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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 May 2002
AMENDMENTS TO THE SAPS ACT; INDEPENDENCE OF THE SECRETARIAT FROM THE SAPS: BRIEFING BY THE SECRETARIAT FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY
Documents handed out:
Presentation on the Independence of the Secretariat
Review Programme to the SAPS Act (document awaited)
Chairperson: Mr M E George (ANC)
The Committee castigated the Secretariat for acting like a small unit of the SAPS and thereby compromising its role of overseeing SAPS activities. The Committee restated the Constitutional position that the Secretariat was independent from the SAPS and that the Secretary was accountable only to the Minster and not the Commissioner of SAPS.
The Committee faulted the provision of the Public Finance Management Act, which elevates the Commissioner to be the sole accounting officer for the Department of Safety and Security. The Committee stated that this situation made the Secretariat financially dependent on the SAPS and hence impedes its crucial supervisory role. The Committee called for urgent steps to rectify this anomaly.
The Chair noted that the document on the Review of the SAPS Act did not address the specific areas in the SAPS Act that were in need of amendments but rather dealt with a programme for such a review. The contents were not relevant to the agenda for the meeting and he asked Members to give their views on the way forward.
Mr Swart (DP) pointed out that the review programme as it was presented was already behind schedule since the Committee had not been briefed as indicated in the document.
The Chair underscored the importance of the process but emphasised that the Committee was at this stage interested in the necessary amendments to the Act.
Mr Rasegatta, the Secretary, replied that the review calendar was developed to gauge how much time it would take to complete the review exercise. The Minister had already endorsed the programme.
Ms Van Wyk (UDM) suggested that Members be given time to study the review programme and then decide whether they are satisfied with the layout. She added that discussions on the issue be shelved until members have studied the programme and acquainted with its features.
The Chair concurred with Ms Van Wyk but expressed his disappointment with the Secretariat's handling of the matter. He pointed out that the proposed review of the SAPS Act is an initiative of the Committee that has been on cards since last year and that by now the Committee expected the Secretariat to come up with something concrete other than a mere programme. The Chair noted that the programme shows that the Secretariat was to have briefed the Committee on 30 March 2002 but nothing came of it. This oversight reflected negatively on the Secretariat's discipline with regard to time frames.
The Chair asked that the meeting move on to a discussion of the independence of the Secretariat. He said that the relevant document was circulated in good time and Members have had ample time to look through. He then invited parties to express their opinion thereon.
Mr Ferreira (IFP) said that the Secretariat has proposed three models as options it seeks to adapt with regard to its independence but that there was no detailed information on what these three models entail.
Mr Booi (ANC) said that his party has discussed the proposal and is of the view that the SAPS should be given a chance to state their position before a decision can be reached one way or other.
Mr Geldenhuys (NNP) said that he had just received the document and asked for time to study it before his party could respond.
The Chair said that the Constitution was very clear on the fact that the Secretariat was directly under the Minister and that the Secretary was therefore accountable to the Minister and not the Commissioner of SAPS. He contended that in view of this Constitutional provision it is only logical that there be a separate budget for the Secretariat so that it is not financially dependent on the SAPS.
Mr Booi (ANC) pointed out that the Secretariat had alluded to its own budget in the documents before the Committee and wondered exactly what type of independence they were looking for.
The Chair concurred with Mr Booi that the Secretariat is not coming out clearly on precisely what kind of independence they were looking for especially in view of the fact that the Secretariat was, under the supreme law of the land, deemed to be independent from the SAPS.
Mr Swart (DP) expressed concern that the Secretariat was carrying on like a unit within the SAPS when it should, in fact, be monitoring the SAPS a position. This compromised its independence.
Mr Rasegatta explained that the problem resides with the PFMA, which provides for only one accounting officer for each Department and the SAPS Commissioner is the accounting officer for the entire Department of Safety and Security. This provision, he noted, had rendered the Secretariat financially dependent on the SAPS and consequently the Secretary was technically accountable to the SAPS. The Minister of Public Service is in agreement that this scenario is totally untenable and that something must be done to rectify the anomaly.
Mr Kgauwe (ANC) sought to know what kind of problems the Secretariat encounters as a result of this financial dependence on the SAPS.
Mr Solomon, Executive Assistant to the Secretary, explained that as a result of financial dependence on the SAPS, the Secretariat is operationally crippled. He lamented the fact that the Secretariat is obliged to seek approval from the Commissioner of SAPS for all monetary expenditure it intends to undertake. He singled out the perennial scarcity of motor vehicles since all the vehicles the Secretariat has belong to the SAPS and that the Secretariat has only one e-mail address which is part of the SAPS network. He pointed out that these and many other limitations impacted negatively on the Secretariat's efficiency in its overseeing role and that it also compromised the Secretariat's independence, which is at the core of its monitoring functions.
The Chair thanked Mr Solomon for coming out candidly on what exactly the problem was. He castigated the Secretary for not taking the Committee in confidence and electing to beat around the bush instead of addressing these teething problems openly.
Mr Dyani (ANC) observed that this is the kind of problem that can be resolved internally without the involvement of the Committee.
Mr Booi (ANC) agreed that the issue around the PFMA should be sorted out between the affected Departments. He contented that the problem was that of lack of communication and laid the blame squarely on the Department. He explained that if there were proper communication the affected parties would have had the opportunity to work out their logistics and explore ways of ironing out whatever impediments the PMFA might have put in the way of their operations.
Mr Swart (DP) said that it is a contradiction in terms for the Department to operate as a unit of the very body it is mandated to supervise. He added that this scenario would then explain the dismal performance of the Department in the past. He urged that urgent measures to restore the Department's integrity be instituted so as to carry on with its crucially important monitoring role.
Mr Ferreira (IFP) concurred with Mr Swart that it is clear the Department was unfortunately acting as a junior section of the SAPS. This situation clearly contradicts the Constitution, which says that the Commissioner is the accounting officer of the SAPS and not the entire Department.
Mr Zondo (ANC) pointed out that it is clear there is a weakness in the leadership of the Secretariat to have allowed this subservient position to stand for this long.
Mr Booi agreed with Mr Zondo and noted that the Commissioner is on record decrying the lack of communication from the Secretariat. The Committee is the main crusader for civilian monitoring of the SAPS and is therefore always on the side of the Department yet the Department seems not to take it in confidence. The principles in the PFMA are right and it was only operational hitches, which should be resolved internally.
Mr Ngubeni (ANC) agreed with the sentiments expressed by Mr Booi to the effect that these are issues that should have been sorted out internally a long time ago were there proper dialogue between the parties. The Minister must move fast to address the problem.
Ms Van Wyk faulted the Department for taking too long before speaking out on such important issues and urged it to regularly take stock of its operations in order to ensure that they are up-to-date.
The Chair reiterated his position that Section 208 of the Constitution as read together with Section 3 (j) of the SAPS Act is very clear on the position of the Department vis-à-vis that of the SAPS and this needs no debating. He criticised the Secretary for allowing the Department to take orders from the very body to which it is supposed to play an overseeing role.
He agreed with Members that this was a matter that can be resolved internally without the involvement of the Committee. However, he would raise the issue with the Minister when he meets the Committee soon. He pointed out that if the problem were that of personnel weakness then it would be expedient to get ride of those who were incompetent and replace them with a cadre of people who can perform.
The meeting was adjourned.
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