Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development met to consider the strategic plan, annual performance plan and budget of the National Prosecuting Authority. The presentation began with a brief overview on the mission, vision, values and mandate of the NPA. While the NPA remained committed to the strategic direction embarked on over the past three years and the plans in essence remain unchanged, severe budget constraints had necessitated a scrutiny of the indicators and targets, limiting the scope on high impact indicators and the setting of realistic targets. The strategic objectives had been streamlined and the performance indicators revised on review. The strategic plan had been streamlined and had fewer strategic objectives -- previously five, now four. The NPA had identified its five top risks as emerging crime trends, resource capacity, stakeholder management, information and knowledge management, and public perception and the reputation of NPA. Mitigation plans were being developed for each of the risks and implementation monitored. The Committee was informed of the appointment of a new CEO for the NPA in the person of Adv Karen van Rensburg.
A review of the annual performance plan of the NPA for the 2013/14 financial year provided statistics on performance indicators and targets per programme from 2009/10 financial year up to 2015/16. Statistics on NPA’s overall budget and expenditure indicated an overspend of 3.76% on the allocation for compensation of employees. This was, however, redressed through the savings on the underexpenditure on goods and services, machinery and equipment, and interest and rent on land. The preliminary unaudited figures for the year ended March 2013 indicated that the NPA had spent 100% of its total allocation. The presentation further discussed cost saving mechanisms implemented by the NPA and continued with a discussion on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget allocation for 2013/14-2015/16. The concerns of the NPA were highlighted in the discussion on the allocation of the NPA within the Department’s budget, which was grossly insufficient, with marginal increments over the MTEF. An analysis of the budget growth of the Department indicated that the NPA had the smallest budget growth of 3.75% amongst all the units and its overall total increase over the MTEF period, including inflation, was a mere 2.1%. An analysis of the goods and services budget allocation for the NPA over the MTEF period indicated a decrease of more than 50% from 2009/10 to 2015/16. The downward trend on compensation of employees could not be maintained.
In a bid to seek alternative funding, the NPA was currently in the process of obtaining approval for the acceptance of $10million from USAID for Aids awareness and the establishment of Thusong Care Centres over a period of five years. The NPA had received a commitment by the Special Investigating Unit to support a virement of R30 million and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority was in the process of providing the NPA with 25 interns and nine aspirant prosecutors. The impact of the compensation of employees’ budget shortfall was multi-dimensional and in this light, a direct request had been made for assistance in obtaining additional funding to the tune of R200 million to assist the NPA in the fulfilment of its mandate.
Members noted with dismay the proposed decreasing projections on conviction rates in the NPA’s presentation and remarked that there was no sense in setting lower targets for the future. Members questioned whether the NPA had studied the Internal Security Study Report on the state of the NPA and the report of the Public Service Commission on its unannounced visits to courts, and asked what comments it had on these reports. Through a myriad of questions, Members requested details on what went wrong with the prosecution of police officers for the death of the late Mr Tatane.
The Chairperson welcomed all present and invited the National Prosecuting Authority to commence its presentation.
Briefing by National Prosecuting Authority Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2013
Adv Nomgcobo Jiba, Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (ANDPP), commenced the presentation with a brief overview on the mission, vision, values and mandate of the NPA. While the NPA remained committed to the strategic direction embarked on over the past three years and the plans in essence remain unchanged, severe budget constraints had necessitated a scrutiny of the indicators and targets limiting the scope on high impact indicators and the setting of realistic targets. The strategic objectives had been streamlined and the performance indicators revised on review. The strategic plan was streamlined and had fewer strategic objectives -- previously five, now four. Indicators were streamlined to ensure better focus with limited resources. The current indicator under Strategic Objective One was limited to the number of convictions in the regional and high courts. The presentation went further to discuss in detail the reason for the review (see document). The performance indicator for Strategic Objective Two had also been reviewed and limited to the number of criminal court cases finalized, including Alternative Dispute Resolution Method (ADRM) - the reason for this was also discussed in detail in the presentation (see document). No changes were made to Strategic Objectives Three and Four. The NPA identified its five top risks as; emerging crime trends, resource capacity, stakeholder management, information and knowledge management and public perception and reputation of the NPA. Mitigation plans were being developed for each of the risks and implementations monitored. Adv Jiba further informed the Committee that a new CEO for the NPA had been appointed in the person of Adv Karen Van Rensburg.
Mr Willie Hofmeyr, Head, Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), continued the presentation with a review of the annual performance plan (APP) of the NPA for the 2013/14 financial year. The APP provided statistics on performance indicators and targets per programme from 2009/10 financial year up to 2015/16 financial year (see document for details). The performance indicator for Strategic Objective One under the APP was replaced as conviction rates in cybercrime prosecutions. For Strategic Objective Two, indicator descriptions were refined to better match the calculation method, and indicators removed were included in the annual plans of the business units. For Strategic Objective Three, performance indicators were reviewed as follows: number of completed forfeiture cases re Justice, Crime, Prfevention and Security (JCPS), prosecutions for corrupt activities and the value of freezing orders relating to corruption, where the amount involved was more than R5million. Performance Indicators for Strategic Objective Four was reviewed as follows: value of compensation orders obtained; it was felt that the value of compensation orders obtained was a better indicator, over which the NPA had control, rather than the amount paid to victims of crime.
Mr Gordon Hollanby, Executive Manager, Finance, continued the presentation with a discussion on resourcing for the 2013/14 financial year. Statistics on NPA’s overall budget and expenditure were discussed (see document). There was an overspend of 3.76% on the allocation for compensation of employees. This was however redressed through the savings on the underspend on goods and services, machinery and equipment, and interest and rent on land. The preliminary unaudited figures for the year ended March 2013 indicated that the NPA spent 100% of its total allocation. The reason for the overspend of compensation of employees was attributed to the denial of the leave to appeal by the Constitutional Court in November 2012 in respect of the implementation of the 2005/2006 Job Evaluations for Prosecutors. The NPA implemented the Job Evaluation award and payments had been made amounting to over R53 million. The Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE) request for Job Evaluation payments unforeseen in 2012/13, was not supported by the Department and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) request for additional funding was not approved by National Treasury. The presentation further discussed cost saving mechanisms implemented by the NPA (see document). From the beginning of February 2013, the NPA had further improved its expenditure management by: centralisation of its budget management as from beginning of February 2013, putting on hold its Aspirant Prosecutor Programme, cutting the current budget to the bone (any further cuts would impact on overall NPA operations), a reduction of irregular expenditure and the recovery of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and the recovery of accruals amounting to R10.8m (unaudited).
Mr Hollanby continued the presentation with a discussion on the MTEF budget allocation for 2013/14-2015/16. Concerns of the NPA were highlighted in the discussion, in particular regarding the allocation of the NPA within the Department’s budget, which was grossly insufficient, with marginal increments over the MTEF (see document). An analysis of the budget growth of the Department indicated that the NPA had the smallest budget growth of 3.75% amongst all the units and its overall total increase over the MTEF period, including inflation, was a mere 2.1%. The presentation further discussed the statistics on the budget allocation for the NPA by sub programme over the MTEF period. An analysis of the goods and services budget allocation for the NPA over the MTEF period indicated a decrease of more than 50% from 2009/10 to 2015/16. The downward trend on compensation of employees could not be maintained as it entered into a deficit trend over the MTEF period.
Adv Karen van Rensburg, CEO, continued the presentation with an in-depth explanation on performance rewards and the financial crisis which the NPA faced. The NPA had to force savings within goods and services to fund the expenditure on performance rewards. The NPA could not decide not to pay performance rewards; to have a performing organisation, individuals who put in the extra effort had to be recognised. There was also a need to address the work environment of prosecutors, as this also impacted on the quality of their work. Notches had a carry-through impact on later years and performance rewards were to be paid in line with the overall performance of the organisation against predetermined targets (see document).
On what had led to the crisis within the NPA, Adv Van Rensburg explained that first the carry through cost of Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) was higher than anticipated. The OSD made the gaps between the notches 1.5%. Previously the gap varied and in some cases was lower than 1%. The Department had recognised this and increased the maximum limit from 1% to 2% of the wage bill. The OSD also lengthened the salary bands considerably and the expansion of the salary bands and ceilings through the implementation of OSD put increased strain on the budget. The budget allocations of the notches in respect of performance awards increased from 1% to 1.5%, resulting in an accumulative shortfall of R78m.
In a bid to seek alternative funding, the NPA was currently in the process of obtaining approval for the acceptance of $10million from USAID for Aids awareness and the establishment of Thusong Care Centres over a period of five years. The NPA had received a commitment by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to support a virement of R30 million and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETTA) was in the process of providing the NPA with 25 interns and nine aspirant prosecutors. The impact of the compensation of employees budget shortfall included: performance rewards had to be paid from forced savings, there were no funds to continue with aspirant prosecutor programme, no funds to fill vacancies -- even those that arose within the year – a greater workload on current employees, leading to the inability to prosecute bigger high priority cases, absenteeism from work due to work related stress, the NPA’s inability to deliver justice as a government priority and a lack of back office support. Adv Van Rensburg, in conclusion, made a direct request for assistance in obtaining additional funding to the tune of R200million to assist the NPA in the fulfilment of its mandate.
The Chairperson invited Members to deliberate on the presentation.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) referred to the change in the performance indicator on sentencing and noted with concern that removing sentencing as a performance indicator might lead to situations where plea bargaining became an incentive for prosecutors. It was easier to obtain convictions in plea bargains, whereas sentencing was not so easily obtained.
Adv Jiba replied that the NPA shared the sentiments on sentencing indicators. However, it was the preferred view that as an organisation, as it was better to be assessed on issues over which it had control. Well prepared cases by prosecutors increased the chances of a conviction, hence the focus on convictions as an indicator.
Mr Jeffery suggested that perhaps the solution was to have indicators on monitoring plea bargain processes. Furthermore, the presentation had indicated different indicators for public and internal indicators. This was worrisome, as the public was not aware of the basis for the internal indicators. He requested the NPA to provide details on the internal indicators and a report on plea bargains which the NPA had entered into.
Adv Jiba committed to forwarding the requested details to the Committee.
Mr Jeffery asked if the NPA distinguished between diversions and informal mediations and whether statistics were available on cases refereed to diversions and informal mediations.
Adv Jiba replied in the affirmative. The NPA distinguished between diversions from informal mediations and the NPA had earlier submitted a list of informal mediations to the Committee.
Mr Jeffery questioned if the NPA had set any targets on informal mediation and requested details on this.
Adv Jiba responded that the requested details would be forwarded to the Committee.
Mr Jeffery noted with dismay the proposed decreasing projections on conviction rates in the NPA’s presentation. The projections indicated better performance in the past than the NPA intended to achieve in the future- was this a result of the reduction in the number of prosecutors based on budget constraints? There was no sense in setting lower targets for the future.
Adv Jiba replied that the NPA had made efforts to identify areas of weakness, in conjunction with the SAPS, and one of the major areas identified was defective and bad investigative processes which in the long run impacted on the prosecution’s case. There was thus a need to reduce targets on convictions while working on this area of challenge.
Mr Jeffery remarked that the Portfolio Committee in charge of the SAPS had also questioned the lower targets which the SAPS had set, and while it was understood that the NPA could not do much with a background of bad investigations, it was unacceptable to set lower targets on convictions. There was a need to address this issue.
Ms D Schӓfer (DA) asked what the NPA was doing to address this issue.
Mr Hofmeyr replied that on a previous two-day engagement with the SAPS, an identified weakness was the ability to deal with complex cases requiring intensive investigation. Further meetings had been arranged to deal with this issue and map out processes for dealing with organised crime and proactively targeting the heads of criminal groups. Further, joint targets between the NPA and SAPS had been set to help bind this process and ensure success on all angles. The NPA was also working on delivery agreements with other bodies in the justice cluster.
Mr Jeffery further questioned whether budgetary challenges had an impact on targets and, if they did, to what extent.
Mr Hofmeyr replied that budgetary challenges gave rise to decreased capacity and this affected set targets. Furthermore, the AFU historically set stretched targets, and although the targets were not always met, it did not set low targets for itself. However, the AG took the stance that setting stretched targets which were not met was bad planning and this in turn affected the audit reports of the NPA. There had been no robust engagements with the AG to explain this, as the AG’s reports were based on results achieved on set targets. Therefore, it had become necessary to set softer and more achievable targets.
Mr Jeffery insisted that despite the explanations proffered, there was a need to ensure that future targets were not lower than past targets.
Mr Hofmeyr explained that with regard to targets on conviction rates, it was not sustainable to set higher targets yearly, as they often fluctuated.
Mr Jeffery questioned whether the NPA had studied the Internal Security Study (ISS) Report on the state of the NPA and the report of the Public Service Commission (PSC) on its unannounced visits to courts, and asked what comments it had on these reports.
Adv Jiba replied that the NPA had studied the ISS report and in the course of its participation in the compilation of the report had explained its successes on conviction rates. It was clear from its Annual and Strategic Plans how the NPA calculated its success rates on convictions. The NPA was yet to study the report from the Public Service Commission. This would be done and commented upon in due course.
Mr Jeffery asked why the Department did not support the NPA’s call for additional funding.
Adv Van Rensburg replied that the presentation had not implied that the Department did not support its appeal for addition funding. In the past, the NPA had not successfully spent its total allocation and the Department had sought initially to correct this trend. Over the last two years, the NPA had successfully spent 100% of its allocation. Further, the Department wanted improved efforts at reprioritisation within the NPA and this had been done. The Department was full in support of the NPA’s request for additional funding.
Mr Jeffery remarked that it was more helpful to direct the question to the Department in future engagements.
Mr Jeffery asked if the current budget of the NPA supported the appointment of two prosecutors for each Sexual Offences Court and if not, how many Sexual Offences Courts the NPA could appoint two prosecutors each to.
Adv Jiba responded that although it was the envisaged ideal, the NPA could not employ two prosecutors for each Sexual Offences Courts under its current budget. A report on how many courts it could accommodate under this requirement would be forwarded to the Committee.
Ms Thoko Majokweni, Acting Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, added that the NPA could not employ two prosecutors for each Sexual Offences Court at the moment and further details on its current capabilities would be supplied to the Committee.
Ms Schӓfer referred to the strategic plan of the NPA and asked how the slow finalization of the demarcation project had impacted on the mandate of the NPA as alluded to in the plan.
Ms Schӓfer asked what measures the NPA employed in dealing with undedicated prosecutors.
Mr Rodney de Kock, Director of Public Prosecutions DPP), Western Cape, replied that the DPP took corrective measures and disciplinary actions against erring prosecutors where necessary. A vast majority of prosecutors maintained the highest level of professionalism in the conduct of their duties. Where it was found that prosecutors acted unethically, the NPA took immediate action against such prosecutors.
Mr Jeffery asked what complaint mechanisms the NPA had put in place for use by the public against prosecutors who acted unethically or negligently in the conduct of their duties.
Adv Jiba replied that members of the public could make use of the anti-corruption hotline to pass across complaints.
Mr Jeffery asked what other options were available for cases that did not border on corruption but amounted to bad behaviour on the part of the prosecutor.
Mr De Kock replied that members of the public could refer such cases to the DPP, as there was a provision for this.
Ms Majokweni added that the NPA was currently considering 31 misconduct cases involving prosecutors, some of which included dereliction of duty and negligence.
Ms Schӓfer asked whether the NPA conducted training on bail applications for its prosecutors, and if not, what measures it had in place to introduce this training in the light of its budget constraints.
Adv Jiba replied that the current training programme of the NPA covered matters of bail application.
Mr Jeffery queried the response, stating that the presentation had indicated proposed budget cuts on training.
Adv Jiba responded that different forms of training were explored within the NPA and not all demanded extensive monetary expenditure. These included supervisor/prosecutor mentoring programmes and on the job training.
Ms Schӓfer referred to the NPA’s mandate to apply the law without fear or favour, and questioned if the NPA was fulfilling this mandate in the light of the recent case against President Jacob Zuma. The court had made an order that the NPA hand over copies of the tapes in question. On what basis had the NPA abdicated this duty to the defence attorney?
Adv Jiba responded that she was unable to comment on the case as it was currently a matter before the court and affidavits containing the facts had been deposed and filed with the court. The case would come up for hearing on 30 April.
Ms Schӓfer referred to the case against the policeman who shot the late Mr Tatane at a protest and noted that the proceedings records had indicated a total of 35 witnesses which the prosecution intended to call, nine of whom were policemen. Eventually, only policemen had appeared as witnesses -- where were other community member witnesses? What additional steps had the NPA taken to identify witnesses from the community? Of the three video footages that were made available, it was indicated that one had been derived from a private individual - was this individual called as a witness? Did the NPA plan to take action against police officers called as witnesses, who changed their stories on the stand? There had been allegations that the Independent Police Investigating Directorate (IPID) had coerced the cooperation of officers - the IPID did in fact have the authority to demand that officers cooperated with an investigation. Why then did this allegation affect the credibility of statements of witnesses from the police?
The Chairperson also referred to the SABC footage of the protests and allegations that the SABC had refused to hand over the footage to the NPA. He asked if there was any possibility that the NPA could compel the SABC to hand over the footage.
Adv Jiba replied that the NPA was not proud of the outcome of the case and had called a press conference to address certain issues on the outcome of the case. The lead prosecutor in the case was one of the best prosecutors the NPA had; and the case had proved that sometimes a case was only as good as its witnesses.
Ms Majokweni supplied the Committee with additional information on the case. The NPA had been appraised at every stage on ongoing matters as the case progressed. Nine of the witnesses called by the prosecution were police witnesses and only three could positively identify the accused. Two of these three officers had deviated from their initial witness statements, to the extent that their statements were no longer accorded any evidentiary weight. Only one officer could positively identify the accused as the responsible party who shot Mr Tatane and at an earlier hearing he had made certain blemished confessions. Witness statements from community members did not help either, as they did not identify the accused and only deposed on matters that happened before the actual shooting, i.e. the protest. Of the three video footages, the one retrieved from a private individual was unclear and faces of persons involved were not easily discernable from the video; however the person was called to give evidence. The footage sent by the SABC was the edited version, and this had given rise to questions of authenticity. The witness called on the SABC footage could further not give assurances that the edited video footage had not been manipulated. The statement by one of the police officers was discredited because he had misplaced another officers’ name with the face of the accused; it was unclear whether the action by the police officer had been deliberate or otherwise. The NPA had taken a decision with the Free State DPP to request that the Hawks further investigate allegations of collusion within the SAPS on the case.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) remarked that there seemed to be collusion among the police on the case and perhaps it was advisable for the NPA to lay a complaint with the IPID to follow this up. An impression had been created that there was massive collusion amongst the police and the public outcry against this needed to be addressed. Further, the case preparation by the NPA raised cause for concern - any seasoned prosecutor should have ensured the original footage was obtained from the SABC in the course of case preparation.
Mr Jeffery asked that the NPA forward to the Committee a copy of the magistrate’s judgment.
Mr Jeffery questioned what the current status quo was on appealing against acquittal under the law and suggested that the family of the deceased pursue the option of a civil claim against the accused.
Ms Majokweni responded that an acquittal could only be appealed on questions of law. The accused had been acquitted on facts.
Mr Jeffery questioned the possibility of an amendment of the relevant laws to include appeals against acquittals on questions of facts also.
Dr Silas Ramaite, Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions replied that although this was a possibility, such an amendment might not pass constitutional muster.
Mr Jeffery remarked that the NPA needed to address it’s PR Strategy and improve on statements made by its spokesperson. The impression given was that the NPA was considering appealing, whereas the possibility of appealing had not been an option.
Adv Jiba admitted that this had been an error on the part of its spokesperson in Bloemfontein, based on a lack of proper communication. This was why a press conference had been called, where it had been clarified that there was no intention to appeal.
Ms Schӓfer questioned if the proposed investigation by the Hawks was to investigate perjury of the officers called to witness, or if it was a broader investigation.
Ms Majokweni replied that the investigation was targeted at a broader scope. A meeting between the head of the Hawks and the DPP had already occurred to kick start the process.
The Chairperson remarked that it was necessary for the Committee to liaise with the Portfolio Committee responsible for the SAPS. It was apparent the police had no interest in seeing justice done in this case and was more interested in protecting its own people. Whether the IPID closed this gap was questionable. Further, it was time the police considered the use of numbered vests for officers on duty to quell protests. This ensured anonymity was removed in instances of police brutality or other criminal activities.
Mr Jeffery questioned why the responsible officer could not be identified by ballistic markings.
Mr Hofmeyr responded that rubber bullets had been used and rubber bullets did not have ballistic markings.
Ms Schӓfer referred to the uncertainty over the continuity of the Anti-Corruption Task Team indicated in the presentation, and asked who was responsible for the decision on its continuity or otherwise.
Adv Jiba responded that the task team had been set up by the government, and there had been no clear time frame set upon its inception. It was unclear if it was to continue into the new administration.
Mr Swart asked if the NPA kept separate records on the conviction rates for sexual offences. He referred to the complaint by magistrates on being traumatised by cases in the Sexual Offences Courts and asked how the NPA managed stress levels of those prosecutors who handled sexual offences.
Ms Majokweni replied that perhaps the prosecutors were super resilient and in addition the NPA had an Employment Wellness programme for prosecutors and their families to help ensure their health was adequately catered to.
Mr Swart asked if the NPA set its targets for convictions on sexual offences with the realization of the gross under-reporting on sexual offences. How did the NPA plan to tackle the issue of under-reporting of sexual offences?
Ms Majokweni replied that the NPA viewed the under reporting of sexual offences as a major impediment to the fight against sexual offences and was working towards addressing it. The NPA’s request for additional funding from USAID was to ensure a broader spread of knowledge generated at community and ward levels to encourage the reporting of sexual offences, as well as ensuring police accessibility and the provision of victim friendly centres for reporting.
Ms Schӓfer remarked that it might be helpful if higher conviction rates were achieved, as this would encourage victims to report cases.
Ms Majokweni replied that the rate of conviction of sexual offences had been hampered by the reduction in the number of Sexual Offences Courts. It was hoped that this would be addressed upon the reintroduction of the courts.
Mr Swart expressed sympathy with regard to the budget constraints faced by the NPA, while stressing the importance for government departments to understand the realities and need for the cuts. However, Parliament was empowered to suggest amendments to allocated amounts for government departments where it deemed it necessary, and it had become necessary in the light of the presentation by the NPA. It would be helpful if the NPA forwarded to the Committee an analysis prioritising its needs and the motivation for this.
Mr Swart referred to a popularized case in the media, where it was alleged a traditional healer had married a girl of 13 years old and the prosecutor had withdrawn the case on the basis that the girl’s parent had given consent to the marriage. Parents could not legally give consent to marrying away a child and it was ridiculous that a prosecutor had withdrawn the charge on this basis. What was the NPA doing to address this issue?
Mr Sibongile Mzinyathi, DPP North/Gauteng, updated the Committee on the details of the case. The case had initially been reported in the media by the Sowetan and the attention of the NPA had been drawn to it and the traditional healer charged in court. The prosecutor who initially withdrew the case was being internally investigated, as it was an internal standard in the NPA that a prosecutor could not single-handedly determine cases on sexual offences involving children without prior notification of the DPP in charge of sexual offences. The facts of the case were that the traditional healer had been treating the child and the family had been unable to pay, hence it was decided that the child be married off to the traditional healer after lobola negotiations had been concluded. The prosecutor who withdrew the case had misapplied the law by stating that it was a customary marriage given the payment of lobola. The NPA took up the case and after the docket had been delivered and further investigations conducted, had decided to charge the traditional herbalist under Section 15 of the Children’s Act for having sexual penetration of a minor. A charge was also brought against the traditional healer for contravention of Section 12 of the Children’s Act and the NPA was considering bringing the same charge against the mother. There were however concerns about prosecuting the mother of the girl and the effect this might have on the child in the long term. A charge was also to be brought under Section 17 of the Children’s Act - for the sexual exploitation of a minor - against the traditional healer and perhaps the mother. Lastly a charge was to be brought under Section 3 of the School’s Act for taking a child away from school for marriage. Additional investigation had been instructed, particularly with regard to the evidence of the social workers. Further investigation from the child’s school was also being pursued in preparation for the case. The need for the sensitivity and urgency in handling of the case had also been impressed upon the responsible prosecuting officer. It was yet to be confirmed if the case had been enrolled in court.
Mr Swart commended the DPP for its handling of the case and asked where the child was at the moment.
Mr Mzinyathi responded that the child was at a place of safety.
Ms M Smuts (DA) referred to the statement in the presentation by the NPA that compliance in government was becoming costly and asked if this was an attempt to avoid scrutiny because of targets. The main question to be asked was whether or not justice was being done.
Ms Smuts referred to the NPA’s earlier request to the Committee for an audience to discuss the job evaluation issue and its later communication before the scheduled meeting that the issue had been resolved, and asked how the issue had been resolved.
Adv Jiba explained that at the time the meeting had been requested, the NPA had been under a lot of financial strain and needed to communicate its concerns to the Committee. The Department and National Treasury were also very concerned about the situation. After the request for a meeting with the Committee had been sent, the Department had requested an audience with the NPA and indicated it had unspent funds from its allocation earmarked for capital expenditure. National Treasury had given the Department permission to transfer up to R30 million of its unspent allocation to the NPA and the Department agreed in principle to do so. The NPA thus felt the urgency of the meeting it had requested with the Committee no longer existed, hence the postponement. Unfortunately, the Department had reneged on the agreement. However, NPA was able to get the Department to agree to not invoicing it for about R10 million which it owed the Department. The NPA thus believed this was a more appropriate avenue to put forward its request for additional funding. Furthermore, the NPA had a commitment from the Department to assist in procuring a building for the NPA from the Department’s allocation for capital expenditure. The Department had provisionally agreed and the NPA hoped to get written confirmation shortly.
Ms Smuts stated that the Minister, in a previous engagement with the Committee, had indicated that it was expensive to implement the Witness Protection programme and that the Director General of the Department remained the accounting officer of the program. The Strategic Plan of the NPA however indicated that the DG had delegated the duty to the NPA - this was a situation that clearly stood contrary to statutory provisions and needed to be corrected, as an accounting officer could not delegate his role. Was the allegation that the NPA wanted the witness protection programme situated with it because it diverted funds earmarked for the programme to meet its other financial commitments true?
Adv Jiba responded that the accounting officer of the Witness Protection programme was the DG and the input of the NPA was within the confines of the Department. The NPA operated the programme on delegated authority and it was impossible to divert funds for the programme to other needs within the NPA.
Ms Smuts referred to statements in the Strategic Plan where it was stated that the success of the NPA was dependent on the entire success of the general justice system and there was a need to revive existing structures and address the case file management system. She requested that the NPA discuss the implementation of the proposed case file management system.
Ms Smuts referred to the abandonment and provisional withdrawal of charges in a particular case and the allegation that this was due to the vested interest of President Zuma’s son in the case. She asked for comments from the NPA on the matter.
Adv Jiba replied that it had been a strategic decision by the DPP, and the case had not been withdrawn finally. Priority had been given to a more sensitive case, where a witness in the current case was required to give evidence. Full details could not be provided but the case had not been withdrawn permanently.
The Chairperson noted that magistrates had expressed discontentment that some prosecutors earned higher salaries than magistrates. He asked for the NPA’s comments on this.
Mr Hofmeyr responded that from the early days of the NPA, it had been a struggle to strike a balance between the salaries of magistrates and those of prosecutors, which had in fact resulted in an initial exodus of prosecutors to the magistracy for reasons of salary disparity. Good strong professionals should be encouraged to stay in their professions and one way to achieve this was to ensure they were well paid. It was ridiculous to expect that no single prosecutor, regardless of the years of experience, should earn more than a magistrate. As per the current status quo, the majority of prosecutors earned far less than Magistrates.
The Chairperson referred to the complaint against the CEO in the office of the Public Protector and asked that a progress report on the matter be sent to the Committee.
Dr Ramaite remarked that he was not familiar with the details of the complaint. However it would be considered and a report sent to the Committee.
The Chairperson in, closing remarks, stated that it had become imperative that Parliament made recommendations for an increase in the budgetary allocation to the NPA if it was to be successful in the fulfilment of its mandate. He thanked all for their attendance.
The meeting was adjourned.
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