Correctional Services 2013 performance and its relations with Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services; “Waterkloof two” re-arrest after release on parole

Correctional Services

18 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr V Smith (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Correctional Services did not make a formal presentation on the documents provided but merely made some introductory comments, which was then followed by discussion.

The Department was asked to report on relations with the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS). The Department told the Committee that JICS reports reached the Committee before there was a chance to respond to these. There was a lack of processes, procedures and systems to guide relations with the Judicial Inspectorate. There was lack of agreement on who had to call meetings between the two entities. More frequent meetings were needed. Transfers of inmates were not to hide them from investigation. Rival gang members had to be separated.

In discussion, Members agreed that communication between the DCS and the JICS had to improve. There was concern about a lack of consequences for officials who assaulted inmates. Members felt that there was an attitude problem in the Department. It did not see the Judicial Inspectorate as a priority. Departmental responses to complaints received by the Inspectorate, had to be monitored. The DCS had to understand the need for the Inspectorate. The Chairperson confronted the Department with the fact that it was underspending and returning money to the Treasury, whilst the Judicial Inspectorate received only half the budget it had asked for.

The Chairperson asked for an assessment of DCS administrative success and progress made since 2009, with special reference to what was being done to achieve an unqualified audit opinion report from the Auditor-General. DCS responded that much had been done to improve asset management, which had previously led to an audit qualification. The Department was engaging the Treasury and the Auditor-General about support and assistance towards achieving an unqualified audit report.

In discussion, Members asked questions and commented on various matters such as the use of consultants; the state of kitchens and turnstiles at facilities; building projects; vacancies; the seven day establishment and shift system, internal audit capacity, the Remand Detention Offender Management System (RDOMS), and what was being done to promote social reintegration of offenders. There was interest in the progress of the Ministerial Task Team established to deal with matters between DCS and organised labour.

The latter part of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the re-arrest of the “Waterkloof two”, while on parole, for violating the rules of a correctional facility. The anger of the Portfolio Committee about this incident was plainly stated. The incident did not surprise the Committee, as it had consistently expressed concern about the smuggling of contraband, cellphones and liquor to inmates. Collusion on the part of DCS officials was practically certain. There was a call for consequences for dereliction of duty. The Department was asked what lessons had been learnt.

In discussion, the Department stated that it was equally furious about the events. There would be a full investigation into collusion. The "Waterkloof two" would appear before a disciplinary committee and the parole board. There would be action against staff who transgressed. The parole board had released the two on assumption of continued good behaviour. They had broken the rules of the correctional institution, and were being brought back to account.

Meeting report

Introduction by the Chairperson
The Chairperson stated the vision that the Portfolio Committee had on assuming office. In its five-year Legacy Report, it would have to report on progress with its stated goals, and indicate what was not achieved.

On the matter of DCS administration, the Committee took note that the Department had always received qualified audit opinion reports from the Auditor-General. The Committee had committed itself to the DCS achieving an unqualified opinion during its term.

Concerning facilities, the Committee took note of the extent of juvenile detention, and inhumane conditions that were not justifiable in terms of the Constitution.

Remand detainees, bail and overcrowding had to receive attention. People were kept in prisons for not being able to pay bail. The principle of innocent until proved guilty, had to be upheld.

Reintegration was deemed in need of attention, given the facts of stigmatisation. Recidivism had to be reduced.

Under inmate care and development, abuse of inmates, skills development and medical treatment caused concern.

Inmate privileges and rights had to receive attention, to avoid the perception that inmates were idle and being entertained by TV, while other people were mowing the lawns.

Integration with the criminal justice family was singled out as another pillar.

The Chairperson continued that there would be a meeting with the Minister on 4 March, and then the Committee had to hand over a report on how it had done, and where it had failed. For the current meeting, he was not so much interested in the quarterly report. The department had to answer questions and back them up.

The Chairperson referred to the matter of the “Waterkloof two”, two members of a group of four who had been charged with murder, served a sentence and had then been released on parole. The publicity about the two who had been released on bail only to be re-arrested, did not surprise the Portfolio Committee. The Committee had referred to the prevalence of cellphones in facilities, and collusion in the smuggling of contraband. The DCS had not considered techniques to jam cellphones, or closed circuit television. The Portfolio Committee had told the Department from the beginning what it was going to focus on. There had to be answers about the Waterkloof two matter, and the status of the investigation into the private correctional facility at Mangaung.

The Chairperson turned to the Remand Detention Offender Management System (RDOMS). The Justice review had stated the week before that success was a matter of the SAPS being able to talk to Home Affairs, and the DCS being able to talk to magistrates. He asked if there was an IT backbone for RDOMS.

Relations between DCS and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional services
The Chairperson noted that the Department’s response to JICS recommendations had been discussed the week before. There was concern about transfer of inmates while an investigation was under way, and assault. He asked Mr Smalberger to comment on relations with the JICS.

Mr James Smalberger, DCS Chief Deputy Commissioner: Incarcerations, said that the Department had a high regard for the office of the Inspecting Judge. It was an independent statutory body of the DCS. The acting National Commissioner had no objection to the JICS being separate from the Department. Challenges had emerged in the previous meeting. It had been discussed at executive level. There were still systems, processes and procedures lacking. The Portfolio Committee could not do oversight. The Committee received complaints that the Department did not add value to the JICS. The Committee was being cast in a mediating role. In the current situation the Committee was receiving symptoms of a process. The Department wanted compulsory documentation before reports reached the Committee desk. The DCS was not pointing fingers, but wanted to improve. The next Portfolio Committee had to find systems and procedures in place. The JICS had appeared on 4 February, and the Department did not have time to respond. It would not do for the DCS and the Inspectorate to work against each other.

Mr Delekile Klaas, DCS Western Cape Regional Commissioner, added that there was agreement about process. Regional Commissioners, the DCS Chief Operations Officer and the CEO of the JICS had to discuss reports. There had been a change since the suspension of the CEO of the Inspectorate. There was no agreement about who had to call meetings. The office of the COO had to organise and coordinate quarterly meetings with the JICS. There had to be discussion before matters came to the Committee. The JICS had to indicate officials for each region. The COO had to meet with the CEO of the Inspectorate, with a report to the Portfolio Committee by the Inspectorate after that. The Department did not want to change the JICS report, but there had to be a chance to respond. Dates had to be found for meetings in the corporate calendar for 2014/15. There was a challenge regarding the length of time spent on investigations. Disciplinary procedures had to be completed within 60 days.

Mr Klaas continued that the Department shared concern about transfers during investigations. But in the Western Cape transfers had to be made to separate rival gang members from each other. It was not to hide them, but to stabilise the situation. If a Head of Centre indeed transferred for that purpose, it would be corrected. Relations with the JICS had to be streamlined. The suspended former CEO had been engaged, with phone numbers of Regional Commissioners supplied. The system was beginning to work, but since the CEO left, it had gone backwards. There had to be meetings to resolve issues. Issues that came up the previous week could have been resolved beforehand. But there had been a lack of engagement. Issues could be resolved offline.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC) referred to the fact that the JICS had asked for a budget of R18 million, and only received R9 million. She asked about communication over the budget. There seemed to have been a breakdown of communication about the budget. There was no sense that there had been a workshop when the office of the Inspecting Judge came in. There was also a lack of communication about transfers. There was a lack of information about inmates killed. There had to be information about where people transferred were, and if they were facing other charges. DCS members who killed inmates were simply suspended.

Mr L Max (DA) remarked that government developed systems and laws and appointed people to make it work. Mr Klaas had referred to processes, rules and systems that had to be in place. There were attitudinal and procedural problems. The JICS was not seen as a priority. It was treated as an ad hoc, additional matter. When he was provincial police commissioner, he was responsible to monitor human resources. With regard to the JICS, regional commissioners had to create nodal points. The Department and the JICS had to agree on turnaround times for investigations, and make room for follow up on unresolved issues. The DCS head office had to be aware of complaints. The regional offices had to be aware of who were not responding to complaints. There had to be continuous monitoring and management. The Judicial Inspectorate had to be a DCS priority.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) agreed that there was a lack of communication. It had to be clear who was supposed to do what by then, and what the penalties were for not responding. There had to be time frames and two way communication. The responsibilities of the two entities had to be defined. Mr Smalberger had claimed that the JICS was respected, but there were problems of attitude that had to be worked around. Mr Klaas noted that communication fell away when the CEO of the Inspectorate was suspended. He asked if there was no one else they could communicate with. It would not do if the suspension of Mr Max would make communication with the DA impossible. There had to be structure.

Mr M Cele (ANC) asked that Mr Smalberger explain what the original intention was with forming the Judicial Inspectorate, and why it was placed under the DCS. He asked if conditions were still the same as when the JICS was formed. Heads of correctional centres were closer to the functions of the JICS. Area commissioners were not responding.

Ms M Phaliso (ANC) remarked that there were no JICS reports in the past. The JICS was partly different to what it had been before. The Portfolio Committee benefitted from reports. It was an eye opener. Systematic redress had to be made. It emerged from the last JICS briefing that there were currently DCS officials in the Inspectorate. The system of communication had to be looked at. Loopholes had to be closed. Historically the JICS was the baby of democratic government, and there was a need for the Inspectorate. The DCS also had to understand the need for the JICS. There had to be a collective solution. Communication was of extreme importance.

Mr S Abram (ANC) remarked that he had empathy for those entrusted with corrections. They were in a position to make a difference, but responsibilities were heavy. DCS staff had to understand that they could change the lives of people and make them better citizens. The JICS was a body created in line with the Constitution, and it was being treated with disdain. The DCS had a responsibility towards it. Complaints were not attended to for weeks and months. One had to put oneself in the place of the inmate. That was what empathy meant, as distinguished from mere sympathy. Inmates needed understanding and empathy from their wards. Complaints not attended to caused mental torment. The inmate could not get better. The JICS was created to move away from the situation under Apartheid. The DCS had to report. It was under Constitutional obligation to do so. He told the DCS that if one took the trappings, one had to draw the coach. There had to be consequences for those who did not carry out tasks. Consequences were not heard of. The Committee had to receive a strategic time frame. It was not on a fault finding mission, but Parliament voted funds to departments and there had to be measurable outcomes. Every cent spent had to be accounted for.

Judge Vuka Tshabalala, Inspecting Judge, said that he was impressed by what Mr Klaas had said about communication. Yet the JICS sent all their reports to the Department. Reports were sent to the Committee, the Minister and the DCS. The DCS did not approach the Inspectorate to resolve issues. The JICS did not come up with surprise documents. The Grahamstown report was on 7 November 2013, and the response was on 4 February 2014.

Mr Smalberger replied that the DCS would commit to the improvement of work relations. The Portfolio Committee had to be assisted in its oversight. A system had to be implemented with the CEO. The JICS at ground and management level had to know the reasons for delays.

Mr Klaas added that there was no administration system on paper. As a consequence, reports on disciplinary processes were not broken down. That had to be done. There were consequences for those who defaulted, but some cases took long to settle. Appeals could draw matters out to three years. There were labour relations issues. Heads of centres and regional commissioners had to know about consequences. The JICS report had to be part of monthly meetings. The DCS went to the Treasury with the budget bid of the JICS.

Ms Nandi Mareka, Acting Chief Financial Officer for the DCS, agreed that the issue of constant communication would be addressed. There would be DCS officials assigned to support the JICS, and administrative support.

The Chairperson remarked that the JICS had received R9 million instead of the R18 million it had asked for. Yet the DCS report noted underspending of R74 million on the rehabilitation programme. The underspending was due to vacancies. Money was being returned to the Treasury, instead of spending it on a critical player. There would be massive DCS underspending for the current year.

The Chairperson noted concern about the instability of leadership, both in the DCS and the JICS.

Administrative issues
The Chairperson said that the administrative success of the DCS had to be assessed. The Portfolio Committee had identified administration as the bedrock of DCS success. He asked how the situation had changed from 2009 until the present. There had to be an unqualified audit report. He asked what was being done to move towards a clean audit.

Ms Mareka replied that the Auditor-General had alluded to improvements, although there were as yet incompletely resolved challenges. There was engagement with the Treasury to set up platforms. The DCS had gone back to the Treasury with shortfalls. The audit opinion was qualified on asset management. Challenges were being addressed. She was looking forward to an unqualified opinion. Much depended on quantifying asset management. It had to be streamlined and decentralised. Resources had to be committed to stabilising the situation. All regions had assets assigned to them. Asset management had to be lifted as a category. The condition of assets had to be monitored. St Albans had been an assessment centre for years. Centres like Krugersdorp and Johannesburg had to be brought up to level. There had to be attention to asset expenditure and internal processes. The DCS told the Auditor-General that discipline was needed. There could longer be dependence on a manual system. The Department was saying where it needed Treasury support. There was engagement with the AG about issues the Department needed assistance with. The DCS needed help with auditing on the transversal system.

The Chairperson said that when the Portfolio Committee took over, 90% of internal auditing was being done by consultants. There were many vacancies. The Committee had committed to an unqualified audit during its term. Ms Mareka was saying that it would be achieved in the next audit.

Ms Ngwenya asked about the status of the Correctional Services Academy. The professionalism of the DCS had to be improved.

Mr Teboho Mokoena, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Human Resources, replied that there had been a shortage of funds in the previous year, but a business case was being put together.

Ms Ngwenya asked about the seven day establishment and the shift system, as it had led to shortages of staff.

Mr Mokoena replied that there could not be debate about whether the seven day establishment had to be instituted or not There could be no return to the five day system, that ran up a one billion overtime bill. An appropriate shift model was currently being discussed. Different centres could adopt different shift models. The Department could go into a shift system with an 80% staff complement. Documents had been exchanged with labour about an appropriate shift system.

Ms Ngwenya asked for feedback on relations with the audit committee, and the position of the chief audit executive.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) asked whether kitchens were running. He asked about tenders awarded.

Ms Mareka replied that the procurement process was being finalised. Awards had been made. Eight kitchens were outsourced. The DPW had been contacted about boilers that were not working. A contractor had been appointed who had no knowledge of boilers.

Mr Magagula asked about turnstiles at facilities.

Mr Zenzele Ndlela, Deputy Commissioner: Special Operations (facilities), replied that Sondolo turnstiles did scoping. It was an exercise in integrated security. There would be a report in March.

The Chairperson remarked that turnstiles were promised every year. At Durban- Westville handcuffs were used as locks.

Mr Magagula asked about progress with Information Technology.

Ms Phaliso asked when vacant positions in the rehabilitation programme would be filled. The Waterkloof four had been in and out of prison. Offenders had to be rehabilitated to allow them to reintegrate with society.

Mr Mokoena replied that the Department of Public Service and Administration had rated the DCS third among government departments, for creating employment and opportunities. There was recognition from the Department of Higher Education. The DCS was retaining its learners for employment. If permanent employment was not possible, contract employment was offered. There was a shortlisting process for an appointment of Chief Deputy Commissioner (Strategic Management). Measures were being instituted to decentralise employment. Bottlenecks had to be moved from management to the regions. The problem with the applications for the position of National Commissioner was that anyone could apply, and some applications were from completely unqualified people, but it had to receive attention.

The Chairperson said that the Minister had to be told that the Portfolio Committee wanted urgency about appointment.

Ms Phaliso asked about progress with the DCS Head Office. There were dangerous buildings.

Ms Phaliso asked about progress with building at Leeukop Centre, and about the current situation at Ceres, Brandvlei and Van Rhynsdorp.

Mr Ndlela replied that Head Office was liaising with the DPW about Leeukop. There was a feasibility study. The options were to demolish and build afresh, or to revamp. It had to be established which was more cost effective. Leeukop was a biodiversity area, there had to be consultation.

The Chairperson said that inmates at Leeukop had to eat outside. It was hard to imagine how they handled the heat.

Mr Klaas replied that the new Brandvlei Centre would open on 13 October. At Ceres and Van Rhynsdorp, the contractor on site was declared bankrupt. The DPW met with the contractor.

The Chairperson asked who the contractor was. The Treasury had asked that such contractors be blacklisted.

Mr Klaas replied that the contract was with the Department of Public Works. There was another company who gave guarantees that it could take over the work and finish it in three months. There were monthly meetings with the DPW.

Mr Max asked about the status of the Ministerial Task Team set up to resolve issues between the DCS and organised labour. He asked about the 2008 salary adjustments.

Mr Mokoena replied that labour partners could not previously be engaged about group 2 of 2008. But great strides had been made with the Ministerial Task Team. Outstanding issues were the seven day establishment; the second phase of the Occupational Specific Dispensation, and promotion policy. All other issues were resolved. There was the matter of whether artisans belonged to corrections or a separate artisan stream. There were lines of communication between the DCS and organised labour. In the previous year organised labour had reported  non-existent relations with the DCS, but in the current year, thumbs were up. There was contested terrain, but lines of communication were open.

The Chairperson remarked that the issue of consultants had dragged on for four years.

Ms Nthabiseng Mosupye, General Information Technology Officer, replied that consultants had been reduced from 180 to 31. Those were business analysts and data base administrators. Skills of the remaining consultants would be incorporated in the new IT structure. The DCS did not yet control PERSAL and LOGIS systems and disaster recovery, and had to rely on the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). The DCS had to be able to do its own procurement. Implementation of the Remand Detention Offender Management System (RDOMS) would be at best in August, and at worst in November. The System would enable the Department to identify all who were incarcerated, not only remand detainees.

The Chairperson asked about the court case with the service supplier and the standoff about invoices with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

Mr Mokoena replied that the court issue had been averted. But SITA still had to prove through invoices that the DCS owed them money.

The Chairperson asked if the DCS had an effective internal audit component. In the past it had been outsourced to Price Waterhouse. He asked if the Department could take over the function.

Ms Mareka replied that the internal audit section was minimally resourced. There were contracts with the private sector. It was not yet effective or fully functional.

The Chairperson advised that to tender out for another three years, had to be reconsidered. Consultants had to transfer skills. He asked about conditions under which external auditors were appointed.

Ms Mareka replied that money spent on outsourcing was being diverted to the internal audit section.

The Chairperson asked about stigmatisation, and whether there had been movement since 2009, as regarded community acceptance of offenders.

Mr Smalberger replied that core branches were amended in 2012. There were currently a CDC for Community Corrections and a Remand Detainee branch.

Ms Pumla Mathibela, Chief Deputy Commissioner: Community Corrections, added that the Community Corrections branch measured offender violations of parole. The number of offenders who did not violate parole, was increasing. Electro monitoring had been piloted. It deterred offenders from crime and parole violations. There were halfway houses for safety nets. The halfway house pilot had been successful, and rollout could take place. Offenders currently in halfway houses were all employed. Employment opportunities were being created, notably in firefighting. There were starter kits for offenders without jobs to start as entrepreneurs. Communities were being informed of the plight of the newly released. Victim offender dialogues helped communities to know the offender.

Ms Ngwenya suggested that the chairpersons of parole boards be brought before the Committee. The Waterkloof offenders were in and out three times with parole. The question was how they got parole. She asked who assessed those eligible for parole. Inmates were making liquor at Durban-Westville. They had an assortment of cellphones. There was drinking in cells, and inmates had walkmans. People were angry about the Waterkloof offenders. There had to be a written report about building at Leeukop. Nothing was happening.

Mr Abram said that he had asked a number of people who might be eligible for parole, if they were aware of their rights. The Department had to know how many such inmates there were.

Update on the “Waterkloof two”
Mr Max said that he was convinced there was corruption involved in the Waterkloof debacle. Rules and regulations had not been followed, and someone had been bribed. There was dereliction of duty. It was not a case of one or two people involved. The centre manager had to account. The message going out was that the poor were not allowed privileges, but the rich could buy them. There had to be suspensions. He asked what actions had been taken to show that such things would not be allowed. There were no consequences at the senior level for dereliction of duty.

The Chairperson remarked that the DCS always claimed that there was an investigation. He asked what had been learnt from such investigations. He agreed with Mr Max that there had been collusion. The person who had brought the Johnny Walker in, had to be found. A bottle of whiskey could not be hid in a body orifice, like a cellphone or other contraband. There was collusion by DCS members. When the possibility of collusion was mentioned at Durban-Westville, the Portfolio Committee was vilified. Inmates and officials involved had to pay the price.

Mr Smalberger responded that the Department was also furious about the Waterkloof two. They were re-arrested on the basis of what was displayed in the social media. The investigation started on Sunday. A quick interim report was completed. The two appeared before a disciplinary committee the day before. They had to remain in custody for 14 days, and then a decision would be taken.

Anarchy in centres would not be allowed. A full investigation would look into collusion. Everybody was angry. The two would appear before a disciplinary committee and the parole board. The Department was equally eager for action against staff. There was a public perception that the parole board took the decision to release. The parole board had approved parole on the assumption that good behaviour would continue. The rules of the correctional institution were broken, and the defaulters had to come back to account. The Department did offer rehabilitation. The other two members of the Waterkloof group had thanked the Department for the centre's programmes. Two members of that group had responded to the rehabilitation programmes, and two had not. The advice of the Department to parolees was to walk out, look down, go home, and start with their lives.

The Chairperson said that DCS self sufficiency and the Mangaung situation had not been discussed. The seven day establishment had to be put on hold. The question was whether the Department was making sure that people were repaying their debt to society. A very real question to be answered was whether nutrition was a core business for the Department. It had to be ascertained if there were enough people to pick up who had to get medical parole. At a following meeting, the DCS had to tell the Committee about the position of those serving life sentences.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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