Court Services: Budget hearings

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Justice and Correctional Services

07 March 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
08 March 2007
COURT SERVICES: BUDGET HEARINGS

Chairperson: Ms F Chohan-Kota (ANC)

Documents Handed out:
Court Services: Budget and Expenditure
Powerpoint presentation by Advocate S Jiyane
Full briefing by Deputy Director General: Court Services

Audio recording of the meeting

SUMMARY
Court Services briefed the Committee on its 2007/08 budget and strategic plan. Questions were asked about the rollover of the equipment budget, the minimal increase in the budget for lower courts, the rollout of equality and community courts. The
Department's efforts with regard to the intersectoral task team dealing with awaiting trial children were commended.

MINUTES
Advocate Simon Jiyane, Deputy Director General: Court Services, noted that Court Services was divided into five programmes and his delegation included the chief directors heading each programme. He introduced them and handed over to Chief Director: Budgets in Court Services.

Presentation by the Chief Director: Budgets
Mr Johan Johnson's presented the Court Services: Budget and Expenditure document. He noted that Justice had approximately 15 000 personnel and of those, about 12 000 worked for court services. As a result court services had the biggest budget of about R2 billion.

Looking at expenditure outcomes of 2005/06, Mr Johnson concentrated on Compensation of Employees which had had an allocation of R 1.8 billion. The final expenditure was 1.825 billion which meant an overspend of 1%.

Moving on to the 2006/07 financial year, percentages reflected 80% spending as at the end of February. Under Goods and Services expenditure was at 75% and they still expected about 120-129 million for property management to still come through.Under Buildings and Fixed Structures, there were still outstanding payments but they were confident that they were going to spend 100% of their allocation. Under Machinery and Equipment there was under expenditure however they had received approval from Treasury of the R114 million rollover they had requested for a digital court recording system. To date, they had utilised about R54 of the 114million and there were still expecting to have some unspent funding on this project. As a result there were going to have a rollover in relation to the court recording equipment.

Slide 4 showed the MTEF budget allocations and the budget for Court Services had increased from the current R2.3 billion to R2.7 billion (2007/08), R3 billion (2008/09) and R3.4 billion (2009/10) over the MTEF period. The difference between the monies in this presentation and yesterday’s presentation was yesterday they concentrated on programmes and the current one looked at business orders. The slide also contained information on the transfer to provinces and municipalities. Transfer to provinces and municipalities had a budget allocation of 1.2 billion. This was because since June there were no longer paying regional council levies and these transfers had superseded and had become the levies.

Slide 5 presented the MTEF budget allocations per sub programme. He pointed out that the budget of the Family Advocate increased from R54 to 72 million in 2007/08. The slide was thus the budget from a different angle. Slide 6 gave a view of the budget per region. These budgets are influenced by the information available and the funding of the programmes. Slide 7 to 15 gave the breakdown of the regional budget for each region.

Slide 16 was the breakdown of monies managed at National Office. Some of this money he said was going to be devolved to the regions based on certain information for example there was 30million for government transport. The area that he wanted to highlight was the facilities management which had a current budget of R466 million with the following breakdown, major capital works R333 million, Day to day maintenance R22 million, Upgrading of infrastructure R40 million. This was going to give them a sense of how the 466million was going to be used.

On personnel establishment he noted that this was a big structure and there were various ways to present this but hey had tried to focus on the provinces because a lot of personnel was being recruited at the provincial level. There were going to provide additional information on the vacancy rates should they so wish. He ended the presentation by taking the committee to slide 23 which gave the whole summary.

The Chair requested that next when they presented their MTEF expenditure for the following year they should also provide comparative information from the previous financial year so that it was easier for them to determine who was doing their job and who was not.

Discussion
Mr G Solomon (ANC) asked how they explained the minimal budget increase in the lower courts were most of the work was done compared with the substantial increase in the Constitutional Court and the high courts. They were asking because there has always been constant aggravation about the lower courts.

Mr Johnson replied that the reason for the substantial increase was that after the 28million allocated to the constitutional they were additional allocations for judicial education and the travelling subsistence for the judges and magistrates. Moreover, some expenses of the magistrate’s costs used to be incurred at the lower courts level but due to the new centralized allocation these costs were now being incurred in the constitutional courts.

The Chair remarked that this was a new area of development and the Department should explain this in an explanatory memo and send this to the Committee.

Mr Johnson commented that in the current presentation the lower court’s amount was lower at 1.6million than yesterday’s figure which was at 1.9 because the money was in a trust allocation of about 100million. Moreover, there was the allocation for security and court services did not manage both these accounts hence the lowering to 1.6.

 

Mr L Joubert (DA) asked why they were requesting a rollover if they were unable to utilise half of the money that was allocated to them for equipment.

The Chair remarked that Mr Johnson would explain further but it was clear that one of the constraints was that departments worked with a tender system and they could not pay service providers until they were sure that the equipment was fully functional. The delays were only because they could not make payment prior to installation and checking that the equipment worked. Hence it seemed like the Department was under-spending, which was not the case.

Mr Johnson replied that they had budgeted R114 million for the project for the previous year. Parliament had approved the rollover through the adjustment estimate budget process. After receiving the R114 million, about R54 million had been spent in delivering the equipment and the rollout across the country was taking place. He added that there was nothing wrong with asking for a rollover as long as they spent the amount by the end of the financial year.

The Chair remarked that the Committee did not understand what was meant by 'lower courts'. The next time they presented, they should make a breakdown for the Committee so that they understand what lower courts are and what goes into it.

She also commented that when there are vacancies, they expected them to be filled and not to be carried over continuously for two years.

Presentation by the Deputy Director General: Court Services
Adv
Simon Jiyane explained the role of Court Services, its intersectoral alignment within the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster and the integration of systems such as the SAPS Crime Administration System (CAS) and the Criminal Record identification System (CRIM) to all relevant departments. He outlined their approach for 2007 and the achievements for 2006. He highlighted some of the projects in the national office and detailed some of the challenges they faced (see document).

Discussion

Ms Camerer and Mr Joubert asked if they had any systems in place that were going to assist them in spending their budget and if they were confident that the department was going to spend the budget that had nearly doubled.

 

Adv Jiyane replied that they had to understand the reasons for the current under expenditure. He continued to say that one of the reasons involved policy issues and as such was under the Director General’s Office and they had no influence over them. Nevertheless there were going to put in place a monitoring system that was going to monitor expenditure and make sure that the expenditure was in line with their objectives. In addition, the recently appointed court managers were supposed to ensure that all the monies allocated, were utilized.

The Chair spoke on the Department's behalf and explained that the 75% was the money they had used up to the end of February 2007 for this financial year which she added was not yet over. From the reports of the Department she said that the department was confident that they were going to spend all their allocation by the end of the financial year.


Ms C Johnson (ANC) noted that Court Services' had planned to establish equality courts in every magisterial district by the end of this year. She wanted to know how far this had gone and how far were they in rolling out with the courts in community.

Adv Jiyane replied that there was still time to roll out the equality courts. He added that they had already begun to make the roll out for the community courts and they were waiting for a couple of provinces for the minister to make a proclamation that they can sit. The minister he said was dealing with the legislative issue of the proclamation.

Ms N Mahlawe (ANC) requested the demarcation list of magisterial offices and Adv Jiyane said that this would be provided.

Ms Mahlawe asked why the Umzimkulu Court received their pay from East London whilst in their demarcation they fell outside of the East London district. How far was the process?

Adv Jiyane replied that under the current legislation the minister had the power to declare magisterial offices. The fact that Umzimkulu had been moved to a different district but still received their pay from East London was because the process had not yet been finalised. When it was finalised, the personnel and infrastructure would move into the new demarcation.

Mr Solomon asked who was speaking for the lower courts so that they would receive a fair budget as it seemed that there was discrimination in the allocation of the budgets.

Adv Jiyane replied that there was a dramatic increase in the Constitutional Court as they were taking the responsibility of aligning and coordinating the whole judicial system. He added that the issues the Committee had raised would be kept in mind.

Mr Joubert asked if they could not make a provision for an increase in the regional magisterial court.

Adv Jiyane replied that as they removed some functions from the high court and devolved them so they would increase the resources of the regional courts. The allocation of cars was still part of their duty but as to the allocation of remuneration, that was not in their domain.

Ms Camerer asked if there was an alignment of their objectives with the State of the Nation Address.

Adv Jiyane replied that indeed there was alignment and they did encompass the objectives of government. And just because the sequencing did not put case backlogs on top did not mean that there were not a priority.

The Chair remarked that they should provide a report on their meetings with the respective role players.

Ms Camerer asked what the improved service delivery entailed.

Adv Jiyane replied that it meant an integrated service that included training of personnel so that there could be a more user-friendly atmosphere and proper management of complaints. Everything was detailed in the Action Plan that he was unable to go through with them because of time constraints.

Ms Johnson commended the Department's achievements with regard to awaiting trial children and asked for more information about the intersectoral task team.

Ms Said replied that the intersectoral committee met monthly, a week before they meet with the government departments. What has been effective in bringing the numbers down was that they had put together a task team to deal with awaiting trial children. They had a judge chairing and together with Legal Aid, they tracked children who were awaiting trial. Additionally, they had managed to put in place an information management task team and which was working preventive measures that ensured that children were prevented from passing through the criminal justice system and that they would be managed on their level. They had also increased the standard of the intersectoral committee and had brought on board national non governmental organisations specialising in children and have enlisted their help.

Mr Sibanyoni asked if the special court in Pretoria was going to be a permanent fixture.

Adv Jiyane replied that those courts should not be confused with the envisaged community courts. These were more of an extension of the main courts. Currently they had launched a project to formulate the regulations that would ensure that the community courts were uniform and the project was almost done. One of the good things that came out of the community courts was the involvement of the community.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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