Justice Budget: Input by Directorate of Special Operations

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Justice and Correctional Services

17 March 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


17 March 2005

Chairperson: Mr F Chohan-Kota (ANC)

Presentation by the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions)

The Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) within the National Prosecuting Authority briefed the Committee on its programme for 2005/06 and its financial implications. While acknowledging a number of challenges facing the unit, they were proud of having achieved a large number of arrests and convictions in the previous years. The following issues were raised:
- the importance of vetting every member of the unit
- that the unit should guard against its Hollywood publicity style of effecting arrest
- the importance of co-operation between DSO and its national and international partners.


Introduction by National Director of Public Prosecutions
Adv Vusumzi Pikoli (National Director of Public Prosecutions) thanked the Committee for affording them an opportunity to make their presentation and then proceed to introduce his colleagues. Amongst them included Adv L McCarthy (Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: DSO), Adv J Ledwaba (Head of Operations: DSO), Ms M Sparg (CEO), Mr B Graham (CFO), Mr A Mopp (Western Cape's Regional Head: DSO), Ms K Pillay (Special Director and Advisor: Office of the NDPP), Ms D Mvelase (Executive Manager: Integrity Management Unit), Ms A Annedale (Manager Office of the Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: DSO); Mr K Jooste (IT Specialist).

Adv Pikoli noted that although he had been in office for only two months he had managed to visit all the regional offices of the DSO to get an understanding of the work that had been done thus far and to boost the morale of everyone within the unit. He gave a brief overview of the presentation and then handed over to Adv L McCarthy to take the Committee through the presentation on the unit.

Presentation by the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO)
Adv Leonard McCarthy (Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: DSO) took the Committee through the presentation. He noted that they had added another office within the structure of the unit located in the Free State. While currently most of the forensic work within the unit was outsourced, their aim is to see most of this being done by their Forensic Services. The DSO personnel was said to be representative as it consisted of 326 women and 193 males all coming from diverse backgrounds and racial groups. However, it was acknowledged that there were numerous challenges facing the unit, as there were still imbalances in its senior management especially with respect to gender and racial representativity. He reviewed the NPA’s strategic objectives and targets for 2005/06. Demonstrating the operational achievements and case basket of the unit based on the previous years, he said that out the 200 most wanted criminals they had managed to get 43 on their own and a further 38 in conjunction with the SAPS.

The Chairperson requested the Unit to provide the Committee with categories of personnel involved in each project to enable Members to clear understand who constituted the DSO and where it should be capacitated. She then asked them to explain how they set their targets and whether there was any factual basis informing these.

Adv McCarthy replied that normally the Crime Analysis section would be tasked to develop a threat analysis whereupon they would then be able to identify their main targets for the year, also taking into account various referral work that had been handled by the DSO during the previous years. The DSO had carefully analysed the USA legislation on racketeering and money-laundering and realised that it had taken the United States ten years to implement it - such was the complexity of this legislation. The NPA then felt that it would be proper to target only few cases while they were still in the process of developing their own expertise.

Imam G Solomon (ANC) asked what was the problem with the money laundering legislation, was it around its implementation or what.

Adv McCarthy replied that there was nothing wrong with the legislation. The problem revolved around its execution and application since it was a very difficult piece of legislation which had not yet been sufficiently tested in South African courts.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions said that, in conjunction with other intelligence agencies, the DSO has quite a vast intelligence capacity.

The Chairperson asked them to explain the actual reduction in turnaround time of investigations and prosecution as noted in their operational achievements.

Adv McCarthy replied that the process of measuring progress in reduction of turnaround time in investigations and prosecution had started in 2002. On average, the case could be completed, at the moment, within an average time of 23 months.

The Chairperson asked them to provide the Committee with a report on the turnaround times for the different categories of crime to assist Members to understand the process more clearly. She was however concerned about setting targets for operative action.

Adv McCarthy acknowledged the Chair’s concern but they felt that targets were necessary due to the nature of their work as the DSO. However if the Committee feels otherwise, then this could be reconsidered.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions agreed with the Chair that such targets could indeed be seen as aimed at inventing actions and also felt that the DSO should be very careful about target setting.

The Chairperson asked if the R 255.7million proceeds of crime value represented what had actually been recovered or what was estimated to be recovered in this financial year.

Adv McCarthy replied that the 255.7million represented what had already actually been recovered up to date.

The Chairperson asked who in terms of their 6-7% staff turnover was being lost from the unit.

Adv McCarthy replied that since this was as a result of a culmination of a series of events it could be boldly stated that 60% of this turnover was mostly from junior levels, who had left the unit in search of greener pastures, amongst other reasons. However there had been some egal and other specialists who had left and they were still in the process of replacing them. He noted that they could provide the Committee with a breakdown.

The Chair said that the information would be useful in assisting the Committee in understanding the problems of the unit more clearly and where to capacitate it to ensure its effectiveness.

Mr B Magwanishe (ANC) asked the DSO to provided the Committee with national and provincial statistics of people with disabilities employed by the unit.

Adv McCarthy said that if Members take into account the nature of the DSO’s work, they would realise the reason that there are few disabled employees within the unit. However the NPA was in the process of reviewing its equity plan to ensure wider representativity of the population, especially the disabled community.

The Chair asked what special kinds of mechanisms had been developed in order to beef up DSO risk management.

Adv McCarthy replied that their focus was to develop three pertinent areas which were asset management, risk management and project costing. An integrity management unit had been set up within the DSO and NPA to deal specifically with risk and integrity management issues. 92% of their personnel had been vetted and the remaining 8% were largely administrative staff. Their policy framework on risk and integrity management had been beefed up to ensure that everyone knew their role within the unit. However policies alone were not sufficient and as the result they were in the process of seriously considering their counter-surveillance system to ensure that it was fully capacitated and protective.

Mr N Maloyi (ANC) asked what kind of relationship did the DSO have with the SAPS, especially in so far as sharing of information and resources were concerned.

Adv McCarthy replied that it should be noted that both the DSO and the SAPS are law enforcement agencies. Thus the DSO was established specifically to supplement the police in their duties and hence therefore the necessity that both agencies should and they do indeed co-operate at all levels.

Imam Solomon (ANC) asked who DSO’s partners as noted in its strategic objectives.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions replied that the DSO work with all the country’s intelligence agencies, although at times there had been tensions amongst them "due to the nature of the DSO and the manner in which it was perceived by the general public".

Mr Magwanishe (ANC) asked if there were any relationships between the DSO and other African States, especially those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Adv McCarthy replied that indeed DSO interrelate with other African States and over the last two years they had hosted over nine African delegations on various issues, ranging from crime intelligence to prosecution matters.

Ms Camerer (DA) asked if the top 100 syndicates that were targeted by the DSO in 2004/05 also included the top 200 criminals that were mentioned by the President in his State of the Nation Address.

Adv McCarthy replied that indeed a person may be on both list since at times some of these top 100 syndicates may also be part of the top 200 criminals mentioned by the President in his State of the Nation Address.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked who had referred the travel fraud investigation to the DSO.

Adv McCarthy replied that the travel fraud investigation was referred to them by the Secretary of Parliament.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked why the DSO would invite national and international television crews when effecting an arrest. What value did that bring to the prosecution process?

Adv McCarthy replied that few people within the DSO had the authority to communicate directly with the media. Media had proven on a number of occasions that it was able to find out about a matter while still under investigation, especially in joint operation matters. It had been difficult to get them to identify their informers as most would claim privilege. There were other cases, due to their nature, which required publicity and in those instances media would be invited to be present when an arrest was being effected.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked if everyone employed by DSO underwent security screening investigation.

Adv McCarthy replied that more than 92% of their employees were vetted however they accepted that no system is infallible.

Mr L Landers (ANC) asked why only 92% of the staff had been vetted, what about the remaining 8%?

Adv McCarthy replied that most of their personnel underwent vetting. However in terms of the law it was not compulsory for every member of the DSO to undergo vetting. He said that if Members believed this was critical, the Committee could amend the law.

Mr L Joubert (IFP) asked Adv McCarthy to explain their recruitment formula.

Adv McCarthy replied that most of their staff came from the Department of Justice and SAPS, although they had also recruited others from the private sector and other public sectors, such as academic institutions and government departments.

Mr Magwanishe (ANC) asked whether it was normal DSO practice to rehire a person, who had left its service during an operation, as a consultant.

Adv McCarthy replied that this was not normal practice, however at times the interests of justice did require that people who had been working on a particular operation be rehired in order to ensure the disposal of that matter.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions added that the whole process was about balancing the costs against the intended benefits. Therefore it appears necessary in the interests of justice to rehire a person in order to finalise a matter that s/he was handling, then such would be done if it would be more cost effective other than starting a case afresh.

Mr Joubert (IFP) asked whether were they planning to increase their conviction rate target from 80% since they seem to have achieved more than that.

Adv McCarthy said that a conviction rate was not a true reflection of the events, as there could be 100% conviction rate but on petty issues. They operate in terms of certain criteria laid down by law. Based on that all those matters which did not fall within the DSO mandate, are required by law to be referred to the relevant bodies or institutions.

Ms N Mahlawe (ANC) asked why they only concentrated on big cities without any report being given about their rural operations.

Adv McCarthy replied that while the DSO had investigated a number of corruption crimes throughout the country, most of its work revolved around criminal matters. They would provide the Committee with a detail report explaining their operations in each province.

Presentation by the Directorate of Special Operations
Mr B Graham (CFO) noted that the budget of the DSO represented approximately 14% of the overall budget of the NPA and as reflected in the Estimates of the National Expenditure (ENE). It excluded all contributions to office accommodation, administrative human resources and other related corporate services. Thus, the DSO simply had an operation budget. The unit's very small overspend would be catered for by means of other units' savings within the NPA. A detailed budget of the DSO would part of the full budget presentation of the NPA (see presentation).

The Chairperson asked what was meant by saying that the budget was an operation budget excluding human resource services.

Mr Graham said that while the budget included all the operations of the compensations of the employees, however it excluded all administrative-related costs since their inclusion would have increased the unit's budget by almost R36 million.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions noted that the Committee would definitely get a fuller picture of the DSO budget when the NPA made its general budget presentation on the following day.

The Chairperson thanked the NDPP and his team for the presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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