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CORRECTIONAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE Relevant documents
4 April 2000
BUDGET DISCUSSION: ELECTRONIC MONITORING, APOPS PRISONS, CORRUPTION
CORRECTIONAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Chairperson: Ms R Capa
The Committee discussed the fact that funds appear in the budget every year for electronic monitoring yet the project is on hold. This R83 million each year must be either rolled over or spent and this required accounting for by the Department. The Committee also discussed funds for APOPS [Asset Procurement and Operation Partnership System] prisons and went on to discuss on-going investigations of corruption in the Department.
The Committee resolved to have a joint meeting with the Safety and Security Department and the Justice Department on these issues.
The purpose of the meeting was to clarify some of the issues that arose from the Department's presentation on the budget. The budget debate will be on 11 May 2000.
The Chair opened by saying there had been questions about electronic monitoring at the last meeting and also discussion of the problem of corruption.
Dr Mzimela (UMD) said there had been a pilot project to test electronic monitoring for one year. There had been a 94% success rate with the project and therefore a request had been made to Parliament to implement the system. This was to have taken place in August 1998. However the question was re-opened, so a new consultant was appointed. Dr Mzimela commented that this was a waste of resources after a decision had been taken. Something was wrong with this and he asked where the funds for implementation are.
Mr Bloem (ANC) confirmed that the decision to implement electronic monitoring had been widely consulted and approved in 1998.
The Chair said R83 million had been allocated to implement the system, the goal of which was to reduce the costs of supervising parolees. However, the system relies on the use of telephones, rather than satellites, and therefore is of no use in rural areas of South Africa. She pointed to the escalating number of escaping prisoners and emphasised that it is imperative that these prisoners be monitored.
Ms Seaton (IFP) noted that in 1997 the Chair had asked for a re-investigation and wondered what role the Committee had played in the delays.
Mr Zondo (ANC) noted there had been a decision to reverse the process and that there was a gap in that a budget was allocated but not used for the purpose it had been assigned.
Ms Sosibo (ANC) asked why the telephonic system of electronic monitoring had not been implemented in the urban areas and also asked where the R80 million allocated each year for electronic monitoring had gone.
Dr Mzimela (UDM) responded that the vast majority of parolees in urban areas are covered by electronic monitoring. He went on to note that more than 95% of correctional supervision takes place in the urban areas of South Africa. Given this fact, why change a whole system to meet the needs of a mere 5%? Rather than changing the whole system to satellite, radio could be used to cover the 5% in rural areas. The costs of setting up satellite coverage would be exorbitant and such an expense does not make sense.
Ms Seaton (IFP) called Dr Mzimela's proposal discriminatory in that it would cater to a white and urban population whereas most prisoners come from rural areas. She asked for a serious re-consideration of electronic monitoring.
The Chair then reminded the Committee that it had never said it wanted to change from telephonic monitoring to satellite. She asked that the committee move on to the true purpose of the meeting, budgetary issues.
Mr Zondo (ANC) asked why funds appear in the budget every year for electronic monitoring when the project is on hold? This R83 million each year must be either rolled over or spent. He asserted that this requires accounting for or it is an unauthorized expenditure.
Ms Sosibo (ANC) asked if the Chair could overrule a decision of Cabinet.
Ms Seaton (IFP) asked what role the committee had played in bringing about change.
Mr Bloem (ANC) asked, first, why had electronic monitoring not been implemented and, second, what role has the Committee played in the fact that it has not been implemented? He clarified this question by complaining that the committee approves policy but then does not follow up on its approvals.
The Chair then stated that the topic had been exhausted and asked that the committee move on to discuss APOPS. She asked what happens to the allocated budget when approved APOPS sites are delayed.
Dr Mzimela (UDM) noted that the original APOPS application was to have been for seven facilities until it was decided that only four were affordable. So Cabinet cut the number from seven to four due to insufficient funds. The first APOPS prison was to have opened in April 1999 but nothing had happened. Dr Mzimela asked who had taken the decision not to proceed?
The Chair clarified that APOPS is about providing relief for prison over-crowding. It is not clear what happened to that budget. She asked for the latest update on APOPS and asked the committee to move to the next item on the agenda, namely the Jackson University Scholarships. She noted that there is a budget for this and that there are South African students overseas on that program.
Ms Seaton (IFP) asked how much money is budgeted for this.
The Chair asserted that this issue requires serious discussion, one reason being that the media has focused some attention on it and another being that President Mbeki has expressed his concern over the on-going investigation into matters of corruption.
Ms Seaton (IFP) commented that the Committee needs information on the house purchased, asserting that they cannot discuss press releases without the facts.
The Chair then asked the Committee to move on to the matter of the Department being investigated for corruption. She asked for the Committee for guidance and asserted that it needs briefings on these issues; for example, it does not know who exactly is under investigation and to what extent the process of the work of the Committee will be affected.
Dr Jordan (ANC) noted that the department still functions while under investigation. He went on to comment that bright and highly-motivated people do not choose to work in the Department of Correctional Services and that this compounds the problem of corruption. He suggested that the Committee look at the Department's Human Resources to see what type of employee the Department is attracting.
Ms Seaton (ANC) asked to what extent should the Committee carry out a separate investigation of corruption and commented that the Department is a complex one given the history of South Africa. She noted that the Committee needed to know the Department and to be briefed on issues of corruption.
The Chair agreed and said she would ask the Minister to come and give a briefing to detail the problems.
Dr Mzimela (UDM) suggested that since the Department has an inter-Departmental anti-corruption unit the Department is sufficiently monitored.
Mr Bloem (ANC) disagreed by pointing out that the anti-corruption unit also comprises departmental staff, who are therefore also under investigation. He went on to note that "corruption" is a broad concept and the Committee does not know who or what is being investigated.
The Chair asked for suggestions as to who would be the best person to provide an informative briefing.
Mr Diale (ANC) suggested the Acting Commissioner. This proposal was accepted.
Dr Mzimela (UDM) asked who can undertake to reverse a Cabinet decision. He noted that, in keeping with the trend of demilitarization in the Department, Cabinet had taken a decision that administrative staff were not to wear uniforms. Uniforms were to be worn by custodial staff only. This had now been changed as administrative staff are wearing uniforms. He called this a waste of resources.
The Chair interjected that, indeed, R9 million had been allocated for uniforms and what of it?
Dr Mzimela (UDM) asserted that there is a serious lack of resources in the Department for example, some prisoners are without beds. He questioned the wisdom of spending money on uniforms.
Mr George (ANC) concurred and asked why so much money, R80 a day, is spent to feed people who have perpetrated serious crimes when people living in the townships of South Africa frequently do not eat well.
The Chair responded by noting that the R80 a day to maintain a prisoner does not go exclusively to food; it also covers bedding, uniforms and administrative expenses among other things. R5.45 is the amount allocated to food per prisoner, per day.
The Chair then asserted the need for the Committee to sit jointly with the Department of Safety and Security as well as the Justice Committee, in order to arrive at a common understanding.
Mr George (ANC) asked why some people are incarcerated for trivial offences when this increases the prison population and makes it easier for the truly dangerous prisoners to escape. He suggested that other avenues of rehabilitation be investigated since imprisonment only leads to the corruption of inmates.
Mr Zondo (ANC) agreed and suggested that, at the joint meeting they ask the South African Law Commission to take up the matter. He commented that justice is slow here and that insignificant crimes are punished with incarceration when the accused cannot afford bail whereas those accused of more serious crimes may be able to afford bail and so delay incarceration. He suggested that there is something wrong with this.
Dr Mzimela (UDM) suggested that to deal effectively with this problem, they should go to its source, namely, the Magistrates, whose mindsets need to be changed.
Committee members then discussed how to prioritize the agenda for the next meeting after which, the meeting was adjourned.
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