The meeting opened with the adoption of the previous meeting’s minutes and notice of the correspondence of Mr J Selfe (DA) to the Chairperson.
Ms Christine Silkstone, Content Adviser to the Portfolio Committee, gave the Members a presentation detailing the budget process and the major challenges and issues relating to the two Departments for which the Committee was responsible. She highlighted the importance of the budget's correlation with the National Development Plan and the State of the Nation Address. Members posed questions relating mostly to the challenges identified in the overview, including ways to deal with overcrowding in prisons, the persistence of vacancies and problems with capital works projects run by the Department of Public Works, which had led to underspending.
Mr Mpho Mathabathe, Committee Researcher, dealt with the factors relating to budget vote 21 (Correctional Services), and reiterated the importance of the National Development Plan and State of the Nation Address being in alignment with the Department's budget. Under the five programmes which the Department was responsible for, he went through the specific allocations, spending patterns, achievement of targets and issues for members to note for consideration when the Department made its presentation.
Many of the Members’ concerns raised by Ms Silkstone's presentation were answered by Mr Mathabathe, leaving the Members to give proactive statements about what they ought to expect from the Department in terms of solving the problems identified. These included using CCTV and cellphone jamming technology to combat corruption in prisons and the use of alternatives to incarceration to avoid the problems of overcrowding and the need for rehabilitation.
Ms Gilliam Nesbitt, Committee Researcher for Justice, finished off the briefing by providing a detailed snapshot of the expenditure and budget situation related to budget vote 24 (Justice). She then outlined the budget split between the various entities which make use of the Justice budget vote and the manner in which the Department's budget is split between the three programmes for which it is responsible. She concluded by pointing out the challenges which the Department faced in relation to these programmes.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee was an organ of Parliament and represented people who had great expectations, and the Committee needed to meet those aspirations. The starting point in this was for Members to respect one another. This also entailed respect for Parliament and the electorate.
Minutes of 24 June
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) asked for her name to be corrected from Majake to Pilane-Majake on the first two pages and for clarity on the name of the Committee and that of the Ministry.
The Chairperson replied that his understanding was that the Committee was that of Justice and Correctional Services.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that his understanding was that the Department was still Justice and Constitutional Development, and asked what had happened to the oversight the Committee had over the Constitutional Development aspect.
The Chairperson replied that when the Committee was briefed by the Ministry, Mr Swart should receive an answer and asked for a mover for adoption.
Mr W Horn (DA) proposed the adoption, seconded by Mr J Selfe (DA).
Mr Selfe said that he had sent the Chairperson a letter asking him to alert the National Prosecuting Authority to come prepared to answer questions about certain controversies causing concern in the media.
The Chairperson replied that he had not received the letter because he had seen his executive secretary first time this morning, due to her being off sick, but he would look into the matter.
Briefing by the Content Advisor
Ms Christine Silkstone, Content Advisor to the Portfolio Committee, began her synopsis of the content of the day's presentations by saying that over the next two weeks the Committee would be dealing with matters relevant to Budget Votes 24 and 21 -- Justice and Correctional Services respectively. She went on to say that the budget process was about allocating money to competing priorities. The process for doing so this year was slightly different; with the Departmental budget proposals being presented in Annual Performance Plans (APPs) which were based on 2010-2014 Strategic Plans. These Strategic Plans needed to be aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP) and State of the Nation Address (SONA). The key consideration under the NDP was Outcome 3, which speaks to South Africans feeling safe and being safe and SONA emphasised this by highlighting the fact that levels of serious crime were still too high in South Africa.
Moving on to the challenges in the Justice sector, Ms Silkstone said that at the core was access to justice. Access to justice was being affected by the spatial location of people in relation to the justice system, the cost of litigation, the language used in court and the ability to deal with the technicalities of litigation. The operational and transformation challenges within the justice system were also pointed out. The key strategies for dealing with the challenges focused on building safer communities through the Criminal Justice Review and Integrated Justice System. The Superior Courts Act and a Constitutional amendment had been passed, establishing the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) as the head of the Judiciary in charge of the administration of courts, with the Secretary General as the accounting officer, and empowering it to set norms and standards, including ones to foster transformation of Judiciary. WIth a large focus on anti-corruption measures, the National Prosecuting Authority, Asset Forfeiture Unit and Special Investigation Unit had been charged with leading the fight against corruption. The need to protect vulnerable groups had also received attention with the reintroduction of specialised Sexual Offences Courts, with a new focus on lesbian, gay and transgender violence, and child justice.
Ms Silkstone then turned to the issues and concerns in the justice sector which the previous Portfolio Committee had repeatedly encountered. The Criminal Justice System Review and Integrated Justice System were important policy documents in this regard. Under child justice, following the promulgation of the Child Justice Act, an implementation report was required from the Department of Correctional Services, and a second concern was the dropping of the age of capacity from ten to eight, contrary to international trends. The reintroduction of dedicated sexual offences courts would require the Committee to ensure that there were measures in place to deal with the psychological burden placed on staff and presiding officers. The transformation of state legal services had been aided by the introduction of the State Attorneys Bill, which aimed to introduce the office of the Solicitor General who would have over-arching control over the equitable distribution of briefs from the state.
The consistent underspending on infrastructure projects, including those such as the building of the Polokwane court and protracted refurbishment of the South Gauteng High Court, was a major concern, with the Department of Public Works playing a role in the problems. The Information Regulator was supposed to be established to protect personal information. Regarding the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), there had been a problem with mute refusals, where a person seeking state-held information did not receive an answer subsequent to their request. This impacted on the reports the Human Rights Commission was supposed to compile under section 32 of PAIA. There was a problem with access to the Guardian Fund offices, because there were only six, which were located in urban centers. Ancillary issues concerned the capacitating of the OCJ, the production of regulations dealing with paying out beneficiaries of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the completion of an information technology upgrade at the Master's Office.
Ms Silkstone then turned to the Correctional Services sector, where the key role-players were the Correctional Supervision and Control Board, the National Council for Correctional Services, the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board and the Medical Parole Advisory Board, which reported to the Minister. The most pressing challenge in the Correctional Services sector was overcrowding, as it had become a stumbling block through an unbalanced distribution of the Department's budget for other aims of the Department, such as rehabilitation, maintaining safe custody and social reintegration. Other problems included widespread corruption and operational inefficiencies surrounding issues such as financial systems and vacancies.
Ms Silkstone concluded with the issues and concerns regarding Correctional Services. Here again, the Criminal Justice System Revamp and Integrated Justice System projects were important, with Justice Modernisation lagging significantly within the Department. The Department had also received a qualified audit, with matters of emphasis focusing on fraud and corruption. Other important issues included the lack of focus on rehabilitation, the number of skilled vacancies open at the Department, the issues surrounding underspending on rehabilitation and professional services, and initiatives to address overcrowding.
Mr Swart said that from his engagement with the document and Ms Silkstone's presentation it was evident that an important issue was the infrastructure spending problems, and he wondered if it would be useful for the Committee to meet with the Department of Public Works. He was also concerned that the previous Committee had engaged in a budget review for the Department, recommending that the National Treasury approve more funds for certain items in the Department of Justice's budget, with some success in the past. Looking at the present budget, he did not see any funds that the Committee had recommended and he believed that the Committee should take this further, especially in light of its powers under the new Monetary Amendment Act, requiring compelling reasons from National Treasury as to why the funds had not been approved.
Ms Silkstone replied that she had also been surprised to learn that no money had been allocated by the Minister of Finance in the BRRR. She had therefore looked at expenditure, which was at 96% in March 2014, with the last significant underspending being around 2009. The major issue leading to underspending was infrastructure spending. This had resulted in the DoJ being given permission to reprioritise approximately R500m in order to try and alleviate the shortfall.
Mr Selfe wanted to emphasise capital spending issues, because it was an issue which the Department of Correctional Services also faced. He also wanted to raise an issue with the entities which reported to the Committee, specifically the State Law Advisors (which surely fell under the DoJ) and would like to know whether they reported to the Committee. Secondly, he wanted to know whether in instances where the mandates of Chapter Nine Institutions (CNIs) overlapped -- for example, in relation to vulnerable groups where the South African Commission for Human Rights (SAHRC) and Gender Equality Commission were both involved -- whether the Gender Equality Commission would report only to the Committee for Women in the Presidency, or also to this Committee.
Ms Silkstone replied that State Law Advisors did come to report. They were part of program 3, which was State Legal Services. As far as the CNIs were concerned, the recommendation to amalgamate some of the institutions, as raised in the Asmal Report, had never been adopted, although other recommendations were.
The Chairperson asked what was meant by some recommendations being adopted while others were not, and whether there was a report to show the details of the decisions.
Ms Pilane-Majake said that she thought the Asmal Report had never been officially adopted by Parliament. She also asked for a clear picture of the distribution of prisons throughout the country, specifically the spatial location of prisons and the correlation between the populations of particular provinces and the distribution of prisons. Regarding the underspending on rehabilitation, she wanted to know if there was any involvement by the Department of Social Development and NICRO.
The Chairperson said that certainty was critical to the law, and the Committee could not sit on a report like the Asmal Report, which had no official standing in Parliament. However, certain aspects were being implemented and the Committee should look into this.
Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked for a nutshell clarification of the challenges faced by the DoJ. She also wanted to express her concern about there being only six Guardian Fund Offices, because this essentially denied especially rural children waiting to inherit from a deceased estate access to these funds, and asked if the previous committee had dealt with this issue.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) asked why there was emphasis on incarceration, and whether it would therefore be more appropriate to call the DCS the Department of Prisons and not Correctional Services. Could the Content Advisor answer this or should he wait for the Department? The same applied to the overcrowding issue.
Ms Silkstone, replying to Ms Pilane-Majake's question on the geographic location of prisons, said that a document would be prepared, if her colleague, Mr Mpho Matabhata, had not already done so. With regard to PAIA functions being passed on to the Information Regulator under the Protection of Personal Information Act, the Information Regulator's office had not been established and therefore the SAHRC continued to compile the s32 reports where the issue of getting information from departments arose. Replying to Ms Mothapo's question concerning challenges in the justice sector, she said that the slide depicted challenges which she had identified herself, but they were ones which government ought to look at in developing policy. The DoJ would have to deal with them when drafting their strategies, and these centred on difficulties with access to justice and a lack of depth in terms of transforming the sector.
The Chairperson said that the transformation in the sector focused only on the judiciary, and asked what was being done about the rest of the legal system in its entirety.
Ms Silkstone replied that there has been a paper on transformation of the judiciary, but it was really about asking the question of what ethos did one want to inform the legal system. Regarding Ms Mothapo's question relating to the Guardian Fund offices, she said that the problem lay in funding, because of the expense of setting up an office. The DoJ was engaging in a project to automate the Department's filing, which would allow people to apply locally and send it electronically to the head office, but she agreed the Committee should focus on this and pursue it with the DoJ. Turning to Mr Mpumlwana's question on the DCS's spending, she could say that the focus was certainly on securing prisoners and not rehabilitation, even though it was trying very hard. This issue was interrelated to overcrowding, because having to keep so many people in custody at a cost R9 000 a month was a drain on the budget. This, coupled with a lack of skilled staff for rehabilitation programs, which would be a further expense, had leds to the DCS spending the bulk of its budget on incarceration.
Mr T Bongo (ANC) wanted to emphasise the issues around transformation and requested the paper which Ms Silkstone referred to concerning the transformation of the judiciary, because there were many areas which required consideration. For example, there was the issue of court boundaries still being based on the apartheid spatial framework, resulting in prejudice especially to rural people. He also wanted to know whether State briefs were still going to previously advantaged legal professionals and asked for an exact number of how many black, female and young lawyers were getting these briefs. He said that overcrowding manifests in two forms -- in the police holding cells and in prisons themselves -- and he thought that training of the police and prosecutors should ensure that arrest was used only for its intended purpose, which was securing attendance in court.
Mr Mpumlwana said that the presentation had said that corruption was an issue, but where did the corruption lie and what measures were in place to deal with this.
Ms K Tshabalala (EFF) said her concern was with Correctional Services, agreeing that the focus was more on imprisonment than rehabilitation, following the model of the United States, so South Africa needed to be wary of breeding a prison industry. She would like to know what the state's position was on the privatisation of prisons. Secondly, she was concerned to know whether there was any law which barred state lawyers from engaging in private practice, because this could allow for a situation where state legal work was neglected for more lucrative private work.
Mr V Smith (ANC) said that it would be an over-simplification to say that Correctional Services might as well be called the Department of Prisons because the DCS had 41 000 employees, most of whom were wardens, and therefore the money was simply not available for spending on new prisons, but was taken up by concomitant personnel costs. A more efficient justice system as a whole could alleviate the pressure on the prison network, especially in terms of judges implementing alternative sentences, rather than minimum sentences and not having police incentivised for arrests.
The Chairperson said that he was glad that there was agreement that there is a need to transform the entire legal system. The evolution of the notion of 'justice' had sprung from communal ideals and one must therefore question why African customary law was not on apar with Roman Dutch Law and English Common Law. This would need to be looked at for true transformation of the justice system.
Replying to Ms Tshabalala's question on state lawyers, Ms Silkstone said that Legal Aid SA had exclusively in-house lawyers and performance assurance measures in place. Further, briefs given to private attorneys worked on a first come, first served basis, but a very small percentage of briefs went to private attorneys. Turning to Mr Smith's point on mInimum sentencing, she said that it had already generated questions about its side effects, such as overcrowding and its efficiency as a deterrent.
Briefing by Committee Researcher, Sector and Budget Analyses relevant to Vote 21 (Correctional Services)
Mr Mpho Mathabate, Researcher for the Committee, focusing on Correctional Services, started by saying that he had noted interesting questions raised by the Members, but some would be best suited to be answered by the Department, but where able he would give his own opinion. His presentation was a summary of document handed out to Members previously and would focus on three key areas: the National Development Plan (NDP), the budget of the DCS and its annual performance plan (APP) for 2014-2015.
He began with a brief overview of the DCS, saying that it had 243 correctional facilities, with 26 dedicated remand detention facilities; a daily average inmate population of 155 836, with 44 652 remand detainees; it had 63 053 offenders under community corrections; the rate of over-crowding in September 2013 was 30%; and the number of posts in the Department was 43 862, with 1 805 vacancies.
Turning to the NDP, he said that chapter 12 was particularly relevant to the Correctional Services sector, because it spoke to building safer communities and a key priority area in this regard was strengthening the criminal justice system. This was to be achieved by close adherence to the seven-point plan, requiring strategic alignment with the Justice Crime Prevention (JCP) Cluster and a dedicated budget, with its outcomes being reported in line with the seven-point plan. . Secondly the NDP spoke to building safety using an integrated approach, which would manifest for the DCS by improving rehabilitation and reducing recidivism, increasing substance abuse treatment centres, making use of community organisations for reintegration, a focus on education, training and skills programmes within correctional facilities and lastly, a drive to push youth in prison towards restorative justice and diversion. He noted that the Committee would have to ensure that the DCS's budget was aligned to the NDP.
Turning to the context of the DCS's budget, he outlined various figures, including a table detailing the amount allocated to the JCP Cluster and how it was divided among the Departments which comprised the cluster. He went on to show how the R19.7 bn received by the DCS was used. The largest portion of 67.5% (R13 315.6 billion) was dedicated to compensation of employees and the second largest amount of R605.7 million went to the upgrading and refurbishment of correctional and other facilities. Amounts over the next three financial years, reaching R460 million in 2016/17, had been allocated for large infrastructure projects, yielding an increase of 4 748 bed spaces in the medium term.
He then moved on to the detail the monetary allocations, spending trends, achievement of targets in 2012/13 and issues for Members to be aware of for the five programs which fell under the DCS:
A total of R3 622.9 billion was allocated to this programme -- a decrease of 3% from the previous financial year. This programme provides administrative support and strategic leadership to the DCS. The bulk of the budget here is allocated to compensation of employees, goods and services, professionalising and capacitating both the Department as a whole and management specifically.
The Department spent 97.7% of its budget in 2013/14. Reasons for the underspending included delays in filling vacancies in the Department and a 36-month delay in an IT procurement which had been rejected by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) recommendation committee, with no reasons provided.
The DCS had achieved its target in 2012/13 for the workplace skills plan, with 17 662 officials trained, but had failed to achieve its target for filling vacancies, with only 95.8% filled.
Mr Mathabathe recommended that Members should be mindful of whether the DCS's budget had a dedicated budget for the Seven Point Plan and was aligned to the NDP, and that this was reported on in the future. The same applied to the DCS's Strategic Plan. The high vacancy rate also continued to be a pressing concern and the DCS must be asked for a detailed plan in this regard. The issue of the vetting of officials had also been raised in SONA, and details should be sought.
A total of R12 299 billion had been allocated to the largest programme in the Department. This was an increase of 6.7% from 2013/14.
Spending had grown in this programme over the last three financial years, with an underspend of 5% in 2011/12 compared to an overspend in 2013/14. Spending in the medium term was set to increase to R13.7 billion due to planned improved conditions of service pushing compensation of employees to R9.5 billion, along with the projected infrastructure upgrades.
The Department had failed to meet its targets regarding the number of assaults and unnatural deaths in prisons in 2012/13. It had not created any bed space and had not met that target. The Department did, however, manage to meet its targets for reducing overcrowding and escapes.
Mr Mathabathe recommended that the Committee ask the DCS to update them on electronic inmate tracking inside correctional facilities, as well as progress on implementation regarding parolees and probationers. The creation of bed space been hampered by delays in Ceres, Van Rensberg and Brandvlei, and the Committee should be mindful of the DCS meeting its target.
This programme provided inmates with need-based programmes and interventions to enable their rehabilitation and social reintegration. The White Paper on Corrections, 2005, said rehabilitation should be at the centre of departmental activities. However, it received the second lowest allocation at 6% of the budget (R1 165.8 billion), an 8.21% increase from 2013/14.
Spending in this programme had declined from a 100% spend in 2012/13 to a 12% underspend in the fourth-quarter of 2013/14. Spending was planned to reach R1.3 billion through a drive to have increased participation in skills training and an increase in further education programs.
The rehabilitation programme achieved its targets for increasing the number of inmates participating in FET college programs and Further Education Programs, but failed to increase the number in Adult Education programs.
He recommended that the Committee require the Department to explain the drastic reduction in the number of offenders eligible for the FET Mainstream Programme, and why rehabilitation was not a central priority for the Department, as the White Paper stated it should be. The Committee should also be mindful of the close relation between the NDP priorities such as substance abuse and youth in prison, with regard to this programme. Lastly, the Committee should be updated on the progress with establishing a trading entity.
This programme dealt with the healthcare of offenders and R1 747 billion was allocated to this programme -- 8.8% of the total budget. The focus of the spending over the medium term would be on providing treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.
The programme overspent by 11.2% in 2013/14, despite an underspend of 3.2% the previous year.
The Department achieved its targets relating to increases in testing for HIV/AIDS and the percentage of inmates on antiretroviral therapy. However, it failed to sufficiently increase the percentage of inmates on tuberculosis treatment.
Mr Mathabathe wanted to alert the Committee that the Annual Report of the Judicial Inspectorate recorded 34 000 complaints relating to healthcare from prisoners. He also recommended that the Committee request a plan on how the DCS planned to attract and retain the scarce skills needed for this programme.
This programme received the lowest allocation of R886 million, which was 4.5% of the DCS budget.
The focus of spending here was on the rollout of electronic monitoring for parolees and probationers, with a planned increase from 150 currently, to 1 000 in 2016/17. This programme had underspent by 6.5% in the fourth quarter of 2013/14, a 3.1% improvement from 2012/13.
There was no data regarding increases in the percentage of probationers without violation, or the number of victims participating in restorative justice and parolees reintegrates. However, targets had been set for these and the percentage of parolees without violation had been achieved.
Mr Mathabathe said that there had been a tendency for judicial officers to impose minimum sentences, partially because of doubt about the DCS's ability to monitor people under community correction. Perhaps the Committee could recommend more than just policing -- for example, programmes to help integration and adjustment. He also recommended that the Department outline plans regarding the rollout of electronic monitoring, the halfway house project, and the addressing of transport issues victims face getting to parole hearings. The recommendation of the NDP that community organisations should be capacitated to help with reintegration should be heeded.
Mr Smith referred to the lack of rehabilitation and said that it could not be done because of the nature of the Correctional Services at the moment, with the lack of discipline and blatant violations in facilities. He recommended that technology should be used, for example, to jam cellphones and CCTV footage used to monitor everyone, including officials who were part of the corruption cycle. Another major Issue was with access control, which had been budgeted for a long time, yet matters such as turnstiles being controlled with handcuffs still occurred.
Mr Mpumlwana asked for a document explaining what the Department had said to the previous committee.
The Chairperson explained that there was a hand-over file, which included a legacy report.
Ms Tshabalala demanded progress in terms of measures taken to discipline staff who were part of the corruption happening in prisons, whether it was having relationships with prisoners or providing privileges. She wanted the Committee to raise the fact that South Africa did not use criminologists professionally in the Correctional Services.
Mr Swart said that the biggest issue was overcrowding. He maintained it should be dealt with through the high number (28% of total prisoners) of awaiting trial prisoners. It was good that Justice was linked with Correctional Services, so that they could jointly deal with this. The realisation that the Criminal Justice System was integrated had borne fruit and this ought to happen on the ground, together with other role players, such as the police.
Mr Selfe said that over time, remand detention trends had gone down, but the population was still very high. Despite this, there was statistically more of a chance of people emerging more criminalised than when they went in, exacerbating criminality. Therefore, he supported a holistic transformation of what prison was used for, and there was a need to address the tendency of judicial officers to turn to imprisonment, although there was obviously a place for incarceration. Therefore, he supported the idea of crafting a series of disagreeable community-based sentences, because this would help reduce overcrowding and allow space for rehabilitation and avoid the criminalisation of incarceration.
Ms Pilane-Majake suggested that the Committee be provided with the Annual Report of the Judicial Inspectorate and that the previous Committee's Legacy Report should help with understanding the position the Committee found itself in. Most important for her was getting value for money for the Department, and that at least the Department had the ability to create jobs. She was also interested to see what the Department said about cases of corruption by employees and what the Department had done about them. She supported Mr Smith's point about technology being used to fight corruption. She requested statistics about the numbers of children born in prison and what was done about them, as well as how many foreign national prisoners there were.
The Chairperson said that the key to the cause of the problems raised throughout the meeting was the lingering legacy of apartheid which bred a lack of self-respect and respect for others, and the way to deal with this was radical socio-economic transformation in order to affect the root of crime. Dealing with the cause would necessarily have a knock-on effect. He also agreed with Mr Swart's point, saying that the Committee should have a joint meeting with the other partners in the JCP cluster.
Ms Tshabalala said that the Committee should demand more investment in restorative justice, because it had shown success in removing the alien consideration of having harmed a state which had placed you in adverse conditions, to having harmed a person. She also would like to know details and plans about the rehabilitation programmes which seemed to be mostly about education, to the detriment of psychological and even spiritual considerations. She also advocated for the alternatives to minimum sentencing being used more often, in the light of the socio-economic causes of crime in South Africa.
Budget Process: Briefing by the Content Advisor, Sector and Budget Analyses Relevant to Vote 24 (Justice)
Ms Gillian Nesbitt, Committee Researcher for Justice, thanked Ms Silkstone for painting the broad picture of justice for her, allowing her to deal with a snapshot of the expenditure and the specific programmes.
Previously, the Department of Justice (DoJ) had been spending its money well. However, three factors had contributed to the 4% underspend. These were persistent vacancies, problems relating to capital works developments and delays with the implementation of the Integrated Justice System and Criminal Justice Revamp projects. The Department, in its 2013 BRRR, had requested R1.27 billion in additional funding for 2014/15, supported by the Committee. However, National Treasury had been able to provide only part of the funding and the Department had to rely on fund re-prioritisation from capital works projects, leaving a shortfall of R610 million with no funding for security, transformation of state legal services and the Office of the Chief Justice.
Budget Vote 24 comprised five programmes, plus direct charges (judicial officers’ salaries). The overall allocation for Justice and Constitutional development for 2014/15 was R17.89 billion. R8.05 billion of this was distributed among the NPA, a direct charge for judicial officers’ remuneration and for funding Legal Aid SA, the Special Investigating Unit, the Public Protector and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The DoJ was responsible for only three of the programmes -- Administration, Court Services and State Legal Services -- with a budget of R9.8 billion. The Justice Modernisation Program also fells under the DoJ, but they were funded under program 5.
This program was allocated R1.85 billion and comprised the Ministry, Management, Corporate Services and Office Accommodation sub-programmes. Office Accommodation continued to receive the largest portion of the budget, at 53.2%, and it should be noted that there had been a real decrease in the 2014 budget allocation for Management and Corporate Services, indicative of vacancies.
Issues for this program were the persistence of vacancies in senior management positions, with the vacancy rate at 12.31%. Also the Department had had to reprioritise R720 million to make up for the increased expenditure on office accommodation leases and municipal rates.
This program had been allocated R6.06 billion and covered the entire court hierarchy. This was the core operation of the Department and consumed 62% of the DoJ's budget. The lower courts sub-programme received the largest allocation and upgrading of court facilities and justice service delivery points was the second largest. R844 million had been allocated for infrastructure projects in 2014, the objective being new court buildings in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The issues with this programme were the need to monitor that the R844 million was spent as projected by the Department of Public Works, and the overspending which occurred in sub-programmes. There had also been a decrease in the allocation for specialised courts, high courts and the Supreme Court of Appeal. The effect of the Office of the Chief Justice receiving its own budget needed to be questioned by the Committee as well.
State Legal Services
This program comprised the State Law Advisors, Litigation and Legal Services, Legislative and Law Reform, Master of the High Court and Constitutional Development sub-programmes. Its budget allocation was R924.9 million
This programme had requested an additional R100 million from Treasury in order to assist with the transformation of State Legal Services, kickstarted by the State Attorney Amendment Act 13 of 2014. This programme was also labouring under embargoed posts, as it faced issues with the implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation.
Justice Modernisation had been allocated funds to upgrade the IT infrastructure for the administration of civil and criminal justice within the Department, and also to handle the JCPS cluster projects. To do this, it had a budget of R961 million, demonstrating a 25.5% increase from 2013/14.
Issues here were to do with what the money was going to, and what deliverables were being bought within the Department. This had caused the previous Portfolio Committee to have the Integrated Justice System audited, and phase one had been completed. In phase two, funding and value for money would be addressed
Ms Nesbitt concluded by saying that the points concerning the Chief Justice would be dealt with in a separate presentation.
The meeting was adjourned.