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Justice and Correctional Services

21 February 1999
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Meeting report

JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

JUSTICE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 February 1999
BUDGET HEARINGS

Documents handed out:
Deputy Minister's briefing to the Justice Portfolio Committee
Department of Justice Legislative Programme for 1999
Position of Acts as of 17-02-99 (progress of implementation on Acts passed since 1996)
Statues Administered by the Department of Justice (catalogue of Bills passed since 1994)
Review of South African Law Commission

AFTERNOON SESSION

SUMMARY

The Department of Justice presented to the Committee an overview of their budget allocation for 1999/2000. The Department of Justice also described their major activities of the past year and their priorities for the coming year. Committee members asked questions regarding specific budget or departmental issues.

MINUTES
The Chair, Mr. de Lange (ANC) opened the meeting and welcomed members of the Department of Justice. He asked Mr. Pikoli, acting Director-General, to give an introduction, and requested that the Deputy Directors-General be brief in their presentations.

Mr. Pikoli thanked Mr. de Lange and Mr. Moosa for their support and hard work. He said the Department of Justice had accomplished a lot since 1994, and the purpose of their presentation was to report on how they have used the resources they have been allocated. Members of his staff would go through their mandates in more specific detail, but first, Mr. Ebrahim (Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services) would go through the overall budget.

Mr. Ebrahim outlined the function of Corporate Services in the Department as dealing with infrastructural capacity, prioritisation of resources, allocation of resources, and financial administration. Within administration, he is responsible for the following components:
Y2K: they are on track to have Y2K issues attended to by the end of March.
Deposit Account System: they are making dynamic moves forward in bail and maintenance administration, which will enable them to make disbursements very easily. They are working on developing a direct interface with banks, so women receiving maintenance payments can have them directly transferred into a bank account, instead of having to queue in the courts for payment.
Videoconferencing: this technology is being pursued for both management and video arraignment purposes.
Automation of Prosecutions – all Attorney General offices have had computer systems installed.
Management of Courts – they are working to install computer systems in all courts to facilitate communication and automation of certain tasks.
Community Safety Centres – they have chosen four sites for the development of a "government village" in rural areas, which will provide one-stop shopping in terms of government service delivery.
Provisioning Administration System – there has been some concern around the administration of the provisioning system, so they’re trying to address those problems.
Transcription Services – the current transcription process is expensive, outdated, and full of delays. They’ve run a pilot programme using new technology, and pending its success they will begin to roll it out system-wide.
Voice Recognition – they are currently testing voice recognition systems, and exploring possible implementations.
RDP – they have serviced more than 290 offices with RDP funds, providing basic equipment in places that lacked it.

Mr. Henry Isaacs, Director of the Budget in the Department of Justice, then presented the budget numbers. Overall figures for 1998/99 show that the original allocation (R ‘000) was 2 117 947, which was increased by 197 621 to 2 315 568. As of 31 January 1999, 1 837 366 had been spent. Mr. Isaacs then went through the budget for each individual programme, showing the original allocation for 1998/99, the adjusted value, the amount spent as of 31 January 1999, and the variance between the amount spent to date and the amount allocated. The categories are:
Administration
Administration of Justice: which contains most of the personnel costs
Administration of Law: contains costs for legislation, South African Law Commission, State Law Advisory Service, and other.
Public Protector
Legal Aid
Auxiliary and Associated services: includes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, and the 9 regional offices.
Judges salaries.

Mr Isaacs then analysed the budget in terms of standard items, giving the same information for each category: the original allocation for 1998/99, the adjusted value, the amount spent as of 31 January 1999, and the variance between the amount spent to date and the amount allocated. The standard items are
Personnel Expenditure
Administrative Expenditure
Stores and Livestock
Equipment: includes furniture, computers, and other equipment to help facilitate automation and office work.
Professional and Special Services
Transfer Payments: usually accounts for around 25% of the budget, although it has nothing to do with operations.
Miscellaneous Expense: includes witness fees, witness protection costs, and other items.

Mr Pat Nkambule, Chief Director for Financial Administration (Departmental Accountant), then said he would deal with the allocation for the coming years. The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) allocations were outlined as follows:

Year

Allocation (R ‘000)

1998/99

2 117 947

1999/2000

2 351 234

2000/01

2 607 497

2001/02

2 726 082


The Chair interrupted to ask if these figures included capital works.

Mr Nkambule answered that the numbers exclude capital works, because Public Works deals with capital construction and improvement. If they were included, they would increase the budget allocation by R193-million.

An MP (ANC) said the numbers were not helping her at all, as they were too general to give her any insight into what was going on. She asked Mr Nkambule to explain the point of what he was showing.

The Chair said they needed an overall view at first, to lay the foundation for the Department’s budget, as it would take too long to go into all the detail. Once the Department had given the general perspective, MPs could then ask questions on areas where they were interested in more detail.

Mr Nkambule continued with a comparative analysis of the change in budget allocation by programme. The figures are as follows:

Programme

Change in allocation (1998/99 to 1999/2000)

Administration

- 6.2%

Administration of Justice

+ 6.3%

Administration of Law

+ 12.8%

Public Protector

+ 107.0%

Legal Aid

+ 4.9%

Auxiliary and Associated Services

+ 52.9%

Judges Salaries

+ 1.8%


Mr Nkambule explained that the increase in the Public Protector allocation is due to an expansion for better services and new offices.

Mr. Ebrahim added that not all of the increase is incremental to the budget; some of it comes from other areas within the Department.

Mr Nkambule explained that the increase in Auxiliary and Associated Services is mostly due to the TRC reparations fund. In nominal terms, the total budget has increased 11% from 1998/99 to 1999/2000 (based on allocated amounts; is not based on adjusted 1998/99 figures). Comparing adjusted 1998/99 figures to allocated 1999/2000 shows an increase of 1.5% in nominal terms. Mr Nkambule then broke the budget allocation out to show the amount available for personnel and core functions.

 

(R ‘000)

Allocation

2 351 234

less judges salaries

-110 696

less transfer

-507 481

Core Functions

1 733 057

less personnel

-1 373 729

Balance for other costs

359 328



Mr Ebrahim discussed the shift in expenditure. He said they have been trying to move money from staff costs into measures that improve the efficiency of the staff. Core functions now receive 85.5% of the budget, while support receives 14.5%.


After a short recess, the Chair reconvened the meeting and said that he had spoken with Mr Ebrahim during the recess, and they had agreed that capital costs must be put into the overall numbers, because Justice directly benefits from that fiscal allocation.

The Deputy Director-General for Human Resources gave a brief presentation to update the Committee, and outlined several key programmes implemented or pursued in the past year. The Department has compiled a training manual for all regional offices, and has supported implementation of Human Resource programmes throughout its staff. Human Resource development includes several programmes, including the training of staff, maintenance officers, and management, as well as running intensive training programmes like Justice College. Another focus of the past year has been the Personnel Budget Review Task Team.

The Chair thanked the Department for their presentations. He said the Committee must consider today as a background and education day, and then once they have all the documents and can look over them in detail, they would call the Department back for more detailed questioning. He called for questions from the MPs.

Mr Mzizi (IFP) thanked the Department for their presentation. The first regarded security in courts, which he considered to be very poor. He asked about plans for improving security. His second question was why there was a budget heading for ‘Livestock.’

Ms Ngwane (ANC) said that the variance figures seemed odd, as they showed some categories having spent only 60% of their allocated amount. She asked if all that money is really unspent, and how much of it will still be unspent by 31 March. She also asked if any of it represented rollovers from the previous year. Her other major concerns are computerisation of the courts, and training. She asked how far along computerisation is, and when it will be completed. She also asked what the training costs cover, in terms of skills that workers are trained in.

The Chair asked if software systems being implemented are all able to communicate to one another and to systems in other Departments.

An MP raised a concern about the electronic transfer of maintenance funds directly into women’s bank accounts, given the high rate of ATM card theft. He asked what plans were being made to address this factor.

Mr Hofmeyr (ANC) asked about underspending in the 1998/99 allocation – the figures presented show about 40% underspending in Administration and in Public Protector. Another major concern was that the numbers presented did not line up with the numbers published in the budget; for example, the presentation says Administration of Law is allocated R151-million, while in the budget it says R129-million. He asked a separate question about the number of Public Prosecutors who have been leaving their jobs, which he takes to be a big problem – he asked the Department to provide figures showing rate of attrition since 1994. Finally, the Annual Report shows that few of the vacancies in the Office of Serious Economic Offences have been filled; why not?

An MP asked about the impact of the establishment of Superior Courts on the budget.

The Chair said that the previous question was very important to him, and to the committee, because if they "kill themselves" to pass the Superior Courts Bill this session, its implementation better be allocated for in the budget.

Mr Nel (ANC) asked to what extent are the financial implications of pending legislation accounted for in the budget.

The Chair asked a number of questions:
Are there any programmes the Department would like to budget for, but cannot due to lack of funds?
Is the National Prosecuting Authority fully funded?
What efforts are being made to improve quality of security services?
What is the status of the Family Courts system?
How much donor funding does the Department receive, who does it come from, and what is it spent on?
Does this budget include any new programmes?
Does the Auditor-General’s report indicate any problems with finances in the Department?
How is the Department encouraging bright people through its "Excellence Programme"?
What is the status of the President’s Fund, and how much is available for reparations?

Mr Hofmeyr (ANC) asked how much donor funding has been spent each year since 1994.

The Chair then asked the Department representatives to respond to each question, and where they were unable to respond right away, to indicate that they would provide a written reply.

Mr. Ebrahim addressed the question of the Auditor-General’s report, saying it causes some concern within the Department, specifically with regard to financial administration within the Department. The Auditor-General is also concerned about financial administration within individual courts. Mr Ebrahim said the Department is not happy with the current level of performance, and will pursue changes aggressively.

On the question of training, Mr Ebrahim said the Department is looking for an outside partner to conduct a comprehensive audit, in order to find out what training capabilities are lacking.

On this issue of ATM theft and maintenance payment distribution, Mr Ebrahim said the programme they have for linking their systems with banks does not necessarily have anything to do with ATM transactions. The focus is on improving the quality of service, and linking directly to women’s bank accounts will do that.

On the question of security in courts, Mr Ebrahim answered that this is a problem. One constraint is that the buildings are owned by Public Works, not by Justice, so it is very difficult for them to arrange for installation of security equipment. He is not trying to shift the blame to Public Works, but rather just to explain some of the constraints they face. They are trying to improve security where they can, using metal detectors, closed-circuit television, and other methods.

Regarding security personnel, Mr Ebrahim said the Department is considering outsourcing all security functions, as th9ey are not a security firm. Outsourcing could probably save a significant amount of money and improve quality at the same time.

On the question of livestock, Mr Ebrahim answered that the Department does not own any livestock, but regulations of the Finance Department require them to report their finances under standard categories. This allows for accurate comparisons to be made across Departments.

On the issue of having money left over from the budget allocations, Mr Ebrahim said he would let Mr Nkambule give more detail. In general, they have given small amounts back in the past, but last year they went a little over budget. This year they expect to be very close to break-even, and expect to give none back. Regarding rollover money, there was none last year (1997/98), and they expect there to be none once the final numbers are in on 1998/99.

Regarding automation of the court system, Mr Ebrahim said that within three months the basic electronic infrastructure will exist in most courts.

On the question of software integration within the Department, Mr Ebrahim answered that they have a user board of members from the Department of Justice, the Department of Correctional Services, and the Department of Safety an Security, which takes joint decisions regarding software and hardware implementation. This user board is tasked with ensuring that any software or hardware system implemented allows for easy flow of information between the Departments.

Regarding the Committee’s concern about Bills being passed with no financing, he answered that there is no money in the budget for the Superior Courts Bill right now. He said that while he understands the frustration of the Committee, to expend energy passing Bills that then lack the money to be implemented right away, it is also important to understand the constraints of the process. When legislation goes to the cabinet, the cabinet memorandum includes financial implications of the proposed legislation; but this information is included simply so that the cabinet knows what the implications are, not so that they can budget for it. Budgeting of programmes for Departments works on an 18-month cycle, which means that any legislation passed theoretically would not be able to be funded until at least the next fiscal year. The only way to provide for the short-term implementation of new legislation would be to reallocate funds within the existing budget.

On the issue of what programmes the Department would like to implement, but lack the funds for, Mr Ebrahim said he is glad the Chair asked. He has a list of priorities that he can identify to the Committee:
Bolstering the Magistrate Court clusters.
Co-sourcing agreements for training in service delivery.
Communication services.
Automation of the guardian’s fund.
Outreach programmes in the regional offices.
Purchasing office equipment that is currently in short supply.
Developing management information systems, particularly for personnel management.
Placing advertisements for public exercises.
The total amount required to implement all proposed programmes would be around R35-million, and they’ve tried to cut each of them down to the bare bones.

The Chair said that the prioritisation was useful, and would help the Committee in deciding how much more funding to ask for.

Mr Ebrahim said that the Department could follow-up on several of the questions asked. On the issue of Family Courts, they have a budget for that and can provide the implementation plan. On the question of donor funding, they can show how much they have received each year since 1994, and what it has been allocated towards.

The Chair said that the Department should move on to the other inputs, and asked that presenters be very brief as they were short on time.

Mr P Smit of the South African Law Commission handed out four documents and briefly described them:
The first document, Review of South African Law Commission, is an overview of work the SALC did in 1998, with an outline of its priorities for 1999.
The second document, Department of Justice Legislative Programme for 1999, deals with the legislative programme for 1999. There are 29 Bills on the docket for this year, and five have already been introduced. There are three Bills that must be enacted this year, because of Constitutional requirements: the Open Democracy Bill, the Equality Legislation, and the Review of Powers of Courts Bill.
The third document, Position of Acts as of 17-02-99, deals with the status of Bills passed by Parliament since 1996, and where they are in the implementation process. All Bills passed in 1994 and 1995 have been implemented.
The fourth document, Statues Administered by the Department of Justice, catalogues legislation passed by the Department since 1994.

The Chair said that the documentation provided was very helpful, and expressed the Committee’s appreciation for his presentation.

Mr Daniels, from the State Law Advisers, gave a brief description of the Law Advisers’ role. He said they provide broad legal advisory services to the Department. They are working very hard to improve representivity; they have been working on racial imbalances, but there still exists a huge gender imbalance. He spoke briefly of their role in the legislative drafting process, and said they are also extending services to Provincial and municipal levels. In 1998 they worked on 164 pieces of legislation for the national government, and also provided legislative assistance to the governments of Namibia and Botswana.

The Chair thanked Mr Daniels for his overview. He said that Committee members should go over the numbers in the budget in detail, and when they had the perspective to ask more detailed questions they could reconvene for a meeting with the Department sometime closer to 18 March.

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