The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) presented its strategic plan and annual performance plan. The Authority reported that it had remained committed to the strategic direction embarked on a few years ago and the strategic objectives had been aligned to the budget structure and the structure of the NPA which improved accountability and the management of objectives. The strategic objectives of the NPA included increased successful prosecution, improved prosecution of cases that require specialised prosecution, ensuring profit was removed from crime and ensuring threatened witnesses were successfully protected. The NPA identified top risks to the organisation that included emerging crime trends, resource capacity, stakeholder management, information and knowledge management and public perception and reputation of the NPA and mitigation plans would be developed and implementation monitored.
The NPA informed the Committee that it was a programme in the Justice vote and was not a separate entity, constitutional institution or department. The programme had no direct access to National Treasury and the NPA had prepared separate financial statements since 2001/2002 through special permission. National Treasury had indicated that this would be the last year and the issue of the status of the NPA needed to be resolved. For the 2013/14 financial year the NPA spent 100% of its budget and surrendered R4. An overview of the unaudited overall budget as of 31 March 2014 showed the biggest allocation to compensation of employees of approximately R2 billion of a total budget allocation of just over R3 billion. The organisation slightly under spent on compensation of employees, because of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) project. The new Criminal Assets Recovery Account bid amounted to R45 million for curators and was submitted during March 2013, but was not yet approved. The underfunded budget priority was the head office building of which the lease expired in 2017 and the NPA wanted to move from leased to State owned office accommodation.
The Committee discussed the role of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (ADRMs) employed by the organisation and how it influenced the resolved and finalised case figures presented. The figures presented by the organisation that illustrated their Strategic Plan 2014/19, Annual Performance Plan 2014/15 and the Budget were unaudited and the committee debated whether these figures should be published if it was not yet verified. There was some heated debate on whether NPA National Director of Public Prosecutions should comment on the status of the investigation into his role as the National Director of the NPA or whether the outcome of the investigation by the Executive should be awaited before the matter was discussed. The Chairperson ruled that no question posed by committee members was disallowed, but he deemed the questions posed to the organisation seemed unfair and premature.
Legal Aid South Africa prsented its strategic plan and annual performance plan. The entity reported that its budget was summarised over the 2014–2017 MTEF and showed a projected increase from approximately R1.4 billion in 2013/14 to R1.6 billion in 2016/17. The budget was prepared under the assumption that inflation would be 5.4% for the budget period under review with salary increases budgeted at 6.4%. Salaries increases for 2014/15 were now confirmed at 7.4% resulting in a shortfall of R10 million and the salary recruitment budget decreased from 98% to 97% due to high compensation of employees costs. The entity received additional funding over the MTEF of approximately R133 million toward the Child Justice and Children’s Act, an increase in legal capacity and improved conditions of service. Unaudited preliminary figures indicated 2013/14 expenditure levels of more than 98% of the budget with the 2013/14 external audit underway. The entity had an Unqualified audit report for 12 years in succession with no matters of emphasis.
The Committee discussed the importance and criteria of the means test and how accessible the organisation was to the poor. This discussion was focussed on the marketing strategies employed and the role of the organisation in Commissions of Inquiry. There was some discussion on the balancing act needed for job creation through the employment of candidate attorneys and proving a quality service to clients. The Committee asked questions about the regional offices presented in provinces, the languages services were offered in and the perception that Legal Aid lawyers were inexperienced. Due to time constraint, Legal Aid would supply written responses to the questions not covered during the meeting.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and cautioned Committee members to prioritise the budget process and that any other issue would have the opportunity to be properly debated.
Briefing by National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on its Strategic and Annual Performance Plans
Mr Mxolisi Nxasana, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), NPA, thanked the Committee for the opportunity and apologised for the absence of NPA his deputy, Adv Nomgcobo Jiba.
Mr Nxasana said the NPA had remained committed to the strategic direction embarked on a few years ago and the strategic objectives had been aligned to the budget structure and the structure of the NPA which improved accountability and the management of objectives. The Strategic Plan 2014-2019 and APP 2014/15 were aligned to link the strategic objectives to the budget structure. The constitutional and legislative mandate was outlined with the policy mandate that focused on the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Delivery Agreement and the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision with its expected outputs. Previously more than one sub-programme was responsible for achieving some of the objectives and targets. This made it difficult to determine responsibility for success or failure as well as the costing of delivering on these objectives and targets. The plans contained four strategic objectives, each specifically linked to a sub-programme as reflected in the estimates of national expenditure.
NPA Strategic Plan 2014-2019
Adv Karen van Rensburg, Chief Executive Officer, NPA, gave an overview of the organizational structure and said the strategic objectives of the NPA included increased successful prosecution, improved prosecution of cases that required specialised prosecution, ensuring profit was removed from crime and ensuring threatened witnesses were successfully protected. A strategic overview was outlined and the first objective statement was to increase the number of court cases finalised, including alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRMs) to 534 359 by 2018/19. The second strategic objective aimed to increase the conviction rate of complex commercial crimes cases to 93% and to expand the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) by 2018/19. TCCs were one stop centres for male and female victims of sexual crimes. The remaining objectives aimed to increase the number of forfeiture cases to 379, to increase the value of freezing orders to R1 billion by 2018/9, and to insure that no witnesses were harmed or killed whilst on the witness protection programme. The NPA had identified top risks to the organisation - these included emerging crime trends, resource capacity, stakeholder management, information and knowledge management and public perception and reputation of the NPA and mitigation plans would be developed and implementation monitored.
NPA Annual Performance Plan 2014/15
Adv van Rensburg indicated that the figures and targets in the APP were unaudited and could not be published.
The Chairperson asked for clarification why the document could not be made available to the media.
Adv van Rensburg replied that it could not be published because it was unaudited.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked if it could be published with the notice that the figures were subject to audit, because it was in the public domain now.
Mr Nxasana said the issue was debated beforehand and it could be published with the insertion ‘subject to audit’, but the NPA did not intend to make the document public.
Mr V Smith (ANC) asked how the Committee could use the information as a base if the figures were unaudited, because it had not been verified. He proposed the documents be withdrawn since oversight could not be exercised on facts that the Auditor-General had not made an opinion on.
The Chairperson said the Committee would use the figures as a guide with the understanding that it was not yet finalised.
Adv van Rensburg outlined programme performance indicators and targets with audit actual performance indicators in previous years, the 2013/14 estimated performance and the 2014/15 to 2016/17 estimated targets. These indicators and targets were clearly outlined against the strategic objectives as discussed in the organisation’s strategic objectives.
The performance indicator that showed the “number of backlogs cases” was removed from the NPA APP as this indicator was the responsibility of the court services of the Department of Justice. Similarly, the performance indicator for the conviction rate in the prosecution of sexual offences reported at TCCs was removed from the NPA APP to the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) APP, because the various conviction rates for sexual offences in the previous plan was duplication.
Budget and Expenditure
Mr Gordon Hollamby, Chief Financial Officer, NPA, said the NPA was a programme in the Justice vote and was not a separate entity, constitutional institution or department. The programme had no direct access to National Treasury and the NPA had prepared separate financial statements since 2001/2002 through special permission. National Treasury had indicated that this would be the last year and the issue of the status of the NPA needed to be resolved.
For the 2013/14 financial year, the NPA had spent 100% of its budget and surrendered R4. An overview of the unaudited overall budget as of 31 March 2014 showed the biggest allocation to compensation of employees of approximately R2 billion of a total budget allocation of just over R3 billion. The organisation slightly under spent on compensation of employees, because of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) project. The NPA received an unqualified audit opinion for 2012/13, but compliance in Government had become labour intensive and costly and without sufficient funding there was a high probability that it would have a negative impact on audit findings.
The MTEF 2014/15-2016/17 showed the overall budget growth for the Department of Justice over the medium term that illustrated the estimated growth for Administration, Court Services, State Legal Services, the NPA and Auxiliary and Associated Services. Budget growth was estimated to increase from 7.32% in 2013/14 to 9.42% in 2014/15 and 7.85% in 2016/17. The budget allocation for the NPA per economic classification over the MTEF period was outlined and the budget growth over the same period showed an increase in medium term estimates from 6.02% in 2014/15 to 6.35% in 2016/17.
Adv van Rensburg gave an overview of the NPA Service Delivery Performance Overview which mainly showed court activities of the organisation from the Lower to the High Courts and compared growth from 2008/9 until 2012/13. This overview also showed the ratio of prosecutors per court, available for all court processes.
Mr Hollamby said the new Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) bid amounted to R45 million for curators and was submitted during March 2013, but was not yet approved. The presentation gave an overview of the specific projects funded by the CARA funds.
The NPA had leased office buildings in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Grahamstown, Mmabatho, Kimberley and Mthatha. The underfunded budget priority was the head office building of which the lease expired in 2017 and the NPA wanted to move from leased to State owned office accommodation.
The Chairperson asked for an explanation why the figures were not audited before the presentation.
Adv van Rensburg said the auditing process was in progress and the organisation would receive the audit opinion at the end of July 2014.
Mr Swart asked if there was an element of error that could affect the figures as presented. In addition, he asked about the accounting status of the NPA and why National Treasury was reluctant to allow the NPA to prepare separate Annual Financial Statements. There had been previous talks about having the NPA Act amended to address these issues. What was the status of those discussions and how could the Committee assist?
Mr Swart referred to ADRMs and asked for a more detailed explanation of the increase in cases resolved through this mechanism. In addition, he noted the complexity of fraud cases, especially those cases where R5 million or more was involved. In that regard, he asked why there was a significant drop in the conviction rates of those cases, as well as the conviction rate of JCPS officials as compared to previous years.
Adv van Rensburg replied the organisation had a very good view of where it stood in terms of the audit findings and although there was no decision yet, the Committee could rely on the information presented. There had been an increase in the use of mediation, but it coincided with an increase of cases in the district courts, which dealt with the more minor issues where mediation could be utilised. There was a mediation policy in place and that process was being annually audited. Mediation was rarely used outside the district courts.
Mr Nxasana said the issue of JCPS conviction rates had been debated within the NPA, with the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT). There had been different views and the issue of too high targets may be a factor. The NPA did not receive any cases related to the conviction of JCPS personnel and therefore could not fully report on the conviction rates. The corruption cases that involved R5 million or more had been prioritised by the organisation, but those cases were often highly contested up to the higher Court and could take many years. Individuals involved in those cases could very often afford the best lawyers, but the NPA was making every effort to deal with this matter.
Mr Swart asked why 2012/13 was more successful since those challenges were always there, but to move from 84 completed cases to 19 was cause for serious investigations.
Mr Nxasana noted those concerns and said that it would be investigated and reported to the Committee at a later stage.
Mr M Redelinghuys (DA) said the NPA Strategic Plan “glossed over or was conveniently silent” on a number of challenges experienced by the organisation in recent months, if not years. The legal challenges and the prolonged uncertainty were renewed threats on the uncertainty of the role of the National Director of the NPA. In the APP it stated that the Integrity Management Unit (IMU) was established to combat corruption and to promote ethical conduct. He asked for clarifications on reports that this unit had been disbanded, the events that led to the situation, the current status of the former head of this unit, Mr Prince Mokotedi, the nature of the disciplinary action and the impact on the budget and progress of the NPA.
Mr Nxasana clarified that the IMU had not been disbanded.
Mr Redelinghuys said the NPA spokesperson, Mr Nathi Ncube quoted the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Michael Matsutha as having instructed the NPA not to talk about the internal workings of the NPA, which according to the Act, should not happen.
Mr Nxasana said according to his understanding the Minister visited the organisation for the first time and met with the top management of the NPA and based on what was happening at the time within the organisation, he called for calm and asked the organisation not to deal with the issues in the media. Mr Mokotedi had been suspended and it was an internal process that would be followed, but it had nothing to do with any comments made by the Minister.
Mr W Horn (DA) said Mr Mokotedi phoned into a radio talk show to put on record that within the NPA he was viewed as a “Zuma man”. This was a concern, because the NPA should be an objective and impartial servant of the nation in respect of deciding if and when to institute criminal proceedings.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee should discuss a talk show that nobody else listened to.
Mr Horn said the recording could be made available. There had been a lot of negative comments made in terms of the judiciary and the NPA and the Committee should not close its eyes if there seemed to be turmoil in the upper echelons of the organisation. He further asked if the NPA would be able to self-correct, what the organisation was doing to self-correct, and if it could be trusted in terms of the budget to go forward and not expose titself to the negative comments made by the judiciary.
Mr Smith said he thought the Committee was here to interrogate the organisation on its budget and its performance rather than on its politics. He referred to the presentation and the statement that the backlog case management was no longer the responsibility of the organisation. Part of the awaiting trial issues process was court readiness which related to interpreters both not being available or too expensive. He asked what the NPA was doing to help address those issues and combat over crowdedness. He further asked for clarification on the R64 million budgeted for consultants and R157 million for travel expenses for the 2014/15 financial year.
Adv van Rensburg replied the backlog was no longer included as an indicator in the organisation’s strategic objectives, but it was still included in the core body of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) strategic plan. Those challenges in the courtroom often related to a magistrate or interpreter not being available and that was why it was better for the Department of Justice to be responsible for making sure all the role players in the Criminal Justice System did their part. The NPA did monitor the courtroom support services based on a monthly report from Correctional Services.
Mr Hollamby said the prosecutors had to go out to circuit courts in different areas and the NPA had to accommodate them whererever they went. All witness had to be transported with the necessary security measures and the NPA followed all guidelines provided by National Treasury. The budget allocated to consultants covered curators and section 28 outsourced legal counsels.
The Chairperson said he had no intention to suppress any Committee member, but the Committee was well aware what the purpose of this meeting was and the Committee would not be discussing talk shows in the meeting.
Mr Swart called a point of order and said that if NPA officials went public, the Committee should be held accountable and this Committee had always engaged issues in the media.
The Chairperson said the Committee had been briefed on the purpose of the meeting and should focus on the issues at hand.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) asked for more details on the organisation’s vacancy rate and if the NPA needed any assistance from the Committee with regards to legislative processes.
Adv van Rensburg said the vacancy rate was at 8%, it had reduced from 10% in the last three months.
Mr Nxasana replied that the organisation had been looking at amending the NPA Act. He added that the recommendations would be tabled and the NPA would then need the Committee’s assistance.
Ms K Litchfield-Tshabalala (EFF) referred to the witnesses leaving the witness protection programme and asked if the NPA should not look at including families of the witnesses in this programme.
Adv van Rensburg replied that only direct family members were included into the programme, because if extended family was included, the process would become unsustainable. There were about 500 people in the programme and 12 had people walked away. This was a low figure. Most of the witnesses that walked off the programme, testified in court regardless.
Ms G Breytenbach (DA) asked how the organisation’s budget would deal with the fact that most of the NPA’s deputy directors had not been translated onto the OSD.
The NPA replied that the OSD was a new dispensation brought in by Government five years ago to try to improve the salaries that were paid to professionals. The dispensation explicitly excluded those on management level, because real experts did not have to become managers to earn a decent salary. In the NPA it had some unintended consequences and proposals had been made and considered on how to deal with those unintended consequences. There was no OSD for managers and the organisation was trying to deal with the disparities in salaries which had been very difficult.
Mr Horn said there were certain scathing remarks made by a judicial officer on the fitness of NPA senior members to hold office and it related to the strategic objective of the organisation to increase successful prosecution. He asked if the NPA was willing and able to self-correct and how the Committee could assist.
The Chairperson said the Committee was briefed by the Minister in which he stated there were certain matters being dealt with at an executive level. It did not seem fair to ask an official that was affected by those matters to self-correct on an issue that had not been concluded yet.
Mr Horn said the fact that the Executive had started to engage did not stop the internal proceedings of the NPA and it was within the ambit of the Committee to ask what those proceedings or decisions were, if any.
Mr M Maila (ANC) said the question was not fair, because this decision would be taken at executive level.
Ms M Pilane-Majake (ANC) said there was interest in the operations and the public opinion of the NPA, but there should not be an impression formed based on an article in a newspaper. The Committee should engage on matters that had been verified in a fair manner and not hearsay. She asked how the NPA chose which projects were funded through the CARA funds and how, if the money was not approved yet, was it already allocated and being utilised.
Mr Willie Hofmeyr, Deputy NDPP, NPA, replied that the funds had to be used for law enforcement purposes and to assist organisations that helped victims of crime. The NPA had received requests in the past for assistance to victims of sexual offences and Treasury had requested that the money used for curators should be paid from CARA and the NPA was required by law to use curators. The biggest allocations made from the CARA funding had been toward the ACTT in the fight against corruption.
Mr Redelinghuys said he was gravely concerned, because the Committee was not allowed to probe the status quo of the NPA and in five years all those issues would still be present if not properly addressed now. He addressed the comment made by Ms Pilane-Majake and said there was court documentation and that was certainly not hearsay. The Committee should be presented with a plan from the NPA that addressed the way forward to rescue the credibility, integrity and the standing of the organisation, because the entire criminal justice system depended on the NPA.
Mr Horn said he wanted his dismay with the Chairperson’s ruling recorded in the minutes, because it was not within the ambit of the oversight body to rule any specific question related to the NPA out of order.
The Chairperson replied that he had allowed the question, but he had ruled that the question was unfair.
Mr Horn referred to the finalised criminal court cases with verdicts and asked whether the admissions of guilt fines were included and the percentage it covered of the finalised cases. The Asset Forfeiture Unit figures and the comments on deviation mentioned an increase of 74.4%, which was partially ascribed to non-conviction based finalisations. He asked if an amount could be attached of the value of those non-conviction based finalisations.
Adv van Rensburg replied that the only admission of guilt fines included were the section 57(a) in terms of the NPA Act and there were full definitions at the back of the Strategic Plan and the APP that gave full definitions and explanations of what was included in the figures. There was in the region of 600 000 admission of guilt fines annually and the NPA played a role in many of them, but most were not accounted for in the figures. In the 2012/13 financial year the organisation had achieved 54% of its targets and 74% of targets were achieved in the last financial year and it was a significant improvement.
Mr Swart said it was up to the NPA on whether it would like to address the issues raised in the meeting, because it did have a negative impact on the functioning of the organisation. The Committee was not here to embarrass anyone, but rather to assist. He commended the organisation for its past unqualified audit opinions and he congratulated Mr Hollamby on his promotion.
Mr Maila commended the responsible way the organisation managed and spent its budget and he highlighted the successful management of the Witness Protection Programme.
Mr Pilane-Majake said Mr Redelinghuys did not adopt a line of questioning that referred to any court documentation and she was simply responding to statements made by him. She referred to the question raised by Ms Breytenbach on the OSD and suggested the NPA include more information related to human resources in the APP.
Ms Breytenbach said the answer by Mr Hofmeyr was partial and partially amusing and asked if any senior managers were currently on the OSD and where in the report did it refer to the asset forfeiture cases that were finalised through repayments. Furthermore, she noted that there were reports requested by the previous Committee related to service delivery and asked if those reports could be sent.
Adv van Rensburg replied that there were no senior managers on the OSD.
The Chairperson asked if Ms Breytenbach was requesting the reports from him, because reports got processed and prioritised.
Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked for a breakdown of TCCs represented in provinces, as well as the oganisational structure composition with regards to gender in the provinces.
Adv van Rensburg said there were TCCs represented in every province, but the NPA would forward a breakdown of the centres to the Committee. Until last year all those centers were solely reliant on donor funding and in the last financial year R20 million was allocated by Government toward the funding of TCCs. She gave an overview of the regional heads in the province according to gender and race and said once the organisation’s Annual Report was published; the Committee would receive a detailed report on the oganisational structure.
The Chairperson said community justice was not adversarial and he asked if there was any intention of recognising of institutionalising community justice.
Mr Nxasana said there were no such plans currently.
The Chairperson thanked the NPA for the presentation.
Briefing by Legal Aid South Africa (LASA)on its Strategic and Annual Perfomance Plans
Judge Dunstan Mlambo, Chairperson of the Board, LASA, said the entity’s clients were those affected by unemployment and poverty, the vulnerable and mostly included women, children and people with disabilities.
The Legal Aid Guide 2014 provided for those who qualified for legal aid in terms of the means test, however those who did not qualify, could in some instances not afford private legal representation.
Ms Vidhu Vedalankar, Chief Executive Officer, LASA, said the Strategic Plan 2012 -2017 outcomes were quality justice for all and for the entity to be a respected, high performance, sustainable, accessible public entity that impacted positively on society, the economy and the environment with the strategies clearly outlined.
The 2014/15 APP outlined the 26 strategies that would be utilised, with an outline of the programme, the project, outputs, the specific programme’s progression comparison against the base year, first year performance and the subsequent two year target projections.
Legal Aid SA considered the entity’s five year Strategic Plan and the year on year increase of the National Treasury allocation including additional funding over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) when preparing the 2014/15 budget. The future financial stability of the organisation, the proportion of direct service delivery costs to administration support costs and the Capital Asset Replacement Programme was also considered.
Ms Rebecca Hlabatau, Chief Financial Officer, LASA, said the budget was summarised over the 2014–2017 MTEF and showed a projected increase from approximately R1.4 billion in 2013/14 to R1.6 billion in 2016/17. These included salaries and related costs, case backlog, direct expenditure, operating expenditure and capital expenditure. The budget was prepared under the assumption that inflation would be 5.4% for the budget period under review with salary increases budgeted at 6.4%. Salaries increases for 2014/15 was now confirmed at 7.4% resulting in a shortfall of R10 million. The salary recruitment budget decreased from 98% to 97% due to high compensation of employees costs. Case backlog increases by 6% and capital expenditure decreased by -43% compared to 2013/14 due to R10.3 million set aside for the IT system with only R1.5 million confirmed in 2014/15. The overall increase in budget was 4%. The budget was aligned to the APP with the biggest shares of the budget, approximate R1 billion (67%) allocated to clients, communities, shareholders and stakeholders and R367 million (24.1%) allocated to employee and organizational capacity. Following submissions made to National Treasury about the impact on reduced staffing which in turn impacted court coverage, there were no budget cuts for Legal Aid SA over the MTEF which was greatly appreciated. The entity received additional funding over the MTEF, approximately R133 million toward the Child Justice and Children’s Act, an increase in legal capacity and improved conditions of service. Unaudited preliminary figures indicated 2013/14 expenditure levels of more than 98% of the budget with the 2013/14 external audit underway. The entity had an Unqualified audit report for 12 years in succession with no matters of emphasis.
The challenges to the delivery of the APP would be managed to ensure that it did not affect performance. Some of these challenges included the processing of appeal matters timeously, the unresolved budget for the Marikana Inquiry and the National footprint of Legal Aid SA not being extended due to budgetary constraints.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) commended the organisation on its fine financial management systems, but asked about its marketing strategies. He further asked for comments on the perceived lack of confidence the public had in Legal Aid attorneys, who were deemed to be inexperienced and underpaid.
Judge Mlambo said the system of a case load assigned to lawyers was abolished in 2002 and no Legal Aid lawyer had to finalise a set number of cases because it caused lawyers to compromise cases to achieve their targets. No inexperienced lawyers were sent to the regional courts, and even with experience there was rigorous in-house training provided beforehand to ensure no client would be compromised. Unfortunately the perception remained and it was a perception the organisation would continue to fight.
Mr Smith said the inexperience of attorneys should not be an issue, because the organisation should look toward job creation through article internships and learnerships. People with money could afford attorneys anytime. He further asked if Legal Aid offered any after hour services when most poor people could need legal services the most.
Judge Mlambo said the organisation was the largest employer of candidate attorneys, and it was often young black and inexperienced attorneys that struggled with finding employment.
Mr Maila said he wanted details on how the means test was conducted, if the free calls to the organisations were really free since Telkom lacked the proper infrastructure in certain rural areas and why there were only six regional offices in a country with nine provinces.
Judge Mlambo said the means test was conducted by Legal Aid to determine whether someone qualified for assistance based on their income and socio-economic status. When Legal Aid refused to assist defendants in the ‘Boeremag’; the organisation was taken to court and was ordered to fund those people. The organisation sometimes assisted individuals who could afford legal services, but whose funds had been frozen or the funds were not enough. A means test was then done to assess how far their own money could cover the costs and what was expected of Legal Aid. When Legal Aid intervened, it was to assist clients to be able to continue with the same lawyers, because very often private lawyers abandoned cases when clients’ funds dried up. This led to delays and overburdened case loads. If a person had been denied assistance based on the means test, there was an appeals procedure which the applicant was informed about.
Mr Bongo said there needed to be more information on how the organisation assisted all levels of income in the population, because legal services was very expensive. He agreed about the marketing and said he had not personally heard any Legal Aid advert on local or national radio stations. The appointment of candidate attorneys was part of job creation, but how was the organisation balanced it with delivering quality service.
Ms Mothapo said there had been instances where professionals were represented in the lower courts by Legal Aid attorneys and she too wanted clarification the means test criteria. She spoke about marketing and access to the service and said the printed information of the entity was mostly available in English and Afrikaans and how this issue could be addressed to include other official languages. She asked whether the organisation could not follow the Department of Health model where there was a single entry point in the community to hold information sessions.
Ms Vedalankar said Legal Aid practitioners could provide assistance to clients in any language requested, the call centre provided assistance in five official languages and the organisation advertised an all local and national radio stations, especially African language stations.
Mr Redlinghuys asked whether Legal Aid had received any request for assistance for medical negligent cases and whether such cases had been taken on.
Mr Horne referred to civil litigation and he asked about the secretarial support to such litigators because the work can be cumbersome and could lighten the case load.
Mr Swart commended Legal Aid and their staff component and asked what assistance or legal service the organisation offered to Commissions of Inquiry and what impact it had on the mandate and finance of the organisation.
Judge Mlambo said Legal Aid’s role in Commissions of Inquiry were investigated in relation to legislation, mandate and the budget available. The organisation would assist where it could, but Marikana wanted R17 million more than the organisation could afford. There needed to be a framework for people who could not afford, but was directly implicated in the Commissions to be assisted.
The Chairperson said there were time constraints and any other responses could be forwarded to the Committee by the following Monday or Tuesday.
Ms Vedalankar said the delegation ran out of time due to prescheduled flights, but she listed the questions the organisation would provide written responses on.
The Chairperson thanked Legal Aid for the presentation said the organisation offered a valuable service to South Africans.
The meeting was adjourned.