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SECURITY AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
14 November 2007
REGULATION OF INTERCEPTION OF COMMUNICATIONS AMENDMENT BILL: DELIBERATIONS; DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNUAL REPORT
Chairperson: Kgoshi L Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo)
Documents handed out:
Regulation of Interception of Communication and Provision of Communication related Information Amendment Bill [B9B-2006]
Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication related Information Amendment Bill [B9-2006]
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Annual Report 2006/07 [available at www.doj.gov.za]
Department of Justice Annual Report 2006/07 presentation
Audio recording of meeting
The Committee agreed that there was unanimity on the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Related Information Amendment Bill. The Department would finalise drafting final amendments to the Bill before its adoption.
The Director General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development briefed the Committee on the Department’s 2006/07 Annual Report. He reviewed the Department strategic goals, programme performance, financial statements, human resource management, infrastructure and challenges.
Members posed questions about demarcation of courts, under spending on public works and court hours. The Committee also interrogated vacancy rates, security problems and the coordination of the security cluster.
The Committee approved the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Amendment Bill with two proposed amendments to Clause 1.
RICA Bill: deliberations
The Chairperson stated that the Committee had consulted with stakeholders on the Bill. In those discussions with relevant stakeholders, there was broad agreement that certain further amendments should be made to the Bill.
Mr Lawrence Bassett, Chief Director: Legislation, Department of Justice, agreed with the Chairperson that consensus been reached on certain issues. He requested further time to draft these amendments and clarify uncertainties with the various role players.
The Chairperson asked how much time would be needed to draft these amendments.
Mr Basset stated that he could have this finalised by the following week.
The Chairperson said that it should be completed sooner because the Committee was operating within certain time constraints.
It was eventually decided that the redrafted Bill would be ready the following day.
Mr J Le Roux (DA) argued that not all Members were knowledgeable about the negotiations that had taken place and were thus not informed about the nature of the amendments that would be effected to the Bill.
The Chairperson explained that there was concurrence on the issues relating to roaming, handsets, time periods and a few other minor matters.
Mr A Moseki (ANC) advised the Department to take into consideration the short title and commencement when drafting the Bill.
The Committee was satisfied that this matter was settled.
Briefing by Department of Justice (DOJ) on 2006/07 Annual Report
The Director General, Adv Menzi Simelane, outlined the Department’s strategic goals: access to justice for all, enhancing organisational efficiency and transforming justice, state and society. The Department’s focus on these three key strategic goals was reflected in the deliberate shift in the allocation and utilisation of the entity’s financial and human resources.
Access to justice for all
During the year under review, the Department had increased its efforts in rehabilitating some of the existing aging court infrastructure. Of the R308 million spent on infrastructure, R60 million was used for upgrading existing infrastructure. An additional 35 mobile courts were procured and deployed to sites where periodical courts were currently held in police stations and prisons.
Various instruments, such as x-ray machines, metal detectors and closed circuit televisions were purchased to enhance court security. A total of 164 offices were provided with guarding services and 346 offices were provided with cash in transit services.
The report highlighted the measures taken to educate the public on the work and services provided by the Department. Several awareness programmes were launched to promote the Equality Courts, Victims Charter and Operation Isondlo (strengthening the maintenance system).
Enhancing Organisational Efficiency
The Department identified the modernisation of the justice system in the courts as a fundamental component in ensuring organisational efficiency. To achieve this aim, there was a shift from manual systems to an integrated electronic system. A significant percentage of the Department’s budget was allocated towards the implementation of various modernisation projects, such as the e Scheduler system, the Video Postponement Project and digital recording system.
Transforming Justice, State and Society
In the year under review, the Department identified the transformation of the judiciary and the legal profession as a major priority. The first draft of the Legal Services Sector Charter was launched. The Charter was an important instrument to transform the legal services, improve skills development and empower previously disadvantaged legal communities.
The Department worked on a number of Bills which had reached an advanced stage. Some of the Bills were already before Parliament whilst others were in the process of being introduced.
The entire criminal justice system was being revamped. This was an ongoing process. Some changes were implemented immediately whilst others would be done over time. In addition 23 potential female judicial officers had been identified and were undergoing training to transform the judiciary.
The re-alignment of magisterial districts was a major problem as citizens were still unable to access legal services at the closest point to their residence. This was primarily a legacy of the old homelands and impacted on service delivery.
With the aid of diagrams, the report highlighted the performance of the lower courts in the period under review. On a positive note, an average conviction rate of 86% had been achieved. On the negative side, 720 354 cases were removed from the roll due to a lack of evidence, incomplete investigation or long delays.
District Courts managed an average sitting of 4 hours per day. The lower courts maintained high conviction rates and exceeded their targets for case finalisation. A summary was given of the key performance indicators of the superior courts.
The presenter gave a breakdown of the number of cases involving families and children in the different provinces. The State Law Advisers, Masters of the High Court and Legislative Drafting services had been subjected to performance reviews. The Department continued to discharge its obligations emanating from the TRC findings. Compensation had been paid to numerous apartheid victims. The Department’s Missing Persons Task Team also assisted in the search for the remains of missing struggle activists and the identification of persons after exhumation.
The actual expenditure totalled R4.469 billion in the year under review. In terms of programme expenditure, court services received the largest amount. There was under spending to the value of R424 million. This was attributed to, amongst other reasons, under spending on Capital Works and delays in the Moneys in Trust Project.
The President’s Fund received an unqualified audit report with no matter of emphasis. The Third-Party Funds and Asset Management matters obtained qualified audit opinions with several matters of emphasis. These items were specified together with measures to avoid such a designation in future.
The presenter noted that the vacancy rate stipulated in the document was no longer the situation as this figure had been reduced to approximately 10%. Staff turnover rates in critical positions were detailed together with motivations for this practice. The report addressed the labour relations incidents and skills development programmes in the reporting year.
Lastly, the Department listed its challenges, which encompassed:
· Enhancing Internal control
· Investment in IT business solutions
· Legislative and policy reforms
· Enhancing services to vulnerable groups.
Mr Z Ntuli (ANC) lamented the demarcation of courts that resulted in people living some distance away from courts. He believed that this impacted on access to justice and impaired service delivery. Mr A Moseki (ANC) reiterated Mr Ntuli’s concern about the jurisdiction and demarcation of certain courts.
Mr Simelane stated that he was familiar with the problem of demarcation. The Department continued to study the impact of changing jurisdictions or of giving a court a broader jurisdiction. The underlying question premised on what would be the practical implication of giving all courts in a specific geographic area concurrent jurisdiction. Legal experts advised that this matter be treated cautiously.
Mr Ntuli complained about the Masters Court in Durban and related an incident where he was not treated satisfactorily.
Ms F Nyanda narrated her bad experience at the Masters Office in Mpumalanga.
Mr Simelane believed that the two incidents illustrated the incompetency of certain officials and their unwillingness to adhere to the principles of Batho Pele. Because of these and other failings, it was decided that the hierarchy in the Masters Office should be lawyers.
Mr J Le Roux (DA) noted that the Department had under spent on Capital Works. He sought an explanation for this anomaly.
Mr Simelane explained that the Department was constantly frustrated by the Department of Public Works. He maintained that they either ignored or delayed requests made by the Department. There were ongoing debates and no agreement had been reached. Moreover, whenever opportunities existed, the Department carried out the work on its own and reported it thereafter. However, this was difficult and not always possible because of all the regulations.
Mr A Moseki (ANC) reiterated Mr Ntuli’s concern about the demarcation of certain courts.
Mr Simelane reiterated his earlier statement on the issue. He added than in any event, budget constraints curtailed spending on public works. Lastly, he specified that, while not ideal, the Department had acquired and deployed mobile courts to alleviate this problem.
Mr Moseki sought to determine whether the roll out of modernisation infrastructure was complemented with the necessary capacity building.
Mr Simelane responded that the Department re-skilled personnel and in some cases recruited qualified people to operate its newly acquired systems.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) said that the metal detectors did not operate in Alberton and many other courts. He believed that private security companies failed to provide the necessary security.
Mr Simelane agreed.
Mr Mzizi asked if the outstanding cases for high courts was due to the large number of awaiting trials.
Mr Simelane clarified that this related to the number of appeals that were outstanding in the high courts.
Mr Mzizi queried how often the Constitutional Court presided and how many cases they disposed of in the financial year under review.
Mr Simelane commented that this was an area of dispute and contestation. He did not elaborate further.
Mr A Manyosi (ANC) commended the Department for their “good work”. Thereafter, he sought the DG’s view on how to strengthen the criminal justice cluster.
Mr Simelane remarked that coordination was difficult, particularly on criminal matters. He cited that a prosecutor would not bring a case to court unless he/she had a prima facie case and there was a likelihood of success. Also, prosecutors required the police to finalise their investigation and provide solid/reliable evidence.
Mr D Worth (DA) observed that the declining number of court hours and how this impacted on the case backlog. He wondered about the possibility of courts sitting on Saturday to reduce some of the backlog.
Mr Simelane acknowledged that this was a concern. The number of hours (cited in the report) suggested that presiding officers only worked for a few hours and did nothing thereafter. This was not the case as they were often occupied with other administrative duties. The problem could be partially resolved if there was greater communication between the judiciary and the prosecutor.
Mr Worth pointed out that there was a discrepancy in the report regarding the vacancy rate.
Mr Simelane maintained that the vacancy rate stood at 10%. This percentage was likely to decrease by the end of the year.
Mr Ntuli sought to determine which department exercised responsibility over Community Police Forums.
Mr Simelane confirmed that the Department of Safety and Security was responsible for these bodies.
Mr Mzizi expressed concern about the independence of prosecutors. He argued that the inquisitorial system would be better suited to the courts.
Mr Simelane replied that both the inquisitorial and adversarial systems had advantages. In his view, whatever system enhanced justice should be followed. He cautioned against judicial activism, which was a possible risk of the inquisitorial system.
The Chairperson posed several questions which should be answered to in writing:
He asked about the consequences of non-performance for officials. He wondered when the remaining vacancies would be filled. He sought to establish how the Committee could intervene between the Department and the Department of Public Works.
The Chairperson praised the Department and said that he was impressed by the DG’s thoroughness and knowledge.
On behalf of the Committee, Mr Le Roux thanked the Department for an interesting presentation.
The meeting was adjourned.
Note: The following Committee Report was approved, dated 14 November 2007:
The Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Affairs , having considered the subject matter of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Amendment Bill [B15B-2007] (National Assembly – sec 75), referred to it, reports the Bill with proposed amendments, as follows:
1. On page 3, in line 47, to delete subparagraph (i)
2. On page 3, from line,50 to delete subparagraph (iv)
Report to be considered.
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