Department of Correctional Services on its ICT challenges, relationship with SITA, modernisation project and inmate management systems

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Justice and Correctional Services

23 June 2015
Chairperson: Dr M Motshekga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) briefed the Justice and Correctional Services portfolio committee on its IT environment. The Department had re-instated the IT branch in 2012 with the aim of acquiring, implementing, advising and coordinating a secured integrated system and relevant ICT which was aligned to that Department’s strategic objectives, using relevant project management methodologies. Several goals and objectives had been set in order to achieve this. One of the goals was to ensure that there was secure and seamless information flow within and outside the DCS. This was related to defining and maintaining an enterprise architecture that clearly outlined the integration points for all key business processes. Another goal and objective was the implementation of enterprise-wide business solutions related to the business solutions of inmate management. This included a single unique identifier for each inmate, and alignment of all offender information to improve information security and inmate and offender identification. Ideally, similar systems could be set up to track visitors too. Another goal and objective had also been set to secure a reliable and responsive telecommunications and network infrastructure. This was more about connectivity between the Department and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) as well as connectivity between the various Departmental offices with telecommunications and network infrastructure. Security technologies had to be consolidated and integrated into one single infrastructure platform. This would ensure that the Department's access control system’s current network was not separated from the data network inside the Centre and would prevent duplication of the ICT network infrastructure. Issues of ICT governance were also important. Policies, procedures and procurement processes had to ensure that there was a correct structure to support the Department's initiative in upholding ICT governance.

The Department had set strategic goals in line with chapter 12 of the National Development Plan. The strategic goals were related to the Seven point plan. The first strategic goal was to provide reliable, integrated and secured business applications systems in order to establish an integrated and seamless information and technology database for the national Criminal Justice System. Challenges included the fact that there were 50 legacy application systems which had probably been developed in the early 1990s and had not changed with technology and could not be updated giving rise to a need for new solutions. This would be done by replacing the current A&R which was developed in the 1990s and also replace the current Community Correction system with an Integrated Inmate Management System. Modernising was to be done in an integrated and holistic way, looking at all aspects of systems and equipment. Currently the Department had dilapidated outdated network infrastructure and equipment, and the Department's network and switches that connected to the routers. The Department wanted to upgrade and secure its bandwidth infrastructure and put together virtualised technology. Other challenges included decentralised network architecture without standardisation. The Department had to ensure that both the data and security network had to be integrated for economies of scale and reduction of duplication. Slow procurement processes, of up to six months, from within the Department or SITA were also a problem.

 

Challenges with the RDOMS/RAS were related to procurement of the system, which was delayed from 2008/2009 when the original tripartite agreement was signed between DCS, SITA and Dimension Data. Implementation was due to have taken place in 2009, but disputes with service provider had led to litigation, finally resolved by a settlement agreement. However, even under that, there had been problems in getting a workable system, and the contract had ended, and the Department would start utilising and manipulating the system as it wished, in a way that the service provider could not.
Members were not entirely happy with the presentation. Some commented that there was some useful information presented, but it did not go far enough, but one Member felt that the fact that the same issues had been cited for years without apparent movement indicated that the Department was not taking the Committee seriously. Most Members asked about the continued use of consultants, and asked some probing questions around cost, value for money, and whether there was any transfer of skills. They were also concerned about the ongoing issues with the RDOM system and wanted to know what the final cost was, and were concerned about the long-drawn out litigation that had cost a great deal because in-house lawyers had been briefing external attorneys and advocates also. Further issues related to the forensic audit, the use of CCTV and upgraded security, connectivity and what exactly was being done to address challenges in rural areas, particularly the Eastern Cape, and what the DCS was doing to address the issues and various emphasis of matter raised by the Auditor-General. 

Meeting report

Department of Correctional Services briefings on its ICT challenges, relationship with State Information Technology Agency (SITA), modernisation project and inmate management systems

The Chairperson welcomed a new member of the Committee, Mr K Mahumapelo (AGANG). Mr J Malema (EFF) was also a new member of this Committee, but had tendered his apologies. This was the first time that AGANG was represented in the Committee. As members might be aware, smaller parties were overstretched and did not participate in all the committees. He was happy that AGANG had prioritised this Committee.

He also welcomed Mr Kekana (ANC) from the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He added that the National Commissioner of Correctional Services had spoken to the Chairperson to assure the Committee that in his absence a high powered delegation, led by Ms Mosupye, would be representing the Department. The delegation would be adequate to handle the task.

Ms Nthabiseng Mosupye, Chief Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology, Department of Correctional Services (DCS) introduced her colleagues, Ms Napo, Assistant Director responsible for IDMR and Mr Linda who was responsible for IT Applications Management. She extended apologies for the other senior manager who was on sick leave.

Ms Mosupye said the presentation would cover all aspects of IT in the Department of Correctional Services (DCS or the Department)and although the documents were quite technical, she would try to speak to where the Department was currently, and its future plans.

 

The IT branch was re-instated in 2012, under a Chief Deputy Commissioner, when it started operating as a branch. Prior to being re-instated as a branch it was a Chief Directorate led by a Chief Director who had left the Department in 2010. The mission statement of the branch was to acquire, implement, advise and coordinate secured integrated systems, networks infrastructure and relevant ICT which was aligned to DCS's strategic objectives, through the relevant project management methodologies.

 

DCS had a number of goals and objectives related to ensuring secure and seamless information flow within and outside the DCS. This talked to defining and maintaining an Enterprise Architecture that clearly outlined the integration points for all key business processes. This also talked to information technology across the Department with external entities and partners to support the integration process. The integration processes referred to the integration with the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster and other relevant departments that needed to be integrated in future, such as Health.

Another goal was the implementation of enterprise-wide business solutions which talked to the business solutions of inmate management. This included the single view of an inmate and offender information system to improve information security, and inmate and offender identification. The Department had quite a number of challenges in terms of inmate management systems that were currently decentralised.

 

The Department aimed to increase automation and eliminate paper-intensive business processes, and to ensure that there was a document management and record management system, instead of its current paper based systems. It wanted to scan whatever it received from South African Police Services (SAPS) or the Department of Justice, so it became part of a record of an offender in the enterprise wide business solutions.

 

DCS would ensure applications and data were secured and reliable, and users of the system would be profiled. Reliability was also important and DCS would ensure that data being entered was exact - for instance ID numbers should be the same as those integrated with Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The ID should be a proper thirteen digit number.
 

A second goal and objective was a secured, reliable and responsive telecommunications and network infrastructure. This was more about connectivity between the Department and State Information Technology Agency (SITA), connectivity between the various Departmental offices with telecommunications and network infrastructure.

 

The third goal and objective was consolidation and integration of security technologies into one single infrastructure platform. This referred to the Department's access control system, where the current network was separate from the data network inside the Centre. In most cases the network infrastructure of ICT was duplicated, there were, for instance, two switches and two servers even though it was within one environment. DCS wanted to ensure that there was an integrated and single secure environment that either ran access control or data infrastructure.

 

The last goal and objective was related to ICT governance. The Department wanted to ensure that all relevant governance structures were adhered to. Policies, procedures and procurement processes had to ensure that there was a correct structure to support the Department initiatives, such as holding meetings, preparing reports and anything else related to ICT governance.

She spoke to the strategic goal to provide reliable, integrated and secured business applications systems. This goal was related to Chapter 12, the Seven point plan in the National Development Plan (NDP). Specifically the strategic goal talked to point 5 of the Seven point plan which was about the establishment of an integrated and seamless information and technology database and /or system for the national criminal justice system (CJS).

Some of the current challenges to achieving that included the fact that there were 50 legacy application systems which were probably developed in the early 1990s and had not changed with technology. These applications had exceeded their refresh expiry date and could not even be updated. Solutions had to be redeveloped to ensure that there was a solution that could be integrated to the CJS. It had been decided to replace the current A&R, which was developed in the 1990s, and also replace the current Community Correction system (CommCorr) with an Integrated Inmate Management System (IIMS).

 

Another challenge was lack of integrated or seamless information flow from centres to the management area, to the regions and to the national office. The Department had pieces of information which it tried to integrate at a national level. This obviously impacted on performance information and the Department needed to ensure that every business process, whether automated or not, was managed. The business process flow had to be understood. One of the problems was that centres would perform the same process in different ways. For example when there was a new inmate, some people would immediately do an assessment based on the criteria that was set, others would first divide inmates and do an assessment later on. These kinds of inconsistencies impacted on the Department's business information, so the processes had to be aligned and documented correctly for correct information flow.

 

Decentralised and duplicated inmate and offender information was also a challenge. The Department was running a highly decentralised environment and if an offender was moved from one centre to another , the offender arrived at the new centre before his or her information did, which led to recapturing of the information and duplication. Centralisation should solve this problem.

 

Another strategic objective was to provide reliable integrated and secured ICT and telecommunications Infrastructure. This was in line with point 6 of the Seven point plan, which was about modernising, in an integrated and holistic way, all aspects of systems and equipment. Currently the Department had dilapidated outdated network infrastructure right through PC and printing level to the Department's network switches that connected to the routers. An exercise had been done with SITA and the Department's bandwidth, and the Department now wanted to upgrade and secure that infrastructure and put together virtualised technology, which she explained as duplication of a purchased server to give more capacity, or allow it to run multiple systems. This would help to save on funding and ensure that there was one holistic environment to accommodate the application systems.

 

Another challenge was decentralised Network Architecture. There was no one standard network architecture. The Department must ensure that both the data and security network were integrated for economies of scale and reduction of duplication.

 

The Department still had an issue around slow procurement process both from within the Department or SITA, as the turn-around to procure any IT related service took more than six months. In some instances it was based on the volume of work or volume of tenders. Where it was related to SITA the Department had held discussions, pressurised SITA and used other mechanisms. There was still a challenge within the Department where if there was no sitting of the National Adjudication Committee there was slow procurement, and this had to improve.

 

Delay in replacement of VPN infrastructure to enable video conferencing had been a challenge up to two or three months ago,and now the DCS was upgrading it, including replacement of routers. In the 2014/15 financial year there was a delay, and in some instances routers were stolen from the SITA side and had to be replaced. The Department was able to overcome that challenge and was now able to do video conferencing between Parole Boards. Quality of service had been implemented but there was still some challenges in terms of the new site where a data line had to be put in place. There was an agreement with Telkom, but the time taken caused delays in the opening of any new Centre that had been renovated or procured.

 

There were challenges with the RDOMS/RAS related to procurement of the system, which had been delayed from 2008/2009, when the original tripartite agreement between DCS, SITA and Dimension Data was signed. That system was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2009 but it was not done. There were issues around that and the Department had to let the service provider sit in the Department up to September 2011. In March 2011, the Department requested SITA, and later also the service provider, to leave the premises. During 2012/13 there was a Court case instituted by Dimension Data, culminating in a settlement agreement signed in March 2014 to finalise the implementation of RDOMS.

 

When the Department looked at the architecture of RDOMS, the development methodology was not feasible. It was written that it was supposed to serve as a centralised architecture, but the actual architecture was not centralised. The service provider was still using a development methodology called wide frame The front end screen was developed and it was supposed to have a business logic so that when an inmate's name was entered it should be sorted in an environment where data could be retrieved. However, there was no connection through this method, as the front end was developed but the business logic and database were not, making the system unusable. There was an agreement with Suparetem which had a resident administration system which was currently used in the private Correctional Service Centre at Mangaung, and which was in line with the Correctional Services Act. The first phase, which was raw data, was functional. The system had to be customised to the environment but the company had not wanted to do that, preferring to maintain the same terminology and the same system that was used at Mangaung, which did not match with the DCS's.

 

She explained the remand management process. When an offender went to Court, the name was called up and the offender registered, but this should be automated, with fingerprints taken, to link in to the Integrated Justice System (IJS) and checked against DHA systems, to double check ID numbers. When the service provider did not want to change to that system, it was tested and found inadequate and because this was so, the Department had ended the contract in March 2015. As part of the settlement agreement, the service provider was supposed to deliver within a specified period and had failed to deliver, and this failure to adhere to the time frames had caused the ending of the contract. Now that this had been done, the DCS would start utilising and manipulating the system as it wished, now that the system had been procured.

Ms Mosupye said the Department had looked at the scope of what was required by the Correctional Services Act and developed a full scope of work that stopped the Department from developing its own system based on the latest technology platform. A tender had now been published and the Department would be able to acquire a development framework that talked to the Department's business processes. The Department, having learnt from past issues, was now ensuring that the Department's requirements were accommodated in the new tenders published on 19th March 2015.

 

The IT systems landscape in Correctional Centres was currently running on NR. Correctional Centres had health care systems, spiritual care, and there was also a cashless society system, as having cash had been problematic. Tokens and points were used by inmates instead, and if any inmate did have cash, it would need to be deposited with the DCS, to be used only in a controlled and monitored environment. There were production workshops, and the DCS tracked what was produced each month, who worked on the sites and how much it cost to produce the products in the production workshops.

 

Other systems related to skills development, psychology, the electronic TB register (conducted in conjunction with the Department of Health), pharmaceutical, formal education, pigpro, agrimilk, agriculture, building services, nutrition, postal registration, product scheduling, social work and Correctional Services Act monitoring. Unfortunately all these systems were stand-alone and did not talk to one another. This was a huge problem and the Department needed to ensure that all these modules were integrated into one, so that an offender could be identified by a single name and finger print. In some areas, manual records were later transcribed into electronic ones, but an integrated solution would ensure that, once an offender's ID or finger print was entered into the system, DCS could track that an individual was where he was supposed to be, by requiring the offender to use a fingerprint to prove attendance at classes.

Ms Mosupye turned to the Judicial Inspectorate (JI) system, which was based in the Regional or Area Commissioner's Offices. The current system developed by the Department was still being maintained for the inspecting judge. Community Correction systems was still using manual integration and the Department wanted to ensure it was automated. With SITA, the Department was running a transversal system, which was BAS, Persal and Logis. This was a responsibility of SITA but some of the applications were being hosted by the Department. The Department was replicating the databases of various Correctional Services centres into a centralised database store. An MIS system, accommodation, internet and other systems were running within the head office, as well as SITA centralised environment.

 

The integrated inmate management system replaced the current A&R and CommCorr system. It supported the goal of achieving a single view of an offender through a single capture of inmate and offender information, into a centralised system. This enhanced information security and offender identification. The system would seamlessly integrate with the JCPS cluster member information systems for data exchange and information sharing. Within this IIMS environment, there were details for admission, detention, remand detention, incarceration and corrections, community corrections and release into society. The Department would ensure management of information for capture and reporting of offenders and sentenced inmates through a core process of admission, detention and release. The system would run through the 243 Correctional Centres across the country with approximately 160 000 inmates' data to be processed. The system also tracked and managed an inmate's movements from admissions through to release from custody. It also managed basic health care and developmental programmes, rehabilitative programmes and personal corrections. In addition it managed visitations and visitor profiling. Currently, a visitor's ID would be checked for visitation rights through another system, and integration of this would take the visitor's biometric profile to enable tracking of access, and this would allow for inmates to be called more quickly. It was hoped that by doing this, the visitation processing time would be reduced from the current six to eight hours, down to 30 minutes. The profiling would be done regardless of which centre was being visited. The system would also manage offender cash, bail and gratuities in the 228 Community Correctional offices across the country. 

Ms Mosupye noted that in order to achieve these aims, the LAN infrastructure had to be upgraded and she repeated that the server room infrastructure was a challenge at the moment. Servers were under people's desks, and in shared offices, which was not healthy. DCS and SITA had embarked on a process of improving on security and connectivity, and reducing duplication and increasing economies of scale.

 

SITA currently resided at a hub site, from where it was running all DCS's SITA systems and environment, and it was connected to around 386 sites. DCS paid SITA to ensure that the sites talked to each other. The Department paid SITA a certain amount for the connectivity to those sites so that the sites talked to each other and were connected also to the development environment at the DCS Head Office. In order to ensure a disaster data recovery site, SITA might need to negotiate with a third party, and this would replicate the centralised environment, by keeping the data at an external site.

 

Currently, the security networks of the fences, cameras, CCTV and access control were still running in isolation. The Department was trying to put together an enterprise application that would be able to monitor the energy and power metering, the building management system, lighting control, the UPS, and CCTVs, having CCTV cameras in the hall passages or actual cells. Basically, it wanted to manage all security related issues at the click of a button. The Department wanted to be able to monitor that and everything that was related to security. The Department wanted to ensure that it was able to manage all security related issues at the click of a button.

 

The IJS programme would capture information from commission of a crime, through reporting of the crime, commencement of investigation, witnesses identified, evidence secured and accused identified. It would then move on to record the arrest made, prosecution, trial, and verdict, whether fined, acquitted or incarcerated, and then the transfer to Correctional Services and ultimately re-integration into society. All of these stages would be captured in an integrated system. She reminded Members that this was a joint venture between DCS and cluster Departments, funded by ring- fenced cluster budgets allocated to the lead Department, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The goal was to electronically enable and integrate all criminal justice business processes and information exchange, using a single identifier for each offender, at every stage of the process.

She added that the IJS was managed through a Board, with representatives of business, and IT representatives from each linked department. IJS was also responding to the NDP as many of the problems historically preventing the achievement of these benefits could be traced to the lack of a cluster wide information management strategy. The programme would address this issue, and respond to key business drivers by providing the correct information, at the right time, to the required parties, when it was needed, in an appropriate useful manner.

 

Ms Mosupye said one current challenge that SAPS faced was that its officials had to phone various areas to find where the witnesses might be. This information could also be incorporated within the IJS. She noted that not every detail about everyone would be sent to the IJS - only such information as agreed upon as necessary, in the information exchange agreement. This would be the name, surname, and type of offence, biometric identification and the location of the offender. Ad hoc queries would also be sent and would reside within the hub. The environment had to be modernised first with a centralised data base before ensuring that information was sent to the IJS hub. Users did not want to be connected to the 386 sites but rather to be connected to the central hub, which was what the Department was implementing, and this would further ensure that the data sent to the IJS hub was useful and clean.

 

The DCS's contribution was to enable electronic information exchange about the inmate, between DCS and other cluster Departments. This would enable rapid processing of cases through the Court, by providing information about the case, person and exhibits seamlessly, to speed up justice to victims of crime and punishment for perpetrators of crime. Part of this also allowed for high participation of victims when an offender went for parole. Currently the information about the victim was held by the Department of Social Development (DSD) who would be asked for a list of victims related to the crime through IJS. The information would be sent via the hub, unlike the current process where it had to be written down and faxed through or emailed through to the Department.

 

The IJS programme would achieve several benefits, such as responsiveness of the criminal justice system, shorter case cycle times, fewer withdrawals of cases, fewer postponements of cases, reduced awaiting trial detainee populations, improved prioritisation of cases involving young offenders, sexual offences and priority crimes, and electronically tagged offender location.

Ms Mosupye noted that the IJS programme execution was in three phases. The first step was modernisation of the Departmental systems. DCS did not want to build a centralised system, as it was more of a data repository. It wanted to ensure information exchange, based on the format that had been agreed upon. When an offender was called it needed to be in a single format that was agreed upon by all parties within the IJS. The legacy system was being reused where appropriate, and new systems were instituted where business areas had historically not been supported. With changes in legislation, there were certain business processes that were now being automated.

The second step would run in parallel, as far as possible. This was establishing and agreeing on communication protocols and integration infrastructure, and enabling information sharing, on a step by step basis, as Departmental system readiness allowed. Communication protocols had been agreed upon, including the database structure, key identifiers to enable systems to talk.

The third step was the business performance management information produced, as sharing was enabled under step two. Key performance indicators agreed how to measure success of the IJS in each department. Key indicators for the DCS included probation and parolee identification, the time of going to a hearing, and length of detention.

Ms Mosupye again raised the challenge of slow procurement between DCS and SITA. For Wide Area Network connectivity on the new sites, the turnaround   time was nine months, and in remoter areas cases needed to be reopened but this could not be done because the DCS was still waiting on SITA for connectivity. In some areas, datalines had been stolen more than three times and Telkom was unwilling to replace yet again. Alternative solutions were being looked into. DCS was getting information on the areas awaiting connectivity, as well as information on the router hubs that had been installed.

 

The service level agreements provided for a penalty of 2.5%, and at the end of the day, the Department relied on service providers to tell it when a timeline had been exceeded. The DCS would ideally like to see a higher penalty-clause percentage, so that if providers did not deliver, there would be a higher monetary implication; although it was not easy to measure in monetary terms, there was no doubt that the DCS was suffering when the service providers did not deliver, and this impacted on the DCS performance.
 

There were still some payment disputes dating back to 2008/2009, in the region of R34.2 million, which could not be resolved.  In 2012 the payment disputes were at R85 million.  The biggest dispute was over the number of consultants who worked and their number of work hours. DCS could not pay the amount without original documents, and already, between 2007 and 2012, the service provider had been paid more than the whole Service Level Agreement amounts. Any additional payment would constitute unauthorised expenditure so the DCS could not embark upon this without original documents and proof of delivery. One payment was settled, which had to do with fluctuations in the exchange rate. The rest of the issues were still in dispute.

 

The Department's modernisation relied on how it mapped its enterprise architecture in branches dealing with ICT, corporate governance, the business processes, application architecture, and security and the whole environment. If automated, a click on the map in any area would allow the user to see the full process flow in that area - such as where it was running, on what technology, with what users and where they resided. She reiterated that it was an essential element of modernisation to be able to show all that information.

Discussions

Mr J Selfe (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation. He said the RDOM system was an issue that had been going on for around six years. The Department had stated that it had arrived at a settlement, but he asked if the DCS could specify how much was paid under that settlement. He further asked what the Department got by way of actual physical service, and what the value of that was deemed to be. His understanding of the presentation was that the Department got nothing useful out of the RDOMS development. Even the system that was used in Mangaung was also not quite satisfactory for the purpose.

 

Mr Selfe recalled that a forensic audit was ordered at some time, into the value and scope of the acquisitions over time. He requested an update on that investigation. He liked the idea of an integrated justice system. Theoretically the Department ought to be able to see, from fingerprinting a suspect, whether there were previous convictions. He asked if that was the ultimate goal, and, if so, how far the DCS had gone because clearly there was no capacity at the moment. Many of the reports submitted by the Department had been in a sense progress reports, setting out plans and steps taken towards that goal, and he now wanted to know how near to the goal the DCS was.

Mr Selfe said he had always asked why it was not possible to arrive at an accurate figure of re-offending, and he asked if the DCS was now suggesting that, by the combination of biometrics and ID number, the Department would be able to tell, when a person was admitted, whether s/he had been incarcerated previously, and the dates of previous release.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) noted that when the apologies were given, the Committee had not been told why the National Commissioner was not present. He felt, from the way in which the issues were raised, that the Department was not taking Parliament very seriously.

 

The Chairperson said he had a personal discussion with the Commissioner, who had given very good reasons why he could not be present, but repeating this would have taken up time, and he asked Members to accept that there were sound reasons.

The Chairperson had felt that if he had given a lecture on the reasons it would take up much of the Committee's time. He pleaded with members to accept the apology of the National Commissioner as he was away for good reasons.

 

Mr Bongo also noted that these issues had been apparent for almost the last six years and this alone raised questions whether the Department was taking Parliament seriously. There was an issue about RDOMS, and the settlement agreements and he too wanted to know the amounts involved, and why, if there was a settlement, there were still problems with the system. It seemed that the Department might be in a state of crisis. Before entering into litigation, the DCS had to be quite sure what exactly what was being spoken about. There was talk about old and dilapidated infrastructure, but these issues had also been raised in the Fourth Parliament, and there was no indication that the Department had done anything about this; it seemed that it was merely coming to report in order to comply, without actually taking real action. Other issues that were raised to other committees also had not been attended to, and he wondered what the point was of the Committee engaging with a Department that did not come up with a real response. Furthermore, Mr Bongo pointed out that the reports on consultancy, between 2007 and 2014, seemed to indicate a lack of real intention from the Department to build in-house capacity to deal with the issues as the number of consultants was rising rather than own capacity being built. He also wanted to know the cause of the disputes between SITA and the DCS, pointing out that they were both government entities.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) was sorry to say that he also had concerns about issues raised by other members. Many departments, not just DCS, had in-house lawyers only to find that they would outsource and pay external lawyers as well. He did not want to sound as if he was attacking lawyers in DCS, but commented that some lawyers postponed cases in order to run up their own fees. DCS needed to look very carefully at issues around consultants.

Mr Mpumlwana said that the presentation was good, but it was not specific enough. For example, in Mthatha there was no internet, nor had there been for the past ten years. He asked how soon the DCS could roll out the programme to other areas, and it could assist with case management and involvement of victims.

Ms M Mothapo (ANC) shared concerns expressed by her colleagues. The comparison between number of permanent staff and number of consultants raised serious concerns, particularly in the 2007 to 2014 time period. The use of consultants defeated government's aim of job creation, and so she urged the DCS to re-look at this question. She too wanted to know why the litigation seemed to cost so much and asked how much was paid initially, for a contract that was abandoned, which was a waste of taxpayer money.

Ms Mothapo said that there was still not information on when and how the long-standing dispute with SITA would be resolved. She agreed with members that SITA was a government entity and DCS was a governmental Department, and questioned why the DCS did not simply find a mediator to resolve the issue. It would eventually impact negatively on service delivery, and it would be the ordinary Committee members who would suffer.

 

Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) said the Department could have indicated what had been done successfully and what it intended to do. She commented that there was not enough specific on the finances that would be required, in total. .For certain things, the DCS had indicated that it needed to look to immediate development - such as the single information on inmates, and the IT system with biometrics, and the cameras which would address the problems of murder and rape in centres. One point of contention previously raised was the impact of CCTV on inmate privacy, and she wondered if that had been investigated.

Overall, she agreed that it was important to tell the Committee where the process was, how this related to previous plans, and what was covered, how much had been paid, and what the Department intended to do next. This would give an idea as to whether the Department had managed to make progress. For a number of years, it had had a qualified audit. This Committee was interested in seeing the Department move away from the qualified audit status, and whatever the emphasis of matter, DCS should manage to deal with it.

 

Ms Pilane-Majake said the Department had not provided the Committee with its strategy for asset management. The Auditor-General (AG) had indicated that there were under stated and over stated assets. It was also indicated that there was no improvement in the supply chain management. There were no improvements on pre-determined objectives and generally no improvement on IT controls. It would be important for DCS, when reporting to the Committee, to indicate what had happened in the past and what was happening now. She further noted that there had been a problem with Internal Audit in the Department but the Committee was then had been informed that an Internal Auditor had been appointed. This should help to fully identifying risk areas as the Department worked on improving performance. If the Department took the approaches suggested, it should be able to move out of the difficult situation.

 

Articulation of the disaster recovery plan was important, since the AG had commented that DCS did not have a clear disaster recovery plan. If that was provided, the Committee would again feel that the DCS was coming up with something more sustainable.

Professor C Msimang (IFP) said many of his points had been raised already. Noting that the relationship between SITA and DCS had been marked with breaches and disputes, he wondered if SITA would rise to the occasion on the complex projects now being suggested, and whether it would be able to supply the centralised programmes satisfactorily. He was aware that, given that SITA was a government entity, DCS may be obliged to use its services, but asked if DCS believed that SITA would eventually deliver, whether improvements had been seen, and, if not, what exactly the problems were.

Prof Msimang noted the advantages to centralisation, as presented, but wondered if it was possible to link all the centres, particularly those in rural areas, and also wondered if centralisation might not eventually become too cumbersome and too time-consuming.

 

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mpumlwana that the presentation was good, but the Committee was aware that there had been lack of leadership in the past. It was correct that issues were raised in the Fourth Parliament and not attended to. These included over-use of consultants, lack of internal capacity, and lawyers employed then out-sourcing to other lawyers, including instructing both attorneys and advocates, which cost time and money. Institutionalised decentralisation had not empowered the centres. Provincial structures did not report to Parliament. If there was a problem of relationships or accountability between the Department and the provincial centres, Committee wanted to know, and it would also want to know how decentralisation that impeded the work of the DCS was to be resolved. He wondered if the DCS, like other departments, had Ministerial Councils where leadership of provinces would be engaged, and if there was, whether it was able to address problems with decentralisation.

The Chairperson said that, with a new Minister and a new National Commissioner, a break with the past could be expected, but unless there was proper communication on this, the Committee would continue to ask questions about the past. He wondered if the Department could present a situational analysis of what the new Minister and National Commissioner had found, and how the DCS would turn around, so that the same questions would not keep being repeated. The DCS seemed to be committed to doing the right things, and had already started. He thought Members' questions had been constructive and had given the Department some sound pointers.

Ms Mosupye responded that the situational analysis would have to be presented later on. This would be the strategy of the National Commissioner, and it would include all relevant areas that talked to the strategic management, IT, Human Resources and core businesses. She could not outline that in her presentation today, as it was the vision of the National Commissioner. It would also examine the AG's findings in relation to asset management or other environments within the Department.

 

A Chief Financial Officer had been appointed recently, and would be introduced to the Committee, and he would be able to present his vision of where he wanted to take the Department's financial matters. The National Commissioner would be presenting the situational and environmental analysis.

 

Ms Mosupye admitted that there were a number of historical IT challenges. Another serious challenge raised by the Auditor General was the fact that consultants had dominated the environment in various functions, including administrative. The issues with consultants dating back to 2008 had been fully addressed. There had been a very high permanent employee vacancy rate, around 66% in her branch, but it had since been reduced to 10%. IT was a difficult environment, because if staff were not paid market rates, they would move back to the industry. Entry level employees would be trained, and then would be poached as soon as they had been trained, with the lure of higher pay. If the DCS was willing to pay market rates, it would probably manage to retain staff. People also preferred to be consultants; money was important in the IT industry.

The DCS, in order to address the issue of consultants, reviewed and revised its structure constantly. The present structure was based on a 2003 structure, with reviews to ensure that the DCS had the right skills levels to sustain itself within the available budget constraints. All key positions had been filled at a level competitive with industry, and the DCS looked to its own internal availability of skills. Having come up with a set of required skills, contracts had been signed to keep skills. At the same time it was hoped that the new structure would accommodate all the skills at the right level. A business case had been submitted to HR, on which it was still waiting approval. DCS did not want to use consultants perpetually, because the knowledge was lost when consultant left, and it was trying to build sustainable skills. The proposals to HR took into account retirement and resignations, so DCS was in the process of getting more permanent resources. If it could not find the right skills for the enhancement, it would have to do maintenance on the current systems. She repeated that if the DCS was not paying permanent staff at a level that would ensure that they stayed, the issue of consultants would remain. In 2009/10 there were 183 consultants and 9 permanent staff. Currently, the Department was still maintaining 31 consultants but wanted to improve internal capacity and in total have around 90 people, to move to where it wanted to be.

Ms Mosupye spoke to the RDOMS, and said the initial contract amount was R45 million. Before the litigation R14 million had been paid out. She explained that IT contracts were drawn around a project plan and deliverables, and payment was made against deliverables specified in the project plan. The deliverables in this case had to do with the documentation of the system, and how certain works would be performed, even though some of the deliverables were not agreeable. The reason for the litigation was that the consultants had been allowed to work in the Department for two and a half years without billing. The consultants started charging for the time spent on every aspect in the Department from 2009 to 2011. There were even claims that there was power failure for three days, which delayed production of the work, and the litigation was based on extensive claims. The defence had cost money. She emphasised that the settlement agreement did not imply that the Department was simply agreeing to There was a whole lot of pages of litigation against the Department. DCS had to counter the litigation which also costed money. 

 

A settlement agreement did not mean that the Department was agreeing to pay the service provider. It was a way of finding an amicable solution between the two parties, and within that a number of deliverables had also been specified. The first deliverable was to ensure that the Department had the system from Mangaung. The Department had the licensing agreement and licensing of that system, as well as the conversion to the database that was required by the Department. The Department had the design of the new system including the requirements of the new system. However, the service provider was not able to deliver the system being used in the right configuration, and that aspect of the contract, worth around R10 million, had not been paid, out of the total settlement figure agreed upon of R27 million.

 

She reiterated that the Department had the ideal design for a system to run on the desired database, and it ended up not paying for the non-functional aspect of the system. Users were supposed to be trained but they were not, and the Department also did not pay for that, so essentially the R10 million not paid related to undeliverable services.

 

Ms Mosupye noted that reoffender knowledge would be easier with the new system, because fingerprinting would be used. The classification and categorisation of crime had also been agreed upon, and she explained that this was important because if someone committed of one crime who had served a term and then been released later committed another crime, it was important to have agreement on whether this would be regarded as simply re-offending, or offending under another category. The Cluster would agree those points. The end goal of the IJS was proper identification of an offender. The system would also pick up parole violations and the offender would not only be sent back to finish the rest of his or her sentence, but would also be sentenced for the new crime.

 

Ms Mosupye conceded that issues about dilapidated infrastructure had been raised previously, but that the Department had started working on the issue and had made progress. The main issue was that most centres were not connected to SITA at all. From 2012 to 2014 the Department had migrated to the virtual private network on the SITA site. All the routers on the SITA site had been changed, and the network had been upgraded in terms of the bandwidth. The Department had been working on the dilapidated structures, PCs had been changed and more PCs were added. Improvements would be based on the amount of money available in each financial year. Delays had been caused by the procurement processes, in some instances a proper evaluation of the environment was needed before any upgrades could be done.

She added that not just Mthatha, but the whole of Eastern Cape was also a priority for the Department. It was wrong to put good infrastructure in Johannesburg whilst there was no proper infrastructure in the remote areas. Cables in remote areas got stolen so many times that Telkom did not even want to replace the cables. Internally, the Department was improving the infrastructure, but connectivity to SITA became a problem. Alternative solutions had been looked at and discussed with Telkom. A satellite solution was investigated, that would cost around R1.2 million per site. The Department was ensuring that the sites were connected, particularly in regard to parole video conferencing, and it wanted to increase participation of victims within those areas.

 

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) was very clear, that there should be proof for services rendered before paying, in order to avoid the situation where the Department was regarded as having made irregular expenditure. The same held true for SITA, even though it was a government entity. DCS had already had to explain why it paid SITA more than the service level agreement. SITA had to understand the need for proof in order for payment. Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had done an investigation but SIU had never provided feedback on the outcomes.

The investigation on RDOMS was at two sites, one site where PWC did an analysis of the re-usability of the RDOMS, and found that the system could not be used as it stood. The AG had also done an analysis where the project manager was SITA, and found that there were a lot of flaws within the process. The project management methodology that was used had to be addressed by the DCS during the settlement agreement. The unusable system had to be abandoned, and discounting was needed on the software.

Ms Mosupye noted that it was hard to support the highly decentralised environment, because this implied that a server had to be bought to support that environment in each and every Centre. Centralisation was important, but had to be done in a way that the Centres would run independently if there was an issue of connectivity with the trial server, in order to be able to admit offenders, use biometrics and get the basic information about the offender, later ensuring that it was all centralised again. In every management area there was a network technician, administration staff and the Department wanted to maintain the technical capacity within the management areas to reduce dependency on Head Office. Currently about 200 permanent technicians across the country went out and assisted users on IT. The Department was running a dual, centralised and decentralised, environment wherever possible, but if not, would ensure that it was still able to connect to the site centrally and assist the users.

 

The main issues in relation to the audit findings and reporting in relation to IT were to do with disaster recovery. The Department had a backup strategy., to ensure that data would not be lost irretrievably if a Centre went down. However, disaster recovery essentially implied a replication of each and every Centre, which made it not cost effective. The disaster recovery centre was supposed to be 50 kilometres away from site. This was not practical for the Department, so it needed to centralise first, then replicate the whole system to another site, through SITA.

The current plan was basically a backup strategy,so the Department would be able to restore to a point. It had been discussed and agreed upon with the AG. Some of the issues raised by the Auditor General were more about user access management, where the user passwords did not expire. The 200 technicians had to train people on use of passwords, and they had to be trained themselves.

Mr Mpumlwana commented that there were three types of people: those who wanted things to happen, those who made things happen and those who wondered what happened. He believed the DCS lacked he right people to make things happen, and to follow up on plans. He claimed that the information on Mthatha was not correct. In fact, nobody was making things happen to ensure that all centres were connected. For example, if there was a problem with a computer, would a technician be sent from Head Office to fix the computer?

 

Mr E Kekana (ANC) said the Department was supposed to come up with a plan to address the issues raised by the Auditor General, and the presentation did not indicate that it would be taking up the issues. He wondered if there was a programme to ensure transfer of skills from consultants. The presentation indicated that there were 200 technicians, but he wondered if they were adding value if they were not even able to deal with changing passwords. Key to employment of consultants would be a plan for transfer of skills.

Ms Mosupye responded that resources in remote areas was a challenge. There was support from the regional offices, so the centres always had limited resources. Regional Commissioners had been informed that the Department would be able to assist with some resources to support areas like Mthatha. Unfortunately the Department did not have the structure to accommodate that, so a system was being put in place to have people provide indirect support to remote areas and to enhance as far as the DCS could, by approving, funding and having relevant resources to support plans. She understood the point, and said the DCS would look into this further, particularly in the Eastern Cape, as it was one of the most under resourced areas. 

 

She said that the Department made follows up, especially on video conferencing, to ensure it was connected, and to check the quality of service. SITA was also involved and would be able to assist the Department. Some of the connectivity issues were on SITA's side and it was a mandatory service that had to be provided. The Department would ensure prioritisation of those areas of connectivity.

 

There was transfer of skills in the Department, through mentoring and annual internship programmes where every consultant had a number of interns. Interns only had 12 month contracts. It would be possible for the DCS to get rid of consultants, if the right structure was put in place to allow the work to continue. DCS wanted to ensure that when people left, the situation would not fall into disarray. There had to be continuity at all times, with skills transfer. The 200 technicians were not at the Head Office; they were in various centres providing support. The technicians were already overwhelmed by the volume of work. Transferring of skills was part of the Department's structure, but the loss of interns and their skills was a problem, and the DCS was trying to get more permanent appointments with skills. The only way for the Department to move forward and do the work it had to do was, currently, to hire extra resources that could assist with the current resources in the Department.

 

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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