Human Resources, Constructing New Generation Prisons and Parole Boards: Department briefings

Correctional Services

21 June 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

21 June 2005


Mr D Bloem (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Department briefing: Correctional supervision and parole boards implementation
Department briefing: Development of new generation prisons
Department briefing: Human resources provision plan
Department briefing: Human resources development plan

The Department briefed the Committee on the new parole boards, building new generation prisons, and an update on human resources issues.

The correctional supervision and parole boards report focused on increased community involvement. The parole boards were being changed from internal units to more transparent parole boards that were separate from the Department but not fully independent. Much of their work had been hampered by financial constraints and difficulties in communicating with communities. The report emphasised the rights of victims to attend parole hearings. It also explained the logistical nightmare involved, like locating the victim and at the same time protecting their confidentiality. The report explained community involvement and the difficulties experienced in appointing community members to parole boards.

Members enquired about who would foot community travelling costs because some prisoners had been moved far away from the area were they had committed crimes. Concerns were raised over how the Department planned to inform communities and victims about their roles in the parole process. The Committee proposed ‘head-hunting’ for suitable community members in areas where suitable board members were not found.

The Committee was then briefed on progress that made in building ‘new generation’ correctional facilities. The presentation gave an overview of the functions and layout of these new facilities. The Department gave explanations for delays in the building process and highlighted some problems experienced with tenders.

The Committee raised concerns over how the tendering process had been handled. They wanted to know if inmates would be used as labourers. They raised concerns over Black Empowerment stakes and the use of local labour in the building process. The Committee requested to be part of the decision making process when sites for new prisons were selected.

The Committee was then briefed on the Department’s human resources provisioning plan. They said that overtime was driving costs too high. They had tried to address demoralisation of staff through the Career Path Programme. They touched on the issue of the credibility of the Department as an employer.

Members raised concerns over the effects that overcrowding had on staff. The Committee wanted to know about the gender quota of the Department. The issue of the vetting of staff was also raised. Concerns were further raised over the outsourcing of staff recruitment.


Parole boards briefing
Ms S Moodley, Department Deputy Commissioner: Parole, explained how parole boards were being transformed to be more transparent. The Department White Paper obliged them to involve the community.

The original plan was to recruit a Chairperson and a Vice-Chairperson from the local community. However, due to financial constraints, this was not possible. Department officials had been appointed as interim Vice-Chairpersons. Those posts would be filled as soon as funds were allocated.

According to the White Paper, complainants could sit in on parole hearings. No records were kept of victims in criminal cases, as offenders could possibly use this information to further harm victims. This posed an obvious obstacle in informing the victims of parole hearings.

It was their directive to inform community members of their rights to nominate individuals for parole boards.

Mr J Selfe (DA) asked how they ensured the independence of the parole boards from the case investigators. Ms Moodley clarified the processes involved. The case investigators were only assigned to inmates with a sentence longer than twelve months, and would visit the inmates twice during their sentences. The case investigators would send their reports to the parole board. They only gave recommendations and the final decision remained with the parole board. The main problem was selecting suitable community members to serve on the parole boards.

Mr Selfe wanted to know how they planned to inform community members of parole hearings. Ms Moodley answered that they have looked at a range of communication possibilities. They had considered using conventional media like pamphlets and advertisements in newspapers.

The Chairperson needed clarity on the rules and regulations that governed the appointments of Department staff to parole boards. What rank did they need to be for consideration? He was concerned that junior staffmembers could be more easily corrupted. Ms Moodley replied that staffmembers were appointed by the Director-General. They had not set a specific rank level, but she promised to look into this issue.

The Chairperson asked who covered the victim’s travelling costs, as some prisoners have been moved far away from were they committed their crimes. Ms Moodley replied that payment would incur a huge cost on government, so victims would have to cover their own travelling expenses. They would try to find a solution.

The Chairperson asked who would incur the travelling costs of community members on parole boards. Ms Moodley said that the Department would do so. The Chairperson remarked that it was ridiculous for the Regional Office of Mpumulanga to be in Pretoria. The Department could cut costs by resolving issues like that.

The Chairperson enquired why the Department did not ‘headhunt’ community members to fast-track the procedure. Ms Moodley replied that they tried to use the fairest and most transparent way possible.

New generation’ prisons briefing
Mr P Gillingham, Department Chief Deputy Commissioner: Finance, said that the new prison design supported the White Paper objectives. He highlighted the way that the optimal capacity of prisons was determined. A prison with less than 800 inmates ran at a loss and cost taxpayers money. More than 3 000 prisoners were too difficult to manage. The prisons would be built by 2008.

The new prisons aimed to bring services to inmates, thereby limiting movement inside prisons and lessening security risks. Development was stalled at Leeukop prison because of environmental impact assessments. A breeding ground for bullfrogs had been located near the construction site, and community members had complained. In Nigel, there had been a 14-day delay because they had had blast to remove big rocks. The reason Nigel prison was cheaper to build was because there was more skilled labour in the area. In Klerksdorp, the builder was already on site when construction started. The Department had not been happy with his work so they had reopened the tender.

The Chairperson stated that the previous Minister had promised that the materials used would come from local areas. He enquired whether prisons were built by Black Economic Empowerment partners. He wanted to know what steps had been taken to advertise contracts.

Mr Gillingham replied that they used two models in the procurement process: the Public Works and the Business Incubator models. Public Works had to support the tenders. Locals from the areas around the construction sites were being used for labour and large companies were keen to employ inmates. The Department had paid for the recruitment of local people. The Chairperson commented that when companies accepted tenders, the training of local workers should feature in the contracts, and the costs should be covered by the companies. Companies should not be expected to receive tenders from government and then not support government projects.

Mr Selfe asked whether inmates would be employued in construction. Mr Gillingham replied that ex-offenders would be used. Mr Selfe wanted to know if a multi-storey design would have been cheaper. Mr Gillingham replied that due to certain design features and the foundation for multi-story buildings, it would not have been cheaper. Single storey designs were easier to add on to.

Mr Selfe asked why there were no permanent single cells. Mr Gillingham answered that they wanted to avoid a situation were prisoners would ‘use funny excuses’ to be separated from other prisoners.

Ms M Makgate (ANC) wanted to know why facilities like Ramkraal were not used for awaiting trial inmates. Mr Gillingham replied that the previous Minister declared it unfit for human habitation. She recommended that skills training would be part of new contracts. Mr Gillingham agreed with this.

The Chairperson wanted clarity on who would handle the tender process and to whom the new prisons would belong. Mr Gillingham said that it was a joint venture between Public Works and Correctional Services. All buildings were on Public Work’s asset register.

The Chairperson wanted to know who took the last decision concerning tenders. Mr Gillingham replied that it was the Department of Correctional Services. The Chairperson enquired whether Public Works contributed financially. Mr Gillingham responded in the negative, but said that Public Works helped with drawing up budgets, and provided experts like engineers, architects and accountants.

Mr C Burgess (ID) asked if the transportation of prisoners to and from trial had been taken into account. He suggested that there be court facilities inside prisons. Mr Gillingham responded that this might be possible for offenders who had not yet been sentenced. Mr Burgess added that some sentenced prisoners were tried on multiple charges, and these ones often posed a security threat. Mr Gillingham continued that such facilities were available in some prisons but were not being utilised. Ms Moodley had been on the Task Team investigating the matter. They had found it compromised security when they brought outsiders to attend trials inside prisons. The facilities were available but not being utilised by the Justice Department. The Chairperson proposed that they should communicate with the Department of Justice to sort out the problem.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee be part of the process when selecting sites for new prisons. He saw little sense in building new prisons right next to old ones.

Human resources briefing
Mr V Peterson, Department Chief Deputy Commissioner: Corporate Services, said that the Department had overspent on paying overtime for staff who worked on Saturdays. They had negotiated with prison-workers unions to accept Saturday as a normal working day. Together with the unions, they were implementing the Career Path programme to give employees a better chance at advancement. They were trying to address the credibility of the Department as an employer. If the directives of the White Paper were taken into account, they would need 63 000 staffmembers. They would fund the new posts by borrowing against the money allocated to build new prisons. All the funds were allocated at once for the new prisons, and if they did not borrow against this, they would show massive underspending for the year.

Ms L Chikunga (ANC) asked if they budgeted for overcrowding in assessing staff needs. Mr Paterson said that it was hard to budget for overcrowding because prisoner numbers fluctuated. It would be better to deal with overcrowding than to adjust the system. She wanted to know when the Career Path programme would be implemented. Mr Peterson said by June 2005.

Mr Burgess asked if there was a gender quota in the employment of new staff. Mr Peterson said that there was a 30% women quota, but this had been easier to meet at senior and middle levels.

Mr Burgess wanted to know how they avoided selecting people not suited for the prison environment. Mr Peterson said that vetting staff was a priority. Vetting had been handled by the National Security Agency in the past, but because of backlogs, they now wanted to develop their own vetting capacities.

Mr S Mohate (ANC) asked if recruiting agencies took security issues into account. Mr Paterson said that all candidates needed police clearance.

The Chairperson wanted to know the rationale behind outsourcing recruitment. Mr Paterson explained that the Department could not process applications quickly enough. For the 3 000 junior posts advertised, the agencies had received five million replies.

Mr S Moatshe (ANC) asked whether promotions were advertised internally. Mr Peterson confirmed this.

The Chairperson asked about the delay in employing teachers and nurses. Mr Peterson replied that the Department did not have funds for this in the past, but that they had saved so much on overtime pay that the filling of these positions was now possible.

Ms Chikunga asked whether Department nurses qualified for scarce skills and rural living incentives. Mr Peterson replied that nurses working in rural hospitals qualified but not all those in urban areas. The same applied for scarce skills, as only nurses who worked in operating theatres were considered to have scarce skills by the Health Department. Nurses working under difficult conditions in prisons should be seen as scarce skilled. The Health Department had been approached to expand their model and they were awaaiting a response.

After another briefing on Human Resources Development (please see attached), Members were not given the opportunity to ask questions due to time constraints before a compulsory debate in the National Assembly. The Chairperson said that this report would form part of their programme when they visited the training centres in August. Members would have a detailed discussion at that time.

The meeting was adjourned.



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