A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JUSTICE & CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
15 March 2005
DEPARTMENT BUDGET: INPUT BY INFORMATION SYSTEM MANAGEMENT, FINANCE & HUMAN RESOURCES UNITS
Chairperson: Ms FI Chohan-Khota
Documents handed out:
Finance Unit overview
Budget allocations (Base 80)
Budget vote on Treasury website
Human Resources Unit presentation
The Information System Management Unit presented a progress report on the information management systems needed to modernise the Department and that aim to prevent problems with missing dockets, scheduling of cases and deposit accounts. Also highlighted were the challenges faced by the IMS Unit such as its "stormy" relationship with SITA.
The Chief Finance Officer outlined the budgetary process of the Department for 2005/06. He highlighted both funded and unfunded areas. The Committee was asked to make suggestions that may influence the various budgetary allocations.
The Human Resource Unit reported that the staff composition of the Department was largely female (54%) and predominantly African (60%). In terms of gender breakdown of judges, males were in the majority (87%) and white males constituted 55% of judges. The Department had not yet reached its target for people with disabilities. The target was 2% and it had only 0.6%. It commented that the working environment in the Department had become very adversarial in the past few years . The Department was trying to change this by solving problems before they were referred to the courts.
Information System Management (ISM) Unit
Mr Hassan Ebrahim (Deputy Director General) outlined the information management systems of the E-justice programme that had already been implemented and those proposed systems aimed at modernising the Department and improving the efficiency of the courts. These systems include the Court Processing System, the Civil Scanning Solution, the Financial Administration System (FAS) comprised of the Guardians Fund system, Masters Administration System for Estates and Involvencies (MASETI), the Justice Deposit Account System (JDAS) and the State Attorneys System. He also highlighted the challenges faced by the ISM Unit such as the delays caused by the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) failing to finalise the outsource tender.
By re-engineering work processes and utilising enabling technology, the ISM Unit aims to solve the problems such as those associated with lost dockets, scheduling of cases and financial management of monies paid at courts or entrusted to the Guardian’s Fund in the Masters Office (see document).
Financial Administrative System (FAS)
The system is aimed at financial management of Trusts Accounts in Magistrates Courts, State Attorneys’ Office and the Guardians’ Fund in the Masters’ Office. The pilot project was successfully rolled out in the Masters’ Office in Bloemfontein. The management of monies entrusted to the Guardian’s Fund in the Masters Office is now done electronically. The files that were previously done manually are now being updated electronically. A national roll-out to all Masters’ Offices is being planned
The Master Administration System for Estates and Insolvencies (MASETI)
This system which enables officials to manage cases and track records was successfully piloted in Kimberly and Pretoria. The solution resulted in improved service delivery. The system was then rolled out to 14 other Masters Offices nationwide.
Justice Deposit Account System
It assists court officials in better and efficient management of monies paid for fines, maintenance, bail and civil cases. The solution was successfully piloted in Germiston and Kheyelitsha and will be rolled out in other offices. The collection of data is done electronically and the risk of fraud and corruption is reduced.
State Attorney’s System
The solution offers assistance in case registration and litigation process at State Attorneys Offices. The system was rolled out to 8 offices nationally. For instance it alerts state attorney in cases where prescription and default judgement is due. E-mail alerting the official of prescription will spring up on the computer. The system is also helpful in calculation of interests and commission. Therefore it does away with errors in calculation of interest and offers convenience for the staff. Over 200 sites have been installed with this electronic solution. And the Department intends to expand it over extra 30 sites.
The Chair asked if the new files at the Master’s Offices are being done electronically.
Mr Ebrahim answered that ideally the updating of files should be done electronically but the old filing system is still being used.
The Chair asked if the end was in sight for the installation of the FAS.
Mr Ebrahim replied that the benefits are beginning to show and the project is to be rolled nationally. He added that the Department was required by law to comply with GAAP requirements pertaining to their financial management systems.
The Chair asked what the information technology infrastructure referred to as the Digital Nervous System meant for officials in courts and state attorney offices.
Mr Ebrahim replied that the system would mean that every official has access to a computer terminal and access to e-mail. Further magistrates and prosecutors are given access to Jutastat. About 200 sites now have access to e-mail in major areas. The implementation in other areas was slow due to security concerns. The Department wanted to install computers at places where it was safe. The challenge was now to build on the successes achieved by this solution although the costs of extending the project to smaller offices are enormous.
Mr Mangwanishe (ANC) wanted to know why the Department was using two logos instead of one as method of branding.
Mr. Ebrahim agreed that one logo was necessary to ensure proper branding and avoid confusion.
Ms Johnson asked whether the service agreement problem with SITA and the Department had been resolved.
Mr Ebrahim responded that tenders were not completed and SITA was giving them problems. The problems between them and SITA have not been fully resolved yet. However the new CEO of SITA, Mr Mavuso Msimang, had designed a turnaround strategy to improve relations between SITA and other government departments. However the relationship with SITA was described as being "stormy". The Department was certainly not happy with work done by SITA.
Despite such a stormy relationship, the Department had forged a tri-lateral agreement between itself, Telkom and SITA. It is hoped that the agreement will harness the relations between SITA and the Department. In the past there were problems around service contracts, tenders and deadlines not being met. Now a cluster committee has been formed within the Department to look at these problems and ensure completion of projects. However SITA still controls the procurement process and the Department is rendered powerless in that regard. Subsequently the Department had identified SITA as a risk in working with projects of this nature.
Mr. Ebrahim informed the Committee that judgements of the Appeal Court can now be accessed on the Justice Intranet and may be published on other sites within Justice. Therefore the first set of judgements will be available to the 200 sites as well. Previously only the Constitutional Court judgements were immediately available online through the ISM solution. A senior member of the Appeal Court, Judge Harms, had applauded the Department for the innovations in information technology infrastructure within the judiciary.
Mr Landers (ANC) commented that the costs of installing the ISM solution were enormous and that Department must ensure that returns on the investment were visible.
Mr Ebrahim reiterated his commitment to ensure modernisation of the judiciary and efficiency within the Department. He remained convinced that the Department was moving in the right direction.
Finance Business Unit
Mr Alan Mackenzie (Department CFO) presented the 2005/06 Department Budget proposal and told the Committee to consider the budget process as incomplete as a budget review meeting was to be held on 29 March which would inform the final budget review process. Thus the Committee was asked to identify areas of need and make proposals for budget allocations.
Each strategic objective of the Department was given impact ratings upon which budget allocations would be decided. The "base 80" budget related to priority of allocations on the budget in which various sectors within the department had to prioritise 80 percent of their current budget, with 20 percent being marked as marginal.
Another significant component of the strategic objectives was the equitable share of the budget within the Department. In this regard the Committee was expected to play a pivotal role in influencing the budgetary allocations. Equitable Share required re-prioritising certain budget allocations within the Department. The areas that were previously prioritised should be reconsidered and areas that were unfunded could be funded this year.
The budget process would also accommodate the rehabilitation of 348 court buildings around the country. An extra R1.5 billion had been set aside for the rehabilitation of buildings. The rehabilitation of buildings fell under Public Works. Therefore the budget was given to Public Works. The problem is that Public Works wanted the Justice Department to proceed with upgrading from its own budget and monies would later be reimbursed. Public Works owed the Justice Department an amount of R20 million for funding of refurbished buildings. Public Works had made an undertaking to repay but had not repaid the money used to upgrade buildings.
To date, the Treasury has allocated R78 million for upgrading of buildings of the Justice Department. He hinted that this amount was insufficient to repair and maintain court buildings inside the country.
The Chair expressed concern at the inadequacy of monies allocated for repairs given the legacy of the past. She stressed that priority must be given to upgrading of the courts and also indicated the need for erection of new buildings.
Mr. Mackenzie noted that the Minister of Justice had appointed a Joint Task Team which was mandated to compare budget allocations with efficiency within the judiciary. For instance the Task Team considered the benefits of the Re Aga Botswa Project aimed at providing support services to court centres. The task team had looked at the position of magistrates as court administrators. The findings were that having the magistracy doing administration at the courts was both costly and lacked efficiency. Therefore the need arose for the appointment of court managers to provide support to court services. The Committee was requested to consider the impact ratings on the magistracy.
The budget process also included the approval of 24 Magistrates posts to be advertised. The erection of additional 36 courts around the country was also accommodated in the budget. He noted that R647 million has been allocated for filling of the advertised posts for Magistrates. There were proposals that magistrates should no longer be regarded as civil servants. The proposal will have budget implicationsfor the Department
Court security was a relatively new item on the current budget allocations. The allocation of funds for security at courts had previously not existed in the budget because security was considered the terrain of the Department of Safety and Security. Therefore funds were pumped into the their budget and not the Department of Justice However the current budget allocation for security amounts to R141 million. The forecast for annual costs for security at the courts are estimated at R2 million.
Mr. Mackenzie told the Committee that the contract with Telkom cost the Department R2.6 million every month. Despite the costs of the contract, the Digital Network Solution (DNS) was managed through Telkom. The DNS was matter of connectivity and the Department needed R182 million annually to keep the contract alive.
Legislative costing within the Department stands at an allocation of R2 million per annum for the 2005/05 budget. Most donor funding of the Department comes from donors such as the European Union and Scandinavian countries. It was noted that donor funding was omitted from the Budget and a shortfall of about R570 million was not mentioned
Mr Mackenzie outlined the equitable share budget. He explained that such a budget required the Committee to rearrange the set budget allocations. It was a relatively judgmental system of allocating monies to various sections of the Department based on priorities. He said one considers whether to swap some areas which were funded but marginal with unfunded areas that one deemed should gain priority.
Ms Camerer (DA) commented that it was a bit confusing about what role the Committee had in influencing the budget. She expressed doubt that the Committee could have any meaningful impact on the budgetary process.
Mr Mackenzie assured the Committee that budget and strategic objectives of the Department were subject to change. He told Members they could indeed be involved in amending current strategic objectives.
The Chair asked if the right-sizing of costs was not an imperative in this budget process.
Mr Mackenzie answered that the task team had been appointed also to consider the issue. The team is considering right-sizing of court personnel and infrastructure development. The right-sizing of personnel was being administered by Court Services under the Justice Footprint Project. He conceded that there must be specific budget allocations for the right-sizing in future. The question of transformation of the judiciary was relatively new in the Budget. Therefore transformation of the judiciary did not receive any budget allocation.
The Chair commended the efforts of the Department in establishing a task team and hoped that cutting of costs and efficiency would be achieved.
Human Resources Unit
Mr P Sekawana (Chief Director: Human Resources) made the presentation (see document). The Department was engaged in management and leadership development as a transformational tool. Stress management and debriefing sessions were being conducted in all provinces. Attitude change and commitment enhancement initiatives remained as major challenges. The Department was also automating its human resources related services. This would allow employees to download information such as their IRP5 certificates, pay sheets and pension details.
It terms of staff composition the Department was largely female (54%) and predominantly African (60%). In terms of gender breakdown of judges, males were in the majority (87%) and white males constituted 55% of the judges. The Department had not yet reached its target for people with disabilities. The target was 2% and it had only 0.6%.
The working environment in the Department had become very adversarial in the past few years. The Department was trying to change this attempting to solve problems before they were referred to the courts. Out of 112 old precautionary suspension matters reported last year, 16 were still outstanding. Most of the outstanding cases were high profile cases. Twenty new suspensions had been instituted since December 2004. There had been 205 dismissals since 1999 and most of these (52) had occurred in the Eastern Cape.
Mr Sekawana could not provide details on the vacancy rate within the Department. The information he had on the document was outdated. He promised to furnish the information at a later stage.
Ms Camerer asked when the Department had started classifying its staff as African, coloureds, whites and Indian and what the reasons for this were. The Department had previously used the categories of black and white. She requested the presenter to assure the Committee that he would provide full information on the misconduct cases and the kind of staff that was still required in the Department.
The Chairperson said that the Department would furnish the required information.
Mr Sekawana requested the Committee to give him more time to collect the information required. The Department had never given such a comprehensive breakdown on its staff composition. However, it had always kept such statistics. It was required to have such statistics.
Mr G Solomon (ANC) said that the Human Resource Unit cut across the Department. He asked if the Unit had programmes that involved other departments like Correctional Services and South African Police Services. He was surprised that the presenter did not mention anything about the Unit’s budget despite the fact that it had been reduced.
The Chairperson pointed out that previously the Unit had the salaries for Magistrates as part of its budget. The Unit’s budget looked less because that portion had been removed.
Mr Sekawana agreed that the Unit had received the biggest decrease. It had raised some of its concerns within the Department. The budget was still preliminary and not yet discussed in the Executive Committee. He said that it was important to have inter-departmental programmes. For example, the Department would conduct a workshop for its employees on stress management and then he National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would run a similar workshop for its prosecutors. There were intentions to run joint projects with the NPA.
Mr B Magwanishe (ANC) asked the presenter to explain what was the nature of resistance to change that the Department was experiencing. The Department ’s employees would become very attractive to other sectors once they had been trained. He asked if there was any mechanism to ensure that the Department did not lose its staff after training them. He noted that the Department had not given a race and gender breakdown of Magistrates. He also asked what type of assistance was provided to disabled people. He was worried that the practice of shifting an employee from one area to another instead of suspending them could cause problems. One could in the process, transfer a very big problem from one area to another.
Mr Sekawana replied that it would be disappointing if people were trained and left the country afterwards. It would not be a tragic loss if the person was to leave and serve in other spheres of government or the private sector because the country would still reap the benefits. Employees who had been given bursaries to study further were normally tied to a contract that required them to work for the Department for the equivalent time of training.
The Department would furnish information on Magistrates in the near future. Mr Sekawana agreed that the Department had to be careful when transferring people from one unit to another. The Department did not want to be seen to be transferring problems from one place to another. At the same time it was not desirable to pay people who were not doing anything. The merits of a particular case would determine the course to be followed.
Mr C Burgess (ID) asked which categories of people were involved in misconduct cases.
The Department would provide the categories at a later stage.
The meeting was adjourned.