Justice budget, the National Crime Prevention Strategy, and personnel issues: briefing by Department of Justice

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Justice and Correctional Services

21 April 1998
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JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 April 1998
JUSTICE BUDGET, THE NATIONAL CRIME PREVENTION STRATEGY, AND PERSONNEL ISSUES: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

The Justice Budget
The committee members continued their questioning with regards to the Justice Budget.
The chairperson asked whether provision had been made in the budget for the National Prosecuting Authority. A representative of the Justice Department, Mr. Ebrahim, indicated that the budget would be re-prioritised to make provision for this. Application for the requisite funds is only possible after parliament has passed this legislation.

Ms. D.P. Jana (ANC) asked whether the budget provided for any victim service programmes, especially those aimed at women and children. The Department acknowledged such programmes for victims of sexual offences and other violence. The Gender Desk also deals with issues relating to violence against women and children. Ms. S.M. Camerer (NP) noted that as neither the general public nor the police are aware of such programmes, the operations of the Department should be made known.

Mr. W.A. Hofmeyr (ANC) asked for more information about the extra posts approved by Cabinet for the Justice Department. Advocate Noeth responded that 332 new posts have been created to beef up the prosecutorial services this year. In total, 900 posts will be created and filled within a period of three years. Mr. Hofmeyr inquired why there had been no allocation of extra staff at the Witwatersrand Attorney General’s office in view of the fact that it is over-burdened. Advocate Noeth explained that this office is losing skilled staff so regularly that there is a constant problem with filling vacant posts. Notwithstanding, temporary employees have been placed in the Witwatersrand office in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

Another Justice Department employee, Mr. Grobbelaar, indicated that 4 500 new posts were needed over the next three years: 2 000 security guard posts (for protection in the courts) and 2 500 legal profession posts. Privatisation of the security guard posts was being investigated as a cost-effective option. The amount necessary to fund these positions is R350 million per year. The department has already received R45 million for the 332 posts created this year.

Ms. L.B. Ngwane (ANC) inquired whether the Department had begun to establish pre-trial services. Mr. Ebrahim responded that it has started these services in Mitchell’s Plain and in Johannesburg, and services are soon to begin in Durban and Port Elizabeth.

The National Crime Prevention Strategy
Mr. Heins reviewed the NCPS and crime-related matters.

A report regarding the Automated Fingerprinting Information System project will be given on 6 May.

A document was handed out that gave a breakdown of prosecutions and convictions from 1991-1996. Ms. Camerer (NP) asked that the number of arrests also be provided. A drop in the number of prosecutions was noted by the Chairperson. Adv Noeth responded that reasons for this could be because the police now concentrate on following up serious crime only and the court roll is filled with cases that have to be remanded because case dockets are incomplete. There should be joint training for police officials and prosecutors regarding this.

Personnel Issues
Mr. Grobbelaar mentioned that there are 14 000 posts within the Department and so vacant posts is a recurring problem. He gave the example of 75 professionals resigning in January this year. The appointment of magistrates is a time-consuming process which involves a thorough screening of the candidate, followed by training. The prosecutor training project has taken 50 acting prosecutors to train for a period of three months; this will be followed by a further 50 acting prosecutors and for the last six months of this year outside candidates will be trained.

Regional Offices
The Department in its transformation plans adopted the policy of the decentralisation of the administration with the creation of Regional Offices. The bulk of administrative work will be performed in the Regional Offices. The role of the national office becomes policy oriented and the Regional Offices serves as execution agencies of the programmes/projects of the national office. However this is a progressive process dependant on the development of the necessary capacity. The Regional Offices

The Department has in the course of establishing Regional Office consulted with all Premiers of the Provinces. The Regional Office has been established in all the provincial capitals and became operational on the following dates:
· Eastern Cape Regional Office 1 September 1997
· North West Regional Office 1 September 1997
· Gauteng Regional Office 1 September 1997
· Western Cape Regional Office 1 October 1997
· Northern Province Regional Office 1 October 1997
· Free State Regional Office 1 October 1997
· KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office 1 October 1997
· Mpumalanga Regional Office 1 October 1997
· Northern Cape Regional Office 1 November 1997

Five of the Regional Offices have been officially opened and the remaining ones would be done during the course of this year.

The Regional Offices had been introduced to the Provincial Departments and the communities within their spheres of operation. They had began to establish working relationships with the relevant State Departments, NGOs and CBOs.

The staffing process of the Regional Offices had been completed with the exception of the Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng and Northern Cape Regional Offices. Due to budgetary constraints, it had not been possible to provide for the full establishment of the afore-mentioned Regional Offices. However, once the rationalisation of sub-offices was completed it would be possible to increase the staffing level to some Regional Offices.

Capacity building training programmes, both theoretical and functional, are being conducted in the Regional Offices. The training components at the Regional Offices have been established.

The next meeting will be held on the 4th of May, 1998.

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