Meeting SummaryThe Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development considered the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report. The Committee expressed concern for the 1%, 2% and 3% decreases over the next three financial periods for the Department of Justice and other entities that fell under this Budget Vote. The Committee inserted the following paragraph under paragraph 8.10: The Committee was concerned that in light of the high expenditure needed to maintain existing courts, the Minister should give serious consideration to placing a moratorium to the building of new courts whilst the current pressures on the budget exist. It was of no use to create more courts if the existing courts cannot administer justice effectively through lack of working infrastructure”. The Committee questioned the need for a Deputy Director General for constitutional development as there might be a duplication with the other functions of the South African Human Rights Commission. The Committee amended paragraph 8.20 and inserted the following “The Committee welcomed these developments and understands that this was the only way to establish the Office of the Chief Justice in the short term but urges the Minister to expedite the tabling of legislation establishing a separate Office of the Chief Justice”. In paragraph 8.23 the Committee expressed concern regarding donor funding and was of the view that Legal Aid South Africa and not the South African Human Rights Commission should be responsible for the advice offices.
A Member of the Committee expressed shock at the discovery that in the adjusted estimates of national expenditure National Treasury had given the Public Protector R8 million. The Member pointed out that the Committee had not asked for more money for the Public Protector last year, it had asked for more money for the South African Human Rights Commission.
Justice and Constitutional Development Budgetary Review Recommendations Report
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) referred to page 6 under 3.1.1 and said that the last sentence had to be practical as inflation was at 5%. It would be correct to state that 5.4% was below inflation and the ‘well’ should be removed.
The Committee agreed.
Mr Swart referred to 4.1 on page 8 and said that this was a crucial paragraph. This paragraph referred to the 1%, 2% and 3% budget cuts over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period (2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/2016), the table on page 6 provided for the overall allocation, how did the two apply together? In February’s budget vote there were increases granted and the Minister of Finance has just said that there would be no increases beyond what was said then. How then was there a 1%, 2% and 3% decrease?
Ms M Smuts (DA) said that the cuts were for the following financial periods.
Mr Swart said that perhaps within the increase there was a deduction of 1%.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) said that this was not the current budget; it was next year’s budget. Over the next three years starting from March 1, 2013 the Department of Justice and other entities had been asked to implement a 1% baseline cut. The following two financial periods would be 2% and 3% respectively.
Mr Swart said that the Minister of Finance had said that it was not that there was no money as he had taken from the contingency reserve which was R40 billion. A request for funds could come from the contingency reserve.
Ms D Schäfer (DA) referred to page 25 and said that the Department had said that it was cutting and perhaps it would be unfair to say that this had to be highlighted in the report as a recommendation.
Mr Jeffery said that his reading was that the report highlighted what the Department had said.
Ms Christine Silkstone, Content Adviser for the Committee said that she would change the wording.
Mr Jeffery referred to paragraph 8.10 and requested that a paragraph should be inserted which would read “The Committee was concerned that in light of the high expenditure needed to maintain existing courts, the Minister should give serious consideration to placing a moratorium to the building of new courts whilst the current pressures on the budget exist. It was of no use to create more courts if the existing courts cannot administer justice effectively through lack of working infrastructure”.
The Chairperson asked if this suggestion covered maintenance of court infrastructure.
Mr Jeffery confirmed that this was the case.
Ms S Sithole (ANC) asked what the Committee was saying about interim measures to ensure that the poor people in Mpumalanga were receiving court services.
The Chairperson said that his understanding was that the tender was about to be put out.
Mr Jeffery said that it was not just Mpumalanga where there were a number of courts being built. The proposal was not in reference to Mpumalanga specifically and it was not stating that the Minister must institute a moratorium but that he should give serious consideration of a moratorium. The point raised by Ms Sithole was correct.
Ms Sithole said that she hoped other people would understand it as explained by Mr Jeffery because her reading of the proposal was that it was referring to Mpumalanga.
Ms Smuts referred to page 29 under paragraph 8.16 and asked if it was overreaching if the Committee questioned whether it was necessary to have a Deputy Director General (DDG) for constitutional development especially since there might be duplication with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The way one dealt with constitutional development was tabling law, which was the essential function of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD). The vacancy for DDG: Corporate Services was important.
Mr Jeffery said that this was something that the Committee had to debate more. The popularising of the Constitution was still up for debate as to whether it was the Department or SAHRC who had to do it. However other issues were debatable since this was the Department which was responsible for constitutional development. The Committee should not deal with this now.
Mr Jeffery referred to page 30 paragraph 8.17 and said that the Protection of Personal Information Bill was referred to as vital for improved IT Governance. The Bill was for more than IT Governance. The Bill was for the right to privacy amongst others.
Ms Smuts agreed.
Mr Jeffery referred to page 31 paragraph 8.20 and said that it was not strictly correct that “the legal status of the Office of the Chief Justice was not yet finalised”. The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) had legal status because it was set up as a department as a short term measure. The line should read: “The Committee welcomed these developments and understands that this was the only way to establish the Office of the Chief Justice in the short term but urges the Minister to expedite the tabling of legislation establishing a separate Office of the Chief Justice”. Under paragraph 8.22 the Committee should state that it was concerned about the length of time it took to finalise the Regulations that related to education and health care.
Ms Smuts said that the Committee had not even received the Regulations for housing.
Mr Jeffery stated that even with education the Department had submitted time periods that had passed. The Committee should include that it expected these Regulations to be promulgated before the end of the current financial year. With regards to the rehabilitation of communities the Committee should state that “The Committee has noted the proposals of the Department and urges the Minister to ensure wide consultation with interested and affected communities so as to ensure that the best procedure was followed”.
The Committee agreed to the proposal.
Mr Jeffery moved on to page 32 paragraph 8.23 and said that he was concerned that the donor funding for advice offices should be taken over by Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) and not the SAHRC. The Committee did not want overlaps particularly of state resources.
Ms Schäfer said that she wanted the request for the amendment of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to be included.
Mr Jeffery disagreed and said that since the Act had already been around for 12 years it should be rather added that the Committee wanted to know from the Department when PAIA disputes would be adjudicated in magistrates courts.
Ms Schäfer referred to page 33 paragraph 8.25.1 and said that she wanted an addition for a deadline to be given for the furnishing of statistics to the Committee for domestic violence and maintenance.
Ms Philane-Makaje added that the Department had to look at other methods to ensure that maintenance orders were complied with such as detaining defaulters at customs offices.
Mr Jeffery said that it was up to the legislature to set up a different framework if necessary. The Committee should highlight that the current system of quantum was not satisfactory and it should be determined whether the problem was implementation or whether the law had to be changed. In paragraph 8.25.4 it should be added that “The Committee notes that two new One-Stop Child Justice Centres were planned in the coming year. The Committee was not informed of the scientific bases of the location of these centres and urges the Department to only have Child Justice Centres in areas where there would be maximum benefit”.
Ms Schäfer said that under the sexual offences section the Committee did not express itself strongly enough at the appalling conviction rate and the concern should be included. It should also be added that the Committee wanted a date to be specified for the re-introduction of specialised sexual offences courts.
Mr Jeffery said that he would like the following to be added to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) “The Committee is concerned that the baseline cuts that would adversely affect the ability of the NPA to perform its functions such as prosecuting”.
Ms Schäfer referred to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and said that it should be noted that the Committee was concerned that the head of the SIU was still acting after 10 months and that the appointment should be filled as soon as possible.
Mr Jeffery said that the SAHRC would get nothing and this was wrong. The other thing was that the more money was allocated for PAIA the easier it would be to move it to the Regulator under the Protection of Personal Information Bill (PPI).
The Chairperson said the Committee would move on to the Public Protector (PP).
Mr Jeffery said that he was quite shocked to discover that in the adjusted estimates of national expenditure National Treasury (NT) had given the PP R8 million. The Committee did not ask for more money for the PP last year. The Committee had asked for more money for the SAHRC. It was not clear why the PP wanted more money. The PP was taking more and more money yet they could not say what was wrong from the Department of Justice. The PP was becoming a little bit like a constituency office where problems relating to government were being dealt with. The other point was that the Committee had been perpetually raising the number of offices in the Northern Cape and North-West; the PP then proceeded to close down Botshabelo. The PP did not listen to the Committee. It also did not appear as if the PP was informing the head of departments where it was investigating.
Ms Smuts said that the PP was there to help people with their problems. The PP was ultra vires when it investigated appeals and appeals not heard. The R8 million was a surprise
Ms Schäfer said that the Committee had to be very careful; the PP was seen as the last bastion in the fight against corruption. It was not going to be easy to say that the PP should get a budget cut and nothing in terms of increases. It seemed like she was exceeding her mandate however the Committee was not sure of this.
Mr Jeffery said that the R8 million was in the adjustment appropriation. There was nothing that the Committee could do about that. The Committee would essentially being stating that the PP should use her resources better. The PP had given the Committee a breakdown of the cases and some were about the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), this was clearly outside of her mandate. The PP did not help. It was good that the public had a positive image of her and there were a lot of positive things that one could say. It should be reflected in the report that the PP had to give the Committee more information on the systemic problems relating to maladministration etc.
The Committee adopted the report with amendments.
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