SAPS on 2016 budget for Programmes 3 to 5 (Detective Services, Crime Intelligence, Protection and Security Services)

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07 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Acting National Commissioner of Police continued to brief the Committee on the budget and strategic plans for Programmes 3 (Detective Services) and 4 (Crime Intelligence) of the South African Police Services (SAPS), and with time remaining, part of Programme 5 (Protection and Security Services) was also included with remaining issues to do with specialised investigation under Programmes 3 and 5 to be presented on the final day. For each of these programmes, the targets were outlined, with some comparison to how these targets had changed from previous strategic plans.

In relation to Programme 3, questions were asked about the progress in the turnaround strategy and whether there were initiatives, particularly in the provinces, to ensure that detectives were competent. Members asked why the Medium Term Strategic Framework targets were not in line, and the explanation was given that these targets were being set with specific reference to the capacity available. Members asked if the SAPS was satisfied with the quality of investigations, and asked what “non-routine” cases in the targets were. Members asked if targets were achievable, why targets for contact crimes seemed low , whether SAPS was able to measure success rate on each of the crime divisions, and individually, and how the problem of complainants being unable to get hold of detectives to discuss their cases was being addressed. The importance of vetting, and of ensuring that thefts of dockets did not occur, was stressed, and Members also wanted to know about training of high-profile detectives, whether the Detective Academy was included in the long-term planning and the need to display greater commitment to the National Development Plan. Members also asked about detectives' caseload, the apparent discrepancy in detection rates between different types of crime and how escapes were pursued.  Efficiency of investigation was important. One Member asked for specific comment on what was being done to address land-looting in KwaZulu Natal, and was assured that no cases were being ignored. Identity kit reliability, management of crime scenes, experts to consider serial crimes, the amount of paper work taking detectives away from the real crime-solving issues, and availability of detectives to be dispatched as first response were also addressed.

Members asked questions on Programme 4 relating to the ability of the current leadership to address macro threats, the status in the Richard Mdludli case (which was not answered), the budget allocated for informers, the working relationship between the Hawks and SAPS, and the targets for vetting of employees, ICT assessment, communication interception targets and the programmes on gangs. Members also questioned the working relationships and cooperation between military and crime intelligence, and whether any former members of Crime Intelligence were still on suspension.

Programme 5 questions related to a 101% target for National Key Points, the number of VIPs requiring protection, the number of VIP trips with security implications,  and any circumstances in which MPs might fall in this category. They wanted to know what specialised training the VIP Protection Units received and any updates on any special conditions, including compensation in the case of incidents, their hours of exposure, how it was ensured that they were always vigilant. They called for an update on Protection Security Services accommodation, which was in a poor state when the Committee had visited. There was also discussion on when VIPs may use blue lights and sirens. A FF+ Member commented that Mr Julius Malema had been found using a blue light on a private car, and this provoked a reaction from another 

Meeting report

South African Police Service (SAPS) 2016 Budget briefings: Programme 3: Detective Services
General Kgomotso Phahlane, Acting National Commissioner, noted that the South African Police Service / Department of Police (SAPS or the Department) would continue with the budget briefings, starting with Programme 3: Detective Services.

He noted that there were four sub-programmes; crime investigation, criminal record centre, forensic science laboratory, and specialised investigation which SAPS would deal with when it presented on Programme 5 (Protection and Security Services). The targets for Programme 3 improvement of detection rates were outlined. SAPS aimed to improve detection rates for crime up to 80%, crimes dependent on police action for detection up to 92.9%, conviction of crimes against women older than 18 (including murder and sexual offences) up to 75%, conviction of crimes against children younger than 18 up to 69.9%, conviction of violent conduct in public protests up to 47%.

The aim is to contribute to the successful prosecution of offenders by investigating, gathering and analysing evidence. Non-routine case exhibits needed to be increased to 93% and ballistics to 95%, and these matters should be finalised within 28 working days.

One of the main changes to the 2016 Strategic Plan was the improvement in the investigation of criminal and violent conduct in protests.

Emerging priorities for Programme 3 include the revamp of the Criminal Justice System (CJS), a Master Plan to ensure integrated implementation of the CJS seven-point plan, establishment of specialised units, enhanced utilisation of investigative aids, operational deployment of detectives, and management of high profile crimes.

The Chairperson asked about the progress with the turnaround strategy. He pointed out that in the detective environment, experience was vital, so he wanted to know if there were new initiatives in provinces to make sure detectives were competent He also pointed out that the Department’s targets seem lower than the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) targets, and thus asked when this would be brought in line.

Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked how SAPS would  hope to address the defect of detective targets being too low. She asked if the SAPS was satisfied with the quality of investigations. She asked for an explanation on what was meant by “non-routine” cases.

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) asked why detection rates for contact crimes seemed low.

Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) asked whether the targets were achievable, given the incapacities in the Department? He asked if the SAPS  had been able to identify the success rate on each of the crime divisions, and if it was able to measure the success rate of specific detectives or collectively for a type of crime? One frequent problem is that complainants are never able to get hold of the investigating officer, so he asked how this too was being addressed.

The Chairperson commented that the prime role of detectives is to deal with crimes. Detectives need to be vetted to prevent against docket theft. When cases are not solved, this affects the trust that the public needs to have that SAPS is competent.

Lieutenant General Phahlane responded that an update will be provided at a later stage on the case dockets of high profile crimes, when such a presentation is requested by the Portfolio Committee. He noted that he himself had taken over crime detection and was satisfied with the progress being made thus far in this department. He noted that task teams pull individuals from police stations and this can give rise to an incapacity problem at the station level because the Station Commander may have been promoted to a Cluster level and an Acting officer left in his/her place. The Department is working towards filling these positions as soon as possible with qualified individuals, and at a provincial level is working to stabilise and  ensure that stations receive solid leadership.

In answer to the apparent discrepancy between targets, he noted that SAPS had to ensure that the targets fell into the competency profile, to determine whether they would be achievable. SAPS could easily set aggressive targets but it was realistic in noting that improvements were low, and thus felt it made more sense to set targets in line with the competency profile and then work these up. It would not like to force a target before knowing that it would be achievable.  The SAPS had to ensure that the aims could be achieved in this financial year.

The plan was to have uniformed detectives at station level performing inquiry functions. Capacity will be located within the financial year for these detectives.

Ms M Molebatsi interjected to ask if these detectives would have to undergo some form of training, like the detectives new to the field who had to pass detective courses.

Lt Gen Phahlane confirmed that they would have to undergo basic detective courses.

Lt Gen Phahlane asked the Chairperson for confirmation that he was satisfied with the level of training of high profile detectives. He noted that the performance of all detectives is not at the same level, therefore there are performance checks and the Department provides training. Divisional detectives, at the higher level, cannot be required to investigate dockets, but should be working at policy level and ensuring that subordinates do their jobs.

He explained that routine cases required processing whereas non-routine cases would not. He gave the example that cocaine would require an analysis through set processes to test the batch of powder. A batch of pills seized, all of different colours, would not be known and so the SAPS would firstly have to test individual pills for compounds, and this would be regarded as a non-routine procedure.

He said that contact crimes remained low and the target was not achieved and the Department was now giving itself room to achieve this.

He noted that there were processes to look at what each detective’s success rate is, through the ‘Individual Docket System’ (IDS).

He took note of the comment that complainants were not getting hold of detectives, and said there is a programme currently under way to integrate complaints into a system that can be accessed nationwide in cases where detectives are not reachable. SAPS is working on this problem.

The Chairperson asked whether the Detective Academy should be part of the long-term planning, and whether consideration had been given to this in terms of South Africa’s position in the world. In terms of targets, he thought the country as a whole needed to display a greater commitment to the National Development Plan (NDP) and adjust the CJS cluster if targets are not achievable due to challenges.

Ms M Molebatsi asked whether, in the reconfiguration process, SAPS had considered the fact that detectives might be handling too many cases simultaneously, and whether this was not a contributory factor to their incapacity.

Mr Mbhele asked whether detectives showed higher rates of detection for crimes that were high profile, such as rape or murder, where society was pressing for justice more stringently than in the crimes such as mugging or robbery which might be considered to be less serious.

Mr Shaik Emam asked what happened to suspects who were convicted but escaped or disappeared; he wondered if there was sufficient effort and media coverage or whether these cases were forgotten about after a certain time.

Lt Gen Phahlane noted that anyone trying to evade the law cannot do so forever. The system of wanted criminals captures this information and that person will then be on the database. Unfortunately it was impossible to sustain media coverage over a long period, but the person remained on the “wanted persons” database and posters would be distributed to police stations and public spaces periodically.

Answering the questions of rates of detection for high profile crimes versus minor crimes, he pointed out that rape cases mostly involved people known to each other, with a higher probability therefore of catching the offender. Cases of robbery or mugging may be crimes of opportunity and the detection rate seemed low because finding the culprit is harder when witnesses may not have had the chance to get a clear look at the criminal, or may not even know who to put on the suspect list. However, the basics were applied at all level to ensure that different communities or classes of victims did not receive any differentiated attention.

SAPS was looking at realistic ways to determine what the actual caseload of detectives should be, because it may be that a large part of the work most likely could be delegated or dealt with in record time instead of being left outstanding. Efficiency of investigation was important.

Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) made an observation that he wanted to know what police were doing in relation to land-looting incidents, specifically in his home province of KwaZulu Natal (KZN), since it seemed that in fact the police were doing nothing in most cases, and their lack of action on cases may be simply due to political affiliation of individuals involved in the case.

Lt Gen Phahlane said that those specific cases were passed on to higher levels to make sure they received the necessary attention. No cases were ignored.

He noted that the targets for this financial year, for units for each province, were set at thirty, with ten at the national level, in order to provide support to the thirty provincial projects. These projects indicated crime statistics, focussing on high crime areas.

Ms Molebatsi asked how reliable was the compiling of identity kits.

Mr Mbhele said that inadequate management of crime scenes was a recurring issue. He asked if there was any system, when calls come through to dispatch, to ensure that the nature of the crime was ascertained and a detective would be dispatched immediately if required, so that lower level officers who may not know the process very well do not compromise the scene.

Mr Shaik Emam commented that there is too much paper work involved at detective level and this detracts from the actual work of investigation and wastes time. He asked if there was not some way to reduce that, so that detectives could focus on their real job of investigating.

The Chairperson asked for the progress on Order number 325.

Lt Gen Phahlane noted that the SAPS had not yet decided whether to go ahead with Order number 325, but would keep the Chairperson up to date on the process.

He noted that all officers visiting a crime scene would know what their respective roles are. Those in uniform are usually the first respondents. Detectives may not be readily available to be first respondents unless they were on standby, as they are usually in investigations or fulfilling other detective duties, and would need to be activated on to a case once the crime scene manager handed over the case to the detective.

He affirmed that there was definitely accuracy and reliability with the identity kits. That is why, in the Senzo Meyiwa case, the person was matched, but there was likely a cover up conspiracy in this case. It was very important to verify information received from the media instead of taking it at face value.

He noted that the backlog status from the first quarter showed the SAPS as being at 9%.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) apologised for his late arrival and asked if there were refresher courses for crime scene investigators to make sure that first respondents are at all times trained and capable.

Lt Gen Phahlane said that there is provision for refresher courses, as it was not expected that individuals would remain competent without them, and the aim was at all times to avoid crime scenes being compromised. Divisional Detective Commissioners are being held accountable for making sure detectives fall in line.

Mr P Groenewald asked about the availability of experts when dealing with serial killers.

Lt Gen Phahlane said that SAPS was satisfied with the progress from a forensic perspective. Forensic leads provide the ability to track down serial killers and to gauge their tendencies. Courts have been working hard in prosecuting serial killers and handing down life sentences, and the capacity is being met to ensure the best is done.

He responded to the question around the paper work by noting the work being done on e-dockets that are meant to curb the amount of paper work by having dockets electronically accessible throughout the database by all detectives.

Programme 4: Crime Intelligence
Lt Gen Phahlane noted that the sub-programmes included crime intelligence operations and intelligence and information management.

Targets for crime intelligence operations were set out as follows: number of enquiries handled at least 14017, number of tactical operations conducted at least 21024, number of network operations at least 759. The objective is to conduct intelligence operations to target crime.

The aims include conducting security assessment within SAPS (60% employees need to be vetted, 100% ICT security assessment need to be finalised), provide intelligence products in support of policing activities (profiles, communication in perception report, threat and risk report, targets for these are set at 166  197), provision of strategic intelligence products to National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC) where the target was now set at 22, raised from the past target of 6.

He noted the specific updates to the Strategic Plan for Programme 4. The objective statement and MTSF targets had been separated. The aim is to provide intelligence products in support of policing activities mentioned earlier. The target was set at 183 000.

The Chairperson commented that there must be stability within the higher echelons of the crime intelligence community. He called for an update on this and asked if the current leadership was able to address macro threats.

Ms  Molebatsi asked for more comment on the policy environment in the crime and intelligence division, and asked for the current status in the Richard Mdluli case.

Ms P Mmola (ANC) asked if there was any allocation to a budget for informers.

Mr J Maake (ANC) asked if there is a good working relationship between the Hawks and the Police.

Mr Groenewald asked for clarity on the target for vetted employees, as well as for ICT assessment. He also asked for clarity on targets for communication interception. He wanted to know the progress on gangs.

Mr Mbhele asked what the current forecast was for crime intelligence, when looking at organised crime and property crime.

Mr Mhlongo asked if there was any programme that was aiming to have good working relations between crime intelligence and military intelligence. If there is sharpening of tools for intelligence, then he wanted to know if there was an intelligence-driven programme that integrates with various portfolio committees and police divisions.

Lt Gen Phahlane responded that the targets speak to the number of tactical ad operational reports of profiles, telephones, and other products produced in that environment, not merely to telephones alone. In regard to the vetting of employees, he pointed out that here too, the target is not necessarily for crime intelligence alone, but also applied to other categories that would have been prioritised. He said that there is a good working relationship between crime intelligence and military intelligence. They sit in regular meetings and share information. When people were properly tasked, information was being handled well on gangs, and the gangs were also being handled very well to prevent injuries.

SAPS was currently finalising its HR review of structures. Vacancies are being filled to counter any capacity issues. In regard to the informers, there was a budget of R35 million was given and it was being utilised by detectives to manage informers.

Lt Gen Phahlane stressed that commanders must utilise Crime Intelligence as a resource to prevent crimes, not merely use it after crimes have been committed. He was pleased to say that there was a realisation of a full turnaround in Crime Intelligence, and that there were evident improvements.

He noted that seven of the nine provincial heads have security clearances and the remaining two are being vetted.

The Chairperson asked what the process was for vetting applicants in Crime and Intelligence was.

Mr Mbhele asked if there were any of the former employees from Crime Intelligence who might be on suspension and how this might affect the SAPS.

Lt Gen Phahlane noted that any applications containing incomplete information were immediately discarded. Applicants can only submit their applications when the electronic application is completed and then the system vets the applicant. All disciplinary issues are being handled in terms of policy prescripts. Individuals are placed on suspension pending the outcome of their case, and where individuals are found unfit to serve, they are let go.

Programme 5: Protection and Security Services Environment
Since there was still time, Lt Gen Phahlane started to speak also to Programme 5. Here, the sub-programmes included VIP protection services, static and mobile security, government security regulator, and operational support.

For VIP protection services, the objective changed from providing protection only to also now including in-transit protection. The target is to have 100% protection. For static and mobile protection, the objective is 100% protection without any security breaches. For the government security regulator, the objective is to maximise protection. As far as Presidential protection is concerned, all key personnel need to be re-evaluated.

He noted that the presentation on Operational Support would be given on the following day together with specialised investigation under Programme 3, which had deliberately been omitted from the current presentation.

He noted that the updates to the strategic plan were that the baseline and MTSF targets had been separated. Baseline targets are lower than in the MTSF, but the aim was still to provide 100% protection.

Mr Groenewald questioned the baseline for updated strategic planning of a 101% target for National Key Points evaluated by Protection Security Services. He asked how many VIPs required protection and pointed out that MPs were not generally considered to be VIP, unless they were involved in significant cases.

Mr Mbhele asked about the number of VIP trips with security implications.

Mr Shaik Emam asked what specialised training VIP Protection units received?

Ms Molebatsi asked if there were any updates on the long hours of exposure that VIPs received. She asked also whether SAPS was ensuring that VIP Protection units are always on guard, and were not distracted by use of cell phones.

Ms Mmola asked that SAPS provide a brief report on current status of Protection Security Services accommodation, especially in Bloemfontein, where the services were seen to be poor at the time of the Committee’s last oversight visit.

Ms L Mabija (ANC) asked what criteria determined when VIPs should use blue lights and sirens on vehicles when travelling through traffic.

Lt Gen Phahlane responded that there had been complaints by the public about the blue lights on official vehicles and red lights on ambulances, and the public was disrespecting them because they felt that their use was being abused. The SAPS would not condone misuse. These lights should be used for official use only, not personal use.

He noted that the 101% target on the slides is linked to content in the Strategic Plan. During the financial year more targets were added and this forced the percentage to rise significantly.

He noted that no private individuals are protected by the police save that in exceptional circumstances some are given protection. For those entitled to such services, or those who had been faced with threats, then protection is given.

He said that the VIP protection unit personnel would receive specialised training on various levels, and in the types of vehicles they would be driving. Training also includes a basic VIP protection course. The additional benefits of more payment than in normal service were linked to longer hours worked, even beyond the 40 hour per week limit. Use of cell phones is prohibited when protection units are driving because the vehicle might be moving at high speeds and the driver should not be distracted .

Protection Security Services accommodation in Bloemfontein had been resolved. The service was poor because there was a delay with the formal lease order, so the Department parted ways with the landlord and had to seek temporary accommodation. This had now been sorted out and the Protection Security Services will be occupying the building at the end of May 2016 and standards will be improved.

The Chairperson asked if accommodation in all the provinces was adequate for VIP protection.

Lt Gen Phahlane responded that the SAPS does not – because it is not permitted to – deal directly with landlords. The official process is to go through Expanded Public Works Programmes. National standards are not the same. Some provinces might have better accommodation than others, due to development in the specific provinces. Provinces might have challenges, but only one province is in need at the moment, and it is being dealt with.

Ms Mabija asked what were the mechanisms in place to ensure that this privilege of blue lights was not misused.

Mr P Groenewald also asked what was in place to ensure that VIP Protection is not misused. He pointed out that Mr Julius Malema (EFF) had been caught with a private vehicle that had blue official lights, but he had not been prosecuted.

This reference caused other Members to voice objections.

Mr Mhlongo raised his hand to raise a point of order.

The Chairperson  noted the request by Mr Mhlongo, but asked him to wait his turn until other follow-up questions had been put to the SAPS.

Ms Molebatsi noted that, irrespective of people being paid more or not, the policy had to be considered because those working in the VIP units would need to avoid becoming fatigued, with the potentially serious consequences.

Mr Shaik Emam asked if VIP unit members would receive benefits if something went wrong, causing death or injury, and if this happened, how quickly would payouts be made.

Mr Mhlongo objected to Mr Groenewald citing Mr Malema's example, saying that this was mere propaganda from the “ultra-right” wing. Similar statements had been made about Chris Hani and several days later he was assassinated. Such a conspiracy was a threat. He asked the Committee to note that the “ EFF will change the political discourse of this country, dead or alive!”

Mr P Groenewald responded that if anyone was a true representative of his people, he would not be in danger, and this merely illustrated his earlier point that MPs were not treated as VIPs and in need of protection services.

Lt Gen Phahlane said that it could not be argued that the VIP units did work long hours, and the SAPS was aware of the need to ensure that its members in these units would be managed in a way that did not compromise them, or cause any harm to those they were protecting. The primary mandate of VIP protection services is to provide security, not to push grocery carts or be asked to take on personal tasks. He reiterated that no one is permitted to use blue lights and sirens unlawfully. If persons are found guilty then they will be prosecuted.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the final round of meetings would be dealing with issues that were left over from Programmes 3 and 5.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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