Court infrastructure building & maintenance: briefing by Department of Justice

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Justice and Correctional Services

04 November 2014
Chairperson: Dr M Motshekga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Justice spoke about the state of its current infrastructure projects at magistrate and high  courts, the state of maintenance of buildings occupied by the Department, the disability access plan and its leased property portfolio.

The situation for the current capital works projects underway was grim with there being major impediments in the length of time taken to receive a site clearance certificate and begin construction, under the custodianship of the Department of Public Works. As the Department had received additional statutory mandates which would lead to increased needs for court users. Poor planning of this nature has led to delays at the Dimbaza magistrates court and Mpumalanga High Court. In an effort to mitigate the problems the Department has been engaging with the DPW, at various levels including Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Director General, towards more coordinated planning and emphasis on the projects. Repair and renovation face similar problems as new capital works, with increased court user needs leading to increased scope of the projects. In both, there were also problems with tenders being allowed to lapse, leading to delays as the process would have to be re-adjudicated.

The Department’s expenditure of its capital works allocation to date is R351 million, leaving an underspend of R510 million. However, there is potential for expenditure through the Independent Development Trust to the value of R356 million.

On maintenance of accommodation, the Department is seeking to make use of a section of the Government Immovable Asset Management Act which enables certain departments to undertake a delegation for its own maintenance of state buildings, provided they have the capacity to provide the service. The Department is therefore looking towards capacitating the regional offices to enable this. The expenditure on maintenance is also lagging with only 29% (R106 million) of the allocation spent to date.

The presentation canvassed the mobile unit procurement process, which is being implemented as an effort to alleviate the dire accommodation constraints faced by the Department. This is at various stages of implementation, with allocations having been made to the regions and the procurement having begun.

The Disability building programme was aimed at persons with disabilities to ensure access to its buildings. Phase 1 of the project saw at least one ablution facility being installed per building, along with ramps and rails. This phase was stalled for several years, because of a legal dispute between the Department of Public Works and the Independent Development Trust. Phase 2 seeks to complete the stalled projects and increase facilities for access through items such as chair lifts and ablution facilities on each floor.

The last topic of the presentation was its leased portfolio. The Department has a total portfolio of 120 buildings. However, of these, 35 leases have lapsed leaving the Department on a month-to-month lease. The situation is exacerbated by the National Treasury directive given to the Department of Public Works instructing leases to be renewed on a three year basis, as full installation takes approximately a year, with concomitant expense. The Department noted that while the costs of leased accommodation were rising, the allocation was not keeping pace leading to the Department having less and less space.

The Department’s proposed solutions centred on increased engagement with DPW to ensure better cooperation and planning; the assumption of as much responsibility by the Department as possible for maintenance; and a reorganisation of the Department of Public Works was suggested.

The discussion saw several Members lamenting the absence of the Department of Public Works, because the Department of Justice could not properly account for functions which were the responsibility of another department. Great concern was expressed that the South Gauteng High Court was still incomplete, despite the Committee having been assured on a site visit that by December 2014 it would be completed. A full report was requested on court buildings that had burnt down, particularly the one at Pongola which was intentionally burnt down by the community. There was concern about the extent of the leased portfolio and DOJCD was asked if the plan to increase the number of state owned buildings in use was under way.

After the Department gave a cursory response, the Committee agreed that it would be best to have a meeting which included DPW representatives during the Committee’s oversight visit to Polokwane.
 

Meeting report

Infrastructure Programme: briefing by Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Mr Tsietsi Malema, Acting-Director General: Court Services Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, said the Chief Directorate: Facilities Management, aims to support service delivery and enhance access to justice by providing habitable buildings. The presentation deals with the concerns raised by Members about the delays and under spending in capital projects and maintenance of facilities. He provided an overview of the activities of the Chief Directorate, including challenges and proposed solutions.

In response to Mr Swart (ACDP) interrupting to ask if there was a representative of the Department of Public Works present, Mr Malema said that there was not, however John Mothibi, Acting Deputy Director General: Facilities Management DOJCD, was present.

Mr Tsietsi Malema looked at the legal framework, saying the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) lists the roles and responsibilities of the user (the Department) and the Custodian (DPW). What the Department is to do includes matching service delivery objectives with accommodation requirements, determine utilisation of accommodation, determine repairs that need to conducted and prepare the budget for the accommodation occupied by the user. While DPW is tasked with items such as developing management plans for capital acquisition, leasing, maintenance and disposals.

The DOJCD property portfolio consists of 672 state owned and 120 leased properties, translating to a 81% state owned portfolio. Allocation for the 2014/15 Medium term Expenditure Framework was R844 483 000 for capital works, R326 107 000  for property leases, R329 190 000 for municipal services and R331 401 000 for accommodation charges. The highest allocation is capital works which grows from R844 483 000 to R1.04 billion in 2016/17.

Capital Works Projects
New Buildings: Projects finalised for 2014/15
The new Limpopo High Court is almost at 90% completion and expected to be finished by the beginning of 2015. There is a forum of the stakeholders which will be using the court, including the Deputy Public Protector, Judge President and Regional Court Head, to determine how occupation will occur. At head office level a procurement process for the High Court has begun. A challenge at the moment is parking for the private users of the court and discussions with the municipality are underway for adjacent land. An independent valuation has taken placing, valuing it at R4 million. Discussions with DPW are currently underway, with DPW having indicated that the DOJCD will have to pay the money. The second challenge is the supply of electricity, because the court will be using a lot of power and this needs to be cleared with the municipality in charge of the grid. Lastly, the municipality has been approached to widen the entrance/exit road. It has thus far become a one way to help with traffic flow. The resolution of these problems is underway and although they have little to do with the actual functioning of the court, they may be preconditions to the municipality allowing occupation.

The second major project is the Mpumalanga High Court where progress has not been optimal and there have been major delays. Even the acceptance of land took an unreasonable amount of time. A further issue is that the court is placed on a national road and access is a problem. There are rules governing access and the municipality has not yet approved the traffic impact assessment report. The traffic officials are opposed to the Department’s plan to use the national road as an access point and suggest using a back route through an FET college, which poses its own problems. The Preferred option is to make use of robots on the National road, which is close to residential areas. To make use of the property of the FET college a bridge would have to be built, leading to additional expenses. The project is expected to be completed in September 2015, barring unforeseen circumstances such as strikes or poor weather.

Projects for regional courts:
- The Mamelodi Magistrates' Court is expected to be completed by December 2015. One of the problems faced here was the community not being happy with the ward councillor who was nominated as community liaison officer. The Department has engaged with the municipality and a new person has been appointed. Delays were caused by difficulties with appointing contractors and tenders lapsing.
- The Port Shepstone Magistrates' Court has recently seen a contractor being appointed. Challenges here included delays in the acquisition of the land by DPW and the recommended contractor not having security clearance leading to a restarting of the adjudication process.
- The Plettenberg Bay Magistrates' Court: although sketch plans have been approved, the municipality and DPW are contesting the manner of acquisition of the land. This has been caused by disputes about whether to effect an outright purchase, donation or swap and dispute about the value of the land. Discussions are underway to resolve the above.
- The Dimbaza Magistrates' Court project is at the adjudication phase, awaiting appointment of the contractor. Delays were caused by DPW having to revise the site clearance certificate in light of increased client needs. The matter has now been referred to the DPW national office, because the amounts are above the regional delegation.
The Byiti Magistrates' Court has a problem as the court building is on a heritage site and therefore approval is needed from the Heritage Council for demolition and further the land is still subject to a vesting process.

Burnt Buildings
Mr Malema said three courts had burned down:
- Polokwane magistrates court. Here the Department had to agree with DPW that it would be restored to its previous condition, rather than reconstructed, to save time. Once the new High Court is completed the lower courts will move to the present High Court building. To help keep the court functional, some regional courts were taken on circuit, some buildings were leased for the court users such as the NPA.
- Pretoria Magistrates' Court is not at the point of completion which the Department would have liked despite the building having burnt down several years ago. The tender process expired before finalisation and the DPW can only re-advertise after a six month cooling off period, which is likely to be done in early 2015.
- Simdlangetshe Magistrates' Court, in Pongola, is a disheartening story, because this fairly new court was intentionally burnt down by the community in July 2014. Engagements have followed aimed at showing the community that nothing justifies destruction of such buildings, which are meant for their benefit. The court has been moved to Pongola Magistrates' Court.

Repair and Renovation
- South Gauteng High Court has been under repair for a considerable period and it should be completed by mid-2015. The main challenges related to the need to comply with new occupational health and safety laws and regulations, requiring a variation order to what was approved by DPW. Further, as recording court proceedings could not be affected by the works underway, work has had to be done after hours, on weekends and during recess. Lastly, there has been poor cooperation from the court users who have had to move operations to various floors and requesting additions for their increased needs.
- Mthatha High Court has a project for additional accommodation that is at the planning stage, with additional work having been submitted to DPW and a site clearance certificate is awaited.
- Durban High Court work is underway for phase one, with additional needs having been identified and submitted to DPW for phase two.
- Port Elizabeth High Court - the contractor has begun bulk earthworks and the project is at 14%, with completion expected in February 2016. The Department has had to intervene to ensure that the court personnel give the contractor the space to try to stick to the agreed work schedule.
- The Palace of Justice project which is mainly a security upgrade is going well, with the site having been handed over in July 2014.
- Rustenberg Magistrates' Court is a project which has taken a long time, with SARS having vacated a space allowing the court to expand. It has seen the Department take over funding and planning is underway. This was brought on by a lapse in the tender which caused delays and saw increased needs requirements of court users. The DPW revised the scope from repair and renovation to a capital project and indicated that the money dedicated had been spent, leading to the DOJCD funding the project.
- Mthatha Magistrates' Court, the project is at the planning stage, with the site clearance certificate being awaited, as the clients had indicated additional needs.
- Justicia building project is at the tender adjudication phase and the submissions have been referred to DPW head office.
- Richards Bay Magistrates' Court, is at the planning stage having previously stopped due to budget constraints and with the addition of needs a revised site clearance certificate is awaited.
- The Pietermaritzburg NPA office is on track, with no challenges. Further, the Innes Chambers of the NPA are at 95% completion with January 2015 being the expected completion date.

Expenditure trends
Mr Malema said it had been a concern of the Portfolio Committee that the money allocated to the Department for infrastructure development was not being spent. The total allocation for infrastructure was R844.4 million, with a total expenditure of R351.4 million. Of this R117.9 million was DPW expenditure, while R233.4 million of this was Independent Development Trust (IDT) expenditure.

Mr Malema said there is a projected commitment of R356 million by the end of March 2015, for outstanding invoices on IDT projects including the Mpumalanga High Court. Further, there is a commitment of R94 million for DPW projects for the same period. This will operate on a contingency basis, with the Department being prepared as the invoices come in. There are on-going client liaison meetings between the Department and DPW at national and regional levels, to try to iron out the issues with various projects. He had been informed that the R94 million that was ring-fenced for the DPW projects would likely not be spent due to progress with the projects and therefore the Department expects an under spend of around R150 million. The concerns with the DPW projects had only been learnt about the previous week and caused worries for the Department in that there was money to be spent; however this was not being done.

On historical expenditure, in 2011/12 the Department had appropriated R683 million and had 100% expenditure. In 2012/13, R621 million had been appropriated again with 100% expenditure. However, in 2013/14 there had been an allocation of R735.2 million, with an underspend of R347.6 million. This is a significant figure to return to National Treasury.

Challenges on Infrastructure
Mr Malema said the challenges leading to the Department’s underspend include delays in receiving site clearance certificates from DPW, mostly due to problems with town planning and acquisition of land. The Department has experienced poor performance on the part of contractors, leading to terminations and DPW having to run a process to appoint a new contractor. The Department concedes that it has not planned properly, because new needs are raised when building is due to begin. If the lengthy period between the submission of needs to the time of construction is considered the reasons for the court user’s needs expanding will be understood. Examples include new legislative mandates such as those of the Child Justice Act or the population served by the court having grown. A way to shorten the delay needs to be found, to avoid the need for variations and those resultant delays. There have been legal disputes around the tender process which have led to consultants and contractors not being appointed. Lastly, there has been poor communication between the DPW head office and regional offices resulting in poor project management.

Maintenance
Mr Malema said this too had been raised as an area of concern by the Committee. The maintenance of state owned property is carried out by DPW, out of its own budget. This is because the DOJCD only has a delegation for day to day maintenance to the value of R100 000. The delegation is not sufficient for the costs of the repairs required, leading to only minor matters being taken care of by the regional heads. The Department is in discussions with DPW to try and increase these delegations. The DPW used to conduct minor capital works projects through the Repair And Maintain Programme (RAMP), however since this has been abolished, it no longer does minor capital works. The discussions spoken of above led to the Department presenting a list of minor works items which it as the client will undertake. The Department is looking to grow its capacity in the facilities directorate by employing people specialised in the built environment. Facilities managers in the regional offices at present are simply people at the regional offices who have had that function assigned to them. The DoJCD CFO and human resources manager are working on drawing up a job description for a person who is capable of liaising directly with DPW.

He then spoke to the allocations for planned maintenance which are recorded in a report by DPW. The only area where there is significant movement in maintenance allocation is the regional court at Mmabatho. The overall expenditure for planned maintenance is 29%, with a shortfall of R262 million.

Mobile Units
Mr Malema said while the mobile units are not the optimal solution, it was realised that as the money dedicated to capital works was not going to be spent, it would be best to procure mobile units. The mobile units are essentially “park homes” and are aimed at alleviating dire accommodation strain. A tender has been approved and with the regions having been allocated funds procurement, it is at various stages. While he did not have statistics on how far each region was, he was aware that several had already reached the stage of site selection and approval. This process is done together with municipalities who must approve connections to services and the levels of cooperation vary here as well. A breakdown of the R57 million allocated across regions formed part of the presentation and showed that Gauteng had received the largest allocation at R21.7 million, while the Western Cape had received the lowest at R1.1 million.

Disability Programme
Mr Malema said the Department would like ensure it does not discriminate against persons with disabilities. In pursuit of this, it allocated R120 million in 2003 to IDT to effect minor improvements to cater for disabled persons’ needs. DPW was has been allocated R10 million annually since. Phase one of the project included installing ramps and rails, further upgrading at least one ablution facility for people with disabilities. The Department concedes that this is not enough and hopes to do more through phase two. Phase two includes installing lifts equipped with braille and sound notification, more ablution facilities, the modification of witness boxes and where there is no space for a lift shaft stair lifts will be installed.

He said that initially IDT did a lot of work in this area. However, legal disputes between IDT and DPW stalled the project for three to four years and lead to no work being done on the facilities. Therefore, the remainder of phase one courts will be incorporated within phase two. To date, DPW has completed 116 courts, with 136 remaining to be completed under phase one. This will bring the phase one total to 252 of the 531 buildings identified for this project. The Department has identified 187 buildings to be prioritised for completion by February 2017 and has set dates for completion of other milestones such as finalisation of projects currently in the construction phase, due in November 2014. The projected expenditure is expected to be at 20% in 2014/15, growing to 45% in 2015/16 and falling to 35% in 2016/17. The Department’s capital estimated funds required is at R16.8 million and DPW’s is at R4.3 million.

Mr Malema said major challenges in this area include the legal dispute between DPW and its implementing agencies, which began in 2012 and has only been resolved in July 2014. Delays have been caused by long approval processes by relevant Heritage Councils for heritage buildings.

Leased Portfolio
Mr Malema said that the Department leases a total of 120 office buildings from private landlords, to date 85 are valid and 35 in the process of being renewed or finalised by DPW. He said the 35 leases under review have in fact expired and this translates to 29% of the portfolio, which is a cause for concern. The Department has therefore engaged with DPW to ensure that leases are renewed on time, because if they do not then the lease converts to a month-to-month contract. This is a precarious position for the Department to be in as landlords are no longer willing to do the upkeep when the future is uncertain.

The expenditure for private leases was R200.4 million of a R326.1 million allocation. The allocation for leases has not kept pace with annual escalations, therefore the Department has less money for the commitments retained over the years and the net effect is that overspending is likely.

Challenges faced include, the time it takes for leases to be renewed, as mentioned earlier, but DPW is taking steps to address this. Secondly, the leases are advertised on an open tender after three years, although it takes almost a year to set up after movement and this leads to money being spent in transit. This is therefore an untenable situation, with money being spent on the relocation of infrastructure, landlords being unwilling to contribute to tenant installation, because the lease period is so short. Further, with the allocation provided the amount of space that is acquired is shrinking following a move due to increased rent; all despite the actual growth of the office.

Proposed Solutions
Mr Malema said that the Department must continue to engage DPW, despite frustrations which it must face. There are standing meetings between the CFOs, regional heads and a client liaison officer has been cleared. The office lead by the Chief Directorate Facilities Management needs to be strengthened in order for the Department to be able to properly plan to avoid the delays that come with revisions  of court user needs. Alternatives are being explored, such as off budget funding through public–private partnership (PPP) or BOT (build–own–transfer), to help speed up completion of projects. It was suggested that there ought to be a restructuring of services facilities, because the portfolio is too big. DPW needs to be reconfigured to live up to the infrastructure development expectations of government. Lastly, he spoke to a slide which depicted the facilities management capacity requirements of the Department. These included property planning, property management (leasing), infrastructure management (capital works), maintenance and monitoring and evaluation. A problem has been encountered about the cleaning and gardening function, which DPW was willing to delegate without funding and this cannot be accepted by the DOJCD.

Discussion
The Chairperson said now he understood why Mr Swart asked if any representatives from DPW were present, because this is a “depressing story”.

Mr Swart said this was indeed not a good story and this is why in an earlier meeting it had been suggested a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Public Works was needed. While not all the blame may lie with DPW, engagement with the Minister may be beneficial, because it seems as though they have too much to deal with. It is difficult to hold DOJCD officials to account when there is another department at play. He understood that engagement was happening at different levels such between the CFOs and Deputy Directors General, but this was not producing results. While there had been an underspend of “R347 million”, which the Committee has expressed concern about, this is generally out of the hands of the Department. The present projected underspend is around R150 million and this makes is difficult to argue for additional funds for the Department. In the Fourth Parliament it was suggested that all existing maintenance work should be finished, before new capital works projects are started and he asked for comment. Referring to Mpumalanga High Court, he said that it is strange that at such a late stage there is a problem like access. Surely this should have been done when the site was bought? On the South Gauteng High Court, he said this has been a concern since the Fourth Parliament as this is one of the busiest courts located at the hub of the economy. The Committee had met with the Judge President during the previous term and the judiciary had been expressing concern, with assurances given by the Department that the work would be completed by the end of 2014. Now there are indications, contrary to even more recent reports, that it will be finished by 2015. Mr Swart wanted to know how far the Department in fact is, as a percentage, given the five floors outstanding. He had heard indications that the Department appointed people to do facilities management who were not specialists. He wanted to know why they were appointed in the first place. Nothing has been said about the infrastructure for sexual offences courts such as the separate waiting rooms, he would like more information as this came from a ministerial directive and sexual offences have been prioritised by government. He again expressed his sympathy for the challenges faced by the Department, but said a holistic way forward needs to be found as this problem affects many other departments.

Mr Malema apologised for not including specifics on sexual offences. He recalled that 23 courts had been modified to cater for sexual offences, which is in excess of the last APP target and the verified figures will be provided for the present financial year. It was decided that in doing the modifications, the ones where no physical changes would be required would be prioritised, to ensure the least possible involvement of DPW. The process for buildings which need physical changes is now being embarked on conscious of the fact that it will take time. On officials doing maintenance supervision, he said this is an internal problem and this is why the Department is looking into providing the regions with a deputy director post who are properly capacitated to deal with DWP or on-site contractors.

Mr Mothibi replied about the access road to the Mpumalanga court. The first problem is that the Traffic Impact Assessment Report has not yet been approved. The Municipality informally informed the DOJCD that the proposed access road is within 100m of a robot and that this would therefore be unacceptable. A further problem is that there are two sets of documents for this site: a deed of donation from the private landlord and DPW; and the initial purchase agreement of the private landlord. In the purchase agreement it is stated that the private landlord would secure the access road and bulk infrastructure for the site. However, the deed of donation is silent on this issue and the Department has communicated the view that it is for the private landlord to ensure the above. This has now been referred to the DPW legal team. On the South Gauteng High Court, there were certain problems which were not anticipated when work first began, such as the realisation that the electromechanical system needed replacing upon removal of flooring.

Mr Swart apologised for interrupting and said when the Committee had visited the court in the previous term these issues were raised and yet the assurance was still given that work would be completed by the end of 2014, notwithstanding the increased scope and difficulties in refurbishing a functioning court. He said that it seemed to be open ended again and therefore asked for a date for completion.

Mr Mothibi replied that this would be by December 2015 in terms of the projected execution plan.

Mr Swart asked why this was the case when the Annual Report says December 2014. Is this information subsequent to that report?

Mr Mothibi said that he supposed it was so, because DPW has submitted the additional work and the variation orders were approved by the Director General the previous week.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) referred to the new court buildings being built, and asked if they are specifically taking into account the needs of cases involving children and/or sexual offences. He understood that there were problems such as electricity supply at Mthatha High Court, although he was unsure where the responsibility for resolution lay, and this interrupted the court’s work. In the same vein he understood that at times municipalities revoke services due to non-payment. Who is responsible for this, DPW or DOJCD? He understood that the Department was moving away from leasing to acquire its own spaces. He wanted to know how far it is in planning this. He encouraged this as the work of the courts and Department is always going to be required and asked for how much longer the Department plans on maintaining its large leased property portfolio in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. Further, how does the DOJCD plan to move towards long leases, which need to be registered at the Deeds Office, and how does this tie in with the plans to move increasingly into state owned property.

Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked for a full written report on all the burnt court buildings, particularly as the forensic report of the Polokwane court was inconclusive. She asked if a nutshell report could be tabled about Simdlangetshe Magistrates' Court, in anticipation of the more in depth report, detailing preventative measures. She wanted progress reports on the conversion of the four branch courts which were to be upgraded to full service courts in terms of the Department’s Annual Performance Plan 2013/14. Further, a progress report on the construction of six new magistrates courts which was said to begin this financial year in the Annual Performance Plan 2014/15. She asked for the Itireleng project to be unpacked.

Mr W Horn (DA) said that the DPW issues were properly raised by Mr Swart, however there is an element of poor planning on the part of the Department in their own admission. As the presentation indicates that a proposed solution to the challenges is better planning by the Department, he wanted to know what measures have been put in place. Post the elections, the DOJCD had indicated that it may consider other implementing agencies for capital works; has this been done, if not when will it begin? The DOJCD has indicated that it is looking to take over some custodial functions from the DPW. He wanted to know why the Department has not exercised the option in terms of GIAMA, given the state of DPW’s handling of the projects. On maintenance, he referred to the tables on page 22, that nothing has been spent on maintenance in the Free State in this financial year. Further, the shelving of the RAMP process by DPW has stalled things further and he would like specific information what is the practical situation on maintenance and if the Department can take over some of these functions. If so, are there measures in place to carry out the function since maintenance delayed will eventually become a full blown capital works project.

Ms G Breytenbach (DA) said she had been covered by other Members particularly on the poor performance DPW. She was concerned about the Pretoria High Court, because this had burnt down a number of years ago, with nothing being done. Now a tender process has been completed on 4 March 2014, but allowed to lapse and a new adjudicative process started. She lamented the untenable situation faced by the court with drastic space constraints and wanted something to be done to remedy the situation. She was similarly aware the delays in the completion of the South Gauteng High Court, including the difficulties in renovating while it is operational. She did not understand how things such as the need to comply with fire and safety regulations could be unforeseen, therefore she would like to know who had not foreseen these and how the shortfall would be made up timeously.

Ms M Pilane-Majake (ANC) said that the report indicated that there was an obvious problem. She felt that this was a case of the DOJCD biting off more than it can chew, particularly as the Committee had cautioned the DOJCD to complete maintenance work before beginning new court buildings. She encouraged reorganising how the work in this area is conducted by the Department, to streamline processes. She echoed Mr Swart’s wish for DPW to be present, for the Committee to be in the position to interrogate where the problems truly are. She emphasised the request for written reports on the burnt court buildings, to avoid the potential for this becoming a trend. The report should include whether crime was investigated, if people were arrested and the consequences thereof. The report does not say anything about the file storage infrastructure and she wanted to know if Midrand was still the facility being used and whether the building is part of the leased portfolio. She asked if due diligence is done before projects are started, as the Department continues to indicate that delays arise from the contractors being removed for non-performance. What needs to be focused on is completing the projects already underway, particularly as delays create additional expenses. For example, with South Gauteng High Court, more than R300 million had to be spent above the initial target. She did not understand what the situation was with under-expenditure and yet the cost escalations. She warned that the mobile units could compound the problem, by giving another aspect of infrastructure which needs to be managed by the Department. She was concerned about specific courts, especially the maintenance courts and the plan to take small claims courts into the rural areas, and asked for comment on this. She commented on the small claims courts, saying existing infrastructure should be used, before anything new is considered. Nothing was mentioned about the Thuthuzela care centres and she asked for some information. She asked how lease expiry or termination was monitored, to allow DPW to be engaged timeously for lease problems to be pre-empted.

The Chairperson wondered if the Committee is not wasting its time, because Members and officials have been lamenting the absence of the DPW. He had expected the engagement to produce solutions to the problems identified, but it did not seem as though these would be arrived at. Perhaps a meeting with both departments, including the Directors General will be needed to direct the Committee towards solutions. Particularly as the responses to be given presently depend on another, absent department.

Mr Malema responded that the challenges which had been identified are a constant frustration and these ought to be laid bare. He agreed that it would be fair to have a combined meeting, where it can be decided where the blockages are and the solutions to be pursued. He said particularly in the former homeland courts, which were not built to function as courts. Rather they were existing buildings repurposed, without the capacity necessarily being tailored. Today there is more legislation, which has led to increased and more specific requirements for courts, but the court infrastructure has not moved at the same pace. The DOJCD has been attempting to capacitate itself, because these functions were not handled by anyone in the Department. He had previously indicated that the Department was trying to grow capacity in this area in the regions through a dedicated facilities post. He therefore agreed about the need for a joint meeting, to allow DPW to contribute properly. The reports which have been requested will be provided. On the leases, he said it is understood that creating infrastructure is better than leasing, because this avoids the loss in rental. Where the Department builds a new court there is a blueprint of the minimum requirements for a new court, which is aimed at catering to all the needs of a court. He agreed that the DOJCD has bitten off more than it can chew and it has to be decided, in light of pressing needs at courts in remote areas, whether the major projects or if bite size chunks are taken on by the Department.

Mr Mothibi replied about leasing versus using state owned buildings. The leases are in cases where there is insufficient state owned properties, not necessarily by choice. A further reason for leasing is that the budget for maintenance of state owned buildings lies with DPW. The reason for long leases is that where a building is made use of, investments are made to cater for the functional requirements of occupation as a court. These are lost in the case of a short lease and further landlords would then be in a position to contribute to tenant installations because, the lease runs over an extended and certain period. Short leases therefore create the situation where the Department is spending public funds on buildings not owned by the state. The National Treasury directive given to DPW had resulted in the short term leases, because the new procurement dispensation indicates that DPW should only renew leases for three years. At the time most of the leases were running on a month to month basis, which is an unauthorised expenditure for the Department and the directive was an attempt to regularise this. The Department had submitted its procurement instructions to DPW in terms of the directive, yet to date, DPW has only renewed 87 leases and 35 are still being worked on towards renewal. On the planning of the DOJCD it is acknowledged that this is not optimal. However where the needs are submitted to DPW it may take years to achieve site clearance. Once the project is at the implementation stage and DPW approaches the Department for funding, the needs may genuinely have changed. On optionality, there is a clause which allows DPW to delegate functions to departments, however the condition that DPW and National Treasury must be satisfied that the department has the requisite capacity, is at play.

The Chairperson interrupted saying that before the meeting continued, its future needs to be decided. He suggested that on 26 November a high level meeting between the Committee, DPW and DOJCD is held in Polokwane, where the planned solutions to the commonly known challenges will be presented. Also, timeframes for the completion of projects will be required. He asked if the Members support the suggestion.

Mr M Maila (ANC) said that he agreed with the proposal, but noted that the Chairperson ought to personally ensure that the DPW is briefed about the concerns raised.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) supported the proposal. The issue which he wished to flag was the financial delegations to the Department which obstructed minor capital works projects, but he had realised that proper answers would not be given without the DPW present. He encouraged that both parties come prepared to deal with this.

The Chairperson said that his office would liaise with the Department and DPW with the terms of reference for the meeting. He then declared the meeting adjourned.
 

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