Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Annual Report 2010/2011

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Justice and Correctional Services

12 October 2011
Chairperson: Mr L Landers (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Justice and Portfolio Committee presented its 2010/11 annual report. The Committee was informed that one of the challenges facing the Department concerned the Information Technology division which was underfunded. The Information Technology department was technically challenged and there was a lack of skills. One of the senior managers was not well and there was a need to augment her position. The Department had received an allocation if R100 million towards IT for the past financial year. The only progress that had been made this far was to fill two positions with relatively skilled and technical competent personnel. The Department was now able to account for the fund in a manner that was acceptable to Treasury. Last year the Department had reported that irregular expenditure had amounted to R680 million as a result of non-compliance with the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act. The Department had opted instead to use the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act which resulted in an incorrect figure of R680 million, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development spent the whole year trying to figure out the correct figure for the irregular expenditure. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development eventually arrived at a figure of R3.6 billion and had to sit down with Treasury, internal and external auditors, the Audit Committee as well as the Office of the Auditor General in order to reduce figure to R3.2 billion. There was then an application for a condemnation which it received.

The issue of the unqualified audit was taken seriously and had already worked on beefing up its capacity at a regional level; training manuals have been developed around the Third Party Funds and officials have been trained to identify what the problems and implement solutions. Information gathering was a new initiative and two Directors as well as a Chief Director had been appointed in this area. The Department also had policies and procedures that assisted in the management of performance information. There was also an electronic performance management system;  a risk management system; there was an increase in focus on performance management and every fortnight there were performance reports that were given to the Director General for the purposes of the implementation of the strategic and annual plan. A number of initiatives had been undertaken such as the seven point plan. Case backlogs were reduced through coordinated efforts by the Justice Crime Prevention and Security cluster. The Department had worked together with the other departments in the Justice Crime Prevention and Security cluster to deliver legislation that was aimed at protecting vulnerable groups.


There were 962 317 new cases that were enrolled and 535 429 were disposed; this resulted in a positive clearance of 2.7%. There was an increase of 9.5% of cases finalised through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism. Both lower and high courts maintained high conviction rates. The High Courts had a 87.8% whilst Regional Courts had 73.4%; District Courts had 90.7%. The number of cases withdrawn decreased by 7.1% due to improved screening processes. In terms of criminal cases, District Courts finalised 420 607 cases consisting of 292 648 verdict cases and 129 959 the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism cases. Regional Courts finalised 39 197 cases comprising 37 310 verdict cases and 1887 the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism cases. High Courts finalised 1087 cases. A total of 1050 criminal cases were finalised through trial and there were 37 cases with conviction from the regional courts were transferred to the High Court for sentencing.
During the period under review there has been a major increase in trials and judgments on civil courts across the country. The Performance of the Master of the High Court was that all 402 magistrate offices have been designated as service points of the Master of the High Court. The Master’s Office have complied with the turnaround times: 93% of beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Fund received payments within 40 days; 99.8% of estates below R125 000 were finalised within 4 months and 99.3% of estate files larger than R125 00 were finalised within 12 months. The Family Advocate handled 10640 new cases and finalised 9074 cases. There were 5046 outstanding cases. A number of initiatives were undertaken to improve the delivery of services within the maintenance and domestic violence area.

The achievements for Programme 1: Administration were that the internal audit unit succeeded in implementing 96% of approved audit plans; 29 staff awareness raising sessions on fraud and corruption were conducted; the Integrated Case Management System was rolled out to 478 lower courts and 12 High Courts. During the period under review 62.5% of new presidential hotline enquiries were finalised. The vacancy rate was reduced to 9.8% against the target of 10%. The following were achieved for Programme 2: Courts Services – 64% of family cases involving children’s matters were finalised during the period under review against the target of 50%; 60% of the identified interventions of the 7-point plan of the criminal justice system were finalised; backlog cases removed increased to 15 403 and the Office of the Chief Justice was capacitated with the appointment of 5 key staff members. Under Programme 3: State Legal Services. The achievements were that with respect to the Master’s services; 93% of beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Fund received payments within 40 days; 99.8% of estates below R125 000 were finalised within 4 months and 99.3% of estate files larger than R125 00 were finalised within 12 months. 69% of the value of counsel briefs were awarded to previously disadvantaged individuals and firms. Of the 2210 cases finalised, 757 were won, 659 lost, and 794 were settled.

The overall percentage of expenditure of the Department was 98.9%. It had underspent by R89 million. The reason why the Department had underspent was that R40.036 million for the Integrated Justice System had already been earmarked and R44.63 million was suspended for the PPP Money in Trusts. It should be noted that earmarked funding cannot be utilised for other purposes as prescribed in the Public Finance Management Act. 97.4% of the budget was spent on Goods and Services and there was an increased capital spending of R542 million against an originally approved budget of R479.7 million. The audit outcome from the Auditor General was that the Department of Justice and Constitutional received unqualified audits for the Guardian’s Fund, President’s Fund, and Criminal Assets Recovery Account. This resulted in the Department receiving a qualification.
The Committee queried the 2.7% positive clearance for new incoming and disposed cases. The Committee pointed out that only 3 of the 15 Bills that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had reflected in the Annual Report had been tabled before Parliament. The Committee wanted to inquire about the status of the Traditional Courts Bill and the Chairperson undertook to meet with the House Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the Chairperson of the National Council Of Provinces and impress upon them the importance of the legislation. The Committee discussed at length the issue of the Acting Regional Court manager in Bloemfontein and the current incumbent who went to his office and did no work.

 

Members asked about the 2.7% positive clearance and how the Department arrived at this figure. In addition, they queried about the status of the Traditional Courts Bill, Muslim Marriages Bill and the Regional Court manager in Bloemfontein. Other matters pertaining to the training of magistrates, the increase in civil litigation in Gauteng and the Western Cape, vacancy rates, the decrease in the number of finalised criminal cases and leased premises were also raised during the engagement.

Meeting report

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development 2010/2011 Annual Report Presentation
Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, Director-General (DG), Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD), informed the Committee that the Department had several challenges which would be highlighted during the presentation. One of the challenges was the Information Technology (IT) division which was underfunded. The IT department was technically challenged and there was a lack of skills. One of the senior managers was not well and there was a need to augment her position. The Department had received an allocation if R100 million towards IT for the past financial year. The only progress that the Department had made this far was to fill two positions with relatively skilled and technical competent personnel. The Department had done exceptionally well with regards to Third Party Funds. It was now able to account for the fund in a manner that was acceptable to Treasury. The financial statement for the Guardian Fund was finalised last year and a final decision on its suitability was awaited. The Department was qualified in two areas only; this was the Third Party Funds and irregular expenditure. Last year the Department had reported that irregular expenditure had amounted to R680 million as a result of non-compliance with the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA). The Department had opted instead to use the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act which resulted in an incorrect figure of R680 million, the Department spent the whole year trying to figure out the correct figure for the irregular expenditure. The Department eventually arrived at a figure of R3.6 billion and had to sit down with Treasury, internal and external auditors, the Audit Committee as well as the Office of the Auditor General (AG) in order to reduce the figure to R3.2 billion. The Department then applied for a condemnation which it received. The Department had received a qualified audit rating as a result of the irregular expenditure.
The Department took the issue of the qualified audit seriously and had already worked on beefing up its capacity at a regional level; training manuals have been developed around the Third Party Funds and officials have been trained to identify what the problems and implement solutions. The Department was having difficulty with its record keeping and it was planning to address this issue. The Department now had two Executive Committee (ExCo) meetings; one looked at administrative issues and the other considered matters related to performance. The strategy unit’s task this year was to look for supporting information particularly with regards to court services where the Department was struggling. For the current financial year security, infrastructure and IT remained key challenges security; infrastructure and IT remained key challenges.

Dr Kgotso De Wee, Chief Operations Officer (COO), DOJ&CD) informed the Committee that the Department had an audit action plan which aimed to address the issues that resulted in the Department being qualified. Performance information was a new initiative and the Department had two Directors as well as a Chief Director in this area. The Department also had policies and procedures that assisted in the management of performance information. The Department also had an electronic performance management system. There was a risk management system; there was an increase in focus on performance management. Every fortnight there were performance reports that were given to the DG for the purposes of the implementation of the strategic and annual plan. 15 of the 90 branch courts were re-designated to be full service courts in order to bring access to justice closer to the ground. A number of initiatives had been undertaken such as the seven point plan. Case backlogs were reduced through coordinated efforts by the Justice Crime Prevention and Security cluster. The Department had worked together with the other departments in the JCPS cluster to deliver legislation that was aimed at protecting vulnerable groups. The Restorative Justice National Policy Framework was developed and approved by the DG’s of the JCPS cluster. Four new court buildings were built as part of the Department’s service delivery plan. 17026 cases were removed from backlog programme.

There were 962 317 new cases that were enrolled and 535 429 were disposed; this resulted in a positive clearance of 2.7%. There was an increase of 9.5% of cases finalised through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism (ADRM). Both lower and high courts maintained high conviction rates. The High Courts had achieved 87.8% whilst Regional Courts attained 73.4% and District Courts 90.7%. The number of cases withdrawn decreased by 7.1% due to improved screening processes. In terms of criminal cases, District Courts finalised 420 607 cases consisting of 292 648 verdict cases and 129 959 ADRM cases. Regional Courts finalised 39 197 cases comprising 37 310 verdict cases and 1887 ARDM cases. High Courts finalised 1087 cases. A total of 1050 criminal cases were finalised through trial and there were 37 cases with conviction from the regional courts were transferred to the High Court for sentencing. During the period under review there had been a major increase in trials and judgments on civil courts across the country. To address this issue, 26 new Small Claims Courts and Advisory Boards were established; 17 inactive Small Claims Courts and 16 inactive Advisory Boards were revived; 229 Commissioners and 217 advisory board members were appointed and 104 Commissioners and potential Commissioners were trained.  There has been a reduction in the number of old cases in the Small Claims Courts particularly in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng. During the 2009/10financial year there were 100 127 old cases and in 2010/11 financial year there were 60 435.

The Performance of the Master of the High Court was that all 402 magistrate offices had been designated as service points of the Master of the High Court. The Master’s Office had complied with the turnaround times: 93% of beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Fund received payments within 40 days; 99.8% of estates below R125 000 were finalised within 4 months and 99.3% of estate files larger than R125 00 were finalised within 12 months. The Family Advocate handled 10 640 new cases and finalised 9 074 cases. There were 5 046 outstanding cases. A number of initiatives were undertaken to improve the delivery of services within the maintenance and domestic violence area. These were: 27 additional maintenance investigators; there was specialise training for 270 maintenance officers; Transunion Credit Bureau training was conducted in 4 provinces and the  Integrated Court Management System (ICMS) was developed and piloted in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. Maintenance statistics showed that there was an increased awareness of maintenance service as there were 33% more enquiries. There was also an increase in compliance with court orders as there was a 33% increase in payments through emolument. 

The achievements for Programme 1: Administration were that the internal audit unit succeeded in implementing 96% of approved audit plans; 29 staff awareness raising sessions on fraud and corruption were conducted; the ICMS was rolled out to 478 lower courts and 12 High Courts. During the period under review 62.5% of new presidential hotline enquiries were finalised. The vacancy rate was reduced to 9.8% against the target of 10%. The challenges were that 40% of disciplinary cases and only 48% of grievances were finalised against a target of 60% and 70% respectively. The Department received a qualification however it has put a plan in place to address this. The Department had a major challenge regarding the quality of performance information. Some of the initiatives that have been undertaken to ensure a better audit outcome was the implementation of an electronic performance management system and the implementation of policies and procedures to assist with effective management of performance information. A further challenge was that only 8 of the outstanding 875 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) beneficiaries were paid during the period under review; to address this an action plan has been put together to finalise the cases as well as the TRC Regulations within the next two financial year periods. Already this week 198 TRC beneficiaries have been paid, this was because the Department was relying on its regional offices as opposed to independent tracers.

The following were achieved for Programme 2: Courts Services – 64% of family cases involving children’s matters were finalised during the period under review against the target of 50%; 60% of the identified interventions of the 7-point plan of the criminal justice system were finalised; backlog cases removed increased to 15 403 and the Office of the Chief Justice was capacitated with the appointment of 5 key staff members. The Department still experienced challenges in the finalisation of criminal cases as there was no increase in the number of finalised cases from the lower courts. This matter was being discussed in the JCPS cluster. 

Programme 3: State Legal Services. The achievements were that with respect to the Master’s services; 93% of beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Fund received payments within 40 days; 99.8% of estates below R125 000 were finalised within 4 months and 99.3% of estate files larger than R125 00 were finalised within 12 months. 69% of the value of counsel briefs were awarded to previously disadvantaged individuals and firms. Of the 2210 cases finalised, 757 were won, 659 lost, and 794 were settled. There were 15 Bills drafted for further deliberations in Parliament against the target of 12. The Department had received funding to the value of 25 million Euros from the European Union (EU) in support of participatory democracy and promotion of human rights. The Department has capacitated 183 community based organisations; there were 18 community advice centres that were established and 10 413 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants were assisted. The challenges were that legal costs for the Department increased by 9%, and 60% of legal opinions were finalised within 21 days.

Financial Report
Mr Johan Johnson, Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the DoJ&CD said that said that the overall percentage of expenditure of the Department was 98.9%. It had underspent by R89 million. The reason why the Department had underspent was that R40.036 million for the Integrated Justice System (IJS) had already been earmarked and R44.63 million was suspended for the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Money in Trusts. It should be noted that earmarked funding cannot be utilised for other purposes as prescribed in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). 97.4% of the budget was spent on Goods and Services and there was an increased capital spending of R542 million against an originally approved budget of R479.7 million. The audit outcome from the AG was that the Department received unqualified audits for the Guardian’s Fund, President’s Fund, and Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA). This resulted in the Department receiving a qualification. The reasons for the qualification as already explained by the DG were for the Third Party Funds as well as irregular expenditure to the tune of R81 million. To avoid another qualification the Department had undertaken a number of initiatives which included comprehensive National Audit Action Plans, the establishment of an Internal Control Component for expenditure assessments; the addition of more human resource in supply chain and asset management; task teams were deployed at regional level to train officials in complying with asset management requirements, irregular expenditure and supply chain management practices. Furthermore the Department had made monthly progress reporting to the Executive a requirement and the preparation for quarterly financial statements would be reviewed by a senior manager at financial reporting services.

To address the qualification for the Third Party Funds the Department has concluded a skills assessment for 249 officials; it has launched a training programme in all regions; there was a systems review that would advise on the future operating model of the Third Party Fund.

Discussion
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) queried the 2.7% positive clearance and how the Department arrived at this figure.


Adv Simon Jiyane, Deputy Director General (DDG) for Court Services, DOJ&CD, replied that the figure only took into consideration incoming cases for the financial year; the cases that were disposed were from this figure as well.

Mr Jeffery said that if there was a positive ratio then one would have more cases disposed than ones that came in so that the backlog was reduced. Just over half of the cases were cleared and the 2.7% was confusing. On the issue of drafted Bills, was the target reflected for drafting or introduction before Parliament.

Adv Jiyane clarified that the actual figure for disposed cases was 988 451, the Department had made an error.

Ms Sindane said that the target was for purposes of drafting but it did include introduced Bills.

Mr Jeffery said that in terms of introduction there were only 3 Bills and not 15 as stated.

The Chairperson said that he now understood the error referred to by Adv Jiyane and commended the Department on the improved figure.

Adv S Holomisa (ANC) referred to page 28 of the full Annual Report and asked how the Department was planning on overcoming the challenge of having to establish an interim mechanism to address requests for conferment of traditional leaders to exercise judicial functions whilst the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) was awaited. What was the current status of the Muslim Marriages Bill? Why was the LLB requirement removed for purposes of making appointments for magisterial officers?  Why was there an increase in civil litigation in Gauteng and the Western Cape? The Committee had been informed that ‘402 magistrate offices have been designated as service points of the Master of the High Court’, was this not always the case? Were the win/lose figures for cases that were given to attorneys and firms from previously disadvantaged backgrounds an indication of an improvement of the quality of service received, what was the point of these figures?

Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that the Committee appreciated the Department’s efforts on the Third Party Fund. The Committee also had to take not of the fact that there was a decreased in the number of finalised criminal cases. Civil litigation had a high amount of R7.4 billion on page 74, was this just the Department or was it the entire state. At what point were civil cases against the state finalised? There was a problem with the Regional Court manager in Bloemfontein where the Committee had had an oversight visit, there was an acting Regional Court manager who was also the Regional Court manager in Kimberley who did excellent work whilst the Bloemfontein Regional Court manager who was due to retire did no work at all, could there be an explanation for this. The Committee was always being told that the JCPS cluster was always in communication yet the Committee found out in Bloemfontein that the police chief and correctional services chief were not talking to each other die to personality clashes. The High Court in Bloemfontein looked like a magistrate’s court such was the state that it was in, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) however was very impressive.

Mr Jeffery asked at what stage was the TCB in the parliamentary process? What was the Department doing to correct problems where in some courts audio equipment to record proceedings were not working at all? When was the Bill going to be introduced? The Committee was aware that the Department worked hard and put a lot of effort in ensuring that a large Department such as this worked efficiently. Why has the training for Magistrates not been conducted for the purposes of adjudication Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), which was an Act of Parliament passed 10 years ago?  Where was the accountability with regards to a number of disputes between the Department and Public Works on leased premises? There was one building in Gauteng which was meant for the Department and the premises had been renovated for quite a sum of money, there was now a dispute and Public Works was not paying the amount as the lease period was only for two years and in such a an instance renovations beyond a certain amount were not allowed according to the rules. What action was being taken against officials for these things? Who was responsible for the debacle on the Salu Building and how much has been lost?  He Committee was not impressed on the quality of the agreements with Iran and the official who presented had merely stated that they had done a cut and paste from a previous agreement with Egypt. What would be done to improve the management of international agreements? The Department has left out information on its vacancy rate; it had to provide regular reports to the Committee on this aspect? The Department should take responsibility for the maintenance of its buildings instead of having Public Works do this; the quality of court infrastructure would improve immensely?

Mr Jacob Skosana, Head of Policy, DoJ&CD, replied that the TCB would be introduced at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) by a Member of that House as the Constitution did not allow for an external person to introduce a NCOP Bill.  The Ministers of Justice and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs were yet to meet and decide which incumbent would take over all operational and administrative issues of the TCB. 

The Chairperson added that he would take the initiative and meet with the House Chairperson of the NCOP and the Chairperson of the NCOP and impress upon them the importance of the TCB, the only thing that was outstanding was for a Member of the NCOP to formally table the Bill.

Mr Skosana continued to say that the reason why there was a moratorium on all conferments with regards to the appointment of traditional leaders was that the existing legislation was outdated. There was the expectation that once the TCB was accelerated there would be conferments made with contemporary legislation that took into consideration South Africa’s (SA) Constitution. There was a need for the judiciary to take the lead in terms of case management; this would assist the department in adequately developing a management system for civil cases.

Advocate Jiyane explained that Gauteng and the Western Cape had the highest civil cases as they had the most economic activity. The Regional Court Manager in Bloemfontein who was due to retire had requested to be placed on leave before he retired as he had accumulated a large number of days. The Department had then requested the Regional Court manager in Kimberley to step in whilst a suitable candidate was being sought. Interviews have already been conducted.

Mr Jeffery said that this was not correct as the Committee was told by officials during its oversight visit that the Regional Court manager in Bloemfontein went to work, sat in his office and did nothing. He was due to retire in March next year but there were problems with his leave application. When did the interviews take place and why was this not finalised by now?

Dr De Wee said that Mr Makula who was the Regional Court manager approached the Department of his own accord and said that he was 64 years and approaching retirement; he requested if he could retire in Limpopo. In order to retire in Limpopo Mr Makula requested if he could go on long leave via an application to the DG. The DG granted this request. Mr Makula then changed his mind and requested that the DG should rescind her application. Mr Isaacs was appointed to act in Mr Makula’s absence who was now in the establishment of the national office where he had labour relations work that he had to do. The Department has conducted interviews however the matter has not been concluded because there were grievances by two officials from the same office.

Mr Jeffery said that the Committee was told that Mr Makola continued to go to his office and had nothing to do as there was an acting appointment. Mr Isaacs was now serving two geographically large courts. The Committee had to get a report on this matter. It should be noted that Mr Isaacs never raised any issues on this matter.

The Chairperson said that he was worried about Mr Isaacs as he seemed under a lot of stress and pressure. Could the Department enquire if any assistance could be rendered to Mr Isaacs.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would re-convene after lunch.

The remainder will be added later.


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