons were for this, saying that discipline could not be the main reason. She felt that reverting to using old order military titles would further exacerbate public fears about police brutality. She also asked how these changes would impact upon the Police budget.

Ms Kohler-Barnard felt the purported changes were simply a waste of time, money and energy. There was absolutely no evidence as to how the swapping of titles would boost the fight against crime. She made the point that criminals cared nothing about what police called themselves.

Mr Schneemann said engagement with the Committee on this subject was taking place very late. The failure to mention any research done into the issue gave credence to the Members’ concerns about the real reasons for the changes. The argument that there would be no costs implications was very questionable. He made the point that discipline was something earned by conducting oneself in a dignified manner, and not through rank or insignia.

Comm Phahlane said that changing discipline was a long process and SAPS was not suggesting that discipline was going to change simply by changing ranks. However, it could be seen as the beginning of a very long process on which SAPS was embarking.

Mr Lekgetho said he supported the new police rank structure and was confident that the changes would help in bringing down crime.

Mr P Chauke (ANC) said he fully supported the proposals to change the ranks. There was a war on crime. The least that Members of Parliament could do was not to pick holes in the strategies to fight crime. The fact that there would be no tampering with the Constitution was enough to allay the fears of some sceptics who were quick to question the motives behind a genuine crime fighting strategy.

Comm Phahlane said Mr Chauke was correct and there would be not be any tampering with the Constitution. The only thing that would change was the Police Regulations, and he reiterated that the Minister had every right to change them if it was appropriate.

The Chairperson asked why inspectors (in future warrant officers) had the insignia of the coat of arms instead of a police badge.

The Chairperson asked what the implications of the new rank structure would be on the salaries of the affected SAPS officials, and whether their salaries would be aligned to those of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). She asked if the Department of Police would be known as the Police “Force” or “Service”. She also asked for an indication of international practices.

Comm Phahlane said the use of coat of arms in the security cluster was not new. The coat of arms was used in the SANDF and Department of Correctional Services. SAPS was simply applying what was already being done. A study needed to be conducted to determine what international practices were, since they were not the same worldwide. The Department would still remain a Police “Service” and not a Police “Force” as incorrectly touted in the media

Divisional Commissioner Manoko Nchwe, SAPS,  said that salaries would not be affected, as the existing guidelines would continue to apply. Minor changes would however be effected to accommodate the new two ranks that were set to be created in the process.

The meeting was adjourned.


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