A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JUSTICE & CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 March 2007
DEPARTMENT STRATEGIC PLANS & BUDGET 2007/08: FINANCE OFFICE, BUDGET UNIT, HUMAN RESOURCES, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION SYSTEMS & PUBLIC EDUCATION
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan-Khota (ANC) (morning session)
Acting Chairpersons: Ms M Meruti (ANC) and Imam G Solomons (ANC) (afternoon session)
Documents handed out:
Department of Justice (DOJ) presentation by CFO
Department of Justice Human Resources presentation
Department’s MTEF Allocations presentation
Strategic Communication Issues in Department
Budget/Expenditure Outcomes table: CFO; CEO; Masters; Chief Litigation Officer; ISM; Ministry
Audio recording of the meeting : Part1 and Part 2
The Department of Justice continued to brief the Committee on performance of the Department. The financial statements were discussed. The financial appropriation for the Department in the previous year was R6.03 billion, of which R5.9 billion had been spent. R380 million had been approved for re-allocation. National Treasury had approved rollovers of R237 million and the over spend on the statutory appropriation (salaries of judicial officers) was expected to continue in the next financial year. The reprioritised funding tables were presented. The qualified audit report relating to the Guardian’s Fund was explained. Steps had been taken to correct the matters of emphasis. Action plans were in place to address all problems and prevent recurrence of a qualified opinion. There was a full analysis of the under spending, which mostly stemmed from employee vacancies, goods and services that were directly linked to the vacancies and an under spend on the digital recording systems. The reallocations that had been approved would address court services, training courses, a turnaround project for the Guardian's Fund, books, mobile courts and R1.8 million to address Legal Aid case backlogs.
The Budget Director presented the budget, explaining that the growth rate was budgeted around 11.2%. Major increases in budgets related to the lower courts, court services, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Public Prosecutions Sub programme, the Legal Aid Board and some of the Chapter 9 Institutions. The budget for the Constitutional Court had been increased substantially. Branch court services would benefit from the allocation following decentralisation. There was a substantial allocation to increase capacity at the Legal Aid Board. Members asked several questions on the rollovers and the under spending, and sought clarity on the Unfunded Priority Projects. Further questions dealt with court security, the seemingly lowered allocation for court services, addressing case backlogs, the unacceptable delays in appointing staff, the reprioritisation processes from the previous year and the reason for the discrepancy in budgets between Supreme and Constitutional Courts. Members commented that the manner of presentation had been confusing and that the figures should clearly reflect what was included.
Questions on the previous day's presentations related to the organogram, the roles of the Chief Operating Officer and Director General, the conditions and planning for interpreters, implementation of recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, reparations to communities, and payments of maintenance and other debts through commercial banks.
The Human Resources Unit reported that there was under spending in the current year, mostly on compensation of employees and equipment linked to the vacant posts. The budget for the next year would be R79.9 million. There were a number of temporary and semi-skilled staff and training and performance management had been identified as key areas. Performance assessments would now be done on a quarterly basis. There were about 17 960 staff and there was an 11.2% vacancy rate. There were about 208 ongoing misconduct cases, which were detailed more fully in the presentation. The strategy concentrated on organisational efficiency, human capital development and organisational development. Talent sourcing and succession planning were of importance. There had been good disclosure of financial interests and signing of performance agreements. Supervisory aspects still needed to be addressed. Members were concerned that the briefing had given no indication of the state of the Human Resources Unit itself, and a full report was called for within two weeks. Quarterly reports must also be provided to the Committee. Other questions addressed the disciplinary processes, the Code of Conduct, the gender and disability ratio, the amount of work that was apparently still pending, the macro level approvals, and the correlation between vacancies and performance.
The Public Education and Communications Unit acknowledged a significant budget overspend, and outlined the unit’s objectives and initiatives. The Committee strongly emphasised that the unit must take action to curb the negative public perception of the justice system, and also stressed that access to courts, as well as education and awareness on this needed to be actively encouraged. It was also emphasised that the Equality Courts need to be actively advertised, as these courts were currently under-used.
The Information Systems Management Unit discussed and demonstrated the pending roll-out of the new IT system, the Justice Management Information Solution (JMIS). Issues such as system access, security and training management were discussed. Members asked to what extent, further inter-unit and inter-departmental database integration could occur, and also asked for clarification as to logistical practicalities such as training and roll-out co-ordination.
Briefings by units of Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOG)
Chief Financial Officer's Briefing
Ms Sandra Gomm, DOJ Chief Financial Officer, indicated that the financial appropriation for the DOJ was R6.03 billion, of which R5.9 billion had been spent. This left a variance of R112 372. The total amount approved for re allocation was R380 million (7% of the budget allocation) and this would include marginally funded projects. National Treasury (NT) had approved rollovers of R237 million and there was an over spend on the statutory appropriation, which was expected to continue in the next financial year.
Ms Gomm recapped the areas of reprioritised funding and stated that she would submit a comprehensive report to the Committee. She said that the unfunded priority projects (UPP) were registered under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) but would be updated and changed according to shifts and costing information. She tabled the projects and explained that sometimes the funded projects were not realised, which would leave an under spending. This funding could then be moved to UPPs. There was strict adherence to the regulations of Treasury and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The reprioritisation showed that additional security methods, metal detectors, and the digital court recording system were being rolled out. On the IT network roll out 282 sites had been added with the reprioritised funds, bringing the total of sites to 505.
Ms Gomm said that there were qualifications in trust revenue. The audit relating to the trust funds was in progress, and this was submitted during December because of late inputs from regions. The Department expected a disclaimer. The audit opinion on the Guardian’s Fund had been disclaimed. The President's Fund, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) had received unqualified audit opinions. The emphases of matter included financial management and late prioritisation issues and the risk of fiscal dumping, which was under dispute with the Auditor General. The policy on software had been discussed. The other matters of emphasis were listed and she assured the Committee that steps had been taken. Contingent liabilities related to a possible shortfall of moneys in trust. The forensic audit for the transcription contract was being finalised. There was a monthly monitoring action plan that was examined by the audit committee.
For this year the DOJ had set up a number of action plans to try to ensure that there was not a repeat. The legal opinion was not yet finalised on the Guardian’s Fund. Reconciliation had been implemented on the voter count. There were only twelve offices that had not paid over. DOJ had written to the Accountant General on the difference of opinion between revenue and receipts, which was outlined in the previous day's presentation. For 2006/07 the voter count would appear again as a qualification, if it was not sorted out. This was due to the lack of effective and efficient management systems and not being able to prepare reliable accurate and complete accounting records for monies in trust.
Ms Gomm reported that there was under spending of R628 million, relating to compensation of employees (R235 million), goods and services (R350 million) and machinery and equipment (R90 million). In so far as vacancies were concerned there was a 14% vacancy rate in court services. The monies in trust formed part of the R350 000 and a large portion related to operational expenditures for vacancies, and the rest to outstanding claims on municipal accounts. R910 million represented monies in trust. R90 million related to capital machinery and equipment, resulting from the delay in roll out of digital recording.
The budget and expenditure were tabled. There were spikes in September and January because of the way in which the Department of Public Works, which was responsible for the Court buildings, sent its quarterly accounts. There was a slump in February. This year DOJ had tried to do some payments earlier in the financial year and did not expect the March expenditure to be as large.
Ms Gomm stated that there was R628 million under spent at the end of February. The Director General had approved re allocation of R166.5 million. Branches had indicated they could only spent or commit to R136 million, leaving a balance of R491 million available for re prioritisation to unfunded projects. The approved reallocations would include court services, additional courses at Justice College, Master's Office accommodation and equipment, Human resources additional training and performance management, the office of the Director General and workshops, equipment for the Chief Litigation Officer and the turnaround project for the Guardian's Fund. The Director General had then approved re prioritisation for R256 million for facilities management, which included several new posts, R38 million for library books, R3 million for 30 mobile courts and R1.8 million to address the case backlogs for Legal Aid. Existing contracts were in place for services and Treasury would be requested for roll-overs based on that commitment. There were security needs in the Department but because of the timing of the supply chain management processes there had not been sufficient time to have these committed.
Budget Unit Briefing
Mr Johan Johnson, Chief Director: Budgets, focused on the MTEF budget allocations as tabled in February. There was substantial growth, on average reaching R11.2%. He set out the priorities. He reported that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would take over the responsibility of about 85 officials who performed the witness protection function. Addressing the shortfall in the statutory appropriation of about R190 million, he noted that this related to remuneration of judges and magistrates, and that NT had considered the impact of car allowances and other benefits. This also included funding for 35 additional magistrates. Infrastructure reflected an increase of R286 million in this year, rising to R569 million by 2010.
The major increases in budgets would be in the lower courts, court services, in the NPA and the Public Prosecutions Sub programme, for the Legal Aid Board, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Commission on Gender Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission. The IT component received a late allocation of R277 million after treasury intervention for modernisation of the integrated Justice Sector Programme. The allocations were tabled by branch, showing substantial increases. The core function of court services was tabled, indicating how the allocations had been split between the different courts. The budget for the Constitutional Court had been increased substantially. As part of the decentralisation and capacitating the proposed budget allocation showed that branch court services would benefit from the allocation. There had been notable growth also for the Master of the High Court.
Programme 5 allocations related to the public entities and constitutional institutions, which included the South African Human Rights Commission, Commission on Gender Equality, Legal Aid Board, SIU, and Public Protector. In particular R120 million had been allocated to increase human resources capacity in the Legal Aid Board.
Discussion on 6 March inputs: Chief Operations Officer and Project Manager
Mr L Joubert (DA) questioned the COO on the organogram presented. He said that it would be useful to get copies of the performance contracts, as there appeared to be some duplication, particularly between the COO and the DG.
Mr Khotso de Wee, Chief Operations Officer, DOJ replied that the COO's role was limited to operations of the Department, including the Corporate Services Unit and the Truth and Reconciliation Unit, risk management programmes, support and administration and strategy The DG was responsible for overall management. The performance agreements could be provided.
Ms Camerer asked the COO what was the DOJ attitude to interpreters. Apparently there were many Nigerian accused appearing in Gauteng courts whose cases were struck from the roll because there were no interpreters. She said also that there were very few interpreters in Cape Town. She asked what plans had been put in place.
Mr de Wee responded that there was an attempt to improve the conditions of interpreters and to try to increase the knowledge of languages from across the borders. He said that he would ask his colleagues from Court Services to give an indication of what was being done.
Mr J Sibanyone(ANC) asked about the implementation of recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He asked how far the process of reparation to communities had gone. He noted that in the constituencies there was a perception that the TRC process was over and that people had missed out.
Mr de Wee said this issue was raised frequently. He said that the work done on payments of individual reparations was substantial. 16 837 reparations had been declared and 15 577 people had been paid. There were 620 who could not be traced, some had died before getting their grants and there were problems in tracing next of kin. The reparations paid from the President's Fund totalled around R580 million. Once all the figures had been finalised, there was probably about R600 million remaining in the Fund. The Minister would be giving some guidance on how to proceed. It was possible that community reparations might follow, but this could not be seen in isolation from other activities of government. Housing was another matter. The TRC handled about 298 cases just on housing affected by violent conflict. There were reparations in other ways. It was necessary to put together all the information on how the programmes had already contributed to community reparation, including naming of towns or creation of symbols. The Social Sector Cluster had mentioned that the idea of community reparations should not focus only on major programmes at the national level, such as Freedom Park, but also be taken to the lowest level. This was an ongoing process and there needed to be progress reports given.
The Chairperson raised the issue of tracing of people. She noted that although the debt collection industry did not have a particularly good image, the industry had now been regulated, and the collectors had interesting initiatives. One had indicated that as part of his contribution to society he would be prepared to trace those owing maintenance, so that the women in communities could be uplifted. She therefore suggested that since this industry had the resources, expertise and time to trace people perhaps DOJ should use their services. Every effort must be made for a successful tracing.
Imam G Solomon (ANC) asked the Project Manager to clarify the public/private partnerships proposal that the payments formerly handled by the courts would be handed over to commercial banks. He was worried that if the people had to access money from banks they had the possibility of being asked to pay bank charges and therefore they would lose money. He asked whether the contracts with the banks had taken this into account.
Mr Alan McKenzie, Project Manager, DOJ replied that the tender requirement was that the facility undertaking the payments should be situated no more than 5 kilometres from the current established cash hall. In the urban areas there was a proliferation of banking facilities ranging from supermarket chains to ATMS to full banks. There were less facilities in the rural areas but with the roll out of the ATM programme into the trading stores this was more accessible. Only in the deep Kalahari and the northern parts of the Eastern Cape was there a problem, and a mobile payment unit must attend once a month. The tender had also specified that the bank charges were to be borne by DOJ, and not by the individual, unless the individual opted to have the payments made directly into his or her own banking account, in which case the bank charge for that transaction would be borne by the individual. Discussion on CFO's report
Ms S Camerer (DA) asked the CFO about the rollovers and the large under spend, which were also apparent in the previous financial year. She pointed out that the Department did know, well in advance, that security at the courts was a priority area, and yet there was nothing in the budget for that area, nor had there apparently been sufficient foresight to try to get it through as an allocation while there was time. The under spending was not addressing the blockages in the system.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) was similarly concerned about the under spend. He asked what happened to the total unspent funds. He noted a 22% increase in the budget and asked if the DOJ would be able to spend the increase, or whether there would be the same situation in the following year.
Ms Gomm replied that there were funded projects, and there were also unfunded projects. The UPP register identified and described all the UPPs. For 2006/07 there was an allocation of R100 million for the moneys in trust, and the UPP. Due to various reasons the project was not realised as the tenders were only received on 5 February and there could not be spent. Therefore the unfunded projects were moved to the underspent areas. Ms Gomm added that the DOJ could only reprioritise projects with a once-off expenditure.
Ms Gomm explained that R235 million under spend related to vacancies, and R130 million underspend on operational costs was directly attributable also to these vacancies. She went through the figures again. The under spending was related to moneys in trust, and personnel vacancies. Other than filling vacancies, the DOJ could do no more at present to deal with the under spending. Underspending on claims resulted from DPW not having submitted claims. The other matters were following due process.
The Chairperson pointed out that in regard to court security, there was no possibility of having a contract for a security company to guard the court, but there could be a once off capital payment, for something like burglar bars, which would still need to go through the tender process.
Ms Gomm added that the supply chain management process would take time and this was why the security need was not approved for this year.
Mr Johnson said that there was an assessment of the needs and R563 million would be spent on security over the next 3 years.
Mr Joubert said that there was an amount shown for unfunded priority projects. He asked whether the figures on the two different slides included each other. Yesterday when he questioned the DG he had said that 7.5% of budget would go on unfunded priorities yet these figures seemed to show something different.
Imam Solomons noted a number of drops in allocations for certain programmes. Some were beneficial but he was concerned about the drop in allocation for court services. He asked if this was due to the courts having been equipped.
Mr Johnson replied that there seemed to be a reduction in the allocations for the lower courts. However, the simple explanation was that this was a sub-programme. The budget for lower courts had been beefed up this year with once off allocations and rollovers. The second part of the funding for the lower courts was tied in with other matters. For instance, they would share in an allocation for motor transport as soon as operational plans were submitted. They would also share in facilities management and there was also provision for upgrading of infrastructure, based on the needs submitted. Once the DG approved it the funds would be devolved for spending.
Imam Solomon was still not happy with this explanation. The lower courts were fundamental to providing justice. He noted that there had been an increase of 60% in the Special Investigating Unit and he believed the lower courts should get the same attention.
The Chairperson said that perhaps there was a problem in the detail. She explained that many allocations to the lower courts were "hidden" in the total allocations.
Ms Camerer said that she was also concerned about these figures. She said that reducing case backlogs was included in unfunded priorities. The Minister had indicated that this should be a priority area. The DOJ had apparently spent R1.8 million on legal aid case backlog. She asked how the other case backlogs would be addressed in terms of the unfunded backlog. She was unable to link up the figures and wanted to know what exactly was being done.
Mr Johnson said the Treasury allocations were based on policy priorities that DOJ defined. Treasury would make the recommendations and Parliament approved the additional allocations. There were processes to determine the allocations above the normal Treasury allocations. The budget allocation for lower courts had been increased by 58%, so there had been re prioritisation there. Secondly, with regard to the priorities identified by the President there was R425 million for reduction of the case backlog over the MTEF. The current year's allocation was R50 million. There was an integrated court plan that would be presented on Thursday. The Legal Aid Board did receive an allocation that would grow to R200 million over the MTEF period. There was also provision for intervention across the criminal case backlog.
The Chairperson indicated that the unfunded amount would essentially reflect the shortfall so that there would be amounts also included for the topic under the main allocations.
Mr G Magwanishe (ANC) queried why the under spending had been presented as a saving. He said that there was under spending as a result of delaying appointments. At the same time there was a delay in dealing with case backlogs. The delay in appointment of staff was unacceptable. He asked what measures the Department had taken to shorten the time in supply chain management processes. It was unacceptable that there should be underspending because of poor processes.
Mr Khotso de Wee, Chief Operations Officer noted that there was room for improvement. DOJ wanted to start the process of quarterly reviews, but even that was not quick enough. It was clear that under expenditure must be reduced. By September DOJ should have looked at the budget trends and made decisions. The delays in appointments would be dealt with during the HR presentation. DOJ was slow in recruitment processes, because of the job evaluation processes and its responsibilities under the PFMA. He confirmed that there was a need to strengthen capacity and to automate the system. This was an ongoing process.
The Chairperson noted that there was no clear sense as to what functions were allocated and how the operations worked. The organogram was supposed to clarify the lines of authority and accountability, and that would still be useful so the Committee could get a better picture.
Ms Camerer noted that this question was asked the previous year but there was never a proper interrogation around it.
Ms Gomm stated that it was not correct that the DOJ was trying to spend at year end. There were quarterly budget reviews to analyse the trends. Filling the vacancies was another process on which the DOJ was working. The re prioritisation process had begun in September last year. In relation to the 3% of budget represented by the R192.5 million unspent, she reported that in the event that the DG decided not to reprioritise within the next month, on the understanding that the units could spend or commit the money, this would be returned to NT.
Mr Gordon Hollamby, Chief Director, Budgets and Procurements, DOJ said there were regional committees to deal with higher amounts, and policies were in place. The bid committee sat weekly. These measures ensured that procurement was not delayed. There would be no short cuts and proper analyses had to be done.
The Chairperson asked about the re prioritisation process last year. She asked if that money from last year had been completely spent. Ms Gomm said that all had been spent, except rollovers on digital court solutions. A comprehensive report would be given that covered all the area of the re prioritisation.
The Chairperson noted that the DG had said that the systems would be finalised by June.
Mr Joubert asked why the Constitutional Court budget was three times higher than the Supreme Courts.
Mr Johnson confirmed that there was a difference in allocations between the Supreme and Constitutional Court. The budgets were informed by the senior manager structure. The budget for the Constitutional Court had been increased to R44 million, because it included two main items. Ann amount of R8 million was included for judicial education. The budget for international and domestic travel had also been moved to the Constitutional Court, as it fell under the Chief Justice. It was work in progress to ensure that there was proper control on subsistence and interventions on judicial education.
Mr Joubert and the Chairperson felt that this was a confusing way of dealing with the matter. The courts should stand on their own and it would be easier to read the presentations if they were broken down clearly, and if they showed that the figures in fact included a number of other items.
Human Resources (HR) Unit Briefing
Mr Gordon Hollamby summarised that Human Resources (HR) had overspent by R1 million in the previous year. For the 2006/07 year, there was a R58.9 million budget, but R3.7 million had been voluntarily surrendered as part of the reprioritisation process. R2.86 million of the bids would be spent. There had been under spending in the current year, with the major element of under spend being R5.7 million on compensation of employees and R1.5 million on goods and services relating to vacant posts. In the new financial year, the budget would rise to R79.9 million.
Mr de Wee indicated that DOJ was a large department. There was also a number of temporary staff, because of challenges in recruitment. The temporary staff were largely working on the electronic fund transfer of money to about 9 000 beneficiaries. Training had been identified as a major issue so that people began to add value to the Department. Performance management was another key issue and a culture needed to be developed to do assessments on a quarterly basis, which would link to the financial quarterly reports. Mr Pula Sekawane, Chief Director, Human Resources, stated that the figures given excluded NPA staff and magistrates and judges. Therefore the report focused on the executive and other staff. To give an overview, he stated that there were 17 960 staff. There were about 15 000 approved posts, with temporary and contracts staff at 2 829. The vacancy rate was around 11.2%, with about 1 600 vacancies. This rate had dropped. He tabled the staffing profile across the provinces, including the National office in Pretoria. The majority of staff was in the semi-skilled areas. They had Standard 10 or below, and the majority of these were in the Courts. It was a major challenge to boost their skills.
There were around 88.8% filled positions. There were around 300 posts advertised per month. Salary levels 1 to 8 were advertised in at the Department of Public Service and Administration. About 50 people left the Department each month. By filling about 250 positions per quarter the current vacancy rate could be reduced to 1.2% long term. Posts were usually filled within three to four months, after complying with Public Service Regulations, job evaluations, posting of notices, competency testing and resignation time. There were strategies to improve this situation, with one being in the notice of resignation to HR. There was a major project to automate the recruitment process so that people could apply on line.
Mr Sekawane stated that there were 208 misconduct cases ongoing at present, comprising 52 fraud cases, 37 theft cases, 11 corruption cases and 22 involving loss of state money. Other issues were listed. Most offences occurred among court staff, followed by Master's Office and Legal Advisory Services. 180 cases were dealt with by September last year. About 42 of the serious cases had stood over from the previous year, and all others were current. Some of the serious cases had bee pursued through the criminal courts. The HR was still operating on an old establishment. A new medium term strategy framework had been adopted 2 years ago, looking at organisational re-design. The high level structure had been largely finalised and would shortly be referred to the Department of Public Service and Administration. This would include the newly reconfigured regional offices. The cluster courts within provinces had been conceptualised and Court Services would deal with this. The district court structure was being discussed, as the structure was outdated. There was rightsizing of the Master's office and the structures were being repopulated.
DOJ's strategy had been evolving over the last few years. There was a three-pronged strategy. One focused on organisational efficiency, where employees would have self-access to systems. There was strong back office support and the call centre would shortly be established. There was also a major process of re- engineering and re-mapping and one of the success stories involved the Master's Office. The second prong of Human capital development focused on performance and career development. There was a major learnership and internship programme in different areas, and there were a number of skills programmes being run. Organisational development was the third aspect with major changes ongoing, such as diversity management, team building exercises and so forth. Organisational restructuring was going ahead. Employment relations were being improved. There was a management and leadership programme with the COO. Employee wellness programmes were also being developed. Talent sourcing and succession planning were also of importance.
90% of senior managers had disclosed their financial interests and 90% of performance agreements had been signed. There was now a culture of performance management and DOJ had submitted the Workplace Skills Plan and Employment Equity report to the Department of Labour. It still fell short on employment of disabled people. The supervisory issues also needed to be improved as there were a number of challenges on matters such as performance bonuses, merit awards and disciplinary matters.
The Chairperson noted that the presentation had not indicated whether the HR unit itself was fully functional. She asked for some written information. A large part of the under spending last year was directly attributable to HR. There was very little that could be done to accelerate other processes, but the 14% vacancy rate last year also affected the operational costs. There was still no indication of what had caused this major vacancy rate. Many of these issues had been raised in the internal audit report. She asked that a full report must be given on every issue raised in the internal audit around HR, and a full explanation and plan going forward to address the problem should also be submitted. She suggested that since the matter would be looked at on a quarterly basis, the Committee expected a report every quarter in future. This would have to be sent through the parliamentary liaison officer, without the need for any prompting.
Ms Camerer noted that the figures given by the COO differed from those now given.
Mr Pule replied that the COO's report covered the last financial year but the figures given today were the current figures. Therefore the vacancy rate was shown as having decreased. There had been a major recruitment drive over the last year, which was why there was discrepancy between the reports.
Ms Camerer asked how many of the 208 people under disciplinary measures were still in their posts, and how many had been suspended, and whether this was with or without pay.
Mr Pule said that the target for dealing with disciplinary cases was six months. Most of the suspensions would be precautionary, if there was danger of interfering with witnesses or investigations. In many cases the DOJ would opt for pre-dismissal arbitration procedures, which could normally be finalised in six months. This would apply particularly to the theft or corruption matters.
Ms Shuli Chikane, Chief Director: Human Resources added that there was currently one person on precautionary suspension. Two dismissals had been confirmed and seven were at hearing stage. The Presiding Officers had recommended five dismissals and the reports were still to be written for the DG, who would then consider the recommendations and take appropriate steps. There were seven appeals.
The Chairperson asked also that the Committee should be given an indication of the number of grievances lodged, and the time frames to finalise them.
Imam Solomon asked if there was a structure to deal with ethical conduct.
Mr de Wee confirmed that a Code of Conduct existed, which was an adaptation of the existing Public Service Commission (PSC) Code of Conduct. With regard to the draft fraud and anti-corruption planning processes, he said that there was an anti corruption integrity document that had been prepared, which was over and above the Code of Conduct.
Ms M Meruti (ANC) raised a concern on the gender ratio, noting that only two females were listed in top management.
Mr de Wee indicated that the Chief Litigation Officer and Head of Justice College were both female. The advertisement for Deputy Director General of Corporate Services had specifically stated that gender was a major concern.
Ms Meruti appreciated that the number of disciplinary cases older than six months had been reduced, but it was a concern that 42 still remained. She added that it was even more problematic if these people had been suspended with full salary.
Mr M Malahlela (ANC) said that some of the matters had been referred to yesterday but he was seeking undertakings from the Department's leadership. The presentation today had referred to strategic routes. The question was where these had derived from, as they did not seem to relate only to the three key performance indicators referred to on the previous day. If there was no overall five-year plan the divisions of the department could not follow any set routes. Apart from a report, the Committee needed an undertaking to say when the organisational redesign would be completed. There was a danger of asking different divisions to give plans when they did their work. They might not fit into the overall plans of the department. He felt that there was far too much that was described as "pending".
Mr de Wee replied that the HR services drew from the Departmental Strategy and there was a macro level structure that needed to be approved. Once that was done the posts would be evaluated to ensure that they were at the right level. Skills analysis processes would also be done. He could undertake that the entire process should be finished by the end of the year. The macro level structure would be approved soon but the other processes would follow.
Mr Malahlela noted the exit figures of 50 people per month. He asked how many of these were senior management, and how many were semi-skilled. There was also no indication of how this had impacted on the department at operational level. He was also concerned whether sufficient steps had been taken in terms of the Development Skills legislation to further train the large number of semi skilled staff.
The Chairperson added that the presentation had not indicated how critical the vacancies were. However there were interesting figures included in the Annual Report.
Mr Joubert was concerned about the vacancy rate of 11.2%, and the fact that it differed greatly from one province to another, with North West having 25% vacancies. He asked what correlation there was between vacancies and performances.
Dr de Wee could not agree that there was necessarily a correlation. It could be that few vacancies reflected the fact that there were enough people to do the job. However quality of supervision and management was important. The regional offices had recently been re-established and North West had just appointed a new Regional Head. It was busy filling vacancies.
The Chairperson indicated that the reports should be provided in two weeks and that if necessary the HR Unit would be recalled in the year once the consolidated information had been received. The CFO should also be present at that meeting.
Ms M Meruti took over as Acting Chairperson. Public Education and Communications briefing
Mr Johan Johnson emphasised that the need to improve the perception of the justice system was of paramount importance. He added that the problem was further exacerbated by the Department’s bad track record in bringing to book maintenance defaulters. He continued that the Department was actively attempting to increase awareness on the Service Charter for Victims of Crime. He also pointed out that the Legal Services Charter was in its final stages of consultation, and awareness of this also needed to be increased.
Mr Johnson stated that communities did not make adequate use of the services of the Master, and added that lack of planning and estate management was becoming a problem, particularly in light of HIV / Aids statistics. He continued that awareness with regard to criteria and access to pardons needed to be increased. With regard to Small Claims Courts and Equality Courts, public awareness needed to be drastically increased, and issues around the staffing of the courts needed to be addressed. Human-rights education needed to be actively encouraged. He concluded that the Magistrates’ Conference in April should provide a good platform to discuss these issues.
The Acting Chair asked what was being done with regard to communications issues.
Ms S Camerer (DA) stated that the department had much negative publicity to counteract, especially in relation to Equality Courts. She enquired what the department was planning to do in this regard. In relation to the Victim’s Charter, she asked what had become of the initiative to establish a fund for crime victims. The Criminal Access Recovery Association (CARA), as far as she was aware, had donated R 3.5 million to be used towards such a fund. She enquired what had become of this money.
Mr Johnson admitted that the negative publicity is a major problem, and placed emphasis on the need for campaigns. With regard to the Victim’s Charter, he stated that he was not aware of any such fund and accordingly was also not aware of the CARA funds. He stated that he would find out and respond accordingly.
Ms Chohan-Khota (ANC) asked for clarification whether the vacancy statistics were updated.
Mr Johnson stated that the vacancies were largely in the office support sphere, and he mentioned that these were not prevalent in so far as the core staff complement was concerned.
Ms Chohan-Khota enquired, in regard to the Legal Services Charter, to what extent the court staff had been trained, as increased service delivery levels were expected of them. She stated that the equality courts were being under-used, and that this was a waste of the expertise and skilled staff that were employed in these courts. She stated that, personally, she had not seen any campaigns to improve the situation with regard to access to these courts. She added that both the Human Rights Commission and the Gender Commission had also identified access as a major problem, and enquired as to the synergy between these two institutions. It was obvious that the efficiency of the current campaigns on these issues must be reconsidered.
Mr Johnson stated that the Legal Services Charter dictated a minimum level of standards for the treatment of victims by the courts.
The Chair asked where the training of court staff was taking place.
A representative of the Department stated that training was underway in all nine provinces.
Mr Johnson emphasized that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was allocated R3 million for the development of victim support services. He stated that it was just a process of ‘training the trainer.’
Mr Magwanishe asked whether any Community Based Organizations (CBOs) had been taken into account with regard to ‘training the trainer’ initiatives.
Mr Johnson stated that the full extent of CBO training had perhaps not been fully realized by the department, and added that an investigation and report back would be conducted. Visibility statistics had shown an increase over the last few years (from 3.5 % to roughly 40 %) but he stressed that this rating was still not high enough, and that a concerted effort had to be made by all.
Ms Camerer emphasized that the increase in the number of maintenance officials has helped but she stated that the approach taken by presiding officers’ needs improvement. She added that the Department was sending a message that the rights of the maintenance-defaulter were more important than those of the maintenance-deprived.
Ms Chohan-Khota suggested that information kiosks with pamphlets and relevant information be introduced into the foyers and hallways of court buildings. She added that this would greatly improve access to the justice system, as people would know where to look for guidance. If coupled with effective education at high school level, this would be very effective. She asked that copies of any pamphlets, posters or information distributed by the unit in future access campaigns be sent to parliament, so that parliament could monitor progress in this regard.
Mr G Solomon (ANC) asked that the unit and department as a whole make much more effort to ‘show face,’ particularly in so far as public education and access initiatives were concerned.
Mr Johnson stated that Justice Service Fairs had been taking place, and added that the Rand Easter Show fair was particularly successful. He mentioned that he was not aware of the problems with presiding officers that had been mentioned, but he would definitely investigate the matter further. He pointed out that, in so far as equality issues were concerned; the Department was looking at establishing a call centre which would facilitate greater access to the justice system. He added that the unit was working with Chapter Nine institutions and with the Legal Aid Board, but had to be careful not to infringe the independence of these bodies.
Imam G Solomon took over as Acting Chairperson.
Information Systems Management (ISM) Unit briefing
Ms Sharon Thomas, Chief Director: ISM, began the presentation by emphasising that the visible R47 million overspend had been committed, and stated that the new 30 % budget increase would go a long way in assisting the unit to fulfill its aims, particularly in the sphere of goods and service delivery.
Mr Johnson stated that ISM had been performing very well. He added that the initial trend of outsourcing such units was not such a good idea, and with the return of the unit into the department, despite its limited capacity, tremendous results had been achieved.
Ms Thomas explained, in regard to the R47 million overspend, that the majority of the goods came from abroad, and this presented challenges with regard to cost and customs duty.
Ms Chohan-Khota asked if staff members were being effectively trained on the IT programme roll-out at courts. Furthermore, she asked whether other people were going to be employed, and if so, where these individuals were going to be sourced.
Ms Thomas responded that, in so far as roll-out methodology was concerned, ISM would develop the system and train the chief users in the respective courts. These individuals would then be responsible for training the other staff members through self-developed training initiatives.
Mr Malahlela asked whether there was any chance of erroneous input data corrupting the entire system, and stated that, if this was the case, whether this was the only option available.
Ms Thomas replied that only data itself could be corrupted, and not the entire system. Any erroneous input would only affect the accuracy of overall statistical data. She added that this scenario would be actively avoided, and stated that ISM would have to rely heavily on managers at court level to check and process information correctly.
Mr Magwanishe asked whether such IT systems could be linked with other departmental units to improve service delivery. He also asked whether software existed or was being developed to help senior managers to predict and monitor trends.
The Acting Chairperson added that IT was a critical component of justice reform in South Africa, and enquired whether it was possible for further inter-departmental and inter-unit IT system integration to take place.
Ms Thomas responded that inter-departmental system integration was on the cards, and added that various possibilities had been considered and were being developed, especially a linking of the Home Affairs and Police Systems, which would greatly help with identification, in particular, in fingerprinting. Such initiatives would be completed towards the end of the year. Problems arose, however, as not all the departments were technologically on the same level, which meant that linking was even more difficult.
Demonstration of the Justice Management Information Solution (JMIS)
Various Departmental representatives did a visual presentation of the Justice Management Information Solution (JMIS) and various examples were discussed. The e-mailing and document scanning function of the programme were fully demonstrated and explained.
Mr Joubert asked who had access to the system. He also asked whether any gremlins had been detected thus far, and asked whether it was possible to extend this to the entire justice system. He asked why other departments were not as advanced, and commended the unit on the good work achieved.
Ms Chohan-Khota mentioned that the programme appears to be very criminal specific, and asked whether maintenance issues were included on the database. She asked whether there was a tracking and reminder mechanism for remanded and postponed cases. She also asked for clarification as to how far the overall programme roll-out was. She also enquired, with regard to the addition of cases and documents to the database, how retrospective the system would be.
Mr Malahlela asked whether the system was reliant on the police providing the documents.
Ms Thomas said that the system was not rolled out to all branches yet, and added that all sites had to be on the system before access was granted. Regional managers would only have access to the information from the courts in their jurisdiction. The Director General, however, would have access to all information. She stated further that most of the documentation was public knowledge anyway. However, where information was privileged, the documents would be specially encrypted.
She also stated that the next phase of the roll-out would incorporate maintenance as well as other databases, and she added that these should be operational towards the end of the year. The problem of hacking had been addressed by firewalls and other security measures already firmly in place, and other concerned bodies were looking at security issues. This included the involvement of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Ms Thomas was glad to report that the last attempt to hack into the system was not successful. In so far as ‘early warning alerts’ were concerned, she admitted that these were critical, and assured members that such alerts were being developed.
In response to the question whether the police dockets still had to be manually submitted, Ms Thomas stipulated that, at the moment, this was the case. However, when the systems were integrated at the end of the year, individuals would have access to such information. She added that, by the end of the year, each docket would have a specific number. At the moment, Identity numbers were being used, which was not ideal. When the systems were linked, fingerprinting would be used, which would be a much more effective tool.
Ms Chohan-Khota asked for clarification as to how court staff, particularly managers, could keep track of a matter, particularly in light of continuous postponements. She also asked whether the programme allowed for the diaries of attorneys, magistrates and prosecutors to be kept up to date and in agreement with each other.
Ms Thomas responded that the system allowed for court managers to structure specific queries, which made access to information very easy for such persons. She added that the system made it very easy for prosecutors and magistrates to ‘tap in’ to the court roll for the following day and thus organize their diaries.
The meeting was adjourned.