Discussion of Budget

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Meeting report

CORRECTIONAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
17 February 1999
DISCUSSION OF BUDGET

Documents handed out:
Department of Correctional Services: Budget Allocation, 1999/2000 Financial Year

MINUTES
The Chairperson, Ms. L. Hani (ANC), called the meeting to order and introduced the Chief Director of Financial Services from the Department of Correctional Services.

The Chief Director introduced the other members of his team: the Deputy Director for Budget Planning, the Director of Finance, and the Departmental Accountant. He then began his slide presentation by showing the breakout of costs per inmate per day. He directed the Committee to find the slide in Annexure E of the handout they had received. He then discussed in detail the various cost components.

The Chief Director noted that the budget provided for 144 000 inmates this year, at a cost of R80.82 per inmate per day. Last year’s provision was for 156 000 inmates, at R73 per inmate per day. The main factor in the reduction of numbers from 156 000 to 144 000 was the amnesty announced last year.

For Probationers and Parolees, the budget provides for 73 000 at R9.54 per inmate per day, compared to last year’s figures of 65 000 at R7.99 per inmate per day. The increase in number and cost for probationers and parolees is largely due to the system of electronic monitoring they will be implementing.

This adds up to a total number of offenders in the system of 217 000 for the coming year, compared with 221 000 for the previous year. They foresee fewer inmates in the system because of three reasons: firstly because of last year’s amnesty, secondly because the effectiveness of the national crime prevention strategy will result in a reduction in crime, and thirdly because improvements in the justice system will result in shorter delays before trial.

The Chief Director then broke out the inmate cost of R80.82 per day into its various components, and compared the current allocations to last year’s allocations. [All figures given in terms of rands per inmate per day.]

CATEGORY

CURRENT ALLOCATION

PREVIOUS ALLOCATION

Personal care

R1.42

R1.34

Prison services, boards, and council

R5.85

R2.23

Nutrition

R5.43

R5.11

Gratuities & privileges

R0.18

R0.16

Medical care

R3.53

R3.22

Safe detention

R40.28

R40.02

Employment skills development

R5.40

R4.12

Personal development

R2.36

R2.12

Human resources

R5.12

R4.36

IT, communications, legal services, administration, and support

R3.89

R3.13

Management services

R5.12

R5.19

Minister and top management

R2.24

R2.01



The Chief Director then broke out the cost of Probationers and Parolees into its component costs, and compared the current allocations to last year’s allocations.

CATEGORY

CURRENT ALLOCATION

PREVIOUS ALLOCATION

Resettlement

R0.68

R0.90

Correctional programmes

R0.32

R0.41

Supervision

R8.54

R6.68


The decrease in the Resettlement and Correctional programmes categories is due to the fact that both components are primarily fixed costs, so as the number of probationers and parolees increases, the costs per person of those services goes down. The increase in Supervision costs is due primarily to investments in electronic monitoring.

The Chair asked if there were any questions for the Chief Director.

Mr. L. Chiba (ANC) asked to what extent the Department will be Y2K compliant, and what the implementation and testing schedule is.

The Chief Director answered that Y2K compliance is growing, and a comprehensive project plan exists. Their target is to finalise implementation by March and then spend the rest of the year checking their systems. The cost of achieving Y2K compliance can be seen in the line item for IT (which increases from R3.13 to R3.89), as they need software and hardware upgrades.

Mr. Chiba (ANC) said he is a little concerned that testing will begin on 1 April. What if systems corrections turn out to be flawed, or there is some other disaster – does the Department have a disaster contingency plan?

The Chief Director answered that he expressed himself incorrectly – March is their deadline for finalising programmes and for testing them. They will then spend the rest of the year double-checking and working with the new systems.

Mr. Chiba (ANC) asked about a line item in the inmate cost, called Management services, which decreases to R5.12 from R5.19. This would seem to indicate that management costs are going down, but there’s another category called ‘Minister and top management,’ which increases to R2.24 from R2.01. So in total, combined management costs are increasing. Mr. Chiba asked if this is a deliberate attempt to camouflage the true costs of management.

The Chief Director answered that there is not a deliberate attempt to camouflage the increase. The rise in costs for the top management category is primarily due to the new position of Inspecting Judge. They also broke the categories out in order to be better able to track the costs of the top Ministry officials as distinct from the so-called middle management in Correctional Services.

Mr. Chiba (ANC) asked what explains the increased cost in the ‘Prison services, boards, and council’ category, which rises significantly to R5.85 from R2.23. On an annual basis, that comes out to over R190 million.

The Chief Director responded that it is true that there is a considerable increase. Most of it is explained by the increase in size of the parole board from 150 people to 299 people, almost doubling its size. The Department thinks the cost increase is justifiable, given that the system now allows for public and community presence on the parole boards, which has never happened before. As the increase represents the cost of transparency, they think it is justifiable.

Mr. Botha (FF) asked whether the figures presented include capital costs.

The Chief Director answered that capital costs, in terms of the construction of prisons, are not included in their budget. They do budget for capital costs in terms of grounds maintenance, but the Department of Public Works covers construction.

Mr. Botha (FF) asked whether construction costs would not be more appropriately included in the budget for Correctional Services. He also asked if they were included, what would the figures be per inmate?

The Chief Director said there is a debate on that issue right now, and that next year there is a good chance that Correctional Services will budget and be responsible for construction. If the figures were included they would come to R8.75 per inmate per day, or about 10% of the cost.

Mr. Botha (FF) said it seems misleading not to include capital costs in the cost per prisoner figures, and he asked if there were any other costs that should be included but that haven’t been.

The Chief Director said there were not. On the issue of including the cost of capital, he agrees that it is a bit of a distortion of the true cost of the prison system for capital costs not to be included with their numbers. On the other hand, many other countries do split out between operational costs and capital costs, so South Africa is not on their own in this regard.

Ms Malumise (ANC) asked for clarity on the employment scheme, specifically in terms of how many people benefited. She also asked about hygiene, because the prisons she had visited last year had terrible hygiene problems.

The Chief Director answered that he would have to respond in writing to the question of employment, as he did not have the numbers with him. On the issue of hygiene he agreed that there is a significant problem. It does not cost a lot of money to clean with soap and water, so there is no excuse for any odours. But in terms of maintenance issues, those lie with the Department of Public Works, and they have a very hard time maintaining the prisons because of their budget. That is the main issue for problems like the failure of sewerage systems. Correctional Services is hoping to take over that function, because it is a serious problem.

An MP (ANC) asked about resettlement, and specifically about how the R0.68 was spent.

The Chief Director answered that before an inmate can be released he is put on a release programme. The resettlement work involves that process, including going out and determining whether the address for the inmate can be monitored. This is required to make sure prisoners are complying with the conditions of their release. Right now they have 12 000 prisoners eligible for release but who have no address; they therefore can not be released because there would be no way to monitor them

The Chair said she is concerned about the comment on ‘monitorable addresses.’ Does this mean people with no address, who would primarily be poor, are being penalised because they do not have an address?

The Chief Director said that unfortunately, that is the case. He believes it is a problem, but without a monitorable address, these prisoners can not be released.

Mrs. Malumise (ANC) asked what kinds of prisoners he was referring to – people who have completed their sentences?

The Chief Director replied that he was specifically referring to the release policy, which says a first-time offender can be considered for parole after completing one-half of his sentence. So the circumstances specifically arise in cases of conditional release, with the condition that these parolees can be monitored. If they do not have an address at which monitoring is possible, they can not be released early. Under no circumstances would this be a hold-up if someone has completed their sentence. If their time is up, they are released unconditionally.

Mrs. Sosibo (ANC) said there are many poor people living in informal settlements, with no formal address. Are those people considered to have a ‘monitorable address’?

The Chief Director answered that a ‘monitorable address’ is an address, however informal, where they can regularly ascertain if someone is keeping to the terms of their parole. It does not have to be a postal address or a formal address. It can be "the fifth shack on the right, around the corner from the vacant lot."

Mr. Fihla (ANC) asked whether detainees are interrogated during their detention.

The Chief Director answered that interrogation is the role of the police, not the Correctional Services staff.

Mr. Fihla asked how the allocation for ‘Safe detention,’ which comes to R40.28 per inmate, is spent.

The Chief Director answered that it is mainly personnel costs, in terms of taking custody, handling prisoners, and preventing escape.

An MP asked for a description of the ‘Correctional programmes’ and ‘Supervision’ components of the Probationers and Parolees cost.

The Chief Director answered that if someone has a problem with alcohol abuse, for example, the Department runs programmes, included in ‘Correctional programmes’, that parolees must attend on a weekly or bi-weekly or monthly basis. Supervision is the monitoring that takes place, where people go to an address or a workplace to make sure that the parolee is there.

The Chair said that although there were other questions, they had to move on with the Department’s presentation.

The Deputy Director for Budget Planning referred to a chart entitled "Daily Average Offender Population," in Annexure E of the document handed out. He explained that the top line represents growth in prisoners expected if electronic monitoring is not implemented. The next line represents the number of prisoners expected if they implement electronic monitoring. The chart shows that with electronic monitoring, the number of Probationers and Parolees will exceed the number of Inmates by 2004/2005, resulting in significant decrease in cost for the Department.

An MP asked why the chart shows that the number of inmates will be reduced, but the problem of overpopulation still won’t be addressed.

The Deputy Director answered that the prison population is still growing; their figures just show that it will grow more slowly with electronic monitoring. But even with slower growth, overpopulation will be a problem, because the prisons are overpopulated at their current numbers.

Mr. Chiba (ANC) asked about the scientific basis for the numbers on the chart. The chart shows that the prison population will increase by exactly 16 000 every year, which doesn’t seem very scientific.

The Deputy Director agreed that the figures were not overly scientific. They looked at growth in prison populations over the past several years and took an average.

Mr. Chiba said he is not satisfied with that answer. The methodology needs to be much more precise than that, because those assumptions were the foundation for other numbers and ultimately for policy decisions.

An MP said that a sceptic might think the numbers were made up in order to justify the budget figures they wanted, and asked the Deputy Director to confirm that that was not the case.

The Deputy Director confirmed that that was not the case.

The Chair ended discussion on this issue and asked that the presentation continue.

The Departmental Accountant presented four slides from Annexure B of the handout. The first slide summarised the aims of the Department of Correctional Services, which are to contribute to protecting the society, enforcing sentences of the courts, ensuring human dignity through safe custody, and focusing on human development through community corrections.

The second slide indicated the four main programmes that support the aims of the Department, which are: Administration, Incarceration, Development of Offenders, and Community corrections.

The third slide compared the budget amount allocated for 1998/1999 to the amount voted for 1999/2000. The numbers for 1999/2000 are R4,5 billion, as compared to R4,35 billion the year previously. The R157 million difference represents an increase of 3.6%.

The fourth slide breaks out the R157 million increase into its component categories. The Departmental Accountant advised the Committee to read through the slide, as well as the back-up documents included in the handout, for an understanding of the difference.

Mr. Chiba (ANC) said he had a serious problem with the mathematics in the presentation. From the first slide that the Chief Director presented, showing an increase in ‘Prison services’ costs from R2.23 to R5.85 per inmate per day, they had agreed that that would represent an increase of over R190 million in that category alone. But here the Departmental Accountant was saying the overall increase was only R157 million. What explains this discrepancy?

The Departmental Accountant answered that the detail was included in the document, and included reductions in the budget in various categories, including things like reduced pension fund contributions. The reductions would explain the discrepancy that Mr. Chiba was concerned about.

The Chair said that the Committee would need some time to look over the document and to continue reviewing the numbers, and that they should reconvene next week. Members of the Committee and the Department would be informed of the time for the next meeting. The meeting was adjourned.

 

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