Justice Budget Monitoring Project (Open Society Foundation); SA Human Rights Commission Annual Report

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Justice and Correctional Services

05 November 2007
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Meeting report

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 November 2007
JUSTICE BUDGET MONITORING PROJECT (OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION); SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ANNUAL REPORT 2006/7

Chairperson:
Mr Y Carrim (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Human Rights Commission Annual Report 2006/07 [available shortly at www.sahrc.org.za]
South African Human Rights Commission presentation
Summary and Analysis of the Annual Report of SAHRC 2006/07 [Part 1][Part 2]
South African Human Rights Commission Strategic Business Plan
South African Human Rights Commission chairperson’s opening remarks
Justice Budget Monitoring Project: Inception Report (Draft) [email info@pmg.org.za]
Justice Budget Monitoring Project presentation


Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The
Justice Budget Monitoring Project, an initiative of the Open Society Foundation, briefed the Committee on its research study on the Department of Justice’s budget and expenditure. The study focused on the link between policy formulation, budget allocation and service delivery. The Committee commended the Foundation for its Inception Report, and agreed that the issues raised therein would form part of the deliberations at a later meeting. The Final Report would be available early in 2008.

The South African Human Rights Commission focused on its mandate, its objectives and outcomes in each of its programmes for the past year, the challenges it faced as well as providing information on its activities for 2007/08. The Committee commended the Commission for the comprehensive report and agreed that the issues raised would form the basis of further deliberations by the members.

MINUTES
Justice Budget Monitoring Project of Open Society Foundation: briefing
Ms Alta Folscher, project researcher, explained the scope of this project which would review the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s budget and expenditure to assess the effectiveness of spending areas important for:
access to justice
● criminal justice system delivery
● rule of law.

Thus the study would identify key policy decisions made by the Department, look at how these had been operationalised and whether they had been supported by a commensurate budget allocation. The policy/budget, budget/spending and spending/service delivery links were essential to ensure its priorities were effectively and efficiently addressed.

Ms Folscher reported on what her preliminary overview for the Draft
Inception Report had revealed. The finalisation of the Draft Inception Report in mid-November would be followed by a workshop with stakeholders to assess the demarcation of the study and its focus. One important choice for the workshop would be between breadth and depth of coverage. The main research would then be conducted with the submission of a Final Report at the end of January. This would be followed by a dissemination programme, coordinated with the tabling of the 2008 Budget in Parliament.

The Chair commented that in principle the Inception Report was a good one, and that the Committee would study it closely and come up with its views. He added that stakeholders would be involved in discussions on the Inception Report. He agreed that discussions on departmental budgets should be done in the form of hearings rather than merely departmental briefings, to enable members of the public to participate and be heard. This had already been suggested by the Minister of Finance. He suggested that the Committee might take this route when dealing with next year’s budget by involving civil society bodies such as trade unions and non-government organisations.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) presentation
Mr Jody Kollapen, SAHRC Chairperson, started by commenting on certain issues that affected the Commission such as the Chapter Nine Institutions Report of the Parliamentary Committee chaired by Prof Asmal.

He stated that the focus of the Commission was the eradication of inequality and poverty and the achievement of socio-economic rights. The Commission modus operandi was to interact with communities and also to engage in public enquiry. This way accountability was encouraged. He said that the Commission complied with the best standards of corporate governance. Finally, the challenges faced by the Commission were formidable but not insurmountable.

Mr Tseliso Thipanyane, CEO of the Commission, stated that the Commission adhered fully with the highest standards of corporate governance. The Commission he said was highly rated as one of the best in the world, alongside its Kenyan and Ugandan counterparts. On its financial management, the Commission had received an unqualified audit report from the Auditor General, and had complied fully with relevant statutory requirements. He added that the internal audit function within the Commission had been outsourced, but there were plans to appoint in-house internal auditors from next year.

The Commission had achieved its set targets on these issues: legislation monitoring, rights of non-nationals, rights of older persons, children’s rights and HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS was a new area for the Commission and it had managed to develop partnerships with other stakeholders. The Commission had held three workshops on children’s rights and achieved 12 media interventions on child and disability rights. The Commission had revamped website and had recorded 300 000 hits as a monthly average of which 12 000 were international hits.

The Commission had dealt with about 11 000 complaints in the last financial year, and had achieved a maximum three months’ turnaround time for dealing with complaints. Also 18 litigation cases were finalised while two public hearings were conducted on initiation schools and school-based violence. The Commission had developed a fully integrated human resource, payroll and finance system. Forthcoming events included hearings on housing, the launch of a Human Rights and Crime Forum, the Human Rights Development Report and Journal and an e-learning programme which will be launched formally in January 2008.

The Commission identified nearly twenty challenges it faced as an organisation and in terms of service delivery. Some of these challenges were:
- The need to increase the efficiency of the provincial offices
- The need to improve the management of complaints
- Delay by departments in responding to the Commission’s request for information
- Delay by Department of Justice in processing appeals
- The need to amend the SAHRC Act
- The issues raised in the Asmal Chapter Nine Report such as funding levels
- Non-responsiveness of appropriate institutions to complaints by public

The CEO concluded by noting the total amount budgeted for the Commission during the period under review was R49, 220,000, while the amount actually spent was R45, 575, 000.

Discussion
Mr B Magwanishe (ANC) asked why certain assets were sold to the Commission’s staff and whether there was a policy that allowed the Commission to dispose of its assets to staff. He asked why there was a huge gap between the salaries of the CEO and other senior management, and why assets were insured without approval from Treasury. He suggested that the Commission consider employing internal auditors instead of outsourcing the function.

Mr L Landers (ANC) suggested that the Commission should engage the services of a security expert to deal with the problem of theft in the Commission’s offices. He asked that the details of those departments that refused to respond to the Commission’s request for information be forwarded to the Committee. He asked for the reason for the delay in payment of salary increases in the Commission which was included as a challenge in the presentation.

Ms N Mahlawe (ANC) asked how many interventions the Commission had carried out.

Mr G Solomon (ANC) observed that it was not the responsibility of the Department to promote equality but that of the Commission. He added that the problem in Khayelitsha where the equality court was closed down should have been handled by the Commission.

Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) asked what role the Commission could play in enforcing socio-economic rights.

Mr Kollapen in his response stated that the Commission tried to enforce socio-economic rights through the avenue of appeals and persuasion, and sometimes it resorts to its litigation powers. On the equality courts, he stated that the Commission does not have the resources to popularise them and that promoting them would involve a massive campaign.

Mr Thipanyane in his own response stated that the Commission has an asset disposal policy by which it disposed of its assets. On salaries, he stated that the Commission was currently under the public service scheme and that there was a need for the Commission to have a different salary structure from that of the public service. On insured assets, he said the Commission’s application to insure its assets was only turned down a year after, without any reasons given for the refusal. This is despite the fact that the Commission has very valuable assets which ought to be insured.

On security at the Commission’s offices, Mr Thipanyane said that a security company is to be engaged and a new security officer appointed to oversee this. The Commission had received about 11 000 complaints during the period under review and it dealt with them sometimes by the use of mediation and sometimes through litigation. He noted that the Commission’s resources were too limited for it to be fully involved in the promotion of equality. The Commission could only act as a catalyst in this regard. On internal auditing, he hint that the function would no longer be outsourced as the Commission would be appointing a chief internal auditor of the rank of Director.

Ms Z Majodina (Deputy Chair SAHRC) added that the Commission’s work on the rights of refugees and immigrants was ongoing, and that there was in place a child rights coordinator who had so far been doing a commendable job in the Commission.

The Chair described the report as very good and commended the Commission for a job well done. He however raised a concern as to whether the Commission was not setting low targets for itself, which then painted a picture of over-performance.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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