A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE
15 November 2006
MEDIUM TERM BUDGET POLICY STATEMENT 2006: INPUT FROM DEPARTMENTS OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, SAFETY AND SECURITY, JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Chairperson: Mr B J Mkhaliphi (ANC, Mpumalanga)
Documents handed out:
Department of Correctional Services presentation
Department of Safety and Security presentation
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development presentation
The Departments of Correctional Services, Safety and Security as well as Justice and Constitutional Development briefed the Committee on their budget adjustments subsequent to the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement as well as to report on the extent to which expenditure patterns for the 2005/2006 AND 2006/2007 financial years were in line with strategic plans. Due to the absence of key accounting officers of each department, the security cluster had not been allowed to make presentations during the recently completed hearings process on the MTBPS.
The Department of Correctional Services had spent 41.87 percent of its budget for the first six months of current financial year. The Committee was informed that the original estimated costs for the construction of the New Generation Correctional facilities had to be reviewed to take account of the current boom in the construction industry. An announcement of the number of prisons that would be built would follow in due course, pending further discussions with National Treasury. An appropriate procurement model for the construction of these prisons would be finalised.
The Department of Safety and Security reported that its main spending priorities for the 2005/2006 financial year had been met, and a net surplus of R1000 had been returned to the National Treasury. It expected to continue this trend. Funds allocated for the security provision for the 2010 Soccer World Cup would be utilised to acquire systems and equipment that would be of lasting use.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development noted its persistent under expenditure. This chronic under spending related to the high job vacancy rate. The current recruitment and human resource development strategy would both remedy the high vacancy rate as well as enhance professionalism. The revised requirements for administrative positions would assist the Department in providing the core but historically neglected function to its legal advisory services. The Department had spent 41 percent of its current budget in the first six months of the financial year. It had requested the use of rollover funds and virements to finance those unfunded, but critical priorities relating to security provision in courts.
The Committee raised concerns regarding the high levels of job vacancies in Departments and the tendency of departments to increase spending in the last month of the financial year in order to avoid the consequences of under spending. Greater alignment of expenditure with strategic plans was emphasised.
The Chairperson requested departments to focus presentations on the problematic aspects of their activities, especially those related to expenditure. The Committee could only assist departments in finding solutions, when they were informed of all the challenges experienced.
Department of Correctional Services: presentation
Ms N Mareka (Deputy Commissioner: Public Service and Finance) and Mr L Sincabe (Deputy Commissioner in the Office of the National Commissioner) briefed the Committee on the extent to which the Department’s expenditure patterns for the current financial year aligned with the implementation of its strategic objectives.
Key strategic objectives included the implementation of a Master Information Systems Plan to ensure the effective management of knowledge. This would be implemented over a period of 5-8 years. A five-year Integrated Human Resource Strategy would ensure adequate levels of recruitment, staff retention and training. This strategy formed part of the operational process planning of the Department.
The Department remained committed to the construction of the new generation correctional centres. The costs of construction had been reviewed due to the current boom in the construction industry. A meeting with National Treasury was scheduled for the following week.
Current projects included the review of its Strategic Plan to improve the alignment of targets set with the projected outcomes. With the assistance of the national Treasury the Department would establish a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation System. Discussions with the Auditor-General, National Treasury and Accountant General would produce detailed plans to achieve greater compliance with accounting standards in the short-, medium- and long term.
The baseline allocations of the estimated national expenditure for 2005/2006-2008/2009 had been reduced. This reduced baseline with a possible additional allocation would be received during the course of November 2006. The adjusted estimates per programme confirmed that the department had spent 41.87 percent of its total budget over the past six months. Funds also shifted between programmes, the bulk of which was used to finance shortfalls in the Compensation of Employees programme’s creation of additional posts. Funds from Goods and Services were also shifted to finance shortfalls in the budget for nutritional provision.
The Chairperson explained to the delegation that the Joint Budget Committee was a newly established parliamentary committee and was thus not very well known to departments. He expressed his confidence that continued interactions would create a better understanding of why such a committee had been established.
Ms J Fubbs (ANC) noted that the Department’s presentation needed greater emphasis on its financial affairs. She said that the purpose of the Committee was to interrogate the use of public finances and this mandate needed to be clarified to departments.
Ms Fubbs requested greater clarity on the financial barriers to the vetting of all correctional services employees. It was clear that, although spending projections for this programme had been finalised for a period up to 2009, problems had already been experienced. Could the Department explain the financial challenges in this regard?
Mr Gillingham (Chief Financial Officer) explained that the deficiencies were structural rather than merely financial. The Department managed this process in collaboration with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). NIA’s review of the vetting process over the past eighteen months contributed to the delays in the vetting of officials. However, staff of both head office as well as officers in the Gauteng region had been vetted to selected positions that required the handling of sensitive documentation.
Commissioner Mti added that although the NIA was responsible for the vetting of its own officials, the Department was also, as an interim measure, handling this process for the agency. The Department’s capacity was thus stretched since it was managing the vetting process of both its own officials and NIA’s.
Ms Fubbs asked what the financial implications of the implementation of the prisoner classification system were. It was not clear whether this system had been implemented at all correctional facilities. Citing the inefficient management of this system at Wentworth Correctional facility, she asked why the training of officials to efficiently manage these biometric systems, did not have the desired positive impact.
Mr Sincabe responded that the inmate tracking system was a project of the entire criminal justice system, and not merely the Department of Correctional Services. All these departments were allocated funds for the specific project, and were therefore jointly responsible for its implementation. He acknowledged that the difficulties experienced in the Durban Westville Correctional facility largely related to the misconduct of staff members as well as some prisoners. There had been instances where certain staff members attempted to cause the system to fail. He stressed the importance of this inmate tracking system, as it was a means to easily track and locate prisoners especially at times of scheduled court appearances as well as for auditing purposes.
Ms R J Mashigo (ANC) noted that the adjusted estimated expenditure per programme indicated a shift in the surplus funding of goods and services to finance the shortfalls under nutritional provision under the care programme. Could the department explain the reasons for this? She added that the Department should try to reduce expenditure rather than shifting funds to a programme that created shortfalls in the budget.
Ms Mareka responded that these virements on the care programme were not intended to finance the awarded catering contracts, as not all kitchen services had been outsourced.
The provision of catering services were still largely the responsibility of the department but was outsourced in instances where kitchen facilities needed renovation. Such expenditure needed to be funded. Mr Gillingham added that the shifts in expenditure under the care programme were also due to the escalation in medical expenditure.
Ms Mashigo was not satisfied with the answer provided. Could the Department indicate the total costs of running those catering facilities? Were these cost effective?
Mr Gillingham answered that the specific costs for the services provided per contract were not readily available but would be forwarded as soon as possible. The contracts awarded, were not merely for the provision of catering services, but included the refurbishment of kitchens as well as the utilisation of a new planning system, the exercise of a new costing model as well as the training of both staff members and offenders working in these kitchens. The service provider also assisted the Department in its own agricultural activities, as it had to use the produce these activities produced. The contract management unit of the Department had recently produced a report that confirmed the cost effectiveness of outsourcing mass catering provision, during the upgrade of facilities. He reiterated that the specific costs for each awarded contract would be forwarded.
Ms Fubbs requested the Department to clarify the reasons for the delays in the construction of the new generation prisons. Different explanations for these delays had been cited, amongst others, insufficient funding allocations as well as lack of capacity within the Department. She welcomed the Department’s utilisation of certain clauses of the Public Finance Management Act that could fast track the construction of these prisons. Could the Department outline the financial risks involved in the building of these facilities?
Mr S Dithebe (ANC) enquired whether the Department intended to build the eight correctional facilities announced in the 2005 and 2006 State of the Nation addresses. The presentation had only made reference to the planned construction of four such facilities.
Mr Gillingham responded that the Department, in collaboration with Department of Public Works (DPW), had applied their efforts to developing a design for the new correctional facilities. A revision of the original design was necessary in line with the vision of the Department reflected in the White Paper. As cost projections were not aligned to the trends in the building industry, the cost projections needed adjustments. With the assistance of an independent quantity surveyor, the Department had to develop a budget sensitive to the trends in the construction industry. The Department had also been in discussions with Treasury, to ascertain the best spending method to build these facilities.
The Department would consider, with the assistance of a procurement advisor, the best procurement method for this project. The Department, DPW and National Treasury would then consider this feasibility report. The new facilities would not be built simultaneously, and the Department would embark on a phased process of tendering for the construction of each facility. This also held financial implications. When a final recommendation was reached, the budget would be adjusted accordingly. Due to this process, money had already been returned to the National Treasury.
Regarding the delays in the construction of the correctional facility in Kimberley, Ms Maraka responded that the unanticipated boom in the construction industry had increased the cost of the building of this prison. Mr Gillingham continued that the Kimberley facility would continue as a significant amount of money had already been invested in the project. The Department had to avoid over spending. This facility would be the only centre that would be modeled on the public sector’s corporality procurement model.
Mr Dithebe noted that the Department had not responded to the question on the actual number of prisons it intended to build. Could the Department clearly and categorically express their commitment to the building of such correctional service facilities?
Commissioner Mti responded that the actual number of prisons built would be determined by the trends in the construction industry, hence the current revision of original projections. The original cost projections for the entire project had been R250 million, but needed adjustment, as the construction of the Kimberley facility alone would cost an estimated R800 million. It was clear that the Department needed significant amounts of funding to complete this project and the approach to the construction would also be revised.
The Department would be meeting with National Treasury the following week to discuss which of the possible eight would be built. The Department expressed its confidence that it could continue with the planned construction of facilities in Klerksdorp, Nigel and Kimberley. The planned building of the Leeuwkopf facility had to be cancelled due to concerns and challenges regarding the environmental impact the construction held. The construction of a facility at Polokwane could be cancelled, due to a significant increase in the cost. He stressed that the Minister would be in a better position to make clearer announcements regarding these facilities in due course.
Commissioner Mti acknowledged the need for more interaction with the Committee. He said that the Department’s approach was to contextualise the allocation of funds to create a better understanding of how and why public funds were spent. He stressed the need for further interaction with the Committee to discuss in greater detail specific areas of concern.
Mr Mkhaliphi wondered, since the President had unveiled this project in Parliament, whether the Department had kept Parliament informed regarding the financial and other related challenges it faced.
Commissioner Mti responded that it had interacted with the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services and continued to inform that committee on the progress made. He considered the Minister as the appropriate official to make specific announcements regarding the revised targets.
Ms Dithebe commented that the Department had explained that the delays in the implementation of their strategic plan were structural in nature. He said that the department made reference to a balanced score card in its presentation about information technology and master information systems plan delivery. He explained that in order to successfully adhere to the balanced score card system of evaluation, staff had to be clear about their role and responsibilities within the department. What were the problems with regard to meeting the planned objectives of the department?
Mr Sincabe answered that the balanced score card was not yet implemented as a means to evaluate employees. This system would be implemented in due course as part of the drive towards excellence and master information systems plan. Currently, certain elements of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) such as the finance, customer relations and internal learning processes, were managed through the Department’s own strategic planning process and other internal processes.
Mr Mkahliphi commented that the Department had to clearly state its capacity to spend its present budget. Dr Rabie, citing the spending on administration, security and corrections, wondered whether the Department had the capacity to spend its budget for the current financial year. If not, had the department taken proactive steps to spend the entire budget.
Ms Mareka responded that many departments had difficulty in developing measurable objectives. The Department, with the assistance of National Treasury, had embarked on a process of reviewing the manner in which objectives were developed. It was also important to explain these objectives in the various reports, in a clear and understandable manner.
Commissioner Mti responded that, based on the spending patterns of the previous financial years, the Department expected to spend about 98 percent of its total budget. National Treasury had accused the Department of spending money in the last month of the financial year in order to prevent the consequences of under spending. He stressed that the Department did not take part in the “March Boom”, but merely requested additional funding for specific projects for which funds had not been allocated. He reiterated that the Department, only if constraints allowed, would spend the funds it had been allocated. As accounting officer, he wished not to be accused of participating in the “March Boom”.
Dr P J Rabie (DA) requested an update on the progress made by the Department, in the implementation of the recommendations of the Jali Commission.
Mr Sincabe answered that since the time the Jali Commission Report was handed to the Minister of Correctional Services, Mr Ngconde Balfour, the Department had begun to build the internal capacity necessary for the implementation of the recommendations. A subsequent report, compiled by the Department, detailed the steps needed to implement each recommendation. It was found that the Department had already begun to remedy many of the management challenges identified in the Commission’s report. These have also been identified as critical areas in the reports produced by the Department. It would present a report on the progress made on these recommendations to the select committee on Security and Economic Affairs following day. Prosecutions would be a bit problematic. The number of people that would be prosecuted necessitated an increase in institutional capacity of the Department in terms of personnel as well as the skills capacity of staff. He stressed disciplinary processes had to be made thoroughly and meticulously. This would be an area of additional funding allocations.
Mr Gillingham added that the request for funding had already been submitted for the next financial year. It would be able to finance this section for this financial year with its savings and thus had sufficient funding for this financial year.
Mr J Schippers (ANC) asked whether all correctional facilities had been equipped with the IT systems. If not, what percentage of all correctional facilities still needed to be upgraded?
Commissioner Mti said that this question could not be answered with certainty. Information Technology was centralised and thus managed by the national department. The provision of efficient IT services in all correctional facilities was thus a national responsibility. Currently area IT specialists managed the IT systems in facilities, but the Department intended to provide an IT specialist for each prison. He stressed that all centres were connected to the IT system.
Mr Schippers enquired about the costs involved in the promotion of officers in Levels 6-7? Was this sufficiently budgeted for?
Ms Maraka confirmed that provision was made in the budget and money was available to fund those promotions. This had been projected expenditure for both the period ending March 2007 as well as the end of the current Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) cycle.
Ms Fubbs commented that questions relating to the “March Boom” had not been answered. Trends in expenditure suggested that the Department could be expected to increase expenditure in the last month of the financial year. She added that currently, only 20 percent of the department’s capital budget had been spent. The Committee appreciated the difficulties experienced in spending its budget, but officials had to acknowledge the danger in accelerating spending in the last month.
Ms Fubbs commented that questions around the new facilities needed greater clarification, not withstanding the Department’s pending visit to Treasury. What was the basis when estimating the projections? Every one was complaining about the cost of the tenders and this was understandable. The Department had to come properly prepared with the relevant documentation. The Committee needed greater clarification on the trends in expenditure.
Mr Mkhaliphi thanked Commissioner Mti and his delegation for their presentation. He said that, as with all government departments, the Committee would review expenditure on a monthly basis to monitor whether spending was in line with original projections. Regular interactions with the Committee were thus assured.
Mr Mkhaliphi noted that the Committee should receive all requested information within seven working days.
of Safety and Security (DSS): presentation
Mr Stephen Schutte (Chief Financial Officer) reported that its main spending priorities for the 2005/2006 had been accomplished. It had spent R 28 480 503 of the allocated R28 480 504 and had thus a deficit of R1000.
Spending priorities included the improvement in remuneration, additional personnel, the expansion and upgrade of vehicles, the acquisition of bulletproof vests, the construction and improvement of infrastructure as well as the upgrade of computer technology. In addition to these priorities, a Security and Protection Services Division had been established, Pilot projects in this regard had been implemented and the roll out process had commenced at the Beit Bridge Border Post, OR Tambo International Airport, Durban Harbour as well as Cape Town Train Station. Expenditure on the training of police officers had increased by 43.25 percent to R626 million. The Department had spent R35 million on 9000 new firearms. R139.7 million had been spent on developing a system for the implementation of the Firearms Control Act.
The transfer of R36.5 million to the Department of Health for the maintenance and upgrade of mortuary services, impacted on the adjustment estimates of national expenditure for 2006 The suspension of these funds in the budget was due to the transfer of the function for rendering A Forensic and Pathology Service from the SA Police Service to the Department of Health from 1 April 2006.
The Department had spent 45.6 percent of its budget for the current financial year between April 2006 and September 2006. The Department would strengthen its visible policing function, case flows as well as preparation for the 2010 World Cup, as stated in the Medium Term Budget Policy Framework. The key operational policies of the SAPS were in line with the MTBPS and included the management of organised crime, combating serious and violent crimes, particularly in high crime areas as well as enhancing the control over ownership and possession of firearms. Crimes committed against women and children would also be combated and the sector policing service delivery would be improved.
The goals of the Department conformed to the ideals of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, which coordinated interdepartmental initiatives across the criminal justice system. The cluster also focused on the actions undertaken as embodied in the government’s programme of Action.
Through the 2007 Medium Term Budget Expenditure Framework and its accompanying additional funding, the department would expand and develop infrastructure, enhance police capacity, would manage its vehicle fleet as well as develop systems for the management of security for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Dr Rabie informed the Department of problems relating to the firearm licensing process experienced by a resident of his constituency. Many gun owners had expressed concern over the long waiting period for receiving firearm licenses. Had any progress been made in speeding up the licensing process?
Commissioner Selebi answered that the licensing of firearms was a contentious issue, and opinions differed between gun owners and those who opposed this licensing. He said that there was a minimum waiting period, but certain problems were apparent, if the waiting period exceeded one year. He requested the details of the particular complainant, in order to investigate the status of his or her application. He stressed that the waiting period served to balance the views of both groups.
Ms Fubbs asked what assurances the Department could offer the Committee that the funding allocations for the security demands of the 2010 Soccer World Cup would be properly expended and managed. This was a very important issue. Was the supply chain management properly geared to cope with the increase in the security demands? Were mechanisms in place to ensure that the tender process was fair and equitable and was this process properly managed? Mr Schippers said that judging from the budget for the Soccer World Cup allocated to the Department, what assurance could be given that the money would be well spent on items that could also be used after the tournament.
Commissioner Selebi replied that the Department had always used its expanding budget (from R17 billion six financial years ago, to the current R28 billion) for the purposes it had committed itself to. The Department annually returned only R1000 of its entire budget to the National Treasury. He expressed the Department’s commitment to carrying out its annual priorities and would ensure that the allocations for these priorities had been properly done.
Commissioner Selebi continued that the 2010 World Cup was not the first international sport event the Department of Safety and Security had to manage. The Department had been responsible for the security of preceding international sport events and was also currently managing the security affairs for the pending cricket world cup in the West Indies in March 2007. He added that the West Indies had provided the funding, for this task. The Department was chosen simply because of the quality of its security planning and management.
He expressed his confidence that any funding allocated for the purposes of the 2010 Soccer World Cup would be utilised accordingly. The funds would be used to invest in services and equipment that would be of lasting benefit. The Department would purchase water canons as well command vehicles that could be utilised to both deal with unruly crowds as well as to command security situations without the use of a set structure respectively. Specialised equipment would also be developed that would enable the Department to monitor security at all times. Currently, software was being developed that would enable the national commissioner to know immediately the status of the work done at any police station in South Africa, including the number of cases handled daily, the number of daily complaints, attendance of police officials as well as the number of dockets handled by each detective. This unique system was currently being implemented at all police stations and would be very useful for the 2010 World Cup. He reiterated that funds would be utilised effectively.
Ms Fubbs noted the increase in the number of new vehicles the Department had received and expressed concerns over the Department’s ability to maintain these vehicles. She explained that portfolio reports had always indicated to delays in vehicle maintenance. Had an increased allocation for the maintenance of vehicles been projected? Was the corresponding increase in new vehicles matched by a corresponding increase in funding for vehicle maintenance?
Mr Schutte answered that the Department had annually budgeted R1 billion for the overall maintenance of vehicles and this was indicative of the magnitude of the global demands for oil and fuel. Projections for this area were very difficult as costs were related to fluctuations in the global markets for these commodities. The Department would always over fund for fuel, oil and vehicle maintenance, as these were core items in its budget. He reassured the Committee that the Department would not cut the spending on fuel, oils and vehicle maintenance. The system for procuring maintenance systems had been revised, and currently selected garages had been commissioned to maintain vehicles on a threshold basis. A tender procedure would take time and could hamper the prompt maintenance of vehicles.
Ms Mashigo wanted to know whether rural areas would also benefit from the increased supply of vehicles. How would the Department deal with the current rented structures for police stations in these areas?
Commissioner Selebi answered that the Department was developing more police facilities in rural areas, but would want to couple these new facilities with a recreational facilities that would serve to deter youth from committing crimes. He said that traditional leaders played a key role in the Department’s negotiations to acquire land to build and plan such facilities. These negotiations tended to be very sensitive, as some traditional leaders were not on good terms with municipal authorities. The location of the police stations had to be suitable to the needs of the community as well as accepted by traditional leaders. He reiterated that the Department intended to locate police stations where they are needed most, but the different security needs in rural areas as opposed to urban areas should be appreciated.
Mr Schippers said that many police officers expressed concerns over the difficulty to advancing to higher salary levels. As improved salary levels could only be secured though promotion, how could the Department improve the livelihoods of those officers who could not get promoted? Was a merit system in place for such officials?
Commissioner Selebi answered that national government had allocated funds to the Department, for the specific purposes of increasing the salaries of police officers by 34 percent over a three-year period. Those police officers in levels 1-12 positions had been granted salary increases. As the need for such increases had been on a junior level, the management of the Department had not benefited from the additional funding.
Commissioner Selebi continued that although every police officer had the right to be promoted, such promotions were limited to set annual targets. The promotion policy was based on performance. Current performance management system required a person to demonstrate his or her performance before being promoted. Those who performed well but could not be promoted would be granted monetary rewards. A committee monitored performance and was responsible for identifying suitable candidates. This would encourage further excellence.
The Chairperson expressed appreciation for the Departments submission. The Committee had raised the impact of current increased demands of the construction industry with the Department of Public Works, but greater engagement with the private sector was needed.
The Department shared this responsibility. He acknowledged that the Department was constrained by the particularities of the methods of budgeting as well as the impossibility of predicting significant fluctuations in demand and supply. However, the MTEF period stipulated the development of particular indicators and the department could inform the private sector of the critical materials and technical skills necessary in future. He reiterated that the Committee could do more to engage the private sector, and that the Department had to do its share.
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development: presentation
Advocate Simelane (Director-General) and Mr Gordon Hollamby (Chief Director: Budgets) briefed the Committee on the department’s financial performance for the 2005/2006 financial years. An overview of expected expenditure for the new financial year was also provided. The department had spent 41percent of its overall budget for the current financial year between April 2006 and September 2006. Members were informed that the department faced the challenge of chronic under expenditure and this had been a key focus of the qualified audit reports it had received for the past four financial years. It was expected that the Department would record an under expenditure for the current financial year.
A comparative overview of the spending over the initial six months of the 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 financial years reflected an increase in the expenditure on court services. Expenditure on administration had decreased by 8.3 percent over the same period.
Key features of the 2007 Half Year Financial Performance Review included a 38 percent expenditure on current payments, 42% expenditure on the compensation of employees. 12 percent of the budget allocated for machinery and equipment had already been spent. 50 percent of the capital works expenditure had also been utilised.
Roll-over funds, with the permission of National Treasury had been utilised for the development of a digital network system, the provision of x-ray machines and metal detectors and digital court recording equipment. This was part of the Department’s drive to review and fund unfounded priorities.
Ms Fubbs said that the Department had regularly made reference to “savings” on remuneration and compensation. The published reports had revealed that this was due to problems of recruitment, etc. She said that that savings could only be achieved if strategic plans were implemented and funding was left over. The Department had thus, as mentioned in the presentation, under spent on remuneration and compensation.
Ms Fubbs continued that the Department did not indicate whether it was able to finance these. She acknowledged the problems related to the capital and current accounts experienced by the Department and suggested that it apply for funding to the National Treasury to finance the above-mentioned critical areas. She added that the Department needed to outline the difficulties the Department experienced in spending funds. It was very difficult to establish these reasons with the information given by departments.
Ms Fubbs raised concerns over the lack of basic facilities such as bathrooms at courts. Smaller courts in particular, lack these very basic things. Surely funding could be found for this? The Department had indicated that it had the technical capacity to provide these services.
Ms Fubbs expressed her concerns regarding the expenditure on IT and payment of soft ware licences in January or March, which accounted for the increase in expenditure in the last month of the financial year. However, when comparing the expenditure patterns of the recent quarterly reports as well as of the previous years, such expenditure was not reflected. Why this increase?
Advocate Masimela responded that spending usually slowed down during the November and December months, as all invoices for December period would be received in late January or early February. Hence the expected hike in spending in the last month of the financial year. The reprioritisation of the Department as well as the completion of the tendering process also accounted for this increased spending. He elaborated that the R35 million spent on the installation of X-ray machines formed part of the implementation of the revised priorities. A National Treasury regulation was used to issue an emergency certification for the provision of this equipment to courts. Since security at courts was identified as a priority, the Department without a lengthy tendering process had picked a service provider. Treasury had expressed reservations regarding this approach, and the Department would not utilise such a method frequently.
Mr Dithebe expressed his appreciation for the problems outlined by the Department. Although the Department was wholly responsible for the implementation of strategic plans, the Committee would assist the Department as best possible to reach their goals. The relevant parliamentary committees could assist in the creation of an appropriate legislative environment that would enable the Department to deal with all of the challenges it had referred to.
Mr Dithebe commented that parliament would soon pass key pieces of legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act. With current constraints related to personnel, and the level of understanding of court officials regarding the basic precepts of this legislation, how would the Department deal with the enforcement of such legislation in the light of case backlogs?
Advocate Masimela responded that court officials had been educated on the Victims’ Charter and this would go a long way towards ensuring that there was no secondary victimisation of people. Clerical staff had been appointed to deal with general matters concerning cases and this would assist in reducing case backlogs. He stressed that a bigger obstacle was the lengthy completion of investigation as this had an impact on how soon the prosecution started. The ability to retain skilled staff also impacted on the prosecution process. The National Prosecuting Authority faced the challenge of high number of vacancies and had recently begun a recruitment process. He added that the NPA had lost close to 100 prosecutors this year. A recent study indicated that 100 magistrates currently under utilised could be redeployed due course. The magistrate’s commission was currently working on how to deploy these officers. He stressed that currently 40 courts located in urban areas were responsible for the processing of 1 million cases annually.
Mr Dithebe wondered who developed Justice Deposit Account System (JDAS). Did the Centre for Science and Innovation Research (CSIR) the service provider?
Adv Simelane answered that that JDAS was developed through the use of Microsoft as an external service provider. The system was however driven by its own internal unit. Microsoft was one of the external software providers and the cost was about R30 million. The benefit would be immense, as all payments would be processed using this system.
Mr Dithebe wanted to know how the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) was managed. How is the actual appropriation of the funds in this account managed?
Advocate Simelane answered that in terms of the legislation; a minister’s committee would meet to assess the various bids (for funding) the Departments submitted. There is an official’s committee on which Advocate Simelane served. This committee would make recommendations to the minister’s committee that would in turn make a presentation to Cabinet. Recently cabinet had reached agreement on how funds in CARA should be utilised. Debates within the Department regarding the correct appropriation funds focused on either victims of crime, or rehabilitation.
Mr Schippers noted that the presentation highlighted the important challenge of filling vacant positions in the Department and that these vacancies mainly occur at administrative related positions. These vacancies were now filled on a temporary basis. When would these temporary staff be appointed on a permanently?
Advocate Simelane answered that based on a decision made last year; all temporary contracts would not be renewed. All these positions would be advertised and those temporary staff had to reapply for a position. He explained that that historically, the core function, provision of advisory services, had been overlooked. Employees should thus be able to dispense advice on matter relating to procedures and general administration and therefore current requirements for such positions was a tertiary qualification in addition to the two to three years working experience This would also contribute to the enhancement of professionalism. The Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) would be utilised to improve the qualifications of current employees. He added that the implementation of the digital recording system would not result in job losses. The previous stenographers would be reemployed in entry-level clerical positions and would be enrolled in learnerships to improve skills.
Ms Mashigo expressed concern regarding the location of courts. She said that the distance between courts and public transport is a big challenge. Had there been any consultations, regarding the location of new courts and the accessibility of public transports? The courts had to be in easy range of public transport facilities since this had an impact on whether the court systems would be utilised.
Advocate Simelane answered that a study was underway to assess the impact of the demarcation process on the court system. A key concern was the correct location of courts. Currently about 500-600 courts were under utilised, and the Magistrates Commission was currently assessing this problem. In urban South Africa, about 40 courts were managing the majority of cases and due to this significant caseload; a long waiting list for trials had developed. Moreover, currently 366 magisterial districts has one court which provided court services to about 90 000 people. The present location of courts such as Lenasia Magistrate’s Court and Protea Magistrate’s Court in Soweto, were not easily accessible and this under utilised.
The Chairperson referred to the Department’s under spending on court services the previous financial year. Would the Department reflect such an under spending this year? This would not be a very positive reflection on the Department, since the court processes was the Department’s core activity.
Advocate Simelane confirmed a pattern of repetitive under spending. The Department was mainly concerned with incrementally improving its spending patterns. He assured the committee although the Department would under spend, it was expected to be less than the previous year. This problem was very difficult to manage especially in light of the number of vacancies. This was a governance issue as public service regulations inherently create gaps, due to the minimum advertising period and the tedious process of processing applications. These functions could be outsourced.
The Chairperson asked what the Department’s involvement was in the Multi Purpose Community Centres (MPCC).
Advocate Simelane responded that the Department was not involved in these MPCCs. The Department only participated in the cluster process. He would however investigate this.
The Chairperson thanked the Director-General for his presentation and for his forthrightness. He said that the main objective of the newly formed joint budget committee of parliament was to appraise the dynamics of the annual expenditure trends of departments. He expressed his appreciation for the department’s acknowledgement that the under spending was chronic. He said that Members were pleased that the Department was taking a proactive approach to the matter. The Committee would be interacting with the portfolio committees to monitor its management of under expenditure.
The meeting was adjourned.
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