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STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
30 October 2002
SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE: HEARING
Documents handed out:
South African Police Service Annual Report 2001/2002 http://www.saps.org.za/areport02/index.htm
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (NNP)
The South African Police Service answered questions on the latest Auditor General's report. These areas related to financial management, capacity and training, administration of leave, personnel related issues, fuel and oil, vehicle management, workshop accounting system, management of fixed assets, management over losses, administration of stock, weapons losses, auctions, internal audit and audit committees, national secretariat, free services, unauthorised expenditure and debtors.
Financial management and capacity and training, administration of leave and personnel and related issues
Mr D Gumede (ANC) asked to what extent were the obstacles that prevented SAPS from addressing the shortcomings identified by the Auditor General especially with regard to the workplace plan and finance.
Commissioner Selebi stated that the SAPS was fully aware of their responsibilities in terms of the Public Services Act and that he was fully aware of the issues raised by the AG such as management, training and related areas. He introduced two members Commissioner Dr Singh and Commissioner Hlela who strengthened the team. Particularly as this reflected a better distribution of gender. Commissioner Singh is female. Middle management was a difficult area to transform and this was a problematic area. They were essentially white and male, whilst at the bottom end of management the majority of junior officers were black. He felt that this lack of transformation was a result of a lack of expertise. To remedy this, training programmes had been implemented to enable personnel to improve themselves in order to permit them to discharge their duties effectively.
Mr D Gumede enquired as to how the Department monitored effective training interventions and how regular these training interventions were.
Commissioner Singh responded with a detailed description of the training that took place. This was done in accordance with a work-skills plan. As regards regular training, that training was continuous as typified by four assessment processes during the year. This was also based on a work-place skills plan. She referred to training in-line personnel which was based on a performance enhancement plan.
Mr D Gumede asked the Commissioner if he agreed that the weaknesses identified by the AG indicated a lack of commitment by middle management.
Commissioner Singh stated that several factors affected commitment.
Mr D Gumede asked the Commissioner to comment on incentives that existed for middle management.
Commissioner Singh replied that a comprehensive strategy existed for incentives. For instance there were incentives that rewarded par-excellence performance and there were several rewards in various categories.
Mr B Kannemeyer (ANC) enquired what rewards/sanctions, if any, existed as regards improving integrity of fraud and corruption. In other words, what incentives were in existence that encouraged a culture of reporting where systems were open to abuse.
A member from SAPS stated that such questions relating to the systems, processes and procedure went to the whole internal control framework. Whilst a generic incentive scheme existed. There were also disciplinary procedures vis-a vis financial misconduct.
Mr D Gumede questioned the administration of leave and the deficiencies that still existed, incorrect record keeping, the lack of control in updating information and that rules were not always adhered to. He questioned whether the SAPS had conducted an analysis of the root causes of this situation, and if yes, what were these results.
Comm Singh assured the Member that an analysis was indeed undertaken. The results reflected that the causes were varied. They were experiencing a systems problem, which the Department had raised with the National Treasury. To date a proper system had not been put into place. During December 2000 - March 2001 the system was deactivated. In addition some rural areas were not computerised, and thus a manual system was run concurrently. If the systems were down, this further complicated problems. There was also a time lapse of 4-6 weeks before a personnel number was allocated. Sometimes transfers were carried out before documents from the previous post had arrived at the new station. These were issues that were problematic.
On the issue of personnel expenditure, Mr D Gumede asked the Department to comment on: what the monthly cost to the State for suspension was and what was the age analysis.
Comm Selebi responded that on 31 March 2002, 61 employees were suspended with benefits. This was at an average of about R 300 000 per month or about R 4 million per annum. The age of suspension was generally around ten months.
Mr D Gumede, reflecting on appointments, promotions and personnel information stated that for two consecutive years, files on personnel promotions were incomplete. He asked the Department if they had analysed the reason for these continued deficiencies, what were these reasons and how did the department plan on re-dressing these issues.
Comm Selebi responded by stating that he was convinced that the AG had looked at the wrong files, namely, only those files at headquarters. Files regarding promotions were all over the country in the specific provinces. In part, the AG had sought information in wrong places, and it was problematic and costly to locate the correct and up to date information situated in the various provinces.
The AG hastily intervened in stating that they were not the people who conducted the search. They made requests for information and police personnel submitted the files. Therefore, officials had not directed them to the appropriate files.
Comm Selebi stated that some solution had to be found to sort the matter out adequately. Personnel records were in a comprehensive filing system, which included several sub-files. This therefore may have reflected a skewed perception on qualifications, promotions, etc.
Fuel and oil, vehicle management and workshop accounting system
Mr B Nair (ANC) questioned the Department as to what resources were taken to correct the capturing of data and the issuing of forms. Comm Hlela stated that a task team was appointed to train personnel at police stations. He provided several statistics to illustrate his point. This task team moved around the country providing advice on these issues.
A workshop accounting system had been installed up to September 2002. Mr Nair enquired when did the Department anticipate the rest would be completed. Comm Hlela stated that 51 sites were completed in the allocated time.
Comm Salebi further added that the rest would be completed depending on the availability of resources, which had not been forthcoming.
Mr Nair said that the AG had identified that in the past two years, vehicle licenses were not always renewed, government vehicles were driven without proper authorisation and that when collisions occurred, these were not fully investigated. He asked the Department what strategies had they implemented to address these problems and whether they envisaged a time frame to deal with this matter.
Comm Selebi emphasised that officers driving without proper authority were immediately charged and suspended without pay, in cases where this was known. As regards collisions, the Department met quarterly- where the number of collisions occurring in each province was highlighted. In this regard the Provincial Commissioner was held responsible as the money used for panel-beating etc, was an amount that was deducted from the provincial budget. Further, individuals involved in collisions were reported and an internal disciplinary process was carried out and the officer was held personally responsible. However, he acknowledged that there existed officers who drove police vehicles without legitimate licences.
Exploring this subject further, Mr Nair enquired as to what occurred in instances where collisions were not reported. In such a scenario one could not allocate the cost of damage to any one person. Comm Hlela stated that if discovered the person responsible would be charged.
Comm Selebi highlighted that in addition, inspection teams visited all departments and they inspected everything. In this way if a vehicle was discovered with a dent and was not reported, that specific department would be held responsible for a failure to report. He concluded that the SAPS was trying to instil an ethos of respect for vehicles and other members of the public, but conceded there was still a long way to go.
Management of fixed assets, management over losses and administration of stock
Mr L Chiba (ANC) stated that the AG had over several years identified these three areas as problematic. He asked the Department what plans were in place for the effective management of losses and to comment on the issue of prescription. Comm Hlela replied that a new manual on loss management was created and workshops were conducted using this manual. As regards prescription, this had not been finalised, but was receiving attention. He was not aware of any cases that had prescribed.
On the issue of the administration of stock, Mr Chiba enquired what were reasons for excess and surplus stock. There were several reasons for excess stock, Comm Hlela commented. twenty percent above the National Treasury quota was acceptable. The reason, however, for excess stock was as a result of the amalgamation of previous SAPS and the police of Venda, and the other former homeland states. Replying to a question posed by Mr Chiba as to when the SAPS anticipated a reduction in stock, Comm Hlela, optimistically stated this would be accomplished within the next three financial years.
Mr Chiba enquired what attempts were made, if any, to reduce the stock. In terms of Nepad, Comm Hlela added, some items were donated to Angola. Comm Salebi also added that there was an abundance of clothes that were not of appropriate sizes and this was reflected as excess stock. As to donating these excess uniforms to other African countries, he added that this could only be done upon a request from the Department of Foreign Affairs, as was the case with Comores.
Moving on to the issue of managing fixed assets , Mr Chiba enquired what were the obstacles in overcoming these problems. What plan did the Department have to count these fixed assets. Commissioner Hlela cited lack of training at a station level as an obstacle.
Weapons losses and auctions
Mr P Gerber (ANC) enquired as to how much progress had been made to recover losses as a result of fraud by auction companies. A member from the SAPS replied that two auctioning companies were responsible and the cases were presently pending.
On the issue of auction firms, Mr Gerber, questioned that if disposal was not successful, why were items not auctioned and whether auction firms were checked by the SAPS to confirm their authenticity. Vehicles that could not be located were no longer auctioned as criminals were merely purchasing the papers for criminal use later. Therefore, he stated, these vehicles would be crushed and the collected scrap would be used to offset the costs involved in crushing the vehicles. The disposal of guns will be dealt with in a similar fashion.
Mr Gerber asked the Department to comment on the issue of firearm losses. Several factors attributed to the loss of firearms, commented Comm Selebi. Whilst some officers may legitimately loose their weapons, others were robbed. However, standard disciplinary procedures existed to deal with this matter. Officers had to account in every case when their weapons had gone amiss. Replying to a question about the easy availability of arms sales from Spoornet, Comm Salebi, stated that his department would be collecting such arms to be destroyed, as Spoornet had no right to sell these arms. However, he added that several State departments and parastatals possessed firearms.
Mr Chiba, stated that whilst half of the figures provided reflected thefts, how did the Department explain the loss of the other half. These were reflected as "unknown causes". He asked the Department to explain this. Commissioner Selebi stated that this had to be investigated. He added that he wanted to eliminate hostels/ barracks that catered for police officers, as weapons were not safeguarded in such co-habitant arrangements.
Internal audit and audit committees, national secretariat
Mr M Louw questioned the Department on their strategy for future internal audits. A Member of the SAPS stated that their policy was to co-source and that offer for tenders were published. In addition, it was favourable for the sake of objectivity to undertake an audit from outside. As regards the national secretariat, Mr Louw enquired about the progress that had been made so far towards finalising a strategy plan. Commissioner Selebi said that he would approach the Secretariat to demand a plan/report for a strategy plan. He had taken an initiative toward that, but was still awaiting a response.
Mr Louw enquired why the position of Chief Directorate of Advisory Services in the Department of Safety and Security had not been filled as yet. Comm Singh said that the position was still vacant. It was an issue that could not be addressed in isolation and that it was not within their ambit to find a solution.
Mr Bruce Kannemeyer's Submission
He discussed management of debtors and advances. He was disappointed by the lack of comparative figures in the balance sheets. He had looked at the financial statements for 2000/ 01 as well as for 2001/ 02. He was sure all would agree that if there was a difference in the figures regarding the same advance then there should be a note attached to the statement which explained the difference. Fortunately for the committee they had the benefit of having the auditors there, but that the public did not. From an accounting point of view, the financial statements did not make for good reading and could be embarrassing if used against South Africa.
An explanation of the debtors was given as contained in the balance sheet, he said that the second figure explained the staff debtors.
He gave a figure of R19.7 million for year 01/ 02 and what this figure comprises of is given in note 13.2 and there the total amounts to R33.9 million. There is a difference of R14 million just over the page and it is not explained.
He asked that the correct figure be stipulated, by the auditors or the department, at the next meeting.
They need accounting consistency so that nobody came looking for R14 million when there could be a very simple explanation as to what and where it was. He would be expecting that simple explanation at the next meeting.
He said that he was pleased to see some improvements. There had been a 60% improvement in advances for travel and subsistence. The number of outstanding debtors had been decreased to 9% over the last 3 years.
He still had questions on the last two reports.
On what basis was the ageing of debtors reflected?
There was still an amount of R13.36 million outstanding from three years ago- was this amount recoverable?
If not, why was it included it in the figures and how would this amount be recovered as this had been unsuccessful in the last three years?
He also raised the issue of another R1.2 million outstanding, but that it too was included in their figures. He enquired about what made them think that this amount was still recoverable and that if it was not he said that they should write the amount off so that a more accurate reflection of their financial situation may be obtained.
State Guarantee for Home loans:
Mr Kannemeyer said that R3.2 million had been outstanding for more than two years. He said that this amount could be reclaimed by deducting it from the pensions of those home-owners.
He was shocked to find debtors on their books for whom they had no proper addresses. How were they intending to find these people for repayment? Debt recovery was doubtful in 77% of these cases and therefore the debt should be written off so that they could determine what their recoverable debt was.
Mr Kannemeyer said that PERSEL was presented as the best salary-paying system in the world. So to what extent were the overpayments an inter-departmental problem or a systems problem?
What steps had the department taken to deal with the general problem of debt management and if they had taken steps, what were their time-frames?
The Department commented that accounting was moving from cash to accrual methodology and that therefore the accounts would change.They were totally confident that the ageing of their debts was absolutely correct. PriceWaterHouse Coopers had, in writing, agreed with the Department's calculations in this regard. The amount of outstanding advances had decreased drastically since 2000. The figures were self-explanatory and huge progress had been made in the "advances" area.
The Chair drew the meeting to a close due to time constraints. The Department woud have the opportunity to answer Mr Kannemeyer's questions more thoroughly in the following meeting.
The commissioner thanked the committee for the opportunity and said that if their answers were haphazard it was because they were called at very short notice. He hoped that he would be called more timeously in future. He would continue to send quarterly reports.
The meeting was adjourned.
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