After the presentation of the Department’s Strategic Plan, the Head of Court Services provided detailed responses to the wide-ranging questions . These included the extent to which the Seven-Point Plan factored in all the recommendations from the Criminal Justice Review, the Department’s funding from the European Union and the implementation of the court administration agency in 2011.
The Director General briefed the Committee on the Department’s budget. Their presentation dealt in broad terms with what constituted the approved budget in terms of the R11.3 billion for 2009/10, R12 billion for 2010/11, R13 billion for 2011/12 and almost R14 billion for the 2012/13 financial year. The budget had been reduced in technical terms over time and for this Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period they had experienced a fundamental reduction of their budget totaling R1.4 billion. This now required them to do more with less and if they achieved that they would have achieved the key outcome that had been thrust on them by the Department of Finance. She commented that there were projects, some of which they had forgotten why they had started in the first place, that had been going on forever and they really needed to re-prioritise these resources. She also commented that she had issued a challenge whereby each branch had to contribute 5% of their budget to be able to implement the new interventions. The Chief Director on Budgets dealt with the details of the budget spend. He emphasised the need for improvement in resource allocation to ensure that the budget was spent in the right places.
The decrease in the budget was of concern to the Committee. It suggested that it might be necessary to make submissions to the Appropriations Committee considering the additional burden thrust on the Department with the requirement for them to implement the second phase of the Occupation Specific Dispensation. Also queried were the unfilled vacancies and financial requirements of the Child Justice Act and asked if the budget factored these in.
[Due to lack of notification, PMG missed the Department’s strategic plan presentation and the initial part of the discussion on it.]
A Department of Justice official explained that the European Union programme as administered by the Foundation for Human Rights [www.fhr.org.za] would assist the Department in implementing its objectives. With EU funding, they currently had 214 advisory structures, the Thutuzela Centres. The Department had not decided the location of the 15 that they had spoken about and there was a process of public consultation taking place. The Department would welcome working with the Foundation for Human Rights, who also had to take into account the input of the Portfolio Committee because it was a community service being rendered to communities. The Department hired legal staff that provided legal advice to communities who assisted with birth certificates, issuing of IDs and so on. They even advised on issues related to municipalities. He personally did not see a conflict in their collaborating with traditional courts.
Adv Simon Jiyane, Head: Court Services, stated that the European Union programme was a huge programme that involved an amount of about R200 million. It was important that they did not just deal with merely bits and pieces of this programme but gave the Committee an idea of its entire spectrum. In the main, South Africa had entered into an arrangement with the EU to provide assistance in a number of areas such as poverty alleviation and economic development. The agreement was that 25% of that money would be used for resuscitating the functioning of civil society. As the Department of Justice they were involved in a number of human rights issues and they interfaced a lot with civil society. So this particular programme sought to identify those areas where they could get into partnership with civil society to assist the Department in a number of services that were being rendered by the Department. The programme had been rolled out to all provinces. The Department was now in KZN where they were trying to interface with players in that province.
With respect to the question that had been raised by Adv P Holomisa (ANC), it was quite difficult to commit the Department in terms of which community advice centres were going to be aligned with this programme. They were going to identify specialist programmes in the rural areas and previously disadvantaged areas where civil society organizations had not been reaching. This programme was targeted at ensuring capacity in those areas. Organisations would receive funding according to an open tender process that would be managed by the Foundation for Human Rights on behalf of the Department of Justice. At this stage it was too early to say which organisations were going to benefit because they were still in the consultation stages, trying to give more information to the provinces so that when the tenders went out, people would be able to compete quite comfortably in the process.
In response to Ms M Smuts (DA), they had started from last year to develop a screening protocol which ensured that there was thorough collaboration between prosecutors and investigators to ensure that matters that were brought for hearing were screened.
On the creation of the court administration agency, since the beginning of 2010, Mr Jiyane had been seconded to the Office of the Chief Justice to help in the establishment of this new arrangement where the Office of the Chief Justice could begin to take leadership in matters pertaining to courts. As the Committee was aware, the current arrangement in the Office of the Chief Justice was not really sufficient to deal with the challenges they faced. The first process that the Department dealt with was to look at the challenges and the duties that the Chief Justice had in terms of current legislation. This was with the view of creating an administrative structure that was able to give him full responsibility to deal with issues. They had currently proposed an interim structure that they were comfortable would enable the Chief Justice to begin to assert his role in the judicial management of court matters. This was a matter that they still had to finalise after consultation with the Minister. The structure was an interim one but it sort of visualised the ultimate structure in terms of the Superior Courts Bill.
Mr Jiyane said that the Deputy Director General of Legislation, Mr Deon Rudman, who was fully in charge of the legislative programme, would be better able to talk about timing. Obviously this process was fully dependent upon the finalisation of the bills that were going to be coming to Parliament. However, by 2011 they would be able to begin to establish this new court agency. Of course there were going to be complications as the role played by Court Services was going to be moved in its entirety to the new court administration agency.
On the question of whether they were going to be getting new people, he thought the Minister had made it quite clear that in this process it was the transfer of functions, which was not going to require the appointment of new people. Where specialized skills were required internally they could look at the process to ensure that it took that into consideration. The Department’s timeline was 2011 and something that was beyond their control was the legislative process that had to factored in.
About the problem of the missing records at the South Gauteng High Court. The reason that this problem existed was that two years ago the Department had entered into a new service agreement for transcription services. This was located in various provinces and the previous service provider responsible for transcription in the High Court did not get the tender. When the new service provider was appointed, there was supposed to be a transfer of information from the old service provider to the new one. At that point the system was corrupted which resulted in the loss of a number of records. It was corrupted in the sense that the new service provider had a system that was not compatible with that of the old service provider. In the process of transferring the information from one system to the other, information got lost and records went missing. A team had been appointed to deal with this and they had been able to trace some of the missing files. They were still in the process of reconstructing the remainder of those files. Gauteng was one of those courts that they wanted to ensure was 100% compliant in terms of record reconstruction so that they were able to be part of the system.
With respect to the Law Reform projects, as a Department they did not “know it all” and if there were service providers out there that could help them deal with these problems, but not in a competitive way, they would welcome that. If there was information that was not consistent with that which the Department had, they would welcome the opportunity for them to partner with those particular projects. The aim was to deal with the problems so that the Department was not seized with them for an overly long time. He really appreciated it if they could give the Department information so that they could give it out to the project teams.
With respect to the issue raised by Mr Swart about the Criminal Justice Review recommendations, of course the Seven-Point Plan of the Strategy did indicate that and they envisaged implementing 60% of those recommendations. However, because the implementation had begun last year, the focus was in building investigation capacity as well as the revival of the forensic laboratorie. So the greater emphasis in the first year of the implementation of the Review process went in that direction. Some of the improvements that the police were doing had seen a greater number of police officers being appointed. He knew that they were also creating a new career for investigators because part of the problem was that there were uniformed police officers who got the same salary as investigators. So there was an improvement in this area. What was going to be the focus of the Seven-Point Plan was to deal with all of the recommendations and their target was that by 2011 they would have implemented most of those recommendations.
This year one of the challenges was dealing with some dislocations of departments that were key to driving the Criminal Justice process. He gave the example of the forensic laboratories that were managed by the Department of Health. They had now put them into this particular project because part of the problem was lack of funding which was why some of the laboratories were not well resourced. One of the things that this project would do at the cluster level was to ensure that all departments were integrated with those plans. The new team was already in existence and he thanked the business community because they had been helping government. They had recently seconded a capable business person to this particular project. They would be able to ensure that this project was integrated with the work of other departments. In the past, one of the challenges was that it was a project running parallel to what other government departments were doing without fully integrating with those departments. In terms of the new arrangement, whatever was recommended by the Criminal Justice Review was implemented across government departments in the cluster. The Awaiting Trial Detainees (ATD) project managed by the Department of Corrections was also aligned to the review process. This project identified prisoners that had been in jail awaiting trial for many years. The project categorised the detainees according to the number of years awaiting trial and looked at how they could expedite those cases.
The Department had also looked at bail management problems. The implementation of legislation by the cluster left much to be desired in that the legislation empowered the Department of Corrections and the South African Police Service to deal with this problem in a way that would minimise prison overcrowding. In the past this matter had been dealt with by the court - the prosecutors and the magistrates. The bail protocol interventions tried to bind the departments in how to coordinate bail management.
On the question of maintenance investigators and inspectors, this was a project that they had set aside money for its expansion. This was an ongoing project that sought to overhaul the entire process and they were monitoring this area on a monthly basis in terms of statistics (that is, the number of cases registered and their disposal rate). Investigators were also assisting the Department to find the beneficiaries who had not come forward to collect their money in cases that had been concluded. Part of the problem about large sums of uncollected money had been the challenge that if the Department gave that money to a person who had no skills on how to manage those finances, then the funds would dissipate within a short space of time. For example in KZN they had started collaborating with relevant departments such as the Department of Finance where they linked up with the Finance Empowerment Programme for Women so that when this money was made available to women they would be able to discharge the maintenance of that money efficiently with a view to sustaining the children involved.
He hoped that Mr Sibanyoni’s query had been catered for in the finance progress report. The three courts that they had mentioned did not include Ekangala specifically because at the moment it was not finalised for opening. The three courts mentioned were courts that were ready which the Minister could open at any time, depending on his availability. There were 7 other courts that the Director General had mentioned would be completed by 2013 including new courts like Ntuzuma, which was still at the contracting phase, and the Limpopo High Court. That is why they had stretched the period up to 2013. However Ekangala would be one of those courts that would be opened this year, once it was completed as they had a technical problem with a contractor there.
Mr Jiyane turned to the question on whether the departments in the cluster had created communities that were safe. Some of DOJ’s targets were integrated with the outcomes of the cluster as approved by Cabinet. They aimed to improve efficiency in the courts. The perception was that if people committed crimes, these cases took so long that people did not feel that the justice system could help them. They wanted to ensure that once matters were investigated fully and ready for the court roll, the courts would be able to fast track those matters. This required improvement of court process and management. At the early stages of the trial, it was the magistrates and the judges who had the responsibility of managing those cases. To improve the function of the courts was what they were addressing as a Department to make the system more effective.
The transformation that they were talking about in the Office of the Chief Justice was definitely going to affect a number of High Courts and Judge Presidents in the provinces. They had started with the Chief Justice because they had thought that the best office to establish was a central one. Once they had that office only then could they look at the lower level structures. The intention captured in some of the provisions of the Superior Courts Bill was to ensure that they had a fully integrated judicial system that was accountable. What they visualised was that the Judge Presidents would also take a similar approach where they integrated most of the judicial issues. The lower courts reported differently and did not account their activities to the Judge President and they had their own structures. Now what was envisaged in the Bill was to have an integrated process where the Judge President would take full responsibility in integrating most of the services that were being managed by the judiciary. It was going to take a process and it was something that was dependent on the finalisation of legislation.
On the last question about computerisation problems in Wynberg and Johannesburg, Mr Jiyane said that this was but one aspect of the Seven-Point Plan implementation programme. One of the issues that the Director General had indicated was integration of systems. They had started implementing alignment of police docket management with the court system. They had created the e-docket management system where they tried to automate most of the information and capture it on a system and it was integrated into Court Services by means of the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS). Now the e-docket as well as the ICMS had been integrated at a number of pilot sites although he could not confirm if Wynberg was one of those sites. The intention was to ensure that they automated most processes to avoid case dockets going missing. The system was being implemented incrementally. With Information Technology systems if you took a “big bear approach” there would likely be a problem. This new system would address in a big way some of the manual problems that they were facing at the moment. It was a programme that would take a little bit longer to implement because they were also trying to integrate the IT systems of Home Affairs so that when they identified a person they used a common framework as opposed to the current system. There was also a fingerprint project that tried to ensure that what the police had on their database was linked with the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS). Fortunately they had funding from Treasury which once it was fully functional they would ensure that the entire value chain of the criminal justice system was more integrated. The only department that had not been attended to currently was the Department of Correctional Services which was still dealing with system improvement. Home Affairs as indicated was one of the departments that had just joined up with the DOJ. The Health Department was also involved in terms of forensic laboratory services. The Department was developing a tool in the form of protocols for matters referred to foreign investigators to ensure this was done within specific timelines.
Mr Deon Rudman, Deputy Director General: Legislation, answered the question raised by Ms Smuts. The Superior Courts Bill and the Constitution 19th Amendment Bill was provided to the Chief Justice and the Heads of Court and they had recently received a comment on the Bill. They were looking at those comments and they were looking at adapting the Bills in light of the comments that they had received. The intention was to submit the two Bills to the Judicial Services Commission on 12 April 2010 after which there could be further amendments and they could then submit to Cabinet and for publication in the Gazette. The time frame for that was April/May 2010 for submission to stakeholders once again and then to Cabinet for May/June 2010. With respect to the other Bill dealing with judicial authority and the court administration agency, referred to by Advocate Jiyane, they were drafting a policy document and they were still working with the Chief Justice and other heads of Court before they could then finalise that draft legislation.
Director General briefing on Department of Justice budget
Ms Nonkululeko Msomi, Director General: DOJ&CD, thanked the Committee for adopting the Department's strategic plan. She asked the Committee to allow the Department to edit the strategic plan properly as there were a lot of areas that required editing. Two budget documents had been circulated and she wanted to speak to the second document entitled Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) Alignment. The second part of MTSF Alignment document referred to obtaining resources from the baseline to fund identified outcomes that were cluster related. The third level was areas that they had identified within the Department that required additional funding. This document dealt in broad terms with what constituted the approved budget of R11.3 billion for 2009/10, R12 billion for 2010/11, R13 billion for 2011/12 and almost R14 billion for the 2012/13 financial year. The budget had been reduced in technical terms over time and for this Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period they had experienced a fundamental reduction of their budget totalling R1.4 billion. This now required them to do more with less and if they achieved that they would have achieved the key outcome that had been thrust on them by the Department of Finance.
She explained to the Committee what it meant for the Department to do more with less budget such as areas where they would have to find reductions in their spending on non-core functions and activities including shifting resources from administrative components to frontline services. They would also have to squeeze off savings in areas which were not funded because they were not going to get any further allocation. There was some element of rationalising public entities and agencies to save money and improve accountability. The Department was aware that they had Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) funding they had not budgeted for and this was a huge amount taking a sizeable chunk of their budget as they moved into phase two of implementing OSD. They would have to rationalise quite seriously in order to meet the obligation set by government when they had signed that agreement. The other issue was identifying poorly performing programmes and ineffective policies within the justice system in a broad sense. There were projects some of which they had forgotten why they had started in the first place that had been going on and on forever and they really needed to re-prioritise these resources. The Department also had to weed out corruption and opportunities for corruption in their system and this was going to drive this budget as well. If one looked at the outcomes of the JPS cluster, this one fundamental area that they had to finalise this year and as a matter of fact by October 2010, was a baseline as to how they would root out fraud and corruption. There was a need for a broad cultural change in the way that the Department expended its resources and they were already looking at opportunities for savings. She requested Members to see that they still had opportunities for achieving savings and re-directing those savings into the priority projects that had been highlighted.
Mr Johan Johnson, Chief Director: Budgets, dealt with the details of the budget spend. He emphasised the need for improvement in resource allocation to ensure that the budget was spent in the right places. The presentation was made up of what had been approved in Parliament in February 2010. However it went further and was a classification presentation that gave the Committee a bit more detail on such issues as how much money they wanted to spend on day to day maintenance of facilities or what constituted their donor allocation from foreign donors for instance. The presentation also answered how the budget addressed the Department’s strategy (in terms of indications of the baseline provisions of the outputs they wanted to achieve). Their budget for the five programmes for the 2010/11 financial year was R10.2 billion. There was a separate programme relating to the compensation of judges and magistrates funded by National Treasury charged against the National Revenue Fund. A lot of the Department’s money was spent on court services and prosecution services. Court services had experienced the greatest amount of growth with respect to budget expenditure and this was mainly because 13 000 of the Department’s 17 000 employees were employed in court services and the average cost of staff had increased. This was part of the project to capacitate various courts around the country, the expansion of auxiliary services and additional allocations to the Legal Aid Board. The presentation also remarked on the state of donor funding which was dwindling as they had fewer donor funded projects compared to previous years.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) remarked that it was a matter of great concern that there was a budget decrease in real terms of R23.4 million if one took inflation into consideration. In view of the Committee’s new powers in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Act, they would need to monitor on a monthly or quarterly basis, not only to hold the Department to account but to assist them with these budgetary challenges. A huge amount of additional requirements had been placed on the Department and it was incumbent upon them as a Portfolio Committee to look at their powers in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Act to ensure that the Department was mandated and funded. That was what every other Portfolio Committee would be doing and he thought that they would have to make submissions to the Appropriations Committee and he was sure that the Department would want to do so as well.
Mr Swart asked in terms of the OSD funding that placed a huge additional budgetary pressure on the Department whether phase two of the OSD implementation was included in their calculations. The Department had also indicated that their personnel were the main cost driver. However at the same time they had a large number of unfilled vacancies. He asked if those unfilled vacancies were budgeted for and then to distinguish from that their additional requirements such as the Child Justice Act that might not be budgeted for as well.
Mr Johnson responded that unfilled vacancies were a reality in the Department and the challenge was how to address continual staff turnover. They would need parliamentary approval to implement the necessary measures to address turnover and fill vacancies in the Department. The ideal scenario would be where all approved posts in the Department were fully funded.
Mr Swart asked about litigation and legal services (on page 6 of the presentation) whether litigation costs related to personnel only and not the cost of litigation because they would recover that from agent departments. He wanted to understand the calculation of that figure.
Mr Johnson responded that litigation costs referred to costs relating to the operation of the legal division and not the legal costs to which the Member was referring.
Mr Swart asked if they were expecting any roll-overs at the end of the current financial year and where those figures would be reflected. Even if they did not have them now the Committee would need to know.
Mr Johnson responded that in terms of their projected expenditure, as Department they could not talk on behalf of the National Prosecuting Authority. He thought that they were heading again for 99% spending on their budget lines.
Mr M Gungubele (ANC) asked for clarity on an item in the report pertaining to filling vacancies in Supply Chain Management using a September 2010 target. He was worried about that being too far off if one took into account the supply chain challenges identified by the Auditor-General.
Mr B Mbonani, Acting Director: Strategy, DOJ&CD, agreed that September was too long. The Department had begun filling posts in Supply Chain Management and they had just appointed the Chief Director. The reason for the time frame was they had been worried about the progress of job evaluation which tended to take a long time. However he was happy to report that they had just changed the whole team and in the next few weeks they would be establishing the panel that would assist the whole Department with job evaluation.
Mr Gungubele referred to page 3 of the strategy document and asked if the topics listed were the Department’s strategic objectives or measurable objectives. On page 4 there was a heading Priorities under Outcome 2 but under Outcome 1 there was no heading. One did not what list that was about.
Ms Msomi responded that with respect to the outcomes in the strategy document, what they had realised was that this work that they were committing themselves to had to be naturally funded from the baseline. However all these new issues had not been funded from the baseline because they had not been budgeted for and this was a new way of thinking that required a new way of budgeting as the Department moved forward. This did not mean that this work was now supposed to stop. What they had to do was to be creative and say what they were going to do as a Department to ensure that work did not stop. The Director General had issued a challenge whereby each branch had to contribute 5% of their budget to be able to implement these new interventions. The alignment aspect therefore could not necessarily appear clearly in the document but they had done that in the relevant part of the strategic plan. Specific outcomes were linked by an outcome number to a specific objective so that they did not have an outcome that was unsupported by financial resources. When the Department went back to do the editing this would be one of the areas that they would need to focus on and ensure was done.
Mr Gungubele commented that he was not comfortable with the term “earmarked” amounts as it was used for many things and had been used several times. He referred to its use with property management on page 25 of the budget document. Did it mean that for money to be released, one would need to present a business plan? If a Committee were to be interested in close scrutiny of that money allocation, would it be able to put its finger on the particular business plan. How would the Department ensure the effective release of funds and was there a structured way through which they released these funds?
Mr Johnson responded that the earmarked amount did not come from the Department but from Treasury which stated that an amount was “earmarked” and the Department could not spend it for any other purpose.
Ms S Sithole (ANC) commented that she was impressed by the Department’s presentation and she would be studying it thoroughly to make a follow up on the next visit by the Department. Ms Sithole referred to rural bias. She came from two provinces, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Did the Department have Deeds Offices there because there would be no empowerment as far as property was concerned if the Department did not open Deeds Offices in those poor rural communities.
Mr Rudman responded that the Deeds Office was not located in the Department of Justice but with Land Affairs. However there were plans to open a Masters’ Office in Mpumalanga. One of the challenges was that a Master was required to sit at a High Court and they had been waiting for the Superior Courts Bill to resolve the issue of the High Courts.
The meeting was adjourned.
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