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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
31 March 2006
BUDGET VOTE HEARINGS: VOTE 22 INDEPENDENT COMPLAINTS DIRECTORATE
Documents handed out:
Independent Complaints Directorate Presentation
Independent Complaints Directorate Draft Strategic Plan 2006-2009: Part 1, 2, 3
An Investigation into Factors that Contribute to the Backlog of Cases at the Independent Complaints Directorate of South Africa
An Analysis of the Complaints Level of Satisfaction with the Independent Complaints Directorate Services
ICD Workshop on Establishing a Cordial Relationship between the Police, ICD and Civil Society: Problems and Prospects: Part 1 & 2
The Independent Complaints Directorate briefed the Committee on its achievements and challenges during 2005/06. The organisation was still plagued by capacity challenges but had managed to improve its relationship with the provinces. Members raised concerns regarding the high travel expenses incurred by officials who travelled from head office to investigate cases all across the country. They were also concerned by the roll out of satellite offices, which would reduce the need for extensive travel and would make the ICD more accessible. Due to time constraints, the presentation by the Chief Financial Officer and the Information Management and Research Unit could not be heard. They would give a presentation early in May.
Briefing by the Independent Complaints Directorate
Mr L Xinwa (ICD: Acting Executive Director) led the ICD delegation’s presentation. He briefed the Committee on certain areas of concern and improvement.
Mr Xinwa reported that Minister Nqakula (Minister of Safety and Security) had proposed that satellite offices be opened in as many of the policing districts as possible. The ICD approached National Treasury with a proposal to open 24 smaller satellite offices in the busier policing districts in the coming financial year. This would have made the ICD more accessible and would have reduced the vast amounts currently incurred in travel expenditure. It would also have ensured that investigators reached all police related crime scenes on the same day the crimes were reported. Unfortunately the medium term expenditure committee could not provide the additional R31, 6 million (63% increase in budget) that would have made this possible.
Capacity related challenges
The ICD still faced serious capacity problems, which called for a "radical shake up of the status quo". The organisation needed a staff compliment of 535 but was functioning with only 203 staff members. While the ICD appreciated what it was able to get from National Treasury, Mr Xinwa said that it was difficult to move forward as fast as was needed.
If the ICD received additional money to open satellite offices it would be able to employ more investigators in the provinces. The increase in available hands might improve service delivery. There would also be a greater presence at police stations.
The Establishment of a Proactive Oversight Unit
Mr Xinwa said that the Minister has been approached with regard to the opening up of the proactive oversight unit. It was pivotal for an oversight organisation such as the ICD to provide for studies into police misconduct.
Duplication of functions with the Secretariat for Safety and Security
Mr Xinwa was adamant that there was no room for such duplication to occur. On February 6 and 7 2006, the ICD addressed the recommendations that had emerged at the stakeholder conference. He confirmed the cordial relationship that existed between the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Secretariat for Safety and Security (the Secretariat) and civil society. The ICD and the Secretariat would continue to forge relationships to enhance the relationship and to prevent duplication.
Restructuring of the ICD
The ICD was waiting on instructions from the Minister as far as the structure of the ICD was concerned.
Overlap between the research function of the Secretariat and that of the ICD
While the Secretariat was tasked with providing oversight over the police as far as police performance was concerned, the ICD was tasked with providing oversight on matters relating to police misconduct. If the ICD did not do any research into police misconduct the area would remain void since there was no other oversight body that would conduct research in that area. He said that the ICD was strategically positioned to carry out research on police misconduct by virtue of the wealth of data generated through its investigative capacity.
Realistic measurable objectives
Mr Xinwa pointed out that at the last meeting the Committee had urged the ICD to approach the Minister with a view to allow the ICD to amend its targets in line with its capacity and resource constraints. This had been done. The amendment of the current year’s targets had been approved.
The ICD had implemented a few of the Committee’s recommendations aimed at enhancing service delivery, for example, the appointment of suitable candidates to lower level positions which were delegated to the various provincial heads. The number of vacancies would steadily decrease from twenty to only eight posts.
During July and August of 2005 the ICD put much effort into its requests for more funding to address the organisation’s capacity problems, as well as to increase the ICD ‘s accessibility. The requested increase of 60 or more personnel could not be met, and they received funding to employ only 28 more officials.
The ICD was fortunate to receive an increase of just over 31% of the budget for 2006/07. This would cover the expected increase in terms of inflation. They had also received an additional R4 million to employ more investigators from 1 April 2006.
The ICD would employ provincial directors in Limpopo, Mpumelanga, Free State, and the Northern Cape. This ensured that all provincial offices had equal status in terms of management.
The remaining funds had been earmarked to appoint another 24 senior investigators and database clerks in the nine provincial offices. These vacancies had already been advertised.
Additional funds had been allocated to the line functionaries. The administration programme was by far the least sufficiently staffed to ensure the decentralisation of support functions in the various provinces. The ICD had to address the capacity problems of the line functionaries in the provinces before the needs regarding administration could be considered.
The response from the Auditor-General’s office in terms of the travel expenditure of the ICD for the previous financial year confirmed that there had been no irregular travel expenditure. The ICD had, with the limited funds available, introduced the necessary control measures to ensure sound financial accounting.
Programme One: Administration
Mr E Valoyi (Programme Manager) informed the Committee that the ICD’s staff compliment from April 2006 would be 231 with the most officials being employed at the ICD head office. 177 staff members were involved in training programmes. During 2005/06 the vacancy rate dropped from 9% to 3,9%. The organisation was still challenged by amongst others, a too low staff compliment and by the need for satellite offices in policing districts.
Programme Two: Investigations
Mr T Tshabalala (Programme Manager) said that between April and December 2005 the ICD closed a total of 2118 cases, the vast majority of which were found to have been unsubstantiated. The Anti-Corruption Command handled a total of 65 case dockets, 10 of which were found to be unsubstantiated. He also briefed the Committee on the outcome of some of the high profile investigations. In 2005/06 the focus had been on strengthening its relationship with the Secretariat and improving its accessibility to the public. The investigations unit was challenged by amongst others the reliability of witnesses, establishing sound working relations with the Department of Health and improving the finalisation of cases.
The Chairperson pointed out that what Mr Xinwa had read was not the response the Committee had been expecting from Mr Charles Nqakula, Minister of Safety and Security. The Committee was still waiting on his response regarding the restructuring of the ICD.
She was pleased to see that the ICD was addressing its capacity issues. There were many other issues that she would address at a later stage.
She commented that Mr Jankielsohn always pointed out that the ICD was under-funded. She, on the other hand was convinced that the ICD received sufficient funding but that it was not managing these funds effectively. The Committee would meet with the Secretariat, National Treasury as well as the Minister to further discuss issues related to the ICD’s funding.
Mr R Jankielsohn (DA) commented that despite the fact that the woman in the Smithfield rape case had changed her version of events and said that she had consented to sexual intercourse, a case of gross misconduct on the side of the officials involved could still be made. The ICD should still investigate the matter.
Ms (A) Van Wyk (ANC) asked the IDC to indicate whether an internal investigation into the Smithfield incident would be done. She wondered whether an internal disciplinary process would be followed.
Mr Tshabalala agreed that even if the woman had consented the incident was an example of abuse of power. The official, who had been criminally charged, resigned from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and thus could not be investigated or face disciplinary action in terms of misconduct.
The Chairperson pointed out that previous reports indicated that many people were involved in the incident. She asked what action had been taken against them.
Mr Tshabalala said that after the rape charge was laid, the ICD had launched an investigation. The SAPS handled the misconduct cases. In order to avoid duplication the ICD did not get involved.
He was unaware of the status of the misconduct hearings. He reminded the Committee that DNA could only link one of the accused officials to the woman. The other two officials were still in the SAPS. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had reserved a decision as far as these two officials were concerned. The decision to proceed with their prosecution was dependant upon the outcome of the rape charge against the official who could be linked via DNA. Since the rape charge against the latter had been dropped, no criminal charges had been laid against the other two. They were now facing disciplinary action. He knew that criminally one could not charge them with anything. He would communicate the outcome of these cases to the Committee at a later stage.
Mr F Maserumule (ANC) asked what procedure had been followed up until the time the accused official had left the SAPS.
Mr Tshabalala said that the investigators had tried to get blood samples from all the accused officials. They had refused and were arrested. After their arrest they had cooperated and blood samples had linked one of them to the woman. That official had subsequently resigned. Mr Tshabalala pointed out that the SAPS could have refused the resignation. The docket was submitted to the DPP, who only charged the official who could be linked to the victim. The woman then retracted her statement and said that she had consented. The case was dismissed. He would communicate any other information to the Committee at a later stage.
Ms Van Wyk said that the other two officials who had been involved probably accepted the resignation to avoid their implication during the internal investigation.
The Chairperson could see that Members were not satisfied with responses relating to the Smithfield incident. She said that the Committee would wait upon the responses.
Mr Jankielsohn asked whether the ICD’s relationship with the provinces had improved. Mr Xinwa pointed out that although the relationship had improved since June 2005, it was still not where it should be. Much work had been done in terms of improving the relationship between middle and senior management.
The Chairperson reminded the ICD that the Committee would be visiting provinces in April. Members would then be able to verify whether the relationship had improved or not. She assured the ICD that the Committee did not expect the relationship to be as it should be in a matter of months. It did however expect to see improvements. She requested quarterly reports on the situation in the provinces. The provinces had also been requested to submit quarterly reports. From now on the ICD would have a harmonious relationship with all entities.
Ms Van Wyk noted that the IDC had indicated that "less serious" SAPS misconduct cases would be handled by the Secretariat. The Committee needed greater clarity in this regard especially as far as victims’ rights were concerned. The Human Rights Commission had indicated that many victims were unaware of their rights.
Mr Jankielsohn commented on the fact that the ICD had indicated that service delivery complaints were being passed on to the Secretariat for investigation. He was concerned about the fact that the Secretariat did not appear to know anything about such an arrangement.
Mr Tshabalala answered that the bulk of the complaints received related to service delivery. These investigations were time consuming. Due to the ICD’s size and capacity problems it could not do justice to many of these complaints. This often resulted in backlogs. The new approach would be that the Secretariat would handle service delivery complaints instead of just monitoring them. This agreement had not yet been finalised. The ICD and the Secretariat still needed to agree on the protocol to be followed. He pointed out that the ICD would still supply the complainant with a referral letter to the station commander. If he or she still experienced problems, the ICD would intervene.
Mr Jankielsohn noted that the ICD indicated that it needed a further 69 staff members to function effectively. It did, however, not have the money to facilitate such an increase in the staff compliment. Some provinces such as Mpumelanga had to battle with huge backlogs. This was not acceptable.
Mr Tshabalala hoped that the backlog would be reduced. The ICD was looking at a period of 1 to 2 years in which to resolve these issues.
Mr Jankielsohn said that the Minister had indicated that he wanted an office in each area. He asked what progress has been made in this regard.
Mr Xinwa agreed that capacity was still a problem across the programmes. He said that the ICD approached National Treasury with a request for 105 additional posts in order to meet the Minister’s suggestion. National Treasury responded that it would not be possible to provide for all 105 at once. The process would be incremental.
Mr L Diale (ANC) noted that much emphasis was placed on the satellite offices, which were still to be established. He asked what timeframes the ICD had in place for their completion. He pointed out that without timeframes backlogs would be inevitable.
Mr Tshabalala said that this development would be set into action in 2007/08 in areas where there was a serious need. Eventually there would be accessibility across all provinces.
Mr Diale said that it was important that timeframes were kept and that satellite offices were rolled out as soon as possible. He said that his constituency office had been broken into and the police had taken a very long time to respond. Only once he had called Mr Steve Mabona, National Spokesperson for the ICD, had the SAPS responded. Had satellite offices been in place, the matter could have been resolved more speedily and the stolen goods might have been recovered.
Ms Van Wyk said that the Committee did not say that the travel expenses fell under unauthorised expenditure. The Committee merely needed the ICD to explain why travel expenses were so high.
Mr Xinwa responded that many of the provinces, such as the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape, were vast. Long distances needed to be covered in these provinces and this resulted in high travel expenses. The satellite offices to be erected in 2007/8 would alleviate some of the travel expenses. The first offices would be erected in those provinces that needed them the most.
Ms Van Wyk responded that the vast distances needing to be covered in some of the provinces were not the problem. The travel queries were related to the fact that officials from head offices often incurred a lot of expenses because they travelled from head office to far away provinces. 60% to70% of the travel expenses were incurred by officials from head office who covered long distances to investigate cases that could have been handled by provincial officials. She acknowledged that the question related to incidents that occurred before Mr Xinwa had taken office. She reminded him that Parliament had already requested that this question be clarified.
The Chairperson added that as long as the Minister failed to respond to the questions the Committee had posed, the same questions would be asked. She commented that it appeared as though the Committee was the only party concerned with seeing the provinces capacitated. If the provinces were capacitated, officials from head office would not have to travel all over the country and could then function in a monitoring capacity. If this did not happen soon, the "law makers" would have to assist. The issue would be raised again once the Committee had met with National Treasury.
Ms Van Wyk asked how many of the staff members situated at head office were employed in an administrative capacity. Mr Valoyi said that 7 of the 77 staff situated at the head office were functional in Programme One.
Ms Van Wyk said that she agreed with the Department of Public Works (DPW) as far as entities managing the funds that the Department had managed previously. She asked how far the ICD had come as far as taking over some of the responsibilities that the Department of Public Works had borne before.
Ms Verster (ICD: CFO) said that the Executive Director had signed an agreement with the DPW stating that that Department would continue managing the funds over the next two financial years.
Ms Van Wyk wondered whether the ICD would be appointing a pathologist. She asked whether it would not be possible to get assistance from the Department of Health (DOH). She suggested that it might be better to budget for a permanent pathologist, or at least for one that could be called on as his or her services were needed.
Mr Tshabalala said that post-mortems were supposed to be performed by pathologists. In rural areas that were difficult to reach, a district surgeon often performed the post-mortems. Often there was lack of cooperation between the ICD officials (who needed to be present during such post mortems) and the district surgeons. This relationship needed to be improved. He pointed out that often a district surgeon would find that the cause of death was natural, when in fact a crime had been committed. The ICD was in the process of arranging for pathologists who would always be present at post-mortems. He said that the ICD would rather postpone a post-mortem, than exhume a body later. At the moment the ICD used the services of pathologists affiliated to the University of KwaZulu Natal but wanted to use private pathologists only in extreme cases. It would negotiate with the DOH.
Mr Moatshe (ANC) asked what level of training officials needed to have to qualify for an ICD bursary. He noted that 177 ICD staff members were in training, but that only two had completed their training so far. 36 had been sponsored by the ICD, but 34 were still in training. Was it not a waste of money to allow officials to undergo training for indefinite periods?
M Valoyi said that training was normally made available to lower level employees (who had matriculated). The bursary contracted normally stretched over 4 years, which was the normal period of a degree. If an official reneged on the agreement with the ICD, he or she had to repay any money spent on training. The two members who had completed their training did so in the required four years. Others were still in the process of completing the four-year training programme.
Mr S Mahote (ANC) commented that Programme One was still under-capacitated. He wondered if this was the result of poorly trained staff or simply a lack of staff.
Mr Valoyi said that members were properly skilled. The capacity shortage referred to the number of members in the organisation. Compared to other departments the ICD was very poorly staffed. It had to function without an independent labour relations unit and a training unit for instance. There was no unit to do job evaluations or performance management. Units dealing with disabled people, youth, and issues relating to HIV and AIDS were clustered while in other departments they constituted different units. 3 positions at head office were dedicated to supply chain management. The ICD would like to be structured like other departments.
Mr Mahote asked what the unsubstantiated cases mentioned in Programme Three referred to.
Mr Tshabalala responded that sometimes the unsubstantiated cases were the result of mistaken identity – charges were laid against people who were not members of the SAPS. Sometimes frivolous allegations, which could not be substantiated, were made.
The Chairperson wondered how long one normally needed to wait on DNA results. The ICD had been waiting on DNA results in the Bushbuckridge case for a long time.
Mr Tshabalala said that the Bushbuckridge incident took place in August/September of 2005. The SAPS was faced with an enormous backlog in terms of biology and testing. This explained why there had been such a long delay. Sometimes the prosecutor could intervene if a case was considered high profile and might result in testing being prioritised.
Ms Van Wyk said that having listened to the answers provided by the ICD, the biggest concern still related to the ICD’s execution of its main duty. She was pleased that their measurable objectives had been scaled down and made more realistic.
She said that there were some inconsistencies between the ICD’s Vision 2005 report and the presentation made to the Committee. The report stated that when it came to ‘less serious complaints’ service delivery was more difficult. She would like the ICD to return to the Committee to speak to its Vision 2005. It would have to clarify what its relationship with the Secretariat was. It would also have to define what it considered to be ‘less serious crimes’.
She commented that in the past there had been a feeling that the ICD took on "sexy cases" since these were more likely to get media coverage. She commented that in the Western Cape there had been a rape charge that had not been investigated for 6 months. She added that people, who could not afford civil cases, relied on the ICD for support.
The Chairperson added that someone who had once been a member of the Committee had commented that the ICD was not sure about what it was doing. They said that the Committee was fighting a losing battle.
She said that the Committee needed to spend a whole day with the ICD to try and understand what its problems were. The ICD was a necessary entity. The Minister was at the head if the Department and the Committee had to assist him.
She commended the ICD for the improvement it has made in its presentations. She said that due to time constraints the presentations on Information Management and Research, and the overview by the CFO had to be done at a later stage.
The meeting was adjourned.
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