The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development presented Strategic and Annual Performance Plans including and the Budget and Expenditure Report. It was outlined that there were three Programmes of significance, these were Programme 1: Administration; Programme 2: Court Services and Programme 3: State Legal Services.
Programme 1: Administration
One of the three key objectives of the Department was to achieve a no audit qualification for the 2012/13 financial year. To achieve a clean audit the Department had an audit action plan with all findings tracked and monitored monthly; the remaining Third Party Funds challenges would be addressed and processes for detecting irregular expenditure would be improved. The Department has adopted a three pronged strategy to fight corruption namely staff awareness, improved finalisation of cases and vetting of key staff members. During 2011/12 there were 11 new fraud investigators were employed to assist with investigations; over 30 fraud and corruption workshops were held and 24 officials went through the disciplinary process as a result of finalised cases and 6 people were arrested and there were 14 dismissals from one case. To improve safety and security at service points the Department completed 50 security infrastructure projects financial year in different courts in the last financial year. In 2011/12 the Integrated Court Management Systems was deployed to 402 magistrate offices to deal with deceased estates. R100 million has been allocated towards Information Communication Technology infrastructure for 2012/13. The Department aimed to finalise outstanding Truth and Reconciliation Commission reparations. During the 2011/12 financial year 412 individual reparations per were paid and there were 463 outstanding cases.
Programme 2: Court Services
The case backlog reduction intervention, which was aimed at reducing the number of backlog cases in the regional and district courts, has provided additional capacity to the backlog priority sites. From the inception of the backlog reduction intervention in November 2006 until the end of February 2012, rolls 57 331 criminal cases were removed from the Regional and District court rolls. The major challenge facing the Department was to address the historical imbalances relating to court infrastructure. The challenges that the Department faced in providing court infrastructure was the escalation of infrastructure costs above inflation, resulting in cash flow for building new courts being insufficient; balancing the need for additional courts with the maintenance and accessibility programmes of existing courts; current infrastructure was not maintained at the correct levels. In 2011/12 three courts were under construction, one has been completed whilst the others would be completed in 2012/13. The Department had plans to convert five branch courts to full service courts and establish 24 new small claims courts. R88.2 million has been allocated for Repair and Maintenance Programme for the 2012/13 financial year. Up to five courts per province have been identified for the Repair and Maintenance Programme. R180 million has been allocated for property leases for 2012/13.
In 2011/12 a three year turnaround strategy for maintenance services was initiated. The initiatives undertaken for 2011/12 included a business process re-engineering pilot; appointment and training of maintenance officers and localised payment of Electronic Funds Transfer payments. In terms of Third Party Funds the Department has completed the following key activities: targeted training on Third Party Funds, 57 financially qualified staff have been appointed to assist with the management of Third Party Funds at courts; external auditors have been taken through the new accounting framework and the annul financial statements and submission to the Auditor General . Currently there were 185 000 people who received payments via Electronic Funds Transfer and 85 000 beneficiaries in 94 courts were on the direct Electronic Funds Transfer payment at court level. During the 2011/12 financial year the National Register for Sexual Offences registered 114 electronic submissions and 41 annual submissions. In the 2012/13 year, the Department aimed to grow the proportion of electronic submissions to 78%. The Department of Justice & Constitutional Development had a mandate to capacitate the Office of the Chief Justice, appropriate memoranda of understanding and protocols between the two institutions were being put in place. The Department has seconded a number of officials to the Office of the Chief Justice to assist with implementation of human and financial resources.
Programme 3: State Legal Services
In support of the objective to develop legislation to further democratise society, the department plans to develop the following legislative instrument in the 2012/13 financial year: Legal Practice Bill; South African Human Right Commission Bill; Prevention and Combating of Torture Bill; Muslim Marriages Bill, Legal Aid Bill (Tabled); Determination of Remuneration of Commissioners of Chapter 9 Institutions Amendment Bill and the Hate Speech Bill. Research Papers planned for the 2012/13 financial year included the following: Report on sexual offences: adult prostitution and the Report on legislation administered by the Department amongst others. There was a move of the masters services last year, as a result a number of challenges have been raised and successfully resolved. Both the Pietermaritzburg and
The Committee asked about the proposals for the review of the
The Committee raised concerns about the staffing for the maintenance and administration of the Information Technology Systems of the Department. A Member highlighted that there were a lot of maintenance problems for courts and at the same time the Department was undertaking huge construction projects, perhaps the Department should complete the maintenance projects first. It was expressed that the vacancy rate was quite high and this probably had an impact on service delivery. The vetting process should occur before appointments were made. The Committee inquired about the Department’s in-house litigation unit and alerted the Department that there had been concerns raised about its efficiency and legitimacy. The Committee also raised concerns on the Department’s litigation costs that were incurred whilst delivering a legal service to other organs of state, this was at R300 million as at 31 March 2011.
Presentation: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan
Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, Director General (DG) of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD), said that the Strategic Objectives and Targets were Programme 1: Administration; Programme 2: Court Services and Programme 3: State Legal Services. The administration of Chapter 8 of the Constitution was one of the constitutionally derived mandates of the DoJ&CD. In this context the Superior Courts and Constitution 17th Amendment Bills sought to make the Constitutional Court (CC) as the apex court in the Republic; harmonise the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and to provide for the establishment of a single High Court of South Africa. The Department’s rationalisation of the Lower Courts’ Programme sought to correct the old magisterial districts that were still based on the former
Some of the policy mandates included the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) delivery agreement. The Minister had an executive responsibility of coordinating and leading the JCPS cluster and the department monitored and coordinated the overall cluster strategies and activities. The transformation of the judicial system included institutional reforms to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ). The Department aimed to transform state legal services within the context of private legal services and legal services within government. The Department was due to release a discussion document on the Transformation of State Legal Services. The civil justice system was under review and intermediate legislative interventions have been implemented to address some of the pressing gaps in the lower courts. The strategic goals were as follows: Strategic Objective 1 was increased accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of the Department; Strategic Objective 2 was improved effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of justice services; Strategic Objective 3 was transformed legal services to protect and advance the interests of government and citizens and promote constitutional development and Strategic Goal 4 was for the effective coordination of the JCPS cluster in the delivery of outcome thee which was for all the people of South Africa to feel safe.
The changes in the current Strategic Plan were that 24 indicators were removed; 17 new indicators were introduced; 13 new indicators were modified in line with current campaigns such as the Presidential Hotline and communication campaign; 27 indicators from the previous year were retained. In terms of policy indicators the affected indicators were: the National Action Plan; the number of completed activities for the development of a policy framework for hate crimes, biannual reports on the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) compliance by government departments completed within stipulated turnaround time. The affected policy frameworks were: Policy Framework on the transformation of the Judiciary; Policy Framework on the alignment of Traditional Courts with the Constitution and Policy Framework on the Transformation of the Legal Profession. Efforts had been made to include more core-function and service delivery indicators. Therefore less support indicators have been included. The following indicators still remained: percentage of courts with case management systems in line with departmental priorities; number of priority courts improved through the Repair and Maintenance Programme (RAMP). The budget for the Department had been reduced over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. The areas that had been affected were security in service points; increasing the number of facilities to improve access to justice; infrastructure support for other stakeholders; increased capacity and Information Technology (IT).
Programme 1: Administration
One of the three key objectives of the department was to achieve a no audit qualification for the 2012/13 financial year. To achieve a clean audit the Department had an audit action plan with all findings tracked and monitored monthly. The remaining Third Party Funds challenges would be addressed and processes for detecting irregular expenditure would be improved. The Department had adopted a three pronged strategy to fight corruption namely staff awareness, improved finalisation of cases and vetting of key staff members. During 2011/12, 11 new fraud investigators were employed to assist with investigations; over 30 fraud and corruption workshops were held and 24 officials went through disciplinary processes as a result of finalised cases and 6 people were arrested and there were 14 dismissals from one case. To improve safety and security at service points the Department completed 50 security infrastructure projects financial year in different courts in the last financial year. In 2011/12 the Integrated Court Management Systems was deployed to 402 magistrate offices to deal with deceased estates. R100 million had been allocated towards Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure for 2012/13. The Department aimed to finalise the outstanding Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reparations. During the 2011/12 financial year 412 individual reparations per were paid and there were 463 outstanding cases.
Programme 2: Court Services
The case backlog reduction intervention, which was aimed at reducing the number of backlog cases in the regional and district courts, had provided additional capacity to the backlog priority sites. From the inception of the backlog reduction intervention in November 2006 until the end of February 2012, rolls 57 331 criminal cases were removed from the Regional and District court rolls. The major challenge facing the Department was to address the historical imbalances relating to court infrastructure. The challenges that the Department faced in providing court infrastructure was the escalation of infrastructure costs above inflation, resulting in cash flow for building new courts being insufficient; balancing the need for additional courts with the maintenance and accessibility programmes of existing courts; current infrastructure was not maintained at the correct levels. In 2011/12 three courts were under construction, one had been completed whilst the others would be completed in 2012/13. The Department had plans to convert five branch courts to full service courts and establish 24 new small claims courts. R88.2 million had been allocated for RAMP for the 2012/13 financial year. Up to five courts per province have been identified for RAMP. R180 million had been allocated for property leases for 2012/13.
In 2011/12 a three year turnaround strategy for maintenance services was initiated. The initiatives undertaken for 2011/12 included a business process re-engineering pilot; appointment and training of maintenance officers and localised payment of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) payments. In terms of Third Party Funds the Department had completed the following key activities: targeted training on Third Party Funds, 57 financially qualified staff had been appointed to assist with the management of Third Party Funds at courts; external auditors had been taken through the new accounting framework and the annul financial statements and submission to the Auditor General (AG). Currently there were 185 000 people who received payments via EFT and 85 000 beneficiaries in 94 courts were on the direct EFT payment at court level. During the 2011/12 financial year the National Register for Sexual Offences (NRSO) registered 114 electronic submissions and 41 annual submissions. In the 2012/13 year, the Department aimed to grow the proportion of electronic submissions to 78%. The DoJ&CD had a mandate to capacitate the OCJ, appropriate memoranda of understanding and protocols between the two institutions were being put in place. The Department had seconded a number of officials to the OCJ to assist with implementation of human and financial resources.
Programme 3: State Legal Services
In support of the objective to develop legislation to further democratise society, the department planned to develop the following legislative instrument in the 2012/13 financial year: Legal Practice Bill; South African Human Right Commission Bill; Prevention and Combating of Torture Bill; Muslim Marriages Bill, Legal Aid Bill (Tabled); Determination of Remuneration of Commissioners of Chapter 9 Institutions Amendment Bill and the Hate Speech Bill. Research Papers planned for the 2012/13 financial year included the following: Report on sexual offences: adult prostitution and the Report on legislation administered by the Department amongst others. There was a move of the Masters services last year, as a result a number of challenges had been raised and successfully resolved. Both the Pietermaritzburg and
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked what was the status of the discussion document on the Constitutional Court (CC), what was the costing of this and where was the budget going to come from. How far was the tender process for the body that was going to do the research? The Committee had visited the SCA and there seemed to be an imbalance in funds received and amount of work done as well as the number of judges when compared to the CC. The SCA had a R5 million decrease in funding last year, what impact would this decrease have given that 3 more judges had been added? There was also a huge problem with the South Gauteng High Court with judges having complained during the Committee’s oversight visit that transcribers and ushers were late. One of the major complaints was disciplinary action against staff members where they would be arrested on the premises of the court for criminal conduct only for them to be back at work a few days later.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) suggested that the South Gauteng High Court issue as well as other issues arising from the Committee’s oversight visits should be discussed later and the presentation should be interrogated for now.
Mr Swart agreed and moved on to say that there were huge problems at the magistrates court in Botshabelo and in 2010 there was a total collapse. There was a team of five officials sent there to clean up the court and since then things had been better. The concern was that at the end of April the five officials were going to move away, the concern was what would happen then. Botshabelo was a success story, was there anything in place to maintain the good work that had been done? As at 31 March 2011 unpaid advocates fees for the Department from other state departments were at R300 million, what was the collection rate looking like at the moment? What was the status of the in house litigation unit, there had been complaints from the state attorneys who thought that this unit was ineffective and the General Council of the Bar (GCB) also complained about the status of the unit. There was an amount of R150 million that had been spent on this unit and this begged the question on what their success rate was in terms of cases and was there a cost saving and had the concerns been addressed?
Ms D Schäfer (DA) asked what the role of the Department would be on the issue of the review of the courts. There was an increase in the Department’s budget due to the appointment of more magistrates and more judges, what was the Department doing about complaints about magistrates’ salaries? What was the Department able to do about the lack of space for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)? The budget for capacity for the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) had been reduced, why? There were huge problems regarding staffing at the Magistrates’ Commission (MC) which had a huge burden, what was being done budget wise? In so far as the maintenance was concerned it was good to see that the Department had a turnaround strategy, however if there were staff who did not care or have sufficient level of knowledge on maintenance law strategies would be rendered ineffective. Officials did not know how to help people, or if they did then they did not apply the right law or remedies and people waited year after year. What was the Department doing on training for maintenance officers? The NRSO had been a problem, how did a member of the public access it?
The figure of 114 for captured data was insufficient during a financial period, what was the Department doing to improve on this?
Mr Jeffery said that he was worried that there were problems which did not seem to be resolved. The Committee had seen some of the problems during its oversight visits, there were endless complaints from staff about air conditioning. There was a report about one of the judges of the SCA complaining about one of the air conditioners not working from the end of last year, there were also problems in the High Court in Durban relating to the air conditioning and judges’ and public toilets. There seemed to be a problem with that there was nobody who was responsible, the judge had said that the court manager could not do much, the regional head seemed to regard the SCA as being at the same level as a magistrate court. A strategy would have to be put in place as judicial officers did not know where to go, it was not correct for judges to have to complain to Members of Parliament (MP). Had the issue of the regional head in the Northern Cape (NC) been resolved because previously you had the regional head in the
Ms M Smuts (DA) said that the Chief State Law Adviser was based in
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) said that there were a lot of maintenance problems for courts and at the same time the Department was undertaking huge construction projects, perhaps the Department should complete the maintenance projects first. There had to be improvement for maintenance payments and the staff who were responsible for this. There were a number of statutes where compliance especially with constitutional requirements was a problem, what was being done about this? Indicators had to be measurable and some of the Department’s were not for example number of communication activities implemented. The Department should focus on the risk assessment reports and internal audits. The vacancy rate was quite high and this probably had an impact on service delivery. The vetting process should occur before appointments were made. The issue of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NPA reporting to the DG of the Department and National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) was an issue that had to be looked at.
Ms L Adams (COPE) referred to the 28 established community based centres on page 50 and asked for examples. Was there a strategy to inform community members on the work done by the Department within these communities? Where were the statistics of finalised cases within the lower courts? The phone at the
Mr Johan Johnson Acting Chief Financial Officer from the DoJ&CD replied that the structure of the SCA was different from that of the CC which funded different additional activities just as judicial education etc. The personnel for the two courts were also different. The SCA also did not have a lot of capacity to spend any additional money that would be allocated to it.
Mr Jeffery asked what was the SCA not spending, when the Committee visited the court it discovered that it did not have proper library facilities, leakages, air conditioning and it did not have an adequate IT infrastructure.
Mr Johnson replied that the audited financial spending for 2010/11 of the SCA was R13.5 million. During this financial year the Department had given the SCA an additional R5.5 million to assist the court. What would be the point of giving the SCA more money if it could not spend it?
Mr Jeffery interjected and requested expenditure for the SCA during the last few years so that the Committee could ascertain in which categories they were not spending in
Mr Johnson replied that the funding for the SIU was its own prerogative and it negotiated independently with Treasury. The SIU would present to the Committee itself. The Department was a conduit that passed the funding to the SIU.
Ms Sindane said that the interventions in Botshabelo were done because there was a dire need for them. The intervention was assessed and before pulling away the Department would determine whether there would be sustainability should the team be pulled away and it would conduct a regular review. The issue in Botshabelo was a high priority and the Department would make regular report backs if needed by the Committee. The Department had presented in the past to the Committee on how training manuals were developed with regards to the Third Party Fund. The Department also developed standard operating procedures, considerable training had been conducted prior to and after a maintenance order has been issued. In addition more maintenance investigators have been appointed. Going into this current financial year there would be 233 maintenance officers. One of the ways of ensuring that the work on the ground was being done properly was through unannounced visits and the Deputy Minister did this quite well. There was a legal opinion to the effect that the legitimacy of the in house litigation unit at the Department was not illegal or unethical. Given that there were challenges with how the in house counsel was constituted as well as both their expectations of the Department and the Department’s expectations of them, there were discussions to the effect that the unit would be unrolled and its members would be re-deployed. The response on how much had been spent on the unit would be furnished in writing.
Ms Kalayvani Pillay, Chief Litigation Officer of the DoJ&CD said that there was a unit that resided in the CFO’s office that was responsible for collecting the Department’s attorney fees from other state departments. Within a short space of time R30 million was collected and updates would be furnished to the Committee in the form of a written report.
The Chairperson said that the written report had to include the organ of state involved and the amount of money that was involved.
Mr Swart said that if the figure as at 31 March 2011 was R300 million and only 10% had been recovered and a year later there were more costs incurred then there was a problem. There had to be a way of recovering the money from a month to month basis.
Ms Sindane said that she was writing letters monthly and there were payments made particularly from Home Affairs who were paying more often. The main issue was the Department having to spend its own money to do the work before it received payment. The Department was not entitled to the fund and even if it was paid in full the Department would not have access to it. On the issue of funding for the MC the Department facilitated the issue between members of the magistracy and the MC because the Department no longer administratively oversaw magistrates. The Department was aware that there had been complaints around the remuneration of magistrates. The Department agreed that there were serious infrastructure challenges for the NPA and they were not ideal. This fell under the Department’s infrastructural prerogative. The capacity of the MC did require a review and the Department had been in engagements with the Commission however the Department could not re-route funds at this present time. The NSRO was ongoing work; the Department would concede that it has not raised enough public awareness on how to access the register. Part of the communication campaign would include raising awareness on the NSRO. Since the inception of the NSRO there was an excess of 1400 words.
Ms Schäfer asked how one accessed the register.
Ms Sindane replied that one accessed the NSRO via writing to the Registrar. A person would have to provide the name of the person they wanted to have checked.
Mr Lawrence Basset, Chief Director (CD) for Legislative Development in the DoJ&CD said that there was a form in the Regulations of the Sexual Offences Act that had to be filled in which also set out what had to be included in the form.
The Chairperson asked if all the people mentioned in the Act were aware of the Act. Was there a method of informing everybody concerned of what was set out in the Regulations?
Mr Bassett said that this was something that had to be communicated as per the DG’s reply.
Ms Schäfer asked why there were two registers.
Mr Bassett replied that it was Parliament’s decision and at the time the two pieces of legislation were being developed at the same time, it had been conceded that it would make more rational sense to have a single register.
Ms Tshilidzi Ramanyimi, Chief Director: Infrastrucure, DoJ&CD, said that the problems relating to the air conditioning at the SCA was due to a problem that arose between Public Works and the contractor. The problem had been resolved and the air conditioners had been serviced. The problem with the infrastructure was that most of the buildings were very old as well as the equipment, this had been building up especially because there had been additional burdening through IT infrastructure as well as additional staff. The Department had been trying to strike a balance between upgrading or having a total overhaul and building anew. This had to be done on the Department’s limited budget. The Department had decided to provide new services rather than upgrading. The Department was aware of the issue at the Durban High Court but this was part of the backlog. An overhaul would require R55 million for this financial year. The backlog meant that the Department could not afford a total overhaul and applied the bandage solution. The Department would continue to seek additional funding to address the problem. The backlog was at 25 courts that the Department had to build. The Committee should note that even if there was funding the question of capacity to spend that money would still be an issue.
Mr Jeffery said that the report had been useful however the problem was that there was no clear line of people tasked with the responsibility of tendering to issues like a broken air conditioners. There was a need for people to be responsible for buildings accommodating justice officials. Magistrates, prosecutors and judges had to know who was responsible for the buildings that they were in. The report on
Ms Schäfer asked if there was a proper maintenance plan that was long term.
Ms Ramanyimi said that the Department admitted that there were shortfalls in the planning and balance allocations. The Department was trying to put more money into planning because with the current old infrastructure one could not carry out maintenance on infrastructure that had been neglected. The planning entailed designing, professional fees and the acquisition of size for adequate accommodation.
Ms Sindane added that it was true that there was no plan that was supported by everybody on the ground. There was a problem with coordination where daily maintenance was concerned. The Department would re-visit this issue.
Mr Jeffery requested something in writing to the effect of what Ms Sindane was referring to as this had been an ongoing problem for quite a while. There had to be designated persons that everybody knew were responsible for court maintenance at this and that particular court. It may be that there were people who were responsible but they pretended that they did not. It would be preferable if there was a proposed system with a line or chain of command that everybody knew about.
Dr Kgotos De Wee, Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the DoJ&CD, highlighted that things on the ground were particularly hard for the Department for example at the court in Mamelodi were makeshift rooms and people who collected maintenance either stood in the sun or the rain. It was difficult for the Department to decide to either build or maintain. The court in Bityi was a former classroom that was used as a court where accused stood next to presiding officers. This court was now being upgraded after about seven years on the waiting list.
Mr Jeffery said that he agreed with Dr De Wee however at times one went to government buildings that had just been built only to find that there was no severe need of service delivery in that area and one wondered who made the decision. It was not an either or matter but a case by case scenario.
Ms Pilane-Majake said that it was important to limit the mess and have a concrete strategy in place.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and adjourned the meeting till 14:30.
The Chairperson asked the Department to continue with its responses to the questions raised earlier by Members.
Ms Sindane stated that the Department was currently dealing with the Office of the State Law Adviser and the grievance process was addressed. There was a report from the investigating officer which raised a number of issues. She was not able to deal with these matters at this meeting because the details were not with her but the recommendations were outlined in the report. She had convened a meeting with those who were affected by the report and had handed a high summary report to each one that had been aggrieved. Subsequent to that she had given each complainant an opportunity to comment on the report- which they all did- and made a conclusion on the matter. The final decision on the report was given on the 10 December 2011 which concluded the matter.
After the recommendations were made, the Minister and the Public Service Commission were informed. The persons who were aggrieved wrote to the Minister that they were not satisfied with the outcome and the Minister wanted further clarity in order to finalise the matter. The Department complied with this request. Five of the 14 individuals that were aggrieved had applied to court not to be removed from their offices. 12 out of the 14 employees had returned to work and were working in the Office of the State Law Adviser, and two of the 14 had to be redeployed elsewhere because they were directly affected by the court application. One of them had been temporarily deployed in her office and another deployed in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer until the court case was finalised. The final conclusion to the whole saga was that people were at work and there was nobody sitting at home. There were other complaints which she was dealing with currently and was awaiting the finalisation of the court process.
The Chairperson reminded the DG that there was a question of whether the Office of the State Law Adviser was stationed in
Ms Sindane responded that the Office of the State Law Adviser was sited in
Ms Sindane noted that the Department had made progress in terms of the issues of Information Communication Technology (ICT) particularly focusing on the 7 point plan of the review of the criminal justice system. The DGs involved in the cluster received a report each month from the coordinators of the IJF Board which looked at expenditure trends, projects and plans- whether they were on track in terms of delivery of IJF projects. The Department sat twice a month to deal with operational is and reporting issues with the NPA.
Ms Sindane noted that there had been developments on the SAPS side which was the entry level of work in the criminal justice system in terms of portal capturing of information which had to be given to the Department and to be done throughout the cluster. There was a slight problem with the Department of Correctional Services which had suspended its connection with the portal system because some of its programmes were not established within the system. In a nutshell, the project IJF was within the cluster and the DGs were comfortable with it, and had not limited it to the criminal justice system. The Department of Home Affairs was involved in the project and provided access to its fingerprint database. The South African Revenue Services (SARS) assisted the Department to project manage some of its work and was grateful for this support. The Department was also bringing in the Department of Science and Technology because it had an important role to play in assisting the entire cluster.
Ms Sindane reported that the Department had a whole programme of work which identified unit persons and cases which it anticipated to complete year on year till 2014 when the system would be working within the criminal justice system.
Adv Jiyane addressed the question raised by Mr Swart about the interventions made by the Department in the magistrates courts. The Department had a team that was working there to improve the financial management services on a contractual basis. Those contracts would come to an end when the financial year terminated. For the continuation of the projects the Department allowed 3 service providers to remain behind to ensure sustainability around the interventions that had been undertaken. The leader of those projects was Mr Pretorius. He had been authorised to oversee a much broader aspect of the interventions in the magistrate courts.
As far as the sustainability of the interventions were concerned, he had personally visited the affected courts to ensure what had been started did not regress go and that the entire court management took full responsibility for financial management.
On the maintenance strategy, Adv Jiyane noted that the turn around strategy had been rolled out to about 19 courts. Previously the Department used to employ clerks to perform maintenance. This was important work and required some level of understanding of the law. As part of the intervention, the Department has appointed maintenance officers who were legally qualified persons. These officials would ensure that the legal services were performed by people who had the knowledge of the law as part of addressing the lack of information. The Department had also appointed maintenance investigators who would assist the complainants.
Adv Jiyane confirmed that capturing on the Register for Sexual Offences was done on an ongoing basis. Since 2009, the Department had recorded 2 340 convictions in terms of the new register. The second phase that was linked to the system from SAPS, there were some challenges in terms of capacity from police to give the Department that assistance but he was glad to announce that since last year the interventions of the DG and Commissioner of Police there had been some improvement in that regard. From the 31 December 2011 the Department received a purified historical data which amounted to about 39 684 convictions from the system generated by the police.
Adv. Jiyane also responded to the concern raised in terms of the digital recording system at the South Gauteng High Court that the High Courts were much better positioned in relation to the infrastructure which had been made available through the digital recording system which was part of that intervention because all the court information was captured through the system and it could be accessed when its required. The only challenge they’ve picked up was the consistency in terms of the skills required to manage those things let alone the technical problems they’ve encountered as far as the maintenance of the system. As part of intervention as far as the High Court was concern was to create what was called the IT Coordinators which supported the infrastructure they’ve made available. And there was a training that had been done to people that had been appointed to follow that specific intervention so that they could respond to it in a more eloquent manner.
The Chairperson recalled that in 2008 the Committee had been informed that the server in the South Gauteng Court was stolen. Had this been replaced? Secondly, in terms of the overhaul of that particular court a contractor called Mmella Investments was responsible for some kind of work there, and Judge J P Mojapela had complained of not being able to access records when he needed to. The Mmella Investments had scanned the files and removed them and a judge who wanted to access records could not do. This was a serious offence and was possibly unlawful.
Mr Jefferey recalled that the position of Mmella Investment was that it had to scan documents and also remove them at same time. What was the agreement between the Department and Mmella Investment? Who gave them authority to remove documents without scanning them?
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should request Mmella Investments to appear before it because Judge Mojapela was very angry when he appeared before the Committee but had contained his anger which was understandable.
Ms Smuts noted that the whole problem centred around the contract which was not properly constructed, and in most cases information was captured incorrectly and it was up to judges to make some corrections to such information.
Ms Sindane responded that she had to go back and re-look at such issues given the problems. She informed Members of another contract that the Department had with another company. This had to be terminated due to the problems it encountered.
The Chairperson requested the Departmental officials to respond in writing to some of the questions at the meeting the following day because they were pressed for time.
The meeting was adjourned.
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