Media statement by Justice and Constitutional Development
Minister Jeff Radebe annual report 2009/10
10 Oct 2010
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media,
As you are aware the Department of Justice of Constitutional Development tabled its 2009/10 Annual Report in Parliament on 16 September 2010. Based on this performance report, we are convinced that there is room for improvement on a number of areas to which I shall focus on in a moment. More needs to be done, and will certainly be done by this department to perform better, with the necessary levels of diligence and efficiency in order to increase performance outputs in accordance with our mandate. I take this opportunity today to reflect on the milestones achieved and to focus on those areas of concern for which dedicated attention is required.
During the period under review, we set ourselves key measurable objectives that include the following: broadening access to justice for all and improving the efficiency of our courts; providing protection to and promoting the rights of the vulnerable groups; introducing legislation to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. All these programs form a stream that contributes towards our strategic outcome of ensuring that All people in South Africa are and feel safe (outcome 3 of the 12 government priorities).
Access to justice and expansion of court services
The department undertook nine (9) capital projects aimed at the construction of new courts as well as the expansion of infrastructure on some of the existing courts in order to create office space. Of these, three (3) new courts have been completed in Colesburg, Galeshewe, and Lutzville. Three others are still under construction at Katlehong (in the East Rand, Gauteng), at Ntuzuma (in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal) and the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane.
A further six projects have been undertaken to expand offices in Stanger, Thembalethu, Swellendam, Riversdale, Bredasdorp and at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. As a department, we have further improved access to justice by converting 15 branch courts into full service courts with their own areas of jurisdiction. They will deal with a range of issues including matters relating to the deceased estates, maintenance and Small Claims Court disputes without the need to travel to often far and remote towns and cities.
Additional four branch courts (Attridgeville, Mamelodi, Northam and Ntuzuma) will be converted into full service courts during the current financial year. They are currently being upgraded and equipped accordingly. Small claims courts remain a powerful mechanism to provide access to justice, especially to the poor and I have pleasure in indicating we have increased the footprint of these courts in the past financial year. We now have 212 small claim courts and the numbers are growing monthly in our quest to ensure that there is at least one functioning and active small claims court in each and every one of South Africa's 384 magisterial districts. Significantly and in keeping with our objective of ensuring access to justice, most of the newly established courts are in rural areas. The department also designated all magistrate courts as equality courts as part of ensuring access to justice for all our people. This has resulted in an increase in cases enrolled at these courts from 447 in 2008/09 to 508 in 2009/10. We will embark on sustained public awareness campaigns to educate more people about services rendered by these courts.
Protection and promotion of the rights of vulnerable groups
Together with other Justice Crime Prevention and Security cluster departments, we continue to ensure the protection and promotion of interests of vulnerable groups. Although the Child Justice Act came into effect in April 2010, as a cluster, we managed to reduce the number of children awaiting trial by 50 percent during the period under review. Currently, 71 percent of children’s cases are resolved within three months.
The department is making an effort to improve the efficient provision of maintenance services in our courts. We have drafted maintenance guidelines for the judiciary and provided training for maintenance investigators and officers. During the 2009/10 financial year, 189 988 maintenance applications were received. Of these, the department issued 9 420 orders by default (5 percent), 24 494 section 31 orders by default (13 percent), 34 165 emoluments (18 percent) and 2 978 warrants of execution (1.3 percent) and made 2 049 attachments of debt.
Out of eight (8) Bills that the department had planned to develop, six (6) were introduced in Parliament, namely, the traditional courts bill, the criminal law (forensic procedure) Amendment Bill, the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill (Municipal Functions), the Protection of Personal Information Bill, the Protection from Harassment Bill, as well as the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill.
During the year under review the coordinated efforts of all departments in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to implement our seven point plan aimed at creating an efficient and integrated criminal justice system has resulted in greater coordination between police, prosecutors and the courts, leading to 12.5 percent more cases being finalised in the courts and high conviction rates being maintained in criminal matters, with both the lower and high courts achieving high conviction rates, with District Courts achieving 90.5 percent, regional courts 74 percent and high courts 87.7 percent, in terms of the trial cases that were dealt with in the courts.
In criminal cases, the high court divisions managed to have a positive clearance ration during the said period. The high courts received 1 252 new cases and disposed of 1 363 cases. A total of 1 235 cases were finalised and only 128 cases were removed from the roll.
We are also continuing to roll out the video link remand system which is aimed at fast-tracking case postponements without the accused person making physical appearance in court. The system was rolled out to 45 magistrate courts and to two correctional facilities.
Financial and resource management
The department sustained its programmes to improve processes and systems of financial and asset control. A remarkable spending rate of 98 percent of the R7.5 billion voted funds was achieved with only 2 percent registered as under-expenditure.
We acknowledge both the 2009/10 Auditor-General’s (AG) report and the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) report relating to the financial management of the Department as they are significant in highlighting areas of success and concern. It is important to reiterate that our department upholds the principles of accountability and transparency and as custodians of public funds as voted into our department by the National Treasury, we will strive to ensure accountable, effective and prudent use of all such public resources.
We have studied the departmental operations and the weaknesses which were highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report which resulted in perennial qualified reports and we have taken steps to combat these challenges that undermine government’s efforts to provide qualitative justice services to improve the lives of all our people. We are developing a robust turnaround strategy and a Consolidated Plan to correct the weaknesses in the administration of justice which I will announce after Parliament has approved it, which will be in the very near future. The strategy will mainly focus on ensuring that senior managers account for the activities of those who report to them in order to effectively monitor work done by nearly 18 000 employees countrywide. The three-pronged approach will focus on the impact as a result of poor resource management or capabilities; combat corruption and fraud as well as to strengthen the positive areas that have resulted in efficient and effective management.
The Department managed to effectively reduce the areas of qualification from 5 to 2 by resolving successfully in 2009/10 previous negative findings on:
- asset management
- employee benefits
- lease commitments.
The AG’s report has been useful in that it was able to supplement our own departmental report, as an added tool used for assessment towards a clean audit. The AG’s report identified two areas as basis for qualification, namely, departmental revenue and the identification of irregular expenditure.
The reported irregular expenditure relates to procurement of goods and services either through quotations/bids dating back to 2004 based on the department’s pre-emptive implementation of the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE).
In dealing with procurement processes, the department applied the BBBEE codes of practice instead of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) regulations which is a requirement for all public/state institutions.
The DOJ&CD pro-actively adopted the BBBEE codes of practice during the 2004/05 financial year in anticipation that it will be implemented in the near future. Although the two regulatory processes (BBBEE and PPPFA) require the use of the same formula – eighty percent (80 percent) for price and twenty percent (20 percent) for goals (functionality) – which was followed in dealing with all procurement processes, they slightly differ in terms of their Codes of Practice. It is these differences that have contributed towards a qualified report by the AG as qualified auditing relates to whether or not prescribed measures were followed, irrespective of whether the intention for deviation was good or bad.
The PSC report also indicated that there were 121 cases of financial misconduct
reported by the department during the period under review. A single case of financial mismanagement is one too many. Whilst we are satisfied with our systems that enable us to detect these elements of misconduct, we remain concerned about the high rate of financial misconduct.
It is for this reason that we have resolved that an interim plan be developed to normalise all operations where matters relating to audit queries are concerned. Hereunder is a breakdown of conduct and punishment meted out in the 121 cases reported.
- 26 cases related to fraud , 25 accounted for theft and 70 related to negligence
Manner in which cases were resolved:
- 60 were found guilty and the other 60 was cleared.
Total number of convictions: 60
Final written warnings: 19
Written and verbal warnings: 20
Number of cases relative to value
Total number of cases: 60
High value case (R29 million): 1
Combine balance (R1 million): 59
Recovery of monies
Total recoverable: R30 million
Recovered: R300 000 to R500 000
The department has set as one of its priorities, objectives to improve internal control systems to achieve unqualified audit report in all of its financial, non-financial and human resource management areas. The department has identified four areas of intervention to address the unacceptably high rates of financial misconduct by:
- Strengthening Accountability
- Improving management systems
- Providing continued staff training to improve competence in financial management areas
- Administering appropriate punishment for those who engage in corrupt activities.
The Director-General is at the centre of this intervention plan, and both the Deputy Minister and I will continuously be appraised of the progress the department is making in improving its financial management capability.
Cases cited above are indication of our unwavering resolve to pursue and punish those involved in any criminal conduct including fraud and corruption.
Beyond this, we have identified those areas responsible for the negative audit report this department has endured for a while. In particular we are focusing on the management of third party funds. Our forensic investigations unit is part of the multi-agency task team that comprises of the elite investigative unit, the hawks, the special investigating unit and the National Prosecuting Authority with the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
An investigation was initiated in February 2010 into allegations of collusion by officials with some syndicates in order to defraud and steal money from the Guardian fund and the maintenance account involving R80 million.
Several corrupt officials give out particulars of the legitimate beneficiaries. The syndicates are able to make use of fraudulently obtained identity documents to apply for and claim as beneficiary. Bank accounts are opened using these false identity documents and corrupt officials pay such monies into their accounts. In one case, a syndicate member used particulars of legitimate beneficiaries and claimed 15 times.
This at the end results in double payments of the claims. The tide is now turning against these corrupt officials and they will soon be behind bars.
I want to reassure South Africans that we shall leave no stone unturned to flush out all crooked officials who enrich themselves by looting public funds through illicit scams. They will be identified as we already have started doing so through our investigations. They will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Cell: 082 3333 880
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
10 Oct 2010
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