The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in terms of its Medium-term Strategic Framework (MTSF), remains committed to focusing its efforts and funding to ensure the delivery of the priorities of government as set out in the DOJ’s Strategic Plan. The Annual Strategic Review for 2012/13 covers the departmental vision, mission and goals, and how the DOJ plans to achieve its medium-term objectives.
From a DOJ perspective, it will continue to provide support aimed at ensuring the efficient functioning and proper resourcing of the administration of justice, within the funding allocated. The DOJ’s priorities include strengthening the legislative framework in which the justice system operates. In this regard, it has initiated processes to finalise key legislation, including the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill, the Superior Courts Bill and the Legal Practice Bill. These endeavours are aimed at consolidating the outstanding aspects relating to judicial reform and rationalising the courts and the legal profession with a view to establishing a judicial system suited to the requirements of the Constitution.
The DOJ will prioritise service delivery in relation to its core functions. The Justice and Constitutional Development portfolio is divided into five programmes. Programme 1: Administration, deals with the management of the department and the provision of support services for an efficient administration of justice. Programme 2: Court Services entails the facilitation of the resolution of criminal, civil and family law disputes through the provisioning of accessible, efficient and quality administrative support to the courts and the management of court facilities. Programme 3: State Legal Services covers legal and legislative services that are rendered to government, as well as the supervision of the administration of deceased and insolvent estates and the registration of trusts. This programme also deals with the management of the Guardian’s Fund, as well as the preparation and promotion of legislation and the facilitation of constitutional development. Programme 4: the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prioritises the coordination of a professional prosecuting service that ensures that justice is delivered to victims of crime through general and specialised prosecutions, the removal of profit from crime through the work of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and the protection of witnesses. Programme 5: Auxiliary and Associated Services includes the provision of transferred funds to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Office of the Public Protector, Legal Aid South Africa (LASA), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the represented Political Parties’ Fund and the President’s Fund.
Members expressed concern with the slow reform of judicial infrastructure across the country and delays in the construction of a number of court buildings specifically in Limpopo and
Department of Justice & Constitutional Development (DOJ) Strategic & Annual Performance Plan
Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, DOJ Director General, said that the strategic plan of the Department was prepared in accordance with the guidelines of National Treasury. The constitutional mandates covered two areas, namely to provide an environment for the efficient and effective administration of justice and to promote constitutional development through the development of legislation and implementation of programmes that strengthened South Africa’s Constitution. The DOJ&CD would try to work with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to ensure that there were adequate programmes that strengthened
She indicated that the infrastructure and expansion of justice services was a challenge due to the fact that the escalation of infrastructure costs was above the rate of inflation. Insufficient cash flow when building courts has resulted in either postponement or severe delays with several court building projects. Presently, the DOJ could only afford to build two courts a year, and had to balance the need for additional courts against the costs of maintenance and accessibility programmes for existing courts. Increased service delivery demands required DOJ to increase in size, although it did not have the financial capacity to increase its accommodation. Thus the DOJ had to be innovative while exploring alternative funding methods although this again has been problematic as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.
Ms Sindane then noted that the DOJ had four key strategic goals. The first goal was to increase the accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of the DOJ, which was linked to Programme 1: Administration. The second strategic goal was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery of justice linked to Programme 2: Court Services. The third strategic goal was to transform legal services in order to protect and advance the interests of the government and citizenry, which was linked to Programme 3. Strategic goal four was the effective coordination of the JCPS cluster.
She identified key priority areas: ensuring unqualified audits, improved delivery in maintenance services, and the improved delivery of services of the Masters of the High Court. The DOJ aimed to increase the percentage of payments for the outstanding Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) cases, and it had education and health regulations in place for TRC victims. She related that the DOJ was dealing with a lot of cybercrime and identity theft. Furthermore she highlighted that the track record on addressing structural issues was poor but that the policy framework unveiled by the Minister on 21 May sought to consolidate internal structures and improve efficiency. She expanded into personnel working at courts with a focus on supply chain management (SCM) staff and interpreters, reason being that SCM is fundamental to the improvement of skills. Specific mention was made of the requirement to improve financial management in order to really turn the corner at DOJ.
The problem of resource constraints, which has led to an uneven rollout of service standards had been limited to specific courts only. The DOJ faced challenges in accounting practices for irregular expenditure although this situation has begun to be alleviated after improvements to monitoring. Much effort has be placed on third party funds with enhanced accountability for funds governing maintenance and upkeep which led National Treasury to finally allow a new accounting regime enabling DOJ to submit financial statements after a period where this was simply not possible.
Ms Sindane spoke about the payment of maintenance to persons living in rural areas and the improvements to internal DOJ controls, which have been critical in terms of service delivery. Previously payments would be processed locally and then sent back to DOJ so it would take 10-15 days to receive payments. Now there is a more decentralized process resulting in very short turnaround times of 24-48 hours to pay out maintenance money although this service has yet to be rolled out across the country.
Another important area that remains a threat to business is ICT infrastructure, which had seen under investment for a lengthy period after the return to democracy in 1994, and as a result the country is now paying the price for this past lack of investment. Hence there is a deep need to quickly move forward and catch up with ICT security threats at DOJ.
In terms of recruitment of new judges, prosecutors and other staff, delays have been related to an inability to locate qualified/trained people for specific roles, thus in many cases contracted work or outsourcing has been used to fill vacancies. In a similar vein, although the Justice College is active in this area there was a need for better-trained staff and increased access to educational courses as DOJ sees itself as a learning organization. Further, due to an influx of grievances and unfinished cases in 2010, there has been a marked improvement in dealing with this specific issue.
The strain on infrastructure in terms of office space particularly at HQ has finally started to be addressed. And some sections of HQ were moved to a new location to allow for increased personnel hiring. R22 million has been allocated to filling certain office vacancies however this remains inappropriate without space for new hires.
Ms Sindane mentioned that the Department’s VPN (Virtual Private Network), if not working correctly, slows down the entire maintenance payment system.
A source of some pride to the DOJ has been the completion of new court buildings at Tsakane, Katlehong and Kagiso. But while DOJ made progress in the establishment of small claims courts many of the larger projects including the Limpopo High Court have experienced huge delays and problems with contractors completing their work on time and within budget. At present,
Litigation against the State had increased significantly, as citizens became increasingly aware of their rights, and at times entered into opportunistic litigation against the State. The previous, fragmented approach to State litigation had been proven ineffective.
Mr J Gunda (ID) mentioned a case he was aware of where an advocate had been waiting seven months for documents and wondered how it was possible that documents could be misplaced and paperwork go uncompleted at DOJ. He raised the issue of construction postponements where money had already been paid out to contractors who had failed to complete their work and asked whether this money could be recovered. He noted the 20% vacancy rate at DOJ and asked for clarification over hiring policies. In his constituency in the
Mr V Manzini (DA) thanked Ms Sindane for her detailed presentation. He proceeded to question whether money could be recovered from DOJ personnel who had been dismissed for corruption.
Mr M Makhubela (COPE) commended the delegates for their years of service to DOJ and said that it was through their length of service and dedication that real change would be seen in the national judiciary. As noted by Mr Gunda, he raised the magistrates extensive travel regimes, specifically referencing his native
Mr Makhubela continued on by questioning DOJ vacancy rates. What strategies was DOJ using to fill these posts? He was unhappy with the apparent confusion at DOJ over who was responsible for building upkeep and maintenance, saying that clarity is essential to this issue. He expanded his questioning to include employment of police guards at courts and suggested that DOJ properly budget for these services. Lastly he mentioned money being spent on accommodation for prisoners which, in his view, was lost money, as small prisons in rural areas are seeing capacity problems and overflow. He quipped that since the Minister is chief administrator they must discuss a solution to this issue as well.
Mr L Nzimande (ANC) stated that one area of special concern was the Traditional Courts Bill, which can be equated to the introduction of a new parallel justice system. He wished to know what progress has been made and when it becomes formalized will it be able to administer justice at the same level as the magistrates’ courts. He raised questions about conflicting jurisdictions between the dual systems and asked for greater clarification. Regarding the Guardian Fund, he noted that there were still people in the Eastern Cape experiencing problems with service and wished to know the state of the fund in that particular province. He expanded by questioning whether or not there was someone working to rationalize the service, giving the Electronic Funds Transfer system as an example of a possible method for future service provision in the area.
On a separate matter Mr Nzimande (ANC) speculated on levels of customer service provided by the DOJ as a result of his own personal experiences when visiting regional courts, specifically relating the lack of proper signage to back up his complaint. Courts remained just as intimidating as in pre-1994. What solutions in regards to customer care and staff training were being considered?
Mr Johan Johnson, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DOJ, said that there was a concerted effort to ensure that there was minimal underspending in the Department. There was little funding available for expansion. The DOJ thanked Parliament for ensuring that it had received an additional 13% for the third year of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The DOJ planned to use the additional allocation, of R85 million in 2012/13 and R90 million in 2013/14, to expand its capacity to implement the Child Justice Act, Children’s Act, Maintenance Act and Sexual Offences Act and more personnel would be appointed at court services level. Over the past several years the DOJ had managed to spend over 100% of its capital budget and would continue to do so in the implementation of new court buildings. In this MTEF period the budget for court infrastructure would be R1 billion. R240 million was set aside for upgrading courts and R250 million was set aside for building courts in the 2011/12 financial year. R100 million and R110 million were set aside for Information Technology Services (ICT) and court security respectively. There were a number of new priorities in this budget, such as the administration of legislation, appointment of new personnel, increased salary costs and municipal services. The budget cuts included the cancellation of the Third Party Fund initiative, which was due to a funding shortfall. Cabinet had cut down on the DOJ operational expenditure. DOJ had done a lot of work and saw substantial improvements in service delivery. He went on to discuss the challenge to pay service providers within 30 days, which needed more comprehensive management.
Mr Johnson continued by raising the DOJ’s understanding of financial growth stating that South Africa cannot have a 7% increase in the wage book when the economic conditions of the country are what they are. He believed it was time to take difficult decisions in light of the economy and related budget cuts mentioning that this situation could be improved via an effective justice and maintenance payment system. The DOJ’s budget increase included money for infrastructure projects. These major capital projects will assist with the development of justice and a further R150million was allocated for hiring more magistrates. Reductions and areas where self-imposed cuts will be made include travel expenses and subsistence allowances where spending has already fallen 52%. These funds could then be rededicated to court budgets, which are already under strain. A furtherR7.4 million in budget cuts meant an increased need to improve internal controls on communication and upgrading out dated ICT infrastructure to increase efficiency. A comprehensive overview of the justice portfolio was provided and reference was given to the fact that for the first time the total budget is over R1 billion for infrastructure, more money was set aside for the legal aid board, and in Mr Johnson’s view, correctly, most of this money is being spent on court services. DOJ is giving money to the public legal protector which enhances the capacity to appoint new judges and public prosecutors. Furthermore, DOJ will attend to needs in various areas and in the case of facilities management R694 million was allocated. As well the new budget should provide R 147 million towards funding certain inter-agency programmes between SAPS and other law enforcement agencies.
After Mr Johnson’s lengthy discussion of the financial outlook for DOJ, Mr Makhubela wished to know what happened to DOJ staffers who attended sponsored educational courses or training session but received a failing grade. Were the funds spent to send people to these classes being recovered.
Ms Sindane stated that DOJ should have a CFO by the end of July, noting missteps in the hiring process. Work had been done on systems of control but more time was needed for more complete adherence to new methods. In terms of document management, problems still existed with non-compliance, inadequate documentation, and lack of supporting documentation. The improvements made to the ICT system will alleviate this situation. About the DOJ vacancy rate, in an attempt to provide a more detailed response, the main area of struggle is mainly at the executive - senior management level - the level below regional heads, was listed as the most difficult to locate qualified persons.
The current state of correctional facilities was described as overflowing but there is still a need to process criminals. However the biggest problem is not those who are sentenced but those who are awaiting sentencing as they must be accommodated. This topic speaks to other issues such as the speed of prosecution. Ms Sindane suggested that a possible solution might be if a person has a fixed address perhaps they should not be taken into custody but given notice to appear in court instead.
Mr Makhubela asked about the problems and lacunas within the Sexual Offences legislation and desired to have a better explanation of this issue.
In response to questions about the Sexual Offences Act, Ms Sindane stated that a loophole has been created in the link between an offence and a penalty within the legislation. On May 24 the DOJ were appearing in court to appeal the matter and there had already been some positive progression as judges in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the
Ms Tshilidzi Ramanyimi, Chief Director, Facilities Management, DOJ, responded to questions about unfinished construction work and the ability of the DOJ to recover money paid out to contractors for said work. She explained that in case of a default, Public Works is responsible for recovering costs however she could not give assurances that that actually happened. Unfortunately this meant another contractor must come and finish off the work driving up cost. Public Works is responsible for the upkeep of buildings while the DOJ is responsible for day-to-day minor maintenance, noting the dichotomy. From 2006 day-to-day maintenance was handed from Public Works to DOJ although this area faces budgeting deficits and due to the advanced age and lack of regular maintenance, buildings suffer a breakdown of services on a daily basis.
Mr D Bloem (COPE) drew attention to a new court building where a blocked sewage pipe burst and all of the waste had then leaked into and flooded the courtroom below leading to a two week hiatus from work while the problem was fixed. The major issue raised was one of responsibility as neither DOJ nor the Department of Public Works, took the lead on resolving the matter causing an impasse and drawing attention to the need to improve and amend inter-departmental rules and governing strategies.
Ms Ramanyimi clarified that if the costs run over R100 000, DOJ cannot take action under current guidelines and such problems related to maintenance must be dealt with by the Department of Public Works.
Mr V Manzini (DA) strongly emphasised that health emergencies must be dealt with immediately and solutions proffered from an inter-departmental perspective. Impasses of this nature could not be tolerated when they interfere with the administration of justice.
In light of the time and the fact that most of the Members had a second meeting to attend in the afternoon Chairperson T Mokofeng thanked the delegates for their detailed presentations and closed the proceedings.
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