ATC180530: Report of the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings on the Executive Undertakings made by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development during the House Sitting of 4 June 2015, as adopted on 30 May 2018
REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON PETITIONS AND EXECUTIVE UNDERTAKINGS ON THE EXECUTIVE UNDERTAKINGS MADE BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT DURING THE HOUSE SITTING OF 4 JUNE 2015, AS ADOPTED ON 30 MAY 2018
The Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings (Committee) having requested the Honourable Justice and Constitutional Development to appear before it and provide a progress report on the implementation or fulfilment of the executive undertakings made or given, on the floor of the House, during the Policy Debate on Budget 21: Justice and Constitutional Development, on 4 June 2015, reports as follows:
On 4 June 2015, the Honourable Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (Minister) made the following executive undertakings, in the House, during the Policy Debate on Budget Vote 21: Justice and Constitutional Development:
1.1 Executive Undertaking 1: “We have successfully implemented the rationalisation of magisterial districts in Gauteng and North West with effect from 1 December 2014 and have commenced with the roll-out of the project to Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. In the latter provinces this exercise will culminate in the official opening of Limpopo Division of the High Court earmarked for the later this year and the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court planned as early 2016”.
1.2 Executive Undertaking 2: “We intend to expand the mediation services to additional courts and this will happen as soon we have built sufficient capacity at courts to carry out the mediation function.”
1.3 Executive Undertaking 3: “A number of strategic positions including that of National Commissioner and Chief Deputy Commissioner for strategic management will be filled soon as the recommendations have been made appointments. Filling other strategic positions including the Regional Commissioner of the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West regions is receiving priority attention.”
1.4 Executive Undertaking 4: “We will also run 24 workshops to train officials on ethics and to strengthen our collective vigilance against fraud, corruption serious maladministration.”
- MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE
On 6 September 2017, the Minister, together with officials from his Department, appeared before the Committee to report on the progress made in implementing above stated executive undertakings.
The following Committee Members were present at the meeting with the Minister:
2.1 Hon M T Mhlanga, ANC, Mpumalanga (Acting Chairperson);
2.2 Hon D L Ximbi, ANC, Western Cape;
2.3 Hon T Wana, ANC, Eastern Cape;
2.4 Hon M G Manopole, ANC, Northern Cape;
2.5 Hon M Chetty, DA, Kwa-Zulu Natal;
2.6 Hon B A Engelbrecht, DA, Gauteng; and
2.7 Hon T J Mokwele, EFF, North West.
The Committee Members present, at the meeting, were supported by the following Committee officials:
2.8 Dr M Gondwe, Content Advisor;
2.9 Adv. T Sterris, Committee Researcher;
2.10 Mr N Mkhize, Committee Secretary; and
2.11 Ms N Fakier, Executive Secretary to the Acting Committee Chairperson.
The following representatives of the Department were present at the meeting:
2.12 Hon M Masutha, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development;
2.13 Ms R Adams, Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services,
2.14 Mr J B Skosana, Deputy Director General, Court Services;
2.15 Mr T B Raseroka, Deputy Commissioner; and
2.16 Ms T Lesoro, Director, Policy Research.
- PROGRESS REPORT BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
In his opening remarks to the Committee, Hon M Masutha, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (Minister) reported that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (Department) had frozen the intake of new graduates due to the financial constraints that the country is faced with. He further reported that the Department had targeted having 4000 intakes with a minimum qualification of matric however given the financial and budget constraints this would not be possible. The Minister informed the Committee that his Department requires 60 000 employees but only has 42 000 employees. The Minister also took the Committee through the reforms that the Department had undergone in the past 23 years aimed at addressing inadequate infrastructure and bringing access of the justice system to the people. The Committee was made aware that this had translated to the construction of 2 courts per annum.
In updating the Committee, the Minister further reported, as follows, on the progress made in relation to the executive undertakings under review:
3.1 Executive Undertaking 1: The rationalization courts of is a constitutional imperative which is aimed at redressing the legacy of spatial injustice of the past in terms of which the jurisdictional areas of courts was based on the segregation policy of the former apartheid regime. The Constitution and the National Development Plan enjoins the Department to establish an inclusive and integrated judicial system which is geared to enhance equal access to justice to all citizen of the democratic South Africa. The rationalization project is the Department’s endeavour to align magisterial districts to municipal boundaries on the one hand, and on the other hand to harmonise areas of jurisdiction of the Divisions of the High Court with provincial boundaries. This is done with a view to undoing the old magisterial demarcations which are still premised on the defunct Homelands and self-governing States.
The rollout of the rationalization project is predicated on the construction of new courts and the rehabilitation of dilapidated court infrastructure to ensure that communities are able access courts and other justice offerings within the municipality where they live or work and within their province in relation to the High Court. The success of the rationalization project is attributed to the 54 new courts the government has built since 1994 particularly in far flung rural villages and the traditionally black townships. This translates to the construction of 2 courts per annum which the Department has continued to maintain to address the huge backlog inherited from the past. The building of new courts reduces the distance and cost of travel and the time it takes to obtain legal redress and services offerings which are the essential elements of access to justice. The commencement of the rationalization process was successful in the Gauteng and North West province in 2014. The Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces were the next provinces to be accomplished and implementation in the latter provinces took effect from 25 January 2016 which coincides with the commencement of the functioning of the Limpopo Division of the High Court which was officially opened on 29 November 2016.
In respect of the construction of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga High Courts, the Independent Development Trust (IDT) has been appointed as the implementation agent for these flagship projects. The completion of these projects is at almost 90 percent and the work should be completed by the end of 2017. The Minister is aware of the challenges regarding the access route to the court and the other budget related challenges regarding the projects under IDT. The Director-General of Justice and Constitutional Development and Public Works have established a joint task team made up of Senior Officials and these officials have been tasked to resolve challenges and the Minister will be waiting for their report at the end of September 2017. The President has already appointed Judge President Legodi as Judge President of the Division and he is part of the preparatory work to get the court operational from the beginning of the 2018/19 financial year.
The Department is on the course to implement the rationalization project in all outstanding provinces during the term of the current administration. The Minister has already proclaimed new magisterial districts for the Free State and Northern Cape provinces which are scheduled to come into effect on 1 December 2017 and hopes to conclude the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces during the 2018/19 financial year and Western Cape by 2019/20 financial year.
- Executive Undertaking 3: The position of National Commissioner of Correctional Services is currently vacant as the previous National Commissioner reached the age of retirement in August 2017. The position could have been advertised a month ago but the Department wanted to draw lessons from the former Commissioner (who was in the system for 38 years) before appointing a new Commissioner. The position will be advertised within the next two weeks. The Department has filled the post of Chief Deputy for Commissioner Strategic Management, which was filled on 1 October 2015 by Mr Katenga. Interviews for the positions of Regional Commissioners for Gauteng as well as for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West were conducted during the week of 25 and 29 of August and the process will be finalised soon.
3.4 Executive Undertaking 4: The Department has also conducted 56 ethics awareness sessions or workshops in the 2015/2016 financial year, where a total of 1386 employees attended and participated. These sessions continued in 2016/2017, where a total of 82 awareness sessions or workshops were conducted and 1183 employees attended) and the first quarter of 2017/2018 financial year, where 17 awareness sessions or workshops were conducted and 339 employees attended and participated. The contents of these awareness workshops or sessions focussed on the whistle-blowing policy; remunerative work outside employment in the Public Service Policy; financial disclosures for the categories of designated employees, other remunerative work directive as well as the receiving or non-acceptance of gifts; general ethical issues relating to unethical behaviour that may lead to misconduct; information management in relation to information security, and codes of conduct.
Furthermore, the Department’s Forensic Audit Unit, has in the 2015/2016 financial year conducted 222 investigations related to fraud, corruption, unethical behaviour, and other allegations of irregularities, while in 2016/2017, 218 investigations were conducted and in the first quarter of 2017/2018 a further 45 investigations were conducted.
The Department has continued to take appropriate disciplinary action where allegations of fraud, corruption and unethical behaviour have been investigated and found to have substance. In this regard, in the first quarter of 2017/2018 financial year, 52 disciplinary process were initiated related to fraud, corruption and unethical behaviour, while in 2016/2017 and 2015/2016 109 and 98 disciplinary processes were initiated.
The commitments the Department made on ethics management is currently supported by three committees i.e. the HR Sub Committee of Exco (which provides oversight over ethics matters), the Risk Management Committee, as a sub-committee of the Audit Committee, and the Forum on combined assurance, that support the work of the Risk Management Committee and the Audit Committee, under the Chairpersonship of the Chief Audit Executive (which assesses the prevalence of materialized risks; the effectiveness of the controls to address the risks; addresses short comings in processes that result in risks not being prevented and/or detected; and confirms emerging risks to the Risk Management Committee). These Committees meet either on a monthly or quarterly bases.
- OBSERVATIONS AND KEY FINDINGS
In noting the progress report and various submissions made by the Minister, the Committee makes the following observations and key findings:
- The Independent Development Trust (IDT) has been appointed as the implementation agent for the construction of both the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Divisions of the High Court. Moreover, completion of these projects is at almost 90 percent and the work should be completed by the end of 2017.
- In the 2017/18 financial year, the Department will be extending the court annexed mediation services to an additional 30 regional courts, primarily on the courts designated as seats for civil regional courts. And the assistant registrars based at the regional courts earmarked for the rollout of the mediation project will undergo training on the court annexed mediation rules, during October to November 2017, as part of creating the requisite capacity for the added responsibility.
- The Department has filled the post of Chief Deputy for Commissioner Strategic Management and interviews for the positions of Regional Commissioners for Gauteng as well as for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces were conducted during the week of 25 to 29 of August 2017 and the process will be finalised soon. The position of National Commissioner of Correctional Services is however currently vacant as the previous National Commissioner reached the age of retirement in August 2017.
- The Department has conducted 56 ethics awareness sessions or workshops in the 2015/2016 financial year, wherein a total of 1386 employees attended and participated.
Further, in noting the progress report made by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Committee, lastly, observes that the executive undertakings have been adequately implemented and therefore recommends that they be closed.
Report to be considered
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