ATC100504: Report on Budget Vote 23: Justice and Constitutional Development
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development on Budget Vote 23: Justice and Constitutional Development, dated 4 May 2010
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, having considered the Budget Vote 23: Justice and Constitutional Development, recommends that the budget be approved. The Democratic Alliance abstained.
The Committee reports further as follows:
1.1. The Committee was briefed on the budget of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on 17 March 2010 and 21 April 2010. Minister J Radebe provided a political overview of the Justice Department’s Medium Term Strategic Framework, 2010-2014 on 21 April 2010.
1.2. Budget Vote 23 has five programmes in all. The Department is directly responsible for Administration, Court Services and State Legal Services. Programme 4 contains the allocation to the National Prosecuting Authority, which accounts separately for its spending. Programme 5 contains a variety of auxiliary services associated with the Department’s aim, and funds transfer payments to, among others, the Legal Aid South Africa (referred to in the Vote as the Legal Aid Board), the South African Human Rights Commission and Public Protector. The Commission for Gender Equality is no longer part of this programme as was the case in past years.
1.3. The Committee held separate briefings for the National Prosecuting Authority and Legal Aid South Africa on their respective strategic plans and budgets for 2010/11. The Public Protector and South African Human Rights Commission also presented their strategic plans and budgets for 2010/11 to the Committee. While this report touches briefly on these and includes some general observations, the Committee intends to produce specific detailed reports on the presentations and the Committee’s responses to them.
1.4. Those who appeared before the Committee for the briefings included: Minister J Radebe; Director General (DG), N Msomi; Deputy Directors General (DDGs), S Jiyane, D Rudman (Legislative Development) and V Shabalala (Corporate Services); (Acting) Chief Financial Officer (CFO), J Johnson; Chief Director, P Du Randt (Court Services), (Acting) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) - NPA, K De Wee, Chief of Staff, T Tlali, Deputy Chief State Law Adviser, JB Skosana, and DDG, D Rudman.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions, M Simelane, was accompanied by Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (DDPP), S Ramaite Executive Manager, G Hollamby, DDPP, E Matzke, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), M Thenga, DPP, S Ramouthar, DPPJ Smit, DPP H Lusu, DPPMahlathi, DPP G Maema, Adv K van Rensburg, Mr Mncube, Ms B Makeke and DPP R de Kock.
The Public Protector, T Madonsela, was accompanied by Deputy Public Protector, M Shai, CFO, L Mculu, Executive Manager: National Investigations, E de Waal, Senior Manager: IT, C Motau, Senior Manager: Facilites, Z Mntuntum, Executive Manager: Intake and Early Resolution, M Schutte, Provincial Representative, R van Rensburg, Senior Manager: Liaison, S Mothupi and Senior Manager: Strategic Support, P Mogaladi
1.5. The report includes an overview of the presentations made by the Department, focusing mainly on its achievements for the past financial year, the key activities planned for 2010/11 and over the next three years, and the anticipated spending pressures.
1.6. It should be noted that this is the first year that Parliament is able to put into practice its constitutional power to amend money bills. Until now, Parliament has been unable to amend the Budget as there was no legislative procedure that allowed it to do so. The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act provides for the necessary procedure. Parliament, however, may only amend the Budget within the adopted fiscal framework, and proposals to amend a money bill should take into account previous oversight findings. Committees must also submit budget review reports later in the year containing recommendations that will contribute to the next year’s budget allocation. The briefings and the ensuing discussions are integral to this process and will feed into the budget review report.
2. Minister’s political overview
2.1. Minister JT Radebe gave an overview of the Justice Department’s strategic plan 2010-2014. The justice system has inherited distinct challenges which must be addressed. These relate to eradicating apartheid legacies, building a society founded on constitutional democracy that realizes human rights, protecting people from violence and intimidation, and ensuring equal access to justice to all, especially those who were previously disadvantaged.
2.2. The Department’s strategic plan attempts to deal with these challenges, and is aligned with the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster Outcome, which seeks to ensure that all people in South Africa feel and are safe. As the Department leads the JCPS Cluster, it is responsible for directing and overseeing that diverse but interrelated cluster programmes are integrated and co-ordinated.
2.3. The Department’s mandate is to uphold and protect the Constitution and the rule of law. It is responsible for overseeing the administration of justice in the interests of a safer and more secure South Africa. An effective justice system is essential for the rule of law, and is crucial in the fight against crime. Its core functions are to:
· Comply with its statutory mandate.
· Display sound management of its resources.
· Promote the Constitution to ensure effective citizenship and community empowerment.
· Develop, implement and promote justice policies and legislation
· Expand justice systems and processes to ensure access and proximity to communities living in rural and township areas.
· Transform justice and the judicial system.
· Administer the Courts to ensure fair and effective conflict resolution.
· Protect and promote the rights of vulnerable groups.
· Administer deceased and insolvent estates, the Guardian’s Fund, trusts and curatorship.
· Collaborate with cluster partners to prevent, control and fight crime.
· Support the National Prosecuting Authority, Legal Aid South Africa, the South African Human Rights Commission, and the Public Protector to fulfill their responsibilities.
· Ensure that the procurement of legal services responds to the national imperative of economically empowering previously disadvantaged persons.
2.4. The Minister acknowledged that poor internal control systems have contributed to the Department receiving qualified audits for several years. Measures intended to ensure improved corporate governance and enhanced internal control systems include:
· A robust financial turn-around strategy that establishes building blocks towards an unqualified audit.
· Improved enterprise risk management systems.
· Increased conviction rates in cases of fraud and corruption in the criminal justice system.
· Improved record management in the courts (in certain identified courts 100% of lost files will be tracked and restored).
· The reduction of the vacancy rate from 14% to 5% in the next 2 years.
2.5. The Court Services programme outlines a fundamental aspiration of government, which is to address the injustices of apartheid that entrenched racism, tribalism and sexism. The Minister emphasized that no one should live beyond the law’s reach and protection. R 3.8 billion has been budgeted for the Court Services programme to improve access to justice. This will be used, among others, to fund the construction of a new high court in Limpopo (which is already underway) and new magistrates’ courts in Kathlehong and Ntuzuma. Planning of a new high court in Mpumalanga and new magistrates’ courts in Richard’s Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Mamelodi, Dimbaza, Orlando, Lothair (in Mpumalanga), as well as a new building for the NPA in Pietermaritzburg will be completed. There will also be increased efforts to rehabilitate existing court infrastructure.
2.6. The Court Services programme also aims to ensure that the courts are managed soundly so that they deliver justice services to the public in a way that respects the dignity and constitutional rights. This includes improving the quantity and quality of justice services; providing justice in the indigenous languages (including Braille and sign language); developing a service delivery charter; continuing with efforts to educate the public of their rights; and conducting surveys to help increase public confidence in the civil and criminal justice systems). Also, victims of crime and of apartheid should be offered appropriate support.
2.7. The Department’s major policy for the Court Service programme aims to strengthen the Office of the Chief Justice and to enhance the independence of the judiciary. The Department is working closely with the Chief Justice to finalise the structure of the Office, as well as develop a policy framework and the Judicial Authority Bill to strengthen the judicial arm of government. The intention in the coming financial year is to finalise the policy framework on the Transformation of the Judiciary and bring related legislation to Parliament.
2.8. The Department is reviewing the efficiency of the civil justice system to make it more accessible, respectful of people’s rights and more responsive to their needs. A report on deficiencies in the system will be submitted to Cabinet this year.
2.9. Implementation of the ‘7-Point Plan’ for the review of the Criminal Justice System continues. At least 60% of identified interventions in the criminal justice system will be implemented, including increased resolution of backlogged cases. The Minister emphasised that eradicating case backlogs requires close partnership with the NPA.
2.10. Equitable access to justice requires that the people know their rights and are aware of what justice services are offered. Efforts to raise public awareness of the Equality Courts, Small Claims Courts, Victims’ Charter and child and spousal maintenance continue.
2.11. 13 Small Claims Courts have been established (most in rural areas), making a total of 201 of these courts. 112 commissioners have been appointed in the past year. The rollout of small claims courts to all magistrates’ courts will be accelerated.
2.12. Implementation of the Service Charter for Victims of Crime will continue. There will be increased focus on educating victims of their rights and of the services they can expect at courts.
2.13. Queues for maintenance matters remain too long, despite improved and increased services. The target is to ensure that people queuing for maintenance are served within 2 hours. The Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) project, which allows the Department to pay maintenance monies directly to beneficiaries’ accounts, is still on track. It is a temporary solution, while the more comprehensive Third Party Funds Project bid process is being finalized.
2.14. Implementation of the Child Justice Act, 2008 will continue. The aim is to reduce criminal cases involving children through diversion by 12 % this year. 50% of all family law cases will be finalized in the Office of the Family Advocate.
2.15. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill has been introduced in Parliament and referred to the Justice Portfolio Committee. It is hoped that this Bill, as well as the National Strategy for the Reduction of Gender-Based Offences will both be finalized next year.
2.16. The State Legal Services programme contains multifaceted justice initiatives, including transformation of the justice system, the state and society as a whole. The Department aims to establish a branch responsible for constitutional development. This will strengthen the Department’s role in developing the Constitution and promoting participatory democracy.
2.17. Other measures to strengthen constitutional development include partnering with the Foundation for Human Rights; signing 60 Service level Agreements with civil society organizations; establishing 15 new community advice centres across the country; and enabling at least 80 civil society organizations to participate in Constitutional Development Dialogue.
2.18. To improve the provision of services for deceased and insolvent estates, at least one main magistrate’s court per district will have the capacity to deliver probate services to their communities. 80% of beneficiaries in terms of the Guardians’ Fund will receive services within 40 days.
2.19. The Department’s preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are at an advanced stage: 56 courts located near the stadiums have been dedicated to deal solely with World Cup related cases. These will open for long hours to ensure that all World Cup related cases are dealt with and finalized during the World Cup. The necessary resources for these courts have been approved.
2.20. The Department is in the process of aligning its legal advisory and litigation services to the provincial and local governments to ensure that they are protected from any significant or potential legal actions. Consultation is taking place with stakeholders on the draft Blueprint that seeks to co-ordinate ad manage state litigation on behalf of and against government, Service level agreements will be entered into between the various State Attorney’s offices ad Heads of Departments both at provincial and national level. The Department is also developing a policy on briefing legal practitioner to ensure that 65% of the value of briefs is made to previously disadvantaged individuals and/or firms. Strategies are in pace to reduce departmental litigation costs by 25% for 2010/11.
2.21. Progress has been made on certain aspects of the transformation of the judiciary. The Department is also finalizing consolidated policy frameworks to address outstanding aspects, including the rationalization of the High Courts and harmonization of the appointment procedures for judges and magistrates.
3. Overview of the Department’s Strategic Plan 2010-2014
3.1. The DG gave more detail on the Department’s Medium Term Strategic Framework for 2010-2014, which is divided into 2 parts:
· The first contains the Department’s legislative mandate, defines its key stakeholders and explains its vision, mission and aspirations.
· The second sets out the strategic outcomes that the Department has adopted and gives details of its programmes (as found in the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE)).
3.2. Access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups, remains an essential to the aspirations of this country. However, the Department’s vision and mission, as well as its corresponding strategic objectives, have been re-crafted in line with national priority outcomes. This will assist it to continue to administer justice, align its strategy with those of its Cluster partners, and focus on providing safety and security and building public confidence in the justice system.
3.3. The Department has also resolved to review its structure, adding on to its organisational structure three components (Constitutional Development, Communication and Entity Oversight), and to provide policy and legislation that will help establish the court administration agency.
3.4. Programme 1: Administration
3.4.1. The Administration programme manages the Department, develops policies and strategies for the efficient administration of justice, and provides centralised support services. It consists of five sub-programmes: Minister, Deputy Minister, Management, Corporate Services and Office Accommodation.
3.4.2. As the Department has had significant challenges with its internal control systems, the identified outcome for this programme is the provision of strategic leadership and improvement of internal control systems to ensure compliance and accountability.
3.4.3. This Outcome is supported by the following measurable objectives:
· Improving corporate governance to comply with PFMA and other relevant legislation and prescripts.
· Managing priority projects aimed at improving internal control systems.
· Providing sound management of state resources (human, finance, information technology, capital assets).
· Expanding justice infrastructure and services to people living in townships and rural areas.
· Providing strategic leadership to the JCPS Cluster and strengthening the oversight mandate.
· Increasing public understanding of justice issues.
· Intervening to protect victims from the impact of apartheid and crime.
3.5. Programme 2: Court Services
3.5.1. The Court Services programme provides and manages courts, facilitates the resolution of criminal, civil and family law matters, including the administration of justice services at provincial levels. The Programme requires working in collaboration with other government departments to promote and protect the rights of children, women, the aged, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups.
3.5.2. Court Services has 10 sub-programmes in all: Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeal; High Courts; Specialised Courts; Lower Courts; Family Advocate; Government Motor Transport; Magistrate’s Commission; Facilities Management and Administration of Courts.
3.5.3. The programme’s outcomes are to provide effective support to court administration and to strengthen the Office of the Chief Justice and enhance the independence of the judiciary.
3.5.4. The DG highlighted the following measurable objectives supporting the outcomes for this programme:
· Providing sound support to the judiciary as a separate arm of government.
· Reviewing the criminal and civil justice systems.
· Ensuring qualitative, quantitative and timely justice services.
· Providing sound administrative support and guidance to Regional Offices.
· Improving the delivery of services to comply with Batho Pele principles.
· Executing initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of vulnerable groups (children, women, the aged, the poor, and the disabled).
3.6. Programme 3: State Legal Services
3.6.1. The State Legal Services programme aims mostly at transforming Justice, State and Society. Its functions encompass constitutional development; legislative development, including legal research; providing legal advisory services to organs of state and Parliament; providing litigation services to organs of state; and providing probate services, administering the Guardian’s Fund, and regulating insolvency and liquidation systems.
3.6.2. The programme has four sub-programmes: State Law Advisors; Litigation and Legal Services; Legislative Development and Law Reform; and Master of the High Court.
3.6.3. The programme’s identified outcome has many facets: To provide legal advisory and litigation services; to supervise the administration of deceased and insolvent estates and the Guardian’s Fund; to prepare and promote legislation; and to facilitate Constitutional Development.
3.6.4. The following measurable objectives supporting the outcome were highlighted:
· Promoting constitutional development and strengthening of participatory democracy.
· Improving the provision of legal services to state organs.
· Administering deceased and insolvent estates, the Guardian’s Fund, trusts and curatorships.
· Developing and promoting legislation.
4. Programme 4: National Prosecuting Authority
4.1. The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) presented the NPA’s Strategic Plan 2010 - 2015.
4.2. The National Prosecuting Authority programme provides prosecution services, including protecting victims of sexual violence, conviction of sexual offenders, investigation and combating of serious, organised crimes, removal of profit from crime and the protection of state and prosecution witnesses.
4.3. The NDPP gave an interpretation of the NPA’s legislative mandate, as well as the roles and powers of the NDPP and Directors of Public Prosecutions (DPPs). He emphasised that the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is the NPA’s accounting officer, and provided some detail on the restructuring/transformation of the NPA which was directed at creating a highly centralised operational structure focused within the office of the NDPP.
4.4. He noted that DPPs have original powers to institute criminal proceedings. The NPA’s strategy is to ensure that the legislative mandate is complied with fully. The focus will be on the role of the DPPs as the prosecutorial decision-making authority. This decision-making power is exercised (to a large extent) independently. The NDPP exercises oversight through enterprise performance management.
4.5. NPA’s Strategic Plan 2015 provides that prosecution focus areas will be either designated as general (encompassing violent crimes, trio crimes and contact crimes) or specialised (including crimes against women and children, maintenance, environmental specialised tax and corruption). These are linked with JCPS targets and measurable outputs directed at finalising more cases and re-engineering business processes in and around courts.
4.6. The NPA’s key measurable objectives of the NPA are to reduce the number of case backlogs; combat corruption; and establish additional Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC’s).
4.7. The NPA has four core programmes: Public Prosecutions; Office for Witness Protection; Asset Forfeiture; and Support Services. The NDPP mentioned that that Support Services, essentially the administrative support structure for the NPA, will now be incorporated within the DOJ&CD.
4.8. The NDPP identified challenges relating to pressures at the lower courts and high withdrawals of cases; the need for more prosecutors to match the increase in SAPS numbers; the need for additional office accommodation and funding for the TCC’s when donor funding ceases in the near future.
5. Programme 5: Auxiliary and Associated Services
5.1. The Programme provides for a variety of auxiliary services associated with the Department’s aims. Expenditure under this programme is mostly in the form of transfer payments to the Office for the Control of Interception and Monitoring of Communication, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Public Protector, the Legal Aid Board, the Special Investigating Unit, Justice Modernisation, the Represented Political Parties Fund, and the management of the President’s Fund.
5.2. The Chairperson and CEO of Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) gave details of LASA’s Strategic Plan 2009-12. LASA aims to provide quality, professional legal services to ensure effective access to justice for the poor and vulnerable. Its outcomes and objectives are contained in its Strategic Plan, and focus on maintaining a sustainable and financially stable organisation, increasing the outreach of quality legal services to clients and implementing actions emanating from the CJS review. The LASA identified the negative growth of the overall budget as a challenge. Additional challenges include the need to ensure that there is one practitioner per court, especially at busy Regional courts, and the potential cost to LASA of complying with court orders that have directed that it provide legal aid in certain matters to defendants who have means.
5.3. The Chairperson, (Acting) CEO and (Acting) CFO of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) provided an overview of the Commission’s Strategic Plan 2010/11 – 2012/13. The SAHRC positions itself as ‘a champion for the realisation of human rights’. Its mandate is to promote a human rights culture, monitor the observance of human rights and seek redress for violations, as well as to report on legislative obligations under the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA) and Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The Chair explained that the new Commissioners had very little time to come together to influence the SAHRC’s Strategic plan 2010/11 – 2010/13. He undertook to brief the Committee on the revised Plan once it is finalised. Uncertainty created by the resignations of the CEO and CFO in January 2010, problems with low staff morale, a gradual decline in the overall complaints received by the SAHRC; and the need to fast track the Human Rights Commission Amendment Bill were identified as challenges. Other challenges relate to budget constraints (there are no funds for increased capacity or office allocation and an inadequate budget for PAIA responsibilities).
5.4. The Public Protector (PP) presented a strategic plan that identified a ‘new growth phase’ for the organisation under the new PP. It contains a new vision and mission for the PP. Key strategic objectives include increased accessibility, prompt remedial action, good governance and an efficient and effective organisation. There are three core programmes: Strategic Direction and Executive Support, Core Operations and Corporate Support Services. The Core Operations programme will have an Early Resolution Unit to resolve ‘quick’ matters (such as those relating to identity documents, pensions and grants) swiftly. A series of stakeholder meetings have assisted to identify specific areas of intervention. Challenges that were identified include the need to strengthen professional capabilities, especially forensic investigation skills, a lack of funds to open more regional offices, as well as insufficient funding for the implementation of an annual Public Protector Good Governance Week.
6. Overview of the Department’s Budget
6.1. Budget Vote 23: Justice and Constitutional Development receives R12.1 billion for 2010/11. The main appropriation to the Department is R10.25 billion. This amount excludes a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund of R465 million for judges’ salaries and R1.4 billion for magistrates’ salaries respectively, which brings the main appropriation to R12.1 billion.
6.2. In real terms the Department receives less than in past years. This means that it must do more with less by:
· Finding savings through reduced spending on non-core functions and activities, including shifting resources from administrative components to frontline services.
· Rationalising public entities and agencies to save money and improve accountability.
· Review public spending to weed out poorly performing programmes, low priority activities and ineffective policies.
· Reform procurement systems to reduce corruption and obtain better value for money, including considering centralising the procurement of selected goods and services.
· Changing the public service culture to reduce waste and prevent extravagant spending.
6.3. Budget allocations per programme are as follows:
6.3.1. Administration receives R1.4 billion in 2010/11, which is approximately 14% of the overall budget. The Corporate Services sub-programme dominates expenditure under this programme, consuming approximately 61% of the programme’s budget. Office accommodation follows with 35%.
6.3.2. Court Services receives R3.8 billion for 2010/11, which is 38% of the overall budget. The Lower Courts sub-programme receives 63% of the programme’s budget.
6.3.3. State Legal Services receives R 644 million in 2010/11, which is 6% of the overall budget). There has been substantial growth in the Master of the High Court sub-programme, which is allocated R318 million (50%) of the programme’s budget. The Legislative Development and Law Reform sub-programme receives R47 million (or 7% of the programme’s overall budget). This programme has a substantial growth due to personnel.
6.3.4. The National Prosecuting Authority programme receives 2.4 billion in 2010/11, which is 23% of the overall budget. The Public Prosecutions sub-programme receives 1.7 billion or 72% of the Programme’s budget. 72% of the programme’s budget is spent directly on prosecution services.
6.3.5. Auxiliary and Associated Services receives R1.8 billion, which is 17% of the overall budget. Expenditure under this programme is mostly in the form of transfer payments to the Office for the Control of Interception and Monitoring of Communication, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Special Investigating Unit, Legal Aid Board (LAB), Public Protector, Justice Modernisation, the President’s Fund and the Represented Political Parties Fund. This programme receives R1.8 billion. Legal Aid South Africa receives the lion share of the programme’s budget, receiving R991 million (54%). Spending on legal aid is mainly driven by increased personnel costs. The South African Human Rights Commission receives R73 million (or 4% of the programme’s overall budget). Justice Modernisation receives R379 million (or 20% of the programme’s budget) which is a decrease from R506 million in the past financial year.
6.4. Specific amounts allocated that may not be used for purposes other than those stated are:
· R508 million for Property Management.
· R479 million for Buildings and Other Fixed Structures.
· R 134 million for Integrated Justice Programme.
· R 322 million for Reduction of criminal case backlog.
· R 110 million for Third Party Funds Public Private Partnership.
6.5. R117 million has been allocated for the implementation of legislation. This is made up as follows:
· R80 million is for legislation addressing vulnerable groups (Child Justice Act - R30 million; the Children’s Act - 23 million; Sexual offences and Related Matters Act - R24 million; and Trafficking - R3 million).
· Jurisdiction of Regional Court Amendment Act receives R10 million
· R 10 million goes for re-demarcation of magisterial districts.
· R 12 million is allocated to the Protection of Personal Information Bill.
· R5 million is allocated for the Traditional Courts Bill.
6.6. The Department expects the following spending pressures in the medium term:
· The need for additional office accommodation and court infrastructure.
· The Department is currently funding new courts with no concurrent additional allocations for personnel and operational expenditure.
· Regions also need additional capacity in the form of more court personnel (interpreters, finance and supply chain management personnel).
· Implementation of Phase 2 of the Occupation Specific Dispensation for legally qualified personnel.
· Maintenance of and additional Investment in and rolling out of information technology infrastructure.
· Implementation cost of new and proposed legislation requires funding (Civil Jurisdiction of Regional Courts Act; Child Justice and Children’s Act; Traditional Courts Bill; and Superior Courts Bill).
· Security and risk management in justice service delivery points and enhancing the security of personnel, department records and state assets
· Implementation of the review of the criminal justice system.
· The Department plans to replace 46 of the 230 branch courts to provide full court services in 2010/11.
· The Department is also planning to introduce multilingualism in courts.
· The establishment of a Constitutional Development Branch to enhance the Department’s constitutional development mandate.
· 127 justice service delivery points need to be secured by putting in place the necessary infrastructure. Security for personnel, records and assets also need enhancing.
· The implementation of the review of the Criminal Justice System.
· Funding from a number of donor-funded projects has or will come to an end shortly. Funds will need securing to keep the NPA’s Thuthuzela Care Centres’ (TCC) running.
7. Committee’s Response
7.1. The Committee is concerned that the Department has reported that it its allocation has decreased, creating real challenges for it.. While it appreciates the Department’s commitment to doing ‘more with less’, the Committee fears that a decrease in the allocation has the potential to undermine the ability of the justice system to work as it should. It also has the potential to undermine the Department’s contribution to the national priority of fighting crime. The Department’s intention to establish new structures, such as the establishment of a branch responsible for Constitutional Development, will create additional pressures that will need funding. (The Department informed the Committee that it intends to divert funds from the other Branches for this purpose). The Committee intends to monitor performance against spending very closely.
7.2. As already mentioned, this is the first year that Parliament is able to put into practice its constitutional power to amend money bills, although there are several challenges in this regard. This Committee must also submit a budget review report in October, containing recommendations that will contribute to the next year’s budget allocation. The report is not only quantitative but is also qualitative, as it looks past financial information to performance. It should be possible to see value in what was spent. This can only be measured against clearly defined and measurable outcomes, targets, and outputs. To conduct its oversight work more effectively, the Committee commits itself once more to meeting quarterly with the Department to review progress made on the implementation of the strategic and operational plan. It also requests that it is provided with monthly and quarterly spending reports. Briefings on specific identified issues will be ongoing. Where there is a strong business case, the Committee will look to see what it can do to assist the Department in obtaining additional funding.
7.3. More generally on the matter of strategic plans, the Committee was especially impressed by LASA’s strategic plan and with its effective business methodology. The Committee has asked that LASA makes its expertise available to others in the Justice Vote to build strategic planning capacity.
7.4. The Department has acknowledged that a high vacancy rate remains a challenge. This is an ongoing problem, of which the Committee is well aware. It has several times previously expressed its concern about the negative consequences that vacancies can have for the delivery of justice services. Also, the Committee believes that although the use of savings from vacant posts to fund other projects (such as the implementation of the OSD) may be understandable, the practice is potentially risky as it may discourage the filling of posts. While the Committee welcomes the Department’s aim to reduce the number of vacant posts from the present 14% to 5% in the next two years, it believes that this is a formidable task. It seems to the Committee that the Department is struggling to fill its vacancies. The Department reported in its 2008/09 Annual Report that its vacancy rate was at 13.6%. The Department’s aim to reduce this to 5% in the next two years indicates that there has been no progress in the meantime. The Committee recommends that all critical posts be filled as soon as possible, especially given the fact that the Department has the budget for the posts. It intends to continue to monitor progress closely.
7.5. The Committee is dismayed that once again there is no provision in the baseline allocation for the rollout of Phase 2 of the OSD, as the OSD is intended to assist the Department in attracting and retaining skills.
7.6. The Committee is pleased to hear that the Department has identified improved corporate governance and strengthened internal control systems as a specific outcome. These weaknesses have contributed to the Department receiving qualified audit opinions and having to make uncomfortable appearances before the Committee on Public Accounts for too long. The Department’s financial turnaround strategy is commendable, and is a good start in putting in place the necessary building blocks towards an unqualified audit. The Committee will monitor progress in meeting identified targets at the next quarterly meeting. The Committee recommends that the Department should address the concerns raised by SCOPA and the Auditor General in the past financial years. This will assist the Department to achieve an unqualified audit opinion.
7.7. The Committee is pleased that the Minister has taken steps to restore the relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary. The Committee believes that it is crucial that the Ministry effectively consult judges and other relevant stakeholders before finalizing its policy framework on the transformation of the judiciary and the Bills flowing from this.
7.8. The Committee is pleased to note that the Department intends to strengthen the administration of courts by strengthening the Office of the Chief Justice. The Department should ensure that the necessary resources are available for this to happen.
7.9. The Committee is concerned about the problems experienced at a number of the courts relating to recordkeeping. The Committee drew attention to a number of cases where prisoners have requested their trial records to lodge an appeal but these files have gone ‘missing’. While the Department informed the Committee of its plans to track and restore 100% of all lost records in certain identified courts, the Committee would like a written report on the extent of the problem, and what is being done to address the problem. The filling of vacancies and proper maintenance of equipment would go a long way in solving this problem. It will continue to monitor progress made on a quarterly basis.
7.10. The Committee was informed that implementation of the 7-point plan relating to the review of the criminal justice system is a priority. It is keen to engage more fully with the Department on progress made on the Criminal Justice Review. The Review of the Civil Justice System is also extremely welcome. The Committee intends to ask the Department to brief it on this..
7.11. The Committee would like to be fully briefed on the progress made in addressing the problems associated with administration of third party funds at the next quarterly briefing. The Department should finalise the legal and accounting framework governing administered transactions.
7.12. The Committee would like to be briefed on developments in respect of the disciplinary matters on fraud and theft at the next quarterly briefing.
7.13. The Committee remains concerned at the state of the Master’s Office. Members of Parliament are often approached by their constituents about the many difficulties they experience when dealing with the Master’s Office. It is also disappointing that the position of Chief Master remains unfilled. A further suggestion is that the Ministry looks into the feasibility of relocating the responsibility for notarial section from the Deeds Office (which falls under the Department of Land Affairs) to the Master’s Office.
7.14. The Committee is pleased to hear that there is finally progress in the building of a High Court in Limpopo. The absence of High Courts in Limpopo and Mpumalanga and the poor state of some (if not many) courts remain a major concern. It was told that the building of a High Court in Mpumalanga is at a planning stage. The Committee is deeply concerned at the delays. The Committee feels that this sub-programme needs to be accelerated, especially in view of the importance of ensuring greater access to justice. Of course, the court-building and renovation projects needs to be closely linked to other aspects of ensuring greater access to justice, for example, by ensuring that the new buildings are adequately staffed and properly equipped to fulfill their functions. The Committee also found the NPA’s explanation for it not having established prosecution units in Limpopo and Mpumalanga unsatisfactory. The Committee would like to see units established in these two provinces (as was done in South Gauteng). It requests that the NPA look into this matter urgently.
7.15. The Committee further notes the Department’s intention to re-designate certain branch courts, as this will not only enhance access to justice, but improve operational efficiency by allowing court managers to plan the optimal use of their courts. This should extend the number of hours the courts sit, contributing to enhanced court performance. The Committee requests a progress report on the re-designation of courts.
7.16. The Committee is concerned at how little has been allocated to the implementation of legislation that relates to vulnerable groups. The Child Justice Act, for example, creates an entirely new dispensation to deal with children who come into conflict with the law. Its aims are far-reaching. But only R30 million has been budgeted for its implementation. This is a concern, especially as the Department had costed implementing the Act at R 165 million. The Committee has been briefed on the Department’s implementation plans but intends to continue to monitor the implementation of this and other legislation relating to vulnerable groups. Lack of resources will serious compromise the effective implementation of the Act.
7.17. The Committee feels that the Department needs to pay greater attention to improving its services in maintenance matters. Having to wait for two hours to have one’s maintenance matter attended to is just too long. The Committee also asked the Department to look into how to deter defendant’s from employing stalling tactics to delay their having to pay maintenance.
7.18. The NDPP mentioned plans to ‘restructure’ the National Prosecuting Authority while briefing the Committee on the NPA’s strategic plan. The Committee received the NPA’s strategic plan very late, and did not have sufficient time to consider and engage thoroughly on its implications. In addition, the status of the plans is unclear to the Committee pending the outcome of a meeting between the Minister and the NDPP. The Committee intends to ask the NPA and the Ministry to brief it urgently.
7.19. The Committee requests that both the Department and the National Prosecuting Authority submit a report on the outstanding issue of the Innes Chambers.
7.20. The Committee is not clear why there has been a decrease in the budget for Justice Modernisation. It will ask the Department to provide an explanation at the next quarterly meeting.
7.21. The Committee regrets that, in the past, its interactions with the Public Protection and South African Human Rights Commission have not been sufficiently regular, and have been limited in duration. In this regard, it intends to meet formally with the Commission at least twice a year to discuss their Commission’s budget and strategic plan, as well as their annual report. In addition, it will engage with these institutions on how it can go about strengthening the relationship and to generally provide support for the work that the institutions do.
8.1. The Committee thanks the Minister, the Director General and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, and all officials who appeared before the Committee at the Budget briefings for their co-operation.
8.2. The Committee also wishes to thank the Public Protector, the Chairperson and Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, and the Chairperson of Legal Aid South Africa, and their respective staff members who appeared before the Committee at the Budget briefings for their co-operation.
Report to be considered.
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