The Committee had requested the South African Police Service to clarify expenditure pertaining to its budget allocation for the construction of new police stations. The Committee took exception to the late delivery of the briefing document by the Department of Police and issued a stern reprimand before allowing the briefing to continue.
The National Commissioner was apologetic for the delay in providing the Committee with the briefing document. He pointed to Parliament’s hectic schedule and 2010 World Cup preparations as reasons for the delay.
The South African Police Service briefed the Committee on property management in the Department, with particular reference to agreements between Police and the national Department of Public Works, and principles on the devolvement of budgets from the national Department of Public Works.
A specific section of the presentation was dedicated to property management and provided details of the number of buildings leased by the Police and those that the Department of Police owned. This section also highlighted the processes involved in both planned and unplanned maintenance projects.
The details of budget expenditure from the 2006/07 to the 2009/10 financial year were provided. The briefing also provided information on infrastructure development in terms of the process of capital works projects; property development phases and statistics on the achievements and progress of the construction of new police stations.
The Committee raised several questions on the expenditure of the budget. Members wanted to know how funds for maintenance of police stations were rolled out to station commanders to undertake urgent repairs and general maintenance work at their police stations. Members also expressed their grave concern about the reliance on leased properties for police stations and the reliability of the national Department of Public Works to manage effectively property belonging to or used by the Police. A Member asked the Police for a breakdown of the costs of the construction work that the Police attributed to consultants and that which the Police did alone.
The Chairperson requested a detailed cent by cent account of the 2009/10 budget on new police stations to clarify the confusion and to explain various inconsistencies as raised by Members.
The South African Police Service requested that the Committee allow the Police to reach consensus on the answers that they would give to the Committee. The Committee was seriously concerned that the Police management could not account properly to the Committee. The Chairperson cautioned that it would be a criminal offence to mislead the Committee.
In other business, the Committee considered the question of whether the Minister could release crime statistics to them in a closed meeting prior to their official release date in September 2010. A Member of the opposition was opposed to the idea on the basis that enshrouding the meeting in secrecy would create negative perceptions in the media about the meeting and likely result in controversy.
Preliminary Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson reprimanded the South African Police Service (SAPS) delegation for not providing the document to the Committee at least seven days before the scheduled date of the meeting to give Members an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the document and prepare for the briefing. The document had only been provided to the Committee on the morning of the day scheduled for the meeting and Members were therefore encountering it for the very first time in the meeting. The Committee would normally have sent back the delegation but would not do so because of their commitment and the fact that there would be no meetings in the following week. This would be the last time that the Committee would condone a last minute submission of the document and in future it would strictly enforce the requirement for documents to be provided at least 7 days before the date scheduled for a meeting.
The meeting had been called as a result of the Committee’s engagement with the Department of Police in Pretoria earlier in the year. There had also been discussions during the budget hearing that had touched on issues that were before the Committee today. The meeting was informed by the written response received from the Department to Members’ questions. However as the Portfolio Committee and as individual Members, having received those responses and not being able to make sense of some of the issues or the manner in which those responses had been crafted, it had been decided that there was definitely a need for the Department to appear before the Committee. The purpose of the briefing was to clarify several issues pertaining to the Department’s budget for 2009/10 and expenditure of allocations for the construction of new police stations. The amount allocated for this purpose in one financial year seemed inordinate. The sum total of previous allocations in past financial years since 1997 did not equal the amount budgeted for the same purpose for the 2009/10 financial period.
The Committee appreciated the presence of the National Commissioner and took this as indication that the Department took Parliament seriously.
Remarks by National Commissioner of Police
General Bheki Cele, National Commissioner of Police, SAPS, apologised for the delay in providing the documents to the Committee. The Commissioner had not been able to convene a meeting of the management team to reach a consensus on the document before it could be forwarded to the Committee due to hectic preparations for the 2010 World Cup Tournament. SAPS were dealing with several problems such as disputes surrounding the provision of security at hotels which would be hosting teams participating in the tournament. The document had been sent to the Commissioner on Thursday of the previous week when he was in Durban. It had taken some time for the Commissioner to look at the document and agree on it with SAPS management. The delegation had only managed to meet for just 45 minutes prior to the meeting to discuss what would be submitted to the Committee. Another issue was that SAPS had a packed schedule of briefings to various other Committees on the issue of their readiness for 2010 including the Portfolio Committees of Finance and Sport.
SAPS Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Property Management
Ms C Van Vuuren, Supply Chain Management, SAPS, provided important definitions to the Committee on capital works; and maintenance and repairs. A response was given to the question that had been put to SAPS by the Committee at the budget briefing on the agreements between SAPS and NDPW with respect to immovable assets. SAPS had documentation that could be submitted to the Committee on the exact agreements between SAPS and NDPW. There was an agreement on the devolution of budget and introduction of accommodation charges dated 18 December 2005. This agreement outlined the conditions under which devolution took place and what the future role of the Departments would be. There was a memorandum of understanding dated 31 January 2006 which gave more detail of what the roles were between SAPS and NDPW.
Another agreement pertained to SAPS’ state of readiness on the devolution of custodial responsibilities from NDPW to SAPS. This agreement provided for the transfer of all new police stations and those that were on the devolved list from NDPW to SAPS. All other immovable assets that were not considered functional would remain under NDPW such as provincial offices and forensic science laboratories.
The presentation also covered principles of the devolvement. A full portfolio of funds had been shifted to SAPS as from the 2006/07 financial year. It provided details of the agreements on facilities that fell outside the devolvement and SAPS responsibility. These were on maintenance and property rates where a rental system had been introduced, municipal services, and property leases that would remain under NDPW.
Mr M Deysel, Supply Chain Management, SAPS, presented the details of budget expenditure from the 2006/07 to the 2009/10 financial year.
Ms Van Vuuren concluded the presentation with information on infrastructure development in terms of the process of capital works projects, property development phases, and statistics on the achievements and progress of the construction of new police stations.
Mr G Schneemann (ANC) asked what the backlog was in terms of construction and maintenance of police stations and what the plan was for dealing with such backlog. The Committee had not been told what the state of police stations in the country was like and it would be helpful if Members were informed of the actual situation so that they could get a sense of how developments had taken place since 1994. It was also important to have a plan in place so that the Committee could use that to monitor how the Department was progressing regarding police stations.
Mr Schneemann expressed concern at the large number of leased properties (1 368). These were privately owned properties. He asked if there were plans to reduce that number. For example, Honeydew police station in the area where he resided was a leased property. He understood that the owner wanted to sell that property and yet considerable amounts of money were spent on an ongoing basis to upgrade that police station when the land did not actually belong to the State. All the money that the State would have invested in upgrading the police station would be wasted when the owner sold the property.
Mr Schneemann said that in terms of the building of new police stations, the photographs in the presentation showed different designs and he asked if the construction and upgrading of the police stations was done according to a set design.
Mr Schneemann remarked that he had been given to understand that station commanders had an amount of R20 000 that they could use for general maintenance or urgent repairs in their police stations. However the presentation seemed to indicate otherwise. The Department said that there was R30 000 and it had to go out for quotes from the provincial budget if it was below R30 000. Was the Committee being told therefore that station commanders did not have access to that money for them to carry out urgent repairs? He requested clarity to be given on how this actually worked.
Mr Schneemann asked how the Department determined which police station was most in need of an upgrade. Randburg police station, for example, had accommodation for its personnel. However for years and years that accommodation had been in an absolutely appalling condition. When he had visited there a few weeks back, the station commander had said that anybody who lived there deserved a salute because the conditions were shocking.
Ms D Schafer (DA) added that they too had a similar situation in Kirstenhoff where their police station was leased from a private individual. The police station was too small for the people who occupied it to actually function properly. However nobody wanted to do anything on it because the property owner wanted to first obtain a longer term lease. The lease was continually renewed at the last minute and each time the State entered into a two year lease. She asked why the Department only entered into two year leases and not longer term leases if it had decided that it was going to lease property for police stations. This would provide some kind of security for the people involved.
Ms Schafer asked the Department to give clarity on the Memorandum of Understanding given to Members. It said that it was a draft document and there were no signatures on it to indicate if it had been signed and when it had been signed.
Ms Schafer expressed concern about the reliance on the NDPW for management of properties used by SAPS. She was concerned in particular by the length of time it took to get anything done. At one police station the holding cells had been leaking water for six months. She asked why this would take six months and if the problem was with NDPW or the station commander?
Ms Schafer asked for clarity to be made on whether the amount provided to the station commander was R20 000 or R30 000. They had even been told that in certain instances one could get a quotation and would be granted approval within days and yet at another police station they would deny that.
Ms Schafer asked with respect to the allocation for forensic science laboratories if this would also go to ensuring that they were accredited properly.
Ms A van Wyk (ANC) asked what percentage of the work undertaken by the SAPS Building Unit went to consultants in terms of the difference in cost if they did it themselves. She requested a comparison of what SAPS did in-house and what was done outside. This could also include the difference in delivery time as well.
Ms Van Wyk asked SAPS to tell her what the average escalation cost was if a project was not completed within one financial period. She had picked up that most new police stations had been built over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period and that they were not built in a single financial year. This was a very bad business practice. The Budget Committee and National Treasury had last week taken the Department of Water Affairs to task over that very issue. She demanded to know why it was not possible to finish a police station within a financial year.
Ms Van Wyk complained that the list of the completed projects provided at the back of the presentation was a bit confusing. She wanted information such as the stations that were being renovated, which ones were new police stations and also which ones were done by SAPS Building Unit and the ones done by the NDPW. The way this information had been presented did not allow Members to be able to make their own deductions because it was not very specific information. This should enable them to check whether projects had been delivered on time and who was accountable for which particular project between SAPS and NDPW.
Ms Van Wyk asked, regarding projects to be completed in 2010/11, what the plan was regarding forensic science laboratories. At the beginning of the presentation these had been described as non-functional to SAPS and therefore under NDPW. The R184 million that had been allocated had been already spent, meaning that the project was completed. She asked if SAPS could clarify what that R184 million had been spent on. The Committee was worried about what was happening at the forensic science laboratories, it expected to pass a piece of legislation and it wanted to know what contingency existed in that regard.
Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) commented that the inefficiencies of the NDPW were a common cause. The sooner that SAPS took over responsibility for all its accommodation, the better. NDPW was not doing the things that it was requested to do. The Committee had visited police stations where police officers had to go to the community to raise funds for renovations to increase their capacity simply because Public Works could not get around to doing it or was unable to. She asked if SAPS was honestly satisfied with the NDPW’s work or if the SAPS looked into doing it through private contractors. This was a faster and much easier way of getting things done instead of the dithering around that Public Works had done with other projects such as hospitals that were a complete disaster. She was surprised that the forensic laboratory would be remaining under Public Works. There had been fires in evidence rooms, carpets and dust where they should not be, and no ceilings in some areas that the Committee had visited. There were no scientists who could work in those conditions. The results of work done under those conditions could be challenged in court because of the decay in those buildings as a result of the inefficiency of the NDPW.
Ms Kohler-Barnard commented that despite the fact that stations were provided R20 000 for maintenance and repairs, taps were leaking constantly. She could go and fix the plumbing herself for the cost of a washer. However she did not think that was her job. The station commanders were evidently not trained to be station managers if they did not understand that they could phone a plumber. There was a schism between what SAPS provided for day-to-day maintenance and what was being done by station commanders. Either they needed to be trained, or they had to be removed from their jobs.
Ms Kohler-Barnard noted further that there had been a R2 million increase in the amount allocated for day-to-day maintenance and she asked that this amount be analysed for the Committee to see where and how it was being used. There seemed to be no evidence of it going anywhere.
Ms Kohler-Barnard commented that the Committee had been to police stations where such had been the ignorance of the builders that they had put locks and bolts on the inside of the cell. This was ludicrous and the builders would then have to come in and re-do the job correctly because of their ignorance about the actual needs of a police station. She asked what control SAPS exercised over building plans or was it just Public Works deciding on this on its own.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked how many satellite police stations SAPS had and how many of these were being upgraded.
Mr Ndlovu asked about a consultant, who was responsible for making the decision to hire consultants and how much this cost.
Mr Ndlovu asked, with reference to slide 26 on property development phases, what the period was between work studies and need assessment. He also asked how long it took for site planning and clearing to occur.
Ms M Dube (ANC) referred to Budget and Expenditure for 2006/07 compared to 2007/08. Only one station had been completed. The amount that had built seven police stations in 20006/07 was less than the amount that built one police station in 2007/08. She asked SAPS to tell her how big that one police station was compared to the other seven.
Ms Dube referred to projects to be completed. She requested clarity on what projects were to be completed. She wanted to check on when these projects had been started. She also wanted to know what the problem was that was causing the delays in the completion of the projects.
Mr G Legetho (ANC) there was a police station in Mpumalanga that was not completed and did not appear on the list in the presentation of uncompleted police stations. He registered his concern about such lengthy delays in completing the construction of new police stations.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked SAPS to tell her the criteria that they used to do determine if an area required a police station. She was concerned that there was an area in her constituency that was densely populated and yet a police station had been built in a less densely populated area.
The Chairperson asked SAPS to clarify how much money they had allocated for building new police stations. There were several inconsistencies that required clarity such as why there only two police stations in the list of completed police stations that still appeared on the Department’s strategic plan. She asked SAPS to give a detailed cent for cent explanation of the money spent in the 2009/10 financial year with respect to new police stations. This would probably require another session with SAPS so that Members could exhaust all these issues.
General Cele responded that there were several questions that SAPS could not answer themselves as SAPS and it would be unwise to proceed with the discussion under those circumstances. He requested that the Committee dismiss the SAPS delegation so that they could work on the presentation to arrive at a consensus over the answers that they would give to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to consider this request.
Mr Schneemann responded that he understood that the Commissioner had not had sufficient time to discuss the presentation and arrive at a consensus with his management team prior to the briefing. The difficulty was that what they were actually saying was that they did not know what was going on in their own Department and yet they were the responsible officials.
Mr Ndlovu commented that this was not an individual thing and he expected that most of the staff were in a position to know what was going on. It was difficult to accept that the management of the police had put a document before the Committee and yet they could not respond to the Committee’s questions on that same document.
The Chairperson cautioned the Department that it would be a criminal offence to mislead the Committee if any of the information placed before them had been generated with that intention. There would be consequences if this emerged from the Committee’s own scrutiny or whether the Department came across that finding when it reviewed the document. The organising of meetings was costly, especially for fruitless endeavour such as in the present instance. The Committee, whilst appreciating the difficulty in which the Commissioner found himself, was seriously concerned that SAPS management could not account properly to the Committee. The meeting would be adjourned and the document would remain with the Committee. If any misleading information was unearthed in the document the Committee would ensure that there were consequences.
The Chairperson asked for Members’ opinions whether crime statistics could be released to the Portfolio Committee in a closed meeting by the Minister.
Ms Kohler-Barnard objected saying this would result in a media circus because of the veil of secrecy
Reverend K Meshoe (ACDP) supported the idea of closed meeting saying that this was not something new in Parliament as it was something that was done by the Finance Committee, for example, to enable the Members of that Committee to get a glimpse of the budget before it was made public.
Mr Ndlovu felt that Members could take advantage of the Minister’s prerogative to divulge the crime statistics to the Committee in confidence so that Members would not have to hear about them from the media. Members would also be able to respond confidently to media enquiries about the crime statistics rather than to have media asking them questions about things that they did not know about. No law would be broken if they took advantage of the Minister’s willingness to do things in that manner.
Ms Van Wyk pointed out that the decision rested with the opposition entirely as the majority party could always invite the Minister to a study group to be briefed on the crime statistics.
Ms Kohler-Barnard responded that the reason that Finance Committee met in a closed session was to protect sensitive market related information related to the Budget. This in no way compared to crime statistics. The media would misread a closed meeting to believe that the Committee and the Minister were hiding something. There was such an anathema of the media to secret meetings that the only way was to have an open meeting to avoid controversy.
The Chairperson responded that the difficulty with an open meeting was that it was not possible for the Portfolio Committee to dictate how the Minister did his work. The decision to brief the Committee on crime statistics before the date of their official release was entirely the prerogative of the Minister. An open meeting would be entirely up to the Minister and the Committee would not be able to impose on the Minister to attend.
This matter would be finalised at the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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