DCS& JICS 2020/21 Annual Performance Plans; with Deputy Minister & COVID-19 Matters
The Committee met in a virtual meeting format with the Department of Correctional Services and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services to review their Strategic Plan, Annual Performance Plan and Budget for 2020/21. The Deputy Minister of Correctional Services was in attendance.
The Committee also discussed how COViD-19 has affected the work of the Department and its response to this.
The Department of Correctional Services had a detailed presentation of over 100 slides but only highlighted a few key aspects of its plans and presented a high level view of the budget and the probable budget cut of approximately R2 billion that National Treasury had indicated it would be making. The risk of that budget cut would be a shortage of funds to cover services such as electricity and water and maintenance of prisons which would impact on inmates directly, making it a high risk. The Department reminded the Committee Members that incarceration was labour intensive but that the personnel budget had been severely cut over recent years.
The Committee was reminded that the Department had had three court judgements against it and that two addressed statutory changes. The Phaahla case, in particular, required extensive consultation and engagement with stakeholders, some of whom had not been contactable as they had been in lockdown. That was causing a delay in finalising the Department’s response. The Justice Cluster would also have to be involved in the process regarding statutory amendments.
The budget was R26.8 billion in 2020/2021, and additional allocation of R2 billion would see an increase to R29.78 billion in 2022/3, an additional allocation of R2.4 billion. The number of personnel in the Department was expected to decrease from 37 709 in 2019/20 to 36 996 in 2022/23, largely through natural attrition.
The Department reported that it had taken proactive and urgent measures to mitigate the outbreak of the coronavirus in DCS facilities and offices. A comprehensive National Mitigation Plan has been implemented to ensure a safe working environment for all its officials. The virus will impact the Department’s APP for the current year and possibly over the medium term.
The Inspecting Judge expressed his pleasure at the release of 19 000 inmates on parole as the correctional facilities were far too overcrowded. However, the remand centres remained a huge concern as there were many detainees crowded into those centres, many of whom had transgressed the Covid-19 regulations. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services had planned to visit 53% of all correctional facilities in the course of the financial year but had not been able to physically visit any centres because of the lockdown. The Inspectorate was undertaking desktop inspections and would visit the centres later to verify the information provided by the centres.
Members had many questions for the Department of Correctional Services. Did the Department have sufficient nurses to cope with the needs at correctional facilities, especially in the light of Covid-19? How many parolees had been re-arrested in the past financial year and, of those, how many had been arrested for gender-based violence offences? What was the number of parolees to a parole officer? How many parole officers were there and how could they cope with the 19 000 inmates to be released on parole? Was the acceptance of parolees by families into their homes a precondition for release? Would there an inter-departmental transfer to bolster the officials dealing with parolees who had to be visited at least once a month? How many remand detainees were being detained because of Covid-19 regulations? How many posts were allocated for rehabilitation of inmates? Members asked about deaths in correctional services not caused by natural causes. What was the plan for decreasing such incidents?
What was the nature of the Department’s outsourced services? What was the sum total of private leasing?
Why was the Department underspending on its budget and how was it going to counteract such underspending? What were their plans to make the budget work after the cuts? What challenges would be faced as a result of the Corona virus?
One Member had been told that Mr John Block (former Northern Cape Finance MEC) was to be released early. Would DCS confirm or deny’ allegations that it was planning the early release of Block? Could the National Commissioner and the Deputy Minister explain what was happening in the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office regarding the suspension of the former Deputy Commission? What was the plan of action to deal with the Criminal Procedure Act process?
Members noted that the target for Judicial Inspectorate visits to correctional facilities was 56%, just over half of the facilities. What were the reasons for such a low annual target? What the basis for increasing the target by 3% in 2020/21? Could the Inspectorate provide plans with more specific detail?
The Chairperson greeted the Committee Members, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, Judge Edwin Cameron, Inspecting Judge at the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) and Mr Vick Misser, JICS Chief Executive Officer, Correctional Services National Commissioner Arthur Fraser and other attendees.
The Chairperson asked the Committee for agreement that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) present first followed by JICS.
Adv G Breytenbach (DA) informed the Chairperson that she would be leaving early and requested that Mr Horn put her questions to the Department.
The Chairperson agreed to her request.
Briefing by Department of Correctional Services (DCS)
National Commissioner Arthur Fraser introduced the presentation, saying that it was the result of extensive consultation and work. He indicated the priorities of the Department and the intended changes to take place over the next five years.
He informed the Committee that Covid-19 had disrupted the first quarter of the financial year and the disruption would continue into the following quarters. The annual targets would be adjusted in the light of the events and in the light of the adjusted budget that was likely. Upscaling of technology and the upscaling of health care in the facilities would be the priorities for the year.
Mr Joseph Katenga, Chief Deputy Commissioner Strategic Management, DCS, made the presentation on behalf of the Department. Mr Katenga warned the Committee that some aspects of the presentation, especially goals and activities were no longer relevant as they had been written before the advent of Covid-19.
Mr Katenga referred the Committee specifically to three court judgements that had affected the Department. The Phaahla judgment had instructed the Department to refer proposed statutory amendments to the sections impugned by the courts to Parliament and the Department had to ensure that its policies and systems were amended to regard the date of committing of an offence as the date to be applied when calculating the date on which an offender might become eligible to be considered for parole for the first time. He informed the Committee that consultations had taken place and internal processes in the Department had been completed but DCS also needed to work with co-dependencies that were closed until level 2 of the lockdown and warned that those difficulties might delay the Department’s response. The Justice Cluster would also have to be involved in the process regarding statutory amendments.
The second case also required statutory amendments and the Justice Cluster would also have to be involved. There could be delays in that matter. However, case 3 which related to transgender issues was an administrative process and the Department was dealing with that matter.
Mr Nicodemus Ligege, CFO, DCS, presented a summary of the budget. The budget was R26.8 billion in 2020/2021, and additional allocation of R2 billion would see an increase to R29.78 billion in 2022/3, an additional allocation of R2.4 billion. The number of personnel in the Department was expected to decrease from 37 709 in 2019/20 to 36 996 in 2022/23, largely through natural attrition. However, the position regarding compensation of employees had deteriorated with a R4.24 billion budget cut since 2015/16 when the Department had had a funded post establishment of 42 006 posts. That would be reduced to 36 996 over the 2019 MTEF. He added that of the DCS’s funded posts, 866 posts been abolished to fund Case Management Committees and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS). Mr Ligege warned the Committee that the impact on correctional facilities had been severe.
He stated that the Department would be making savings as a result of the decision to insource catering services. Over the medium term, the spending focus under Health Services would be on providing health care services to inmates in order to improve treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
The Department reported that it had taken proactive and urgent measures to mitigate the outbreak of the virus in DCS facilities and offices. A comprehensive National Mitigation Plan has been implemented to ensure a safe working environment for all its officials. As the pandemic spreads, the response to COVID-19 in correctional centres becomes more challenging and requires a whole-of-society approach. The Department is rapidly adjusting to the changing needs of inmates, parolees, probationers, officials and communities while navigating the financial and operational challenges. The virus will undoubtedly impact the Department’s APP for the current year and possibly over the medium term. Once the immediate threat of the virus has passed, the thinking and behaviour of the Department would have changed and this will affect the design, implementation and communication of service delivery.
Briefing by Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS)
Judge Cameron thanked the Committee for its attention and care and, especially Members of the Opposition parties, for passing on complaints relating to correctional facilities as that assisted JICS in its work. JICS was an independent arm of DCS located in the Administrative Programme of Correctional Services but the personnel at JICS were not recognised as essential personnel. Nevertheless, the staff had kept in touch with correctional facilities and were working on a plan that would allow personnel to get back to visiting the facilities. The significant announcement of the bringing forward of the parole date of 19 000 inmates was welcomed. Judge Cameron said that he would also like to see some action on remand detainees as the conditions in which they were kept were absolutely appalling and the facilities needed to be decongested for safety and for providing distancing in the light of Covid-19.
Mr Misser indicated that he would speak only about one indicator on slide 11 which related to the role of JICS in providing effective independent oversight of the treatment of inmates and the conditions in correctional facilities. The target was to visit 56% of the 243 correctional facilities, that was 136 facilities. That target was up 3% from the target in 2019/2020 when 129 of the 243 facilities were inspected. He added that although the planned target was 136 inspections of facilities, the impact of Covid-19 had been severe. Of the 22 visits that should have taken place by the end of the month, 16 visits had not taken place so far. It had been decided to undertake desktop inspections from 15 May 2020 with correctional facilities completing a questionnaire which would be evaluated and analysed and that would be followed up with a physical inspection of the facility after the lockdown restrictions had been eased, in order to check the validity of responses to the questionnaire..
The other concern for JICS was the Visitors Committees (VCs) that had also been impacted by the lockdown. JICS had established 36 VC seats in all regions, where meetings are held quarterly for each VC seat but Regional Managers had been tasked to conduct those meetings in a virtual format.
The other issue of concern was the budget allocation. JICS had been allocated R81.49 million for 2020/2021. An amount of R1 513 000.00 sourced through savings from the original allocations, had been reprioritized for COVID-19 expenditure. Reprioritized funding would cater for the below the line items of the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and for data connectivity to enable officials to work offsite.
The Chairperson noted that DCS had sent a slide presentation of 108 slides. That was far too many for a single meeting and he advised that, in future, the Department should focus on reporting the important issues and not include minor details in the presentation. He invited Members to make comments or ask questions but to indicate to whom the questions were addressed.
Ms J Mofokeng (ANC) addressed all her questions to DCS. She noted the reduction in personnel and asked whether the Department had sufficient nurses to cope with the needs at correctional facilities, especially in the light of Covid-19. She asked about escapes from correctional centres and re-arrests. Of the four inmates who had escaped from Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in 2019, how many had been re-arrested and what were the consequences for those in charge at the time of the escape? Noting the court judgements, she agreed that the parolees had been a problem on the system. DCS said that it was very successful with parolees but she was not sure about the figures of successful parolees. How many parolees had been re-arrested in the past financial year and, of those, how many had been arrested for gender-based violence (GBV) offences?
Ms Mofokeng noted the impact of the restrictions on travel but asked how that would impact on the budget for travel. She queried the point that the Administration budget increase exceeded that of all other programmes. How did that contribute to achievement of the goals? Programme Two: Incarceration had a budget for outsourced services. What was the nature of the outsourced services?
How many halfway houses did DCS have and how much had been allocated for 2020/2021?
Mr X Nqola (ANC) began with questions for JICS. He noted that the target for visits to correctional facilities was 56%, just over half of the facilities. What were the reasons for such a low annual target? He also noted that visits to correctional centres were being replaced with electronic inspections but he was sure that that would have weaknesses. Would the officials be following up on the visits?
Mr Nqola noted DCS had received a letter written by the Justice Forum regarding Covid-19. What was the DCS response to the letter? The East London correctional centres had a high number of infections but the Premier of Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, had recently warned that the province may soon have to battle infection “super clusters” across two particularly vulnerable regions as well as deal with infection spikes in the two provincial metros and yet the seven-week lockdown had not helped the health system prepare enough for an inevitable surge in infections. That could lead to tragedy if DCS did not manage its facilities well.
He noted that DCS had underspent its annual budget in 2019/2020. Why was the Department underspending on its budget and how was it going to counteract such underspending? In 2020/21 there would be challenges posed by the Corona virus. What challenges would be faced as a result of the Corona virus? Escapes, although decreasing, were not being eliminated. What about deaths in correctional services not caused by natural causes? What was the plan for decreasing such incidents? The report gave the past figures but he did not see a plan for correcting the problems noted in the presentation. DCS had five programmes but 60% of the budget went to two programmes. Why was that so?
Mr Nqola turned his attention to farming and other activities. He wanted a detailed report on what happened to the proceeds of the skills programmes. The decaying infrastructure and the perpetual problem of overcrowding was a major concern. What was the plan to prevent those problems from engulfing the entire DCS?
Mr J Selfe (DA) shared the sense of unease about the notion of a desktop inspection. The complaints of inmates could not be addressed by officials. JICS had to follow up with physical visits. He raised the issue of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). The Human Rights Commission (HRC) was the principal agency but the HRC was very vague about its cooperation with JICS.
Unlike Judge Cameron, Mr Selfe did not share his exuberance at the release of 19 000 inmates because he did not think the DCS was ready to release such people. The Minister had spoken that Monday of a new system for managing parolees but the people who were being released prematurely needed to be managed immediately. He did not believe the figures of parolees who did not re-offend. The official rate of re-offending was extremely low. What was the number of parolees to a parole officer?
Mr Selfe stated that he had a very specific question to which wanted a straight “yes or no” answer. He had been told that Mr John Block (former Northern Cape Finance MEC) was to be released early. Would DCS confirm or deny allegations that it was planning the early release of Block?
He pointed out that remand detention facilities were under renewed stress because of people breaking Covid-19 regulations, despite the fact that they were administrative offences. How many remand detainees were being detained because of Covid-19 regulations? He was aware that Covid-19 regulations made it difficult for people to be released from detention.
Mr W Horn (DA) asked both DCS and JICS whether they had been consulted by National Treasury about the proposed budget cuts. The figure for budget cuts seemed to range between 17 and 20%. What were their plans to make the budgets work after the cuts?
Mr Horn noted the focus on the rehabilitation of candidates for parole but asked how many posts were allocated for rehabilitation of inmates. Apparently the number of positions allocated for the rehabilitation of inmates had been reduced because of budget constraints, so how could DCS say that rehabilitation and social reintegration was at the heart of the DCS when such a small percentage of the budget went on rehabilitation? He was worried that many of the 19 000 inmates being released would not have completed the rehabilitation process. How many parole officers were there and how could they cope with the 19 000 inmates to be released on parole? Would there an inter-departmental transfer to bolster the officials dealing with parolees who had to be visited at least once a month?
Mr Horn referred to a Sunday Times article where the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services had said that the DCS expected families to accept the parolees. He did not think one could force families to accept former inmates. If some inmates were not accepted by families, where had they gone? Was the acceptance by families a precondition for release? The parole was intended to facilitate fewer inmates and to deal with the massive overcrowding but those released were not from specific facilities and some facilities had greater overcrowding than others. What would the Department do when some centres had less 100% occupancy while others remained with a 130% occupancy rate? Would inmates be transferred? What was the plan to provide some sort of social distancing?
Mr Horn asked, on behalf of Adv Breytenbach who had had to leave early, for details as to the nature of the outsourced services that cost R1.2 billion. Could the National Commissioner and the Deputy Minister explain what was happening in the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office regarding the suspension of the former Deputy Commissioner when both the Public Services Commission and the court had reinstated him, saying that the process had been fatally flawed. Mr Horn had asked a similar question recently but had not been afforded a satisfactory answer. He had also been informed that an Emergency Support Team (EST) had been deployed to guard the provincial office in KwaZulu-Natal and that those EST members had been staying in guesthouses for months on end. What were the financial implications of that action?
He asked if DSC had been consulted about the expected budget cuts. Lockdown was a practice or term that had originated in correctional facilities. Whilst DCS had been heavily impacted by Covid-19, to what extent had JICS engaged with the DCS about the lockdown time for inmates? The practice of lockdown had been intensified during Covid-19. He also asked to what extent JICS had looked at the rights and interests of those inmates who had the virus and the others who were in danger of catching the virus. The Visitors Committee ensured good engagement with JICS and visitors but everyone knew that unless regulations permitted something, it would not be law. Would the regulations be amended? Would the Correctional Centre Visitors programme start working again on level 3?
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) noted that the care programme said 1 778 posts. What professions were included in those posts? Slide 81 indicated that 95% of officials who had been charged with fraud had been found guilty but there were no figures so how many officials did the 95% refer to? 0.76% of the personnel were people with disabilities – how many people was that? How many people would 2% of the personnel be? The figure for Youths was 195 – what percentage was that of the total personnel? The presentation had indicated that there was a recruitment campaign for youth. In the light of Covid-19, were the interviews to be telephonic or would they require a video connection? Ms Newhoudt-Druchen suggested that interviews be conducted telephonically only as people could not afford to buy the data required for video links.
Why was the percentage of Social Services personnel so low? Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said she would have expected a bigger percentage of the staff to offer social services. She knew that a number of the inmates were involved in skills programmes with vocational colleges and colleges were opening online. Did the inmates have access to online classes? Finally, she asked about the planned screening of diabetic inmates and those with hypertension. Had no screening been done previously?
Adv H Mohamed (ANC) asked the Commissioner about the request made to National Treasury regarding shifting the GEMS Medical Aid of just over R400 million to the National Treasury budget under Programme 7: Civil and Military Pensions. Where was the process with National Treasury?
The infrastructure management system detailed on slide 33 showed 134 private leases in place. Private leases consisted mainly of office accommodation and community corrections offices but the leases were mainly administrative offices. The department had a shortfall on accommodation charges payable to DPW amounting to R2.1 billion but what was the sum total of private leasing? Had there been tracking of the inmates who were involved in the economic transformation processes?
Adv Mohamed asked, with reference to the Phaahla judgement, who was eligible for parole and where the process to address the changes was at that point. There was a vague reference to development of legislation but he did not see details, or a plan of action to deal with the Criminal Procedure Act process. He did not see statistics of all programmes and targets.
Mr R Dyantyi (ANC) appreciated the presentation. The impact, outcomes and interventions, especially the very clear outcomes, was very well presented. The plan was good; the aggressive devil would be in the detail of how the plan was implemented. That Monday, the Minister of Justice had said that the filling of all vacancies would be completed but the Department said that there were budget cuts, so it could not fill all posts. The number of posts in the Department had fallen to 37 396. How were those two positions going to be reconciled?
He said that the problem was that the First Quarter was over. So how was DCS going to do the work of 12 months in nine months? The Minister had said that he would not accept less than an unqualified audit opinion. How was DCS planning to achieve an unqualified audit? How was the Department going to go from unqualified to qualified? He also noted that DCS said that of 99% of parolees did not violate their conditions. Where was that indicated?
Mr Dyantyi recalled that he had told Judge Cameron at the Correctional Services Sub-Committee meeting, that the presentation focused on the complaints but did not explain the plan regarding inspections, investigation, etc. There was to be a 3% increase in visits. On what was that increased target based? JICS’ plan was too simplistic. He wanted to see some details in the plan. JICS had lost three months in respect of the operational plan. The catch-up plan spoke of a questionnaire but it did not say who was going to fill in the questionnaire, etc. In any event, a desktop investigation would fall far short from a proper investigation.
The Chairperson requested the DCS National Commissioner to respond to the questions. However, his staff were not ready with their answers and JICS was asked to respond first.
Judge Cameron said that Members were beating JICS with a stick to get back to work and he was happy to be beaten as there was a lot of work to be done. He added that at the recent Sub-Committee meeting, JICS had been scolded by Mr Dyantyi for not presenting details of what JICS planned to do in a business case. He promised that future presentations would contain detailed plans.
He accepted that a desktop inspection was inadequate but the Inspectorate was in the same position as the inspectorates in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, etc. JICS was working on a legal opinion to find out what powers the CEO had in terms of the State of Disaster regulations but he was also working on the possibility that the National Commissioner of Correctional Services would be able to assist JICS. As an essential service, JICS would be able to undertake its work.
Judge Cameron agreed that the Covid-19 arrests had led to a 10% to 15% increase in remand detainees following arrests based on the State of Disaster regulations. On 5 May 2020 he had visited Johannesburg Medium-B facility which was a remand centre. There he had been told that the numbers were so great that it was almost impossible to give the one hour minimum exercise period per detainee per day. It was disquieting that the lockdown had led to people being held under those conditions.
Judge Cameron responded to Mr Selfe’s question about the SAHRC and OPCAT. The SAHRC was the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for OPCAT in SA and should monitor places of deprivation of liberty on an announced or unannounced basis. JICS was working with the SAHRC but the SAHRC had been brought to a standstill by the lockdown and no visits to correctional facilities had taken place.
Mr Misser stated that JICS had not yet been informed by National Treasury of any budget cuts. He explained to Mr Nqola that the rate of inspections had increased from 33% in 2017/18 to 56% in 2020/21. JICS had increased the visits but there had not been a budget increase to support the additional inspections. Because of the lockdown, JICS had sought an innovative way of fulfilling its duties. It had decided on the desktop evaluation as a suitable inspection tool to conduct the assessments during the lockdown but that was not where the assessment ended. The team would analyse the information and proceed to the relevant centres once the lockdown had ended where they would verify the information received.
He added that DCS had submitted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to JICS to review the protocols. The document had been reviewed and the responses of JICS had been submitted to DCS.
Judge Cameron responded to the question on Covid-related illnesses. It was normal practice that a medical segregation had to be reported to JICS, as well as other segregations of inmates, so JICS would automatically be informed. The problem was in getting the reporting mechanism working.
Adv Patrick Mashibini, Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner Human Resources, DCS, stated that DCS employed 1350 nurses on a permanent basis and an additional 300 nurses had been appointed on a contract basis to assist with the containment of Covid-19. DCS would be appointing another 300 nurses in the coming month.
Adv Mashibini explained that DCS had a Human Resources contingency plan in the event of large numbers of officials being taken ill with Covid-19 which focused on the re-deployment of 2 000 Defence Force personnel, 1 500 ex-officials and 500 recently graduated students from the Correctional Services college. Non-centre-based officials in the Department had undergone training and would be available as standby personnel in the centres.
In respect of the remote interviews that were being conducted, Adv Mashibini explained that the interviews were video interviews, using the video facilities that were located at each correctional centre. He did not have the exact number of Youth in the employ of DCS and would send the number in writing. DCS employed 292 persons who were living with physical disabilities.
Mr Ligege responded to Ms Mofokeng’s question on the increased budget for Administration. He explained that ICT fell under the Administration budget and DCS had planned for the extension of the ICT from 41% to 48% in 2020/21. It had been seen as a critical necessity and was even more so during lockdown. DCS maintained seven halfway houses for parolees who did not have a support structure when they released. The Social Reintegration Programme had been allocated R3.4 billion over the medium term.
Mr Ligege responded to Ms Mofokeng’s question on the savings on the travel and subsistence budget. DCS was a national department that had a national footprint of 263 centres. The budget in the past had not been sufficient for monitoring and managing the centres. S&T had been cut after the previous budget cuts and was underfunded because the cost of fuel and accommodation had increased over the years. As far as outsourced services were concerned, R1 billion related to the two private prisons at Mangaung and Makhado. That was the index fee to run the facilities.
He told Mr Nqola that the huge underspending that he was seeing in the 2019/20 budget was because the financial year had not been closed and the journal entries still had to be done. Ultimately, there would be an underspending of about R141 million and that would be on target. National Treasury had consulted with DCS on the budget that would have to be reduced by just under R2 billion to pay for the Covid-19 crisis. The difficulty is that the Department would not be able to pay contracts that could not be cancelled oor the charges for water and electricity which totalled R1.2 billion. The risk to DCS was defaulting on contracts and having services cut. DCS had 243 facilities for which it was charged for maintenance by the Department of Public Works. DCS would have to tap into the small budget available for refurbishments and that would result in unhygienic facilities and that could result in potential unrest of the inmates.
He explained that for DCS there were big ticket items: R1 billion went to 2 prisons; water and electricity was R1.2 billion and that was not discretionary expenditure. Incarceration was labour intensive. A correctional centre had to be secured to protect inmates, officials and visitors who assist before rehabilitation could be done. Hence the high costs of security.
Mr Ligege responded to Mr Horn on why rehabilitation and social reintegration was not the key focus of the DCS budget. He referred to slide 75 which presented the key cost drivers funded in the 2020 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE). DCS had tried to protect Rehabilitation and Care despite looking at a redundancy of funded posts from 37 758 in 2020/21 to 36 996 in 2022/23. The number of posts in Programme 4 remained consistent through the MTEF at 1 778. In Programme 3, there were 2163 posts in 2020/21 but in years 2 and 3 of the MTEF, DCS was intending to prioritise posts to protect the programmes and the figures would change. The incarceration programme, Programme 2, could not be reduced because there were fixed costs. Incarceration took 60.9% to 59.4% of the Vote in the 2020/2021 to 2022/23 MTEF.
He informed that Committee that the shortfall for private leases of R2.1 billion was misleading as R1.2 billion was for the private prisons. From a private leasing perspective, DCS spent R108 million. The estimated shortfall of R2.1 billion included maintenance of 263 facilities.
Mr Ligege informed Mr Dyantyi that the Department had not received an adverse opinion in the previous cycle. There had been one unqualified audit opinion and four qualified audit opinions in the past five years but the number of findings had steadily decreased from 588 findings in 2014/15 to 204 findings in 2018/19. In the previous financial year, the Department had been qualified on two matters: irregular expenditure and commitments in the financials as DCS did not have adequate systems. DCS was planning for an unqualified audit with reduced findings. He had updated the financial statements in the current and previous years and would submit them to the internal auditors. Regarding the commitments, he had discussed the problems relating to commitments with National Treasury that understood that the current systems were not yet geared to report on full commitments and so departments were required only to have capital commitments in the budgets currently being audited. DCS could indicate capital commitments. DCS had also implemented a strategic turnaround plan for supply Chain Management (SCM) issues. DCS was working closely with National Treasury which was assisting the Department with big tenders because that was where most of the irregular expenditure had occurred.
Mr Lucky Mthethwa, Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner Incarcerations and Corrections, DCS, responded to the Members who had asked about inmate escapes. There had been 11 escapes and six re-arrests in the current year, including the five recent escapees from Rooigrond Correctional Centre near Mahikeng, one of whom had been re-arrested. In response to the question about what had been done to hold people accountable for the recent escape, he stated that he was waiting for the region to finalise the documentation and he would report at a later stage. In 2019/20, there had been 34 escapes and 25 inmates had been re-arrested. In 2018/19, there had been 56 escapes and 7 prisoners were re-arrested. DCS had implemented improved systems to reduce escapes and was reviewing all systems in the service delivery model.
Mr Mthethwa told the Chairperson that he could not respond to Mr Selfe’s question of whether John Block would be released. He did not have information for each individual who was to be released while they were focusing on the Covid-19 special dispensation. DCS was looking at a number only; the Department was not looking at a person but if the Member of Parliament needed specific information on a specific offender, that information could be provided at a later stage. As the Minister had said in his media statement, the special parole of 19 000 inmates was about the impact on the facilities. DCS would have 12.15% more space in the facilities. As and when the efforts in ensuring that crime was dealt with depended not on DCS but on SAPS. However, with 118 000 bed spaces, the 12.5% would allow DCS to provide space for some social distancing.
Mr Mthethwa provided additional information relating to the 19 000 parolees. There were specific criteria that included offenders that had reached their end date and those who had undergone rehabilitation programmes and had reached their parole dates. SAPS was also taking DNA samples from the inmates before they were released. Parolees included those who already had a release date. The Justice Cluster would be going through the process of parole with DCS.
He added that the outsourced programmes, i.e. production work and agriculture, were conducted in order to skill offenders for when they were released. That was the purpose of the programmes.
National Commissioner Fraser responded to questions on the Annual Performance Plan as posed by Ms Mofokeng and Mr Selfe regarding the monitoring of probations. The compliance rate of 97% was based on 55 072 out of 56 775 who had adhered to the parole requirements. The caseload was 1:29 parole officer to parolees, but now the caseload would be 1:39 which was why a new framework had to be developed.
The Commissioner pointed out that slide 81 showed the performance in respect of charged officials being found guilty from 2016/17. It showed an average of 95% across the three years although the 2019/20 numbers had not been finalised. However, resources were needed to analyse cases. The targets for inmates receiving psychological services created a challenge, so DCS needed collaboration with other government agencies. Slide 99 showed the screening of diabetes and hypertension. DCS was being proactive in focussing on non-communicable diseases but those diseases had been monitored at an operational level prior to the current year.
He added that the organisational design process was intended to facilitate fast tracking for better alignment so that the organisation could be more responsive. DCS was placing great emphasis on the need to assist with those that qualified for parole. Resources would be focussed at centres and electronic monitoring was part of the digitalisation process. During the Covid period, when visits were suspended, an increase in security and escapes had been part of the fall-out. DCS had undertaken a risk assessment but it was challenged by antiquated infrastructure.
Regarding the regional manager of KwaZulu-Natal, the Commissioner stated that affidavits had been filed before the court and those would clarify the action taken. He could not discuss the matter further. In the area of Covid-19 and considering the spread of the virus in the Western and Eastern Cape, DCS had strengthened infection control. The Health Care function at Head Office had worked hard at ensuring that there was greater awareness for officials.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen stated that a response had not been given to the online college courses.
Ms Mofokeng asked about the budget for halfway houses and about the sub-programme but she was unclear about which sub-programme so the Chairperson requested Ms Mofokeng to ask her question in writing.
Mr Ligege stated that slides 63 provided full details of the budget.
The Commissioner added that DCS had seven halfway houses. He mentioned that Judge Cameron had been very active and very strict on oversight but he wanted to say that the relationship was much more positive than in the past.
The Chairperson approved of the good working relationship between DCS and the Inspectorate because it would be more effective. He thanked JICS for the improvement in the relationship.
Comments by the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services
Deputy Minister Phathekile Holomisa stated that the Department had covered all the questions posed by the Members but he would respond to any other questions sent in writing. Parliament was the eyes and ears but the Committee should understand the predicament that DCS was in. Parolees usually had to undergo certain processes to ensure that they would be integrated into society but the old inmates, pregnant women, women with children and those convicted of petty crimes were to be released. Those parolees who had not been in the facilities for very long would not have benefited from the rehabilitation programmes. However, parole was a societal effort and it was important that families were prepared to receive them. Only those whose families were able and prepared to accept the parolees would be released but the Corona virus meant that the rehabilitation programmes had not been fully implemented over the past few weeks. Nevertheless, he thanked the MPs for their advice and support and said that he and his team would be better prepared the next time that they met with the Committee.
The Chairperson raised one issue: correctional facilities were also centres of excellence and the inmates that had been trained in various skills should be used to maintain the correctional facilities and that service should be extended to other government departments that had people who had been trained as engineers, etc. DCS should use internal resources because of the budget cuts, especially in maintenance. Artisans trained by SoEs should be used to manage the maintenance of facilities.
He asked the Chairperson of the Correctional Services Sub-Committee to present the way forward and to thank everyone.
Mr Dyantyi thanked the Chairperson for his guidance. He appreciated the Deputy Minister for his leadership and the DCS and Judge Cameroon for their work. On DCS, in addition to what the Chairperson had said, the Sub-Committee needed to interact on a process of reviewing targets as that was a big risk and DCS had not answered his questions adequately. Instead he had heard eloquent silence about how DCS would be doing things in nine months instead of 12 months. Secondly, the Minister had said that all posts had to be filled, but there were budget cuts. Those positions had to be reconciled. The Sub-Committee also needed to deal with the abuse of power in Modderbee prison. He had received a dossier of complaints and there might be a similar situation in other prisons too that DCS would have to respond to.
Mr Dyantyi was looking forward to a good working relationship with Judge Cameron. He supported the re-positioning of JICS and was looking forward to the response of DPSA. Was JICS capable of driving the issues? DCS was working on the 10th floor and JICS was stuck a few floors below and that had to be resolved. The Chapter Nine institutions had to be producing the work needed. However, he was not worried in terms of leadership.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.