Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on its 2012/13 Annual Report: Day 1

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Justice and Correctional Services

08 October 2013
Chairperson: Mr L Landers (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development presented its Annual Report for 2012/13. The vision and mission had not changed. There had been policy updates in the past year, largely intended to transform State legal services, and new initiatives included the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), the proposed establishment of the Solicitor-General post, and appointment and work of the South African Justice Education Institute. There had been a major focus, in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, on the fight against corruption, and progress was reported in the Department, which had standardised systems and controls.

The Integrated Justice System (IJS) projects continued, and the re-establishment of Sexual Offences courts was under way. Extensive studies and work were done into the plight of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) communities, with rapid response teams set up on the ground, and a conference to be convened later in the year. International work was outlined. The Department was piloting paperless systems in the Master’s Office, had done much work on EFT payments in more courts and more cases, but was still trying to achieve targets on the Small Claims Courts, where new courts had been created, but the Department was struggling to find commissioners, particularly since no Department of Justice employee was permitted to assist. Awareness had been raised on equality courts. Four million court records had been digitised to minimise risk of loss and increase available space. Other work included establishment of two commissions of inquiry, own initiatives for employees, reducing contract appointments and filling vacant posts. The Department achieved spending of R99.99% of budget.

The Department was pleased to report an unqualified audit opinion, for the first time in seven years, achieved through steady improvements of administration, and a final breakthrough in completing reliable figures on the Third Party Funds (TPF).

Challenges to service delivery, in general, included recent fires at the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court, which was completely destroyed, at Inkanyezi, and the Bisho Master’s Office. Salary upgrades for employees posed challenges and it would simply not be possible to upgrade other levels. Budget cuts were stretching the Department’s ability to make payments on time, fund security, leases, rates and taxes.

The Department outlined how its spending supported service delivery, tabling the numbers of cases, and the results and comparisons with previous years, for High Courts, Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal, civil appeals, petitions, Labour Court, and Land Claims Courts. Members noted that problems in the Land Claims Courts were related to the operations of the Land Claims Commission, and said this posed a danger to democracy. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had concerns about less hours spent in court, and Members had a brief discussion on postponements, with the suggestion being made that more investigation was needed into the reasons why fewer matters were being enrolled for trial, and why case flow management worked in selected areas, but not in others. Work relating to vulnerable groups was outlined, and Members discussed whether it was appropriate for the Department to be dealing with domestic violence cases, or whether community structures such as churches and traditional courts should not become more actively involved. There were concerns about the rising numbers of children used by adults to commit crime, and the fact that more children were committing sexual offences, more serious offences, and being under the influence of drugs made from readily-obtainable ingredients. Many parents were not willing to accept their children back in diversion programmes.

The Department had achieved 46% of its targets fully, had done significant work on others, and had five where performance was under 50%. These were the integrated case management system for the TPF (since finalised), regulations for TRC victims, the deliberate decision not to open more One Stop Centres pending further costing exercises, and under-achievements by the Office of the Family Advocate, due to legislative changes that impacted on capacity. The specific steps taken to achieve an unqualified audit were outlined, including the changes to improve the TPF reporting. Members questioned the requirements for staff to sign secrecy agreements, and asked for reports on vetting to be provided. Further details were provided of communication initiatives, filling of vacancies, training, tracing of TRC beneficiaries, and the concerns expressed by Legal Resources Centre about the TRC Community Rehabilitation projects. Members agreed that more details on the TRC’s involvement, possible clients and concerns were needed, and called for more detail on which regulations were still outstanding.

The Department undertook to report back on exactly how much had been spent, by the Department, on the IJS review, from inception to the present, and outlined the progress of the Auditor-General’s investigations. There were continuing challenges with getting the various departments’ systems compatible. Statistics were provided for the Person Identification and Verification Application (PIVA) system, and Audio-visual Remands (AVR), which were intended to prevent risk of escapes and dispose of remands quickly and effectively. Members called for further clarity on the numbers of courts, correctional centres and police stations linked to the AVR system and asked that the Department must verify whether inmates were given sufficient opportunities to consult with their legal advisers. The improvements to the internal IT systems of the Department were then described, following extra allocations of funding in 2011. Members asked for assurances on off-site backup and storage, and questioned what matters were being tracked and automated. They also asked for comment on the concerns of the Judge-President of KwaZulu Natal about court infrastructure in his province.

Reports were given on backlogs reduction, although it was noted that the Department might not be able to convert all backlog courts to permanent courts. Members debated whether withdrawal of cases was serving the interests of justice, particularly in domestic violence matters, and this led to a discussion on whether, and if, traditional court matters should be tracked, with one Member expressing the view that this should be a special project of the Department. The Maintenance Turnaround strategy was discussed at length, and Members were told, in response to questions, that the Department did do proper investigations into income, made objective assessments on what defendants could afford to pay, managed to track defaulters but were reluctant to name and shame, because of the effect on the children. The possible solutions on the National Register of Sexual Offenders, including the creation of one Register to serve the Children’s Act and Sexual Offences Act, were outlined. The Child Justice Centres were working well, with previous labour issues being dealt with. Reports were given on court buildings, and the Committee reminded the Department of the concerns expressed in the previous year that there was a need to focus on maintaining existing courts rather than building new ones, although the counter-argument of the need to bring justice closer to the people was also raised. The presentation would continue on the following day.
 

Meeting report

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD) Annual Report 2012/13
The Chairperson summarised that on the previous day the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) had dealt with many issues in the DoJCD Annual Report for 2012/13, and had noted that there were improvements.

Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, DoJCD Director General, introduced new officials, and said that the posts of Deputy Director General: Constitutional Development and Deputy Director General: Court Services were being advertised.

The vision and mission had not changed, and the principles and values were outlined(see attached presentation). There were four strategic goals: increased accountability, effectiveness and efficiency of the Department, improved effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of Justice services, transformation of legal services to protect and advance the interests of government, and effective coordination of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster.

Ms Sindane noted the policy updates intended to transform State legal services, and said that in the 2012/13 year a discussion document was published for comment, and the Minister had announced the creation of a Solicitor-General post, and the administrative process was being finalised. That person would be responsible for norms and standards for State legal services, and how the State Attorneys worked. The Department continued to assist the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) to work towards a truly independent judiciary. The Secretary General for the OCJ had been appointed, and a new Chief Executive of the South African Justice Education Institute (SAJEI) had been appointed. 1 956 members of the judiciary had been trained, in excess of the target of 350. Now that all governance issues had been finalised, future targets would be higher.

In the JCPS Cluster, there was a particular focus on the fight against corruption, and the Department wanted to ensure that systems and controls within the Department itself were standardised. There had been major progress, in comparison with the previous year, in finalising the anti-corruption cases. Criminal investigations were recorded against 242 accused in 89 priority cases, involving more than R5 million per incident. Further investigations were pending against another 193. Two people were acquitted and charges were withdrawn against 14 accused. Targets may not be met because of the lengthy investigation processes.

IJS programmes
Ms Sindane reminded Members that last year, the Committee had questioned, in some depth, the work towards the Integrated Justice System (IJS) programmes. The Department was asked to investigate the re-establishment of the Sexual Offences (SO) courts, and it had now established a blueprint for the courts, nine were set up and 57 others would be upgraded to meet that model. The Department had appointed a service provider to undertake an investigation into the impact of decisions taken at Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal. A number of areas had been highlighted that would respond directly to the National Development Plan (NDP). In the main, a “safe South Africa” meant a strong criminal justice system. A 7-point plan was adopted in 2007 and the Department would continue with its implementation. Many of the protocols – including those for the Regional Court, case finalisation, trial efficiency and others – were already being implemented. Efforts would also continue to strengthen co-ordination, implementation and monitoring of initiatives in line with the NDP, and the Department would align its efforts with the chapters of the NDP that dealt with building a capable state, promoting accountability and fighting corruption, transforming society and uniting the country, particularly through the work of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Public Protector (PP) and the judiciary.

Last year, the Department had concentrated quite extensively on the plight of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) communities. A number of structures had been institutionalised, on the ground, as “rapid response” teams, and public awareness campaigns and situational analyses into the treatment of cases involving this grouping had been conducted. In the 2013/14 year, the Department would focus on formulating a policy framework and would be convening a conference on LGBTI during the 16 days of activism against abuse of women and children.

Ms Sindane outlined the liaison and negotiations to promote international legal cooperation and extradition and mutual legal-assistance agreements, with Republic of Belarus, and Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The documents had been referred to the State Law Advisers. The Department was attempting to ensure that country reporting was improved, and had recommended that a dedicated unit be formed to focus on those reports.

Organisational overview
Ms Sindane was pleased to note that for the first time in seven years, the Department had achieved an unqualified audit opinion. This had been achieved through steady improvements of administration, and this journey would continue. The final breakthrough was that reliable revenue figures were achieved for the Third Party Funds (TPF). Capacity had been created in the Department to work on proper financial statements, and the controls environment had been stabilised and improved. Most of the former contract appointments had been converted to permanent ones. She hoped that the outcomes would be further improved as the Department moved forward.

Ms Sindane also highlighted some other areas. The Department had announced its intention to go “paperless”, starting with the Master of the High Court. Additional service points had been established, at Nelspruit, Katlehong, and 16 new small claims courts, which had improved access to justice. The Department had not met its targets on small claims courts, because of difficulty in finding the commissioners, but would continue to work on this area. Much work and achievement was shown on decentralised EFT payments, particularly in maintenance matters, with the value of payments by EFT rising from R9.1 million in March 2011 to R110.5 million in March 2013. In the Guardian’s Fund, 94% of payments were made by EFT in the 2012/13 year. Ms Sindane noted, and apologised for an error in the figure in the printed Annual Report, and confirmed that an erratum notice would be issued. Over 4 million court records had been digitised to minimise risk of loss and increase available space.

The Department assisted with establishing the Commission of Inquiry into the Strategic Defence package and the Marikana Commission. The establishment of commissions required secondment of staff, but she was pleased to note the progress of the commissions. For its own employees, the Department was offering health and wellness services, through four social workers employed by the Department. There was a particular need to ensure support for the staff in the Sexual Offences (SO) courts. The Department had managed to upgrade 7 288 employees to level 5, at the request of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), despite the fact that it had no budget to do this. 4 759 new recruits were taken in, in the form of permanent appointments, contracts and promotions. The contract appointments had been reduced, but despite high turnover and staff movement, (which was common to many other departments), the vacancy rate was maintained at below 10%. The Department would constantly re-evaluate its organisational establishment, in view of the very tight budgets, and look at how more effective use of IT could address budget constraints.

The Department had spent 99.99% of the budget, and had returned R1 million to National Treasury. She quipped that before the Committee demanded why she had not followed the example of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which had to return only 12 cents, she would explain that many departments would try to retain a “cushion” to avoid overspending at the end of the year. In fact, accruals had decreased. The Department was busy preparing and would table financial statements for four consecutive years for the TPF. 96% of Senior Management Staff (SMS) had finalised their performance agreements in time, and 100% of all SMS staff submitted financial disclosures on time. All these smaller compliance issues demonstrated, cumulatively, an overall increase in the Department’s integrity.

Challenges
Ms Sindane noted that there were a number of challenges around the service delivery. Fire outbreaks resulted in the complete destruction of the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court, although documents were salvaged, and fires in Inkanyezi, and the Bisho Master’s Office had affected service delivery. Legal Aid and the judiciary had worked in very difficult conditions to ensure that the services would continue, but there would be longer-term budget and service delivery constraints.

Dr M Motshekga (ANC) interjected to ask if there was any arson involved.

Ms Sindane responded that the reports given to the Department did not categorically point to arson. Old infrastructure and electrical wiring were not designed to carry the current number of users and this may have been the main cause.

Ms Sindane expanded upon the earlier references to salary upgrades and pointed out that although this was an achievement, it was not without challenges, as these employees had been moved almost to the same levels as their supervisors, resulting in a drop in morale in those excluded from the agreement. It would be impossible to simply move all current level 5 employees up to higher levels, but the Department was continuing to engage with National Treasury and DPSA. This position was also seen in the Departments of Police (SAPS) and Correctional Services (DCS). Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) remained problematic. Budget cuts had negatively affected the Department’s ability to fund security, leases, rates and taxes and shortfalls in ICT. National Treasury had given some reprieve, by allowing the Department to pay accruals with savings accrued in other areas where the Department of Public Works had not been able to act in time. Making of payments within 30 days was not always possible because of budget cuts.

Court Performance
Ms Sindane stressed that despite these challenges, the Department spent the majority of the R7.6 billion budget for supporting service delivery. 900 000 cases enrolled in the courts were supported. The Department had handled 174 000 new maintenance applications and over 246 000 new domestic violence order applications. 1 500 adoptions were finalised. Over 50 000 matters involving children were handled by the Office of the Chief Family Advocate. 240 000 matters were handled by Masters of the High Court, involving deceased estates, insolvencies, curatorships and trusts. Over 5 500 litigation cases against the State were enrolled and handled through the State Attorney. Over 10 000 cases of expungements and pardons were finalised. 1 600 matters involving legal opinions, scrutiny and certification of bills, subordinate legislation and international agreements and translations were done by the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (OCSLA).

She tabled slides on cases finalised through the Superior Courts, regional and districts courts (civil) and matters relating to vulnerable groups, and noted that the NPA report would have covered criminal cases in the lower courts. The OCJ was currently responsible for case flow management but the Department was responsible for producing the operational reports. There was, overall, a 71% increase in judgments in the Constitutional Court during this year. 24% more cases were lodged, 5% were awaiting direction, but 2% more were dismissed. Future reports would give a closer monitoring of results. In the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), there had been an increase of 150% in criminal appeals handled. Civil appeals declined by 16%. The number of criminal appeals finalised decreased by 66%, but civil appeals finalised increased by 6%. Criminal petition matters decreased by 10%, but civil petitions increased by 24%. Many more matters were withdrawn.

In respect of the Labour Court, Ms Sindane explained that the slides showed the corrected numbers, and it would be necessary for the department also to issue an erratum notice on the figures in the Annual Report. There was a problem in relation to the Land Claims Court finalisation rates.

Dr Motshekga interjected to note that the operation of the Land Claims Court was at the centre of the survival or otherwise of the country. Some of the weaknesses there may spill over from weaknesses at the Land Claims Commission, which was still busy with investigations that had dragged on for years. This was posing a danger to the democracy.

Ms Sindane noted her agreement and said that it was important to highlight that.

She reported that other High Courts, and the Regional courts, had improved in matters enrolled and finalised, and judgments had been improved. The numbers of civil matters in the regional courts were indicated but the Department needed to undertake an analysis into civil matters being withdrawn. There had been some under-performance in the district courts when compared to previous years, which was not due to any lack of support. She reiterated that the NPA had expressed concerns about the numbers of hours in court, and the Department was hoping that the OCJ would address this as part of its work on governance of courts.

Dr Motshekga asked if this was not related to the NPA’s comment that there were many postponements. He wondered if “independence of the legal profession” meant that they should be allowed to delay the progress of justice.

The Chairperson said that the decision on granting of postponements was in the hands of the presiding officer, so it went to the independence of the judiciary. The NPA had tried to explain this point. There were also other factors affecting this. Overall, the interests of justice would be considered.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) noted that the decrease of 43% in civil trials had nothing to do with the independence of the legal profession, but seemed to be related to serious problems in enrolling matters for trial. There was a need to find out the causes for the drop in enrolments, whether it was related to fewer summons, longer waiting times for trial dates, use of courts or other faults in the system. When cases were not speedily heard, it would impact on the economy.

Ms M Smuts (DA) noted that she would be asking later why case flow management was working in some areas, but not others, but asked Members to remember that many issues were in the hands of the presiding officers and the OCJ

The Chairperson noted that the figures also related to what was happening in the lower courts.

Ms Sindane tabled figures in relation to the Small Claims Courts cases, which showed increases partially attributable to increased numbers of courts, but also because of increased awareness, after the Department’s campaigns, about the courts. The Department had looked into why people had not been accessing the Equality Courts. In 2012/13, matters registered increased by 4% and those disposed of by 89%. The additional communication and education about these courts was responsible for the greater numbers.

Vulnerable groups
Ms Sindane said that in principle, the Department would like to see a decrease in domestic violence cases but there was an 18% increase in new applications for Protection Orders, Interim Protection Orders, and a 40% increase in the numbers of warrants of arrest. An analysis had not yet been done on the number of Orders varied, but that would be done in the next financial year.

Dr Motshekga recalled that in the 1980s the “Peoples’ Courts”, which were essentially community courts, had eradicated these kinds of problems. He wondered if it was appropriate to rely solely on the State to deal with domestic violence or whether there should be mechanisms within the community to deal with these kinds of cases, and whether alternative structures were not better than protection orders. He believed the figures was symptomatic of social problems.

Ms Sindane said that the Department had looked into how to minimise the matters that did have to follow the fully-blown court process, and would continue to explore other opportunities. However, she cautioned that negotiations could lead to excellent results, but equally to dire consequences, so it would be necessary to explore the options and risks most thoroughly.

Ms Smuts said that if the Department became involved in any “external” processes this would entirely defeat the object and what Dr Motshekga was referring to was the need for involvement, as had happened in the past, of other structures, such as churches. She did not believe it would be useful for the State to try to institute something outside the court system.

Dr Motshekga asked whether the Department should not be holding more community dialogue.

The Chairperson said that Ms Smuts’ concerns that alternative initiatives should come from community structures was valid. There were indeed such structures, but their role had changed drastically, and it was not for this Committee to debate whether the structures should be doing family negotiations.

Dr Moshekga still felt that the State had a role to promote this, but mentioned institutions of traditional leadership as well.

Ms Smuts and the Chairperson agreed that there was much that could be done, in a private capacity, by citizens.

Child Justice
Ms Sindane tabled the statistics on the Children’s Courts, and Child Justice. The numbers of children used by adults to commit crime had risen, and that was of concern. There was a 22% increase in children allegedly committing sexual offences. The NPA had been asked to do research and report back on why so many less children were being referred to the Children’s Court (a decrease of 15%). Other concerns were that more children were committing serious offences, and this was linked to the questions on diversion programmes.

Dr Motshekga asked whether this research would be possible, given the current workload of the NPA. He wondered whether the universities, who received large grants, could not be asked to do this research instead.

Ms Sindane answered that the research was done within the context of the operational work of the Inter-sectoral Committee, although the universities could be asked to assist with larger studies, and she would explore this option further. NPA did have a limited research component, which helped it to research its own performance and propose innovations.

Ms Sindane also reported that there were problems releasing children to parental care. Most parents did not want their children back, and many were afraid of their children, having been victims of the child’s conduct, particularly if the child was a drug addict. There was anecdotal evidence that more children in the eight or nine year old bracket were using hard drugs. Even when parents did take their children back, they tended to run away again. More releases on bail were seen. The number of children in secure care facilities had increased.

Dr Motshekga asked how the law might be adapted. If parents were afraid of receiving their children back, the police and State could not deal with that and other interventions were needed.

Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) said it would be good to have a national forum. In Gauteng alone, there was a massive problem with drugs and huge levels of business in both drugs and prostitution.

Prof L Ndabandaba (ANC) said that when parents no longer wanted their children, this could develop into a crimogenic, normless society.

The Chairperson said that it was very worrying if a mother did not want her child back.

Members of the Committee discussed other social problems, including children raping older women, killings within families and agreed that broader approaches were needed.

Dr Motshekga noted that in every informal settlement and township there were community structures, particularly churches, who should use their facilities to open rehabilitation centres and counseling structures.

The Chairperson reported that he had been approached with questions as to why the Departments of Health and Justice were delaying in categorising the prohibited drugs, but, on making enquiries, he was told that the components of the drugs could easily be purchased over the counter and drug dealers were simply mixing the drugs.

Mr Swart noted that the Minister of Social Development had made similar points in answer to a Parliamentary question. This was not something that the State alone would solve, and the Department of Social Development’s national drug programme was attempting a more holistic stance.

Ms Sindane continued with the presentation, reporting that there had been 83% inter-country adoptions finalised and 73% of national adoptions were finalised. There was a 13% decrease of children in need of care and protection.

Performance overview
Ms Sindane noted that during the previous financial year there had been significant problems with key performance indicators achieved, but in this year the Department managed to achieve 46% of its targets. The major focus had been on trying to turn around the financial performance, which it had achieved. Even where targets were missed, there had been performance and work that had an impact. Only 9% of indicators (five areas) showed performance of under 50%.

She outlined the five areas. The Integrated Case Management System for TPF had not quite been completed by target date, but this had been done in the current year. There were not as many regulations passed as hoped, to provide assistance to TRC victims, because of complexities in the process. The Department had delayed (deliberately) on its target to add another two One-Stop Child Justice Centres, in order to do a proper costing. In relation to the Office of the Family Advocate, Ms Sindane explained that in 2010 an extension of jurisdiction meant that Family Advocates traveled more, to reach different courts, and spent less time in office, and the impact of the legislative changes had not been fully appreciated at the time. Some additional resources had to be allocated, to build capacity, and the targets had to be adjusted downwards when it became clear that they would not be met. There was no inefficiency in the system; it was a question of capacity.

Ms Pilane-Majake felt that the targets and achievements were not presented in a particularly user-friendly way. She commented that the percentages needed to be compared to figures.

Performance against predetermined objectives
Ms Sindane said that the Auditor-General (AG) had only audited the Department on pre-determined objectives, although the areas she had just presented related to the actual work done which were not necessarily listed as specific targets.

She outlined the performance for Programme 1, focusing on the work done to help the Department achieve an unqualified audit, from 2010, when the contract and internal capacity was improved to address the problems in the TPF. A number of improvements on systems and controls had enabled the Department to prepare credible financial statements. There was continuous revision and updates of financial procedures, and capacity building, particularly in the regional offices, and an internal control unit was established in the Office of the CFO to monitor compliance. Although there was not yet an ideal staff structure, the appointment of the Chief Financial Officer, Ms Lorraine Rossouw, had gone far to address the problems. Clear deliverables were now set, and she tabled, by way of illustration, the trends for payments within 30 days, although she emphasised that budget constraints prevented all matters being addressed in this financial year. Accruals related mostly to security service providers, Department of Public Works and State Information Technology Agency. The Department tried to ensure that small suppliers were paid on time, and would work with them to fix any problematic invoices to ensure that they could be paid. She felt that there would be improvements on the security providers for courts. The contracts had been substantially cut.

Specific changes to improve on the management of TPF were tabled in slide 46 of the attached presentation.

The Department had developed an Audit Action Plan, with officials dedicated to this work alone. Particular attention was being paid to managing fraud and corruption. It had finalised 77% of new cases, and 100% of the backlog cases, and this resulted in 26 dismissals, 17 final written warnings, a one-month salary suspension for two employees, and two months suspension without salary for four staff. Six staff members and three members of the public were arrested. One former official had been sentenced to four years imprisonment, suspended for two years, for TPF fraud. At Cluster level, it was hoped to consolidate the information and put details of all those arrested on one consolidated database, firstly to make each department aware of progress in others, and secondly to prevent those employees moving to other departments. Staff workshops were held at every level. Employees were vetted, although this remained a problem because the forms submitted to the National Intelligence Agency were complex, and high turnover posed problems of verification. The Department had prioritised those working in information security and supply chain management, and had also required some people, depending on their work requirements, to sign confidentiality agreements. Continuous evaluations and controls were also carried out.

The Chairperson said that clarification was needed on the statement, in the presentation, about “signing of a secrecy agreement by all staff”. Adv de Kock had clarified the position on the alleged leaking of documents that were in fact not secret.

Ms Smuts asked who was sworn to secrecy, and for what.

The Chairperson said it would clearly involve senior management and those officials who occupied strategic positions.

Mr Swart asked for a short report to be provided to the Committee.

Ms Sindane described other improvements in support services, with a key mandate to secure property and people. A major setback was the fire in Polokwane, at a state-of-the-art facility. The integrated security system had been rolled out to 24 priority courts.

The Department had, in the last year, tried to be more available and visible to communities, by radio interviews, public participation and visiting schools and communities. 40 campaigns were planned, and 53 were achieved. However, the budget for communications had been cut in the current year. The Department was performing well on the Presidential Hotline, because of effective monitoring of cases through service points, and “conclusion” of cases comprised a report-back to the complainant. Many complaints related to lost documents for appeals, and they were unlikely to be finalised within the targeted 30 days.

Ms Sindane repeated that the targets for filling vacancies were met, and set out the figures on slide 54. Grievances mostly related to performance and job appraisals, and 515 grievances were received, from the 17 313 staff, of which 57% were finalised. The target for finalising misconduct cases was not achieved, although the Department was working on this.

Almost 5 000 officials were trained through Justice College, which was short of the target of 6 500, because trainees and trainers were often not available because of other pressing departmental priorities, and because unplanned training on urgent matters was also needed. Overall, 9 962 people were trained in both the formal and informal programmes. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training was particularly relevant, because it spoke to transformation of State legal services.

The Department had continued its work in attempting to trace the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) beneficiaries, with only 40 still to be traced. Guardian’s Fund processes would be used to deal with the few who were untraceable. There was unlikely to be much further progress, and she indicated that substantial funds and time had already been invested in trying to find people, including sending people to the remotest of areas.

TRC Community Rehabilitation Projects had been launched in February and March, in Alexandra and Mamelodi. The needs analysis results would inform the allocation of projects to communities, and regulations would then be developed under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) had suggested that the Department had been squandering money, and claimed that these projects were not in the interests of some beneficiaries, and that community rehabilitation was irrelevant given the changes in the community.

Dr Motshekga said that it was a wrong principle that the Department should be held to account by NGOs. There were public representatives at local, provincial and national level who should deal with such matters.

The Chairperson was not sure exactly what community rehabilitation would entail, but it was possible that the LRC would prefer to see money being given to individual victims. He wondered if this Committee should not perhaps engage with the LRC.

Ms Sindane said that the LRC had requested a meeting with the Department, and the audited financial statements of the TRC had been provided to the LRC, as requested.

Ms Pilane-Majake felt that this meeting would be useful, as it might help to close the process.

Mr Swart said that the LRC might be acting of its own accord, or may be acting on instructions of a client, so it would be useful to allow a prior discussion between the Department and LRC. He was not sure whether the regulations had to come to Parliament, but even if they did, there would not be public hearings. If LRC was contemplating litigation, then it would be unwise for the Committee to engage at this stage; and he also asked the Department to ensure that its legal advisers would be present at any meeting.

Ms Smuts guessed that LRC might be acting for another client. The decision was taken a long time ago, and whilst reparations recommendations from the TRC were one thing, the final decision, under the law, rested with Parliament. She personally believed that individual victims ought to have been compensated individually, and she was not in favour of the decision to give R30 000 to each declared victim and then to do further community reparation, but this was a recommendation from the TRC itself. She would be interested to hear what was actually been done in each declared place. She believed that LRC’s case must be allowed to progress.

Ms Smuts was disappointed to see, on page 59, that regulations were still 12.5% complete, and asked what exactly was still outstanding.

The Chairperson agreed that it was important to know if LRC was representing someone and was proposing a legal challenge. He wondered if the people of Alexandra and Mamelodi were, in the main, satisfied. If the Department had consulted with the communities, it was not for LRC to state another view.

Ms Smuts said that if the LRC was being instructed by a particular client, what it was demanding was not in compliance with the legislation.

Dr Motshekga commented that he had worked with and represented the people of Mamelodi, and the LRC was not representing those people. He asked if the Committee was suggesting that the LRC should assist the people in Mamelodi to bring their case, but other Members assured him they were not suggesting this. He did not think LRC actions should bring the work of the Department to a halt.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked if there should not also be other engagements outside of the LRC,.

Dr Motshekga suggested that other NGOs could be consulted.

Ms Sindane responded that in 2012, the Department held a workshop with the specific aim of informing organisations that the Department had considered, but rejected the suggested to re-open the closed list of the TRC. At the heart of the open and closed list were regulations, which would regulate the payments. Late last year, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development had signed off the regulations on victim assistance on basic and higher education, and medical benefits were in the process. Although there was originally agreement on housing assistance, it was later realised that there were conflicting requirements around standards for design and finishes of houses provided to military veterans, and those intended to be provided by the Department of Human Settlements, and the need to resolve these inconsistencies resulted in the agreements not being signed off.

IJS Review performance
Ms Sindane moved on to the Integrated Justice Systems programme (IJS). Last year the Committee had raised several concerns. National Treasury had invested a lot of money into the IJS review, which aimed to achieve an integrated justice system, with consistent tracking from start to end. Last year, the Department had run a pilot project in which 99 police stations were connected to 20 courts. A single data warehouse was being advanced within IJS transversal systems. Last year, the end point connection was not working, because each department had different levels of IT readiness and awareness. Some elements of SAPS were speaking to the system, and there was capability to do instant messaging to Legal Aid South Africa when a person was booked into the SAPS system. The Department was trying to ensure that the lines would work completely. A continuing challenge was that the DCS lagged behind other departments and even ran different, non-consistent systems within its own department. Department of Social Development (DSD) also lagged behind in the IJS environment. The IJS Cluster incorporated SAPS, Legal Aid, DSD, DCS and other departments brought in ad hoc (such as Department of Home Affairs) when needed, and the whole value chain had its own performance indicators. The information uploaded in the past had not been “live” information. The targets for May had not been met.

There had been significant process on the Person Identification and Verification Application (PIVA) system, which would use one number to book a person initially and track him right through the criminal justice process, including assisting with DNA legislation implementation. The Audio-Visual Remand (AVR) system was working well, with 14 155 cases being postponed during the year, reducing costs of transport and risks of escape, and the Department was considering whether it should be regulated and made compulsory.

The IJS Programme Management Office was being capacitated, moving from SAPS to the Department, and replacing consultants with internal staff.

Discussion
The Chairperson hoped that all Members understood how the IJS system was supposed to work, and summarised that it was supposed to ensure that all the departments involved in a case, parole or bail, would have the same information on the person arrested, and be able to track previous convictions and case histories. He asked whether the initial budget from National Treasury was, as had been suggested to him, R22 billion, and commented that the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police had said that the SAPS apparently had reported on some computer purchases, but its activities appeared to be low-key. The Auditor-General (AG) had been asked to do an investigation and check that the money had been spent correctly. He was not sure if the AG had spoken to the Department.

Mr Johan Johnson, DoJCD Chief Director: Third Party Funds, said that money was initially allocated to the Department of Safety and Security (now Department of Police) but it had mostly been used for infrastructure. He had overseen the IJS allocations, and he confirmed that a decision was later taken to move the majority of the money to Department of Justice, with some support also to the two Departments of Education. National Treasury would be able to confirm the allocations for each department, but offhand, he did not think that it was R22 billion. Mr Johnson said that DCS had five categories of crime, and it had a different system of collating crimes from that used by the Department of Police, so more investment was needed into the infrastructure and development side of DCS. He would obtain the figures for the following day.

Ms Sindane added that when the Committee expressed its concerns last year, the AG investigations were mentioned to the Cluster, and a team comprising various internal auditors from the Cluster was set up to ensure that all the information was collated for the AG. This team had also been asked to do an assessment of how bad the situation was. A performance overview had been done on progress, but no assessment had been done, in the past, of whether value for money was achieved. Ms Sindane had also met with the AG, who said it would begin looking into governance structures, then would move to investigating value for money. The AG had apparently met with the Chairperson of the IJS Board to discuss how the audit would proceed. The Department had looked into its own spending on IJS, and she thought it was probably around R2.4 billion over the whole duration of the project, but would confirm this also on the following day.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked if this was linked to e-justice, and, if not, what the difference was. This system would be useful, once it was fully operative, but all departments’ systems would have to talk to each other. DCS used to have a good system, as far back as 1998, and it may be possible to tap into their past experiences. The country needed to get maximum benefit from IT systems.

Ms Sindane said that each centre had its own IT system; and whilst these may be working well, the main issue was the lack of integration. The R-DOM system of DCS tracked arrest, the offences, and allocation of trial dates. Ideally, SAPS and R-DOM systems should tally, but a dispute between those two departments in 2011 delayed the whole programme. The programme should be able to be brought back on track, but it would take more resources to bring it up to speed within a shorter time.

Dr Motshekga said that the Department may not have the authority to tell other departments what to do, and perhaps some form of enforcement mechanism, that would not lead to conflict, was needed. He appreciated the work that the Department had done.

Mr S Holomisa (ANC) wanted to refer to AVR mechanisms. He noted that 99 police stations and 20 courts were linked, but asked how many correctional centres were actually using the system, and whether there had been any complaints that accused were denied the opportunity to consult with their legal representatives, or meet their family at court.

Ms Sindane responded that the Cluster received quarterly reports, which attempted to identify any problems and who was responsible.

Mr Tsietsi Malema, Acting Deputy Director General: Court Services, said that there were 47 courts linked to 21 correctional centres overall. A full list of numbers per province was later provided (see attached schedule). This system was used for postponements, but not for trial, using video-conference-type facilities.

Ms Sindane added that there had not been any formal complaints presented to her about lack of facilities to consult. However, she recalled that the reasons provided for not taking up AVR had included the fear that the accused would not be able to consult their legal representatives. This may not be a valid excuse; the Department had not really investigated it in depth, but there were opportunities for attorneys to consult with clients in the correctional centres.

The Chairperson commented that when he attended the launch of the system at Mitchells Plain, it was stressed that this system was intended for remands, not final trial, so the need for consultations with attorneys would relate only to the remand. An assurance was given that the client and attorney would be afforded the opportunity for confidential consultations, through the system, but there was a need to check that this was in fact provided. The concerns about meeting friends and relatives at court were not relevant; there were other structures for visits. The main purpose of this system was to prevent escapes and avoid clogging the court systems.

Ms Sindane said, in relation to numbers, that the Department wanted to ensure that those systems already in place were working properly, before rolling out to more centres.

Internal IT systems
Ms Sindane reminded the Committee that in 2010 the internal IT systems within the Department were on the verge of collapse, because the Department had no resources to upgrade. The Department was then, with assistance from Parliament, granted additional resources for its own IT infrastructure. Much had been done in the past three years, after a full investigation into staffing needs, contracted services, and what needed to be kept and upgraded, or replaced. An IT model and strategy had been developed, with a governance framework. A number of positions had been created, of which 25 had been filled, to try to keep the IT services in-house. The Department’s own IT environment was now stabilising, with better controls, plans and procurement. Slide 64 set out the policy framework. Design and development, quite an involved process, had been ongoing. The budget presentation would show the allocations. The process was continuing, and the Department was getting the necessary capacity.

Mr Holomisa asked for clarity on slide 63, and how many of the positions were filled.

Ms Sindane noted that all 37 posts were filled in that environment. The positions were identified and created at that stage. The establishment would grow in line with the demand for services, with recruitment and filling of those positions in the current financial year.

She added that there had been renewal of infrastructure, and significant replacement of equipment, including 173 servers, procurement of 4 000 desktops, enhancing tools for the judiciary, including procurement of laptops. 260 data lines were procured, and these would require regular upgrades to ensure that the system did not slow down.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked about the servers, and wondered if there was off-site backup.

Ms Sindane said that the 173 servers also represented a rationalisation; in some areas there was a need for extra services, to avoid shut-down of whole areas, but in others the Department was able to consolidate. There was off-site storage, but there was still a need to upgrade with more specific storage and better risk management. Some areas of work were being backed up on a daily basis, an improvement from the previous three-weekly backups. Back-ups were not kept in the same building. The initial philosophy was to emulate the whole network into off-site storage, but other models, which may cost less, were being explored.

Ms Sindane noted that the work with “the judiciary” was not only limited to judges, but also extended to magistrates, who required more support in infrastructure. The IT infrastructure, equipment and software all needed regular updates. Similar support was being given to selected Master’s offices.

Business processes were being tracked and automated in various modules. The first “paperless” systems were created in the Master’s offices. The Department still needed to finalise the systems for Third Party Funds (TPF). There was now a focus on maintenance matters.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked for clarity on what was being tracked. Even if some matters were only tracked annually, it would be useful to have information.

Ms Sindane responded that there were two systems. The first covered the process from the initial application to the granting of judgment, and the Department was tracking who had made the application, how old the matter was, which court dealt with it, and what the order was. Management of TPFs related to the time after the court granted its order. Wherever possible, presiding officers were encouraged to try to make orders for direct payments from respondent to applicant, so the courts would only become involved in applications to vary maintenance orders. There was not, at the moment, any system to track whether direct payments were indeed being made, but the Department was considering whether this was possible.

She added further comments on off-site storage and said that this was implemented after 2010, when it was recognised that file retrieval was taking too long, and many documents were lost. Previous research was re-examined, and it was recognised that the Department had hopelessly under-estimated the time needed for so many files. The Western Cape had a model for digitisation, which ensured that documents would be able to be retrieved, but the Department now had to decide how this could be sustained. The Department had been concentrating on courts with high volumes and low storage. This included the South Gauteng High Court, where 34 million files had been dealt with. Further implementation would cover the Labour and Labour Appeal Courts, and Durban High Court. Isolated problems would be able to be dealt with more easily.

The Chairperson said that the new Judge President had complained, via the media, about the Durban High Court building. Whilst this was not related to the files, it was related to the day-to-day court operations. He asked if this had been referred to the Department.

Ms Sindane said it had, and she agreed with most of the Judge-President’s concerns. The building was too small, particularly since the community it was intended to serve had grown four-fold. She had been making attempts, since 2011, to get the Department of Public Works (DPW) to address the situation, either by acquiring another building, or adding on, and currently a very shabby building had been identified that could be refurbished, but problems in the DPW were delaying the process. There was nothing that the Department could do to address the long queues at this court, because there was not even space to erect temporary structures. DPW would have to decide how to address the problem.

The Chairperson said that this Committee may need to decide for DPW. The problem with DPW had been identified by the Minister, and the sense was that the DPW simply did not know what it was doing.

Mr Johnson noted the Department’s appreciation for the support given by the Committee for the processes shown in slide 65.

Programme 2 Performance report
Ms Sindane noted that Programme 2 was intended to provide accessible, efficient and quality administrative support to the courts and manage court facilities. The strategic objectives were noted on slide 69. She explained that vulnerable groups involved children, the elderly, LGBTI community, who were likely to be at risk, women, particularly those unemployed, and child-headed households.

The Department had a project to reduce the number of backlog cases, and last year had seen a dramatic increase in cases finalised. The Department aimed, each year, to surpass the numbers of cases finalised in the previous year. Currently it had succeeded in removing 82 271 backlog criminal cases and she gave a breakdown that these were “removed” by finalisation (57 668 cases) , withdrawal ( 21 932 cases) or cases transferred to higher courts (671 cases).. National Treasury had provided funding, and in 2012/13 there were 81 backlog courts in operation. Not all of these courts would be able to be converted from backlog courts to permanent courts, but the Department would prioritise those with the highest volume.

Ms Pilane-Majake highlighted the numbers of cases removed through withdrawal. She was worried that a number of domestic violence cases never reached the court, and although it was solving one problem, of statistics, for the Department, it was creating another for society.

Mr Holomisa questioned if the withdrawals resulted in improvement in service of justice. Victims may still feel that redress was needed.

Ms Sindane said that it might be possible to give more detail on the types of cases withdrawn and the reasons. She agreed that many domestic violence cases were being withdrawn, because women were placed under pressure not to proceed, and that was something that was essentially outside the control of the Department.

Dr Motshekga said that many cases should not have ever come to the court. Many abused women were dependent on their abusers, and the court processes were protracted and were in fact providing no solution, and were actually disempowering communities. There was no mention of the traditional courts, and he wondered if this lack of detail suggested that what was happening in those courts was not part of the overall justice system.

The Chairperson suggested that Dr Motshekga should perhaps be asking this question of the Minister.

Ms Sindane agreed that it was quite possible that justice was not being served by withdrawal of cases, and reiterated that the Department was attempting to understand why cases were withdrawn. The case flow management system was set up to assist in checking, through court files, whether the case was court-ready when it was enrolled, to prevent postponements. The revamping of systems by OCJ had helped to reduce more backlogs. She reminded the Committee that cases may need to be withdrawn where there was insufficient evidence, and this would necessitate questions into how the docket-readiness process had failed.

In regard to Dr Motshekga’s comment, Ms Sindane conceded that the Department was essentially continuing to report on matters highlighted in the past. The Department was not documenting Traditional Courts cases, and had no systems to make them part of the Department’s mechanisms. The Traditional Courts Bill, if finalised, would have forced some reporting mechanisms to come into play, but it had not been passed.

Dr Motshekga pointed out that the Traditional Courts had existed for many years and were currently in operation. In Tzaneen, these courts functioned so well that white and Indian people preferred to use these courts rather than the “imported” courts. Many people tended to see the statutory courts as intended only for those with money. People were still grappling with what the traditional courts should be called, and what they should be covering, and he again urged the Department to interact with universities on these points.

Mr Holomisa noted that prior to 1994, traditional leaders were working closely with magistrates, and had submitted court records to the magistrates, so mechanisms had been in place at some stage. The fact that the Traditional Courts Bill had not been passed was not sufficient reason for the Department not to be reporting, as other institutions were operating under laws that pre-dated 1994.

Ms Pilane-Majake wanted to follow up on prioritisation, and pointed out that the Thuthuzela Care Centres were supposed to be dealing with matters.

Mr Charles Mooke, Acting Head: Justice College, said that Justice College was doing training aimed at achieving improvements.

Dr Motshekga suggested that perhaps it would be useful to have a system similar to Contralesa, to avoid duplication.

Ms Sindane said that if the Department had ever reported on the traditional courts, prior to her joining the Department, she had not been aware of it. In general, departments would report on matters when required to do so by legislation, or in line with past practices. She reminded Members that all reporting related to budget allocations, and in addition to that, the reporting lines and accountability of traditional courts would need to be investigated. It would be necessary, when reporting, to report on progress and controls, but pointed out that if the traditional courts decided that they did not wish to sit, she would have no authority to force them to do so. From an audit perspective, it would be impossible to report on performance if she had no power to demand evidence. All these issues could be discussed later, but essentially it must be remembered that no governance authority rested with the Department in this regard.

Dr Motshekga requested that this should be made a special project of the Department. The majority of the people saw this new system as disadvantageous.

Maintenance
Ms Sindane moved to the slides dealing with implementation of the Maintenance Turnaround Project. This was one of the flagship projects, developed in 2011, to guide the Department in dealing with maintenance. Different interventions ranged from EFT payments, through lean management and streamlining of business processes, development of policies and training, to IT systems. She tabled statistics on each of these points.

Making payments to beneficiaries by EFT reduced the risk of cash handled and robberies, and meant that beneficiaries did not have to spend money on traveling to court to collect payments, as well as ensuring that they would receive their money more swiftly. Since 2011, the system was being implemented in 310 courts instead of the initial 10, and the initial R9 million payments by EFT in 2011 had now increased to R110 million being paid in this way. Because most payments were quite small, this represented a huge number of cases. She agreed that whilst bank charges were to be paid by beneficiaries, they were far less than the transport costs and time lost waiting in queues.

Ms Pilane-Majake said that determination of quantum was a sore point. Some former spouses might have money but would not want to pay. This Committee had made some suggestions on that point in the previous year.

Mr Johnson reminded the Committee of the achievements. No clear guidance had been given, initially, on unclaimed money, but the Department had succeeded in its argument that instead of paying it over to the fiscus, and then reclaiming if the beneficiary was found, the Department should instead keep the money in the TPF system. There were still some challenges around identification particularly where large employers, such as mining houses, 370 courts, which included rural towns, as it had greatly improved service delivery to the public.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked how much money was not claimed.

Mr Johnson said that unclaimed money returned to the fiscus last year was R59 million, but 99% of that was unclaimed bail. Maintenance money unclaimed amounted to about R1 million.

Mr Holomisa commented again that it was impossible to track amounts paid directly party to party.

Ms Sindane agreed, and said that the figures shown related to EFT payments made via the Department. She clarified that when a court order was given, obliging the respondent to pay, the payments were made to the Department’s account, with references that would be checked and the Department would in turn pay over the relevant amount to the applicants. All EFTs went through the Department’s account.

The Chairperson and Mr Holomisa thanked the Department for that clarification.

Ms Sindane reiterated that an alternative arrangement was that presiding officers should order the respondent to pay directly to the applicant, and in this case, the money would be transferred directly from one bank account to another, without routing through the Department’s account, so the Department would not need to check anything.

Ms Pilane-Majake thought that there still should be a check.

Mr Malema said that the maintenance officers had been trained on the remedies available, and how to enforce them, through, for instance, attachment of properties. Additional maintenance officers and investigators would be appointed, to check whether assets were being hidden, to verify what a person could afford to pay, and this decision would be based on what the person needed, objectively, to maintain himself, irrespective perhaps of his desire to maintain a more lavish lifestyle, and what he could afford to pay for his children. Where money was unclaimed, the Department encouraged claimants in its radio broadcasts and workshops to come forward if they suspected money was owed to them – perhaps they might have applied long ago, or there had been a long period where there was a default on payments, but they were now resumed. The Department did trace defaulters, and would trace and attach assets as well, particularly during the 16 days of activism.

Ms Sindane added that the Department tried to track how long it took for services to be rendered, and tabled statistics on queue management, noting that lean management had succeeded in cutting time in queues by two thirds, but this had to be made sustainable, then improved. Any inefficiencies in the courts would have to be addressed. Money by EFT was now transferred within five days of receipt by the Department, and she explained that the Department would have to identify the beneficiaries.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked about prioritisation of cases.

Ms Sindane noted that cases involving vulnerable people were prioritised, and this would largely depend on those who set the court roll. NPA reported on this was a specific performance objective. The Department ideally would like to see lists of all cases. Removal of sexual offences matters to dedicated courts would mean that they would be prioritised in a different way.

Ms Sindane noted that there were defaulters in the system, but the Department had good relationships and systems with SAPS to trace and report on defaulters; SAPS might find them during routine operations, such as road blocks, and provide the Department with the necessary information to allow for serving of process.

The Department had improved signage at the courts, and was trying to provide separate entrances, and separation of maintenance offices from other courts, because many mothers came to Court with their young children. Standard processes helped people to understand what to expect in the court. A complaints management training module had been created. Many complaints on the Presidential Hotline had related to maintenance, but others related to lost court records for appeals, and the Guardian’s Fund.

The Chairperson noted that there was, at one stage, an initiative in Western Cape of naming and shaming maintenance defaulters, and asked if there were still efforts to promote this.

Ms Sindane responded that the Department had taken a legal opinion on that point. The Department had an obligation to protect the rights of the child, and naming the defaulters often ended up harming the child more than deriving any benefit.

Ms Pilane-Majake said that the matters would already have been in the public domain. She understood the concerns in naming and shaming but emphasised that in this case, there was a need to have stronger collection mechanisms.

National Register of Sexual Offenders
Ms Sindane moved to describe the achievements on the National Register of Sexual Offenders. There had been many cases cited in the media recently about care-givers and teachers. Phase 2 of the Register was working well, as the Department was getting names of recently-convicted offenders, and loading them into the system. There was, however, a challenge with Phase 1 of the Register, which was historical information on offenders who should be recorded in the Register. Because of this difficult, the Department was not yet able to issue certificates, as it only had uploaded information from 2008/09. In the future, when such legislation was passed, it would be necessary for Parliament to consider carefully what the implications were, and perhaps consider whether backdating was possible.

Ms Pilane-Majake asked about the role of SAPS.

Ms Sindane replied that there was a Criminal Record Centre within SAPS. However, historically, the criminal records did not indicate whether the offence, for instance of indecent assault or rape, involved a child or mentally-disabled victim. Every case had to be individually checked to pick up whether the accused should be recorded on the register. If the legislation had, for instance, required the Department to check back for the past five years, it might have been possible to collate the information more easily.

Ms Pilane-Majake was also worried about the accuracy of the information.

Ms Sindane stressed that not only accuracy, but even availability was a problem. Teams of data capturers had been sent out to research matters, but they were finding that files were lost and the task was huge. It would not be possible to get all the numbers. This was one area of the legislation where amendments were required, to get to the point where the Registrar would be able to certify suitability to work with children.

The Chairperson noted complaints about the two registers – one administered by Department of Social Development (DSD), and the other by Department of Justice. NGOs believed that the continuation of both registers may be problematic, with double-checking required, and cited difficulties at grass roots.

Mr Malema said that the Department had met several times with the SAPS and DSD. The registers served slightly different purposes and the question was where they should be located. The combined register may preferably be placed with the SAPS, because of its role with the Criminal Record Centre. A proposal had been made to have one register, split into different parts, but a response was still needed from DSD on that point. The Department believed that the Register should not reside with itself, but it would be necessary to consider capacity of SAPS.

The Chairperson asked whether there was any information on a website, where it was kept, and how it could be accessed.

Ms Sindane noted that there was an electronic system, but it was not on a website. Originally there was a manual register, but it was now kept electronically. The register was not accessible to the general public; only to the Director General responsible in DSD, and the Registrar responsible for Sexual Offences at the Department of Justice. A certificate would be submitted in respect of an enquiry relating to a specific person. There were checks and balances.

Ms PIlane-Majake asked whether, if the Register did reside at SAPS, the other services that were supposed to be provided by DSD would follow. A child victim may need to be classified as in need of care.

Ms Sindane agreed with those concerns. The capacity of SAPS had to be explored quite comprehensively. Personally, she would have thought that it was best placed in DSD, who provided social support, but she understood the counter-arguments. The usage of the Register would determine where the Register should ultimately be placed.

Child Justice Centres
Ms Sindane tabled the slides on the One-Stop Child Justice Centres, and said that most were working well, including the one in Eastern Cape, which had formerly had problems with labour relations, when Schools of Industry were transferred to the DSD, but these were now being resolved at inter-departmental level. The Office of Chief Family Advocate, as previously mentioned, was given additional resources of R20 million, and new capacity should improve its performance.

Mr Holomisa asked if the 33 new posts of Family Advocate had been filled.

Ms Sindane said that it was difficult to create posts, and this intervention happened in the 2013/14 financial year. Some had been filled, and some were being advertised, and she would report on the posts filled on the following day.

Court Buildings
Ms Sindane noted that one court building had been completed. The Polokwane High Court building had been delayed again. A replacement contractor took over the site in August 2013. There had been problems with rocks, water, and contractor insolvency. The revised completion date was October 2014. She had visited the site and found that there was no construction yet, because the engineers were still doing an assessment. The building had advanced, but there was a lot more work needing to be done.

Ms Pilane-Majake reminded the Department about the discussions in the last year around time-frames for completion of the buildings. Escalations in cost were cited as a huge problem last year, in respect of the courts in Gauteng and Limpopo. There was a suggestion to maintain existing courts rather than constructing new courts.

Ms Sindane said that this point had been noted and the budget had been remodelled to try to respond to this. Most of the courts, however, were authorised in elaborate processes in previous years – some as far as five years back – so they had to be built. She agreed that maintenance of infrastructure was important, but made the point that if a court was funded, it had to be built to fulfill the commitment to the public.

The Chairperson said that there was also a policy of getting justice to the people, so the costs of the new courts had to be weighed up against the increased access to justice.

Ms Pilane-Majake said that the problems cited last year focused on maintenance. She agreed that justice must be brought closer to the people.

Ms Sindane continued to present on the conversion of branch courts to full-service courts. 18 of the target of 24 courts had been achieved. The biggest challenge with the Small Claims Courts was finding people to stand as commissioners. The potential of using commissioners in different courts would be explored. People working for government were not allowed to be commissioners. She noted that a certain level of experience, particularly in civil law, was required.

Ms Pilane-Majake said that Parliament may need to think about amending the law. These were small claims of less than R10 000.

The Chairperson countered that this was a lot of money to many people.

The remainder of the presentation would be given, from slide 83, on the following day.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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