The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today chastised the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) for submitting and presenting a report to the committee that has not been seen by the executive authority.

Committee Chairperson, Mr Bulelani Magwanishe, said it cannot be that the Deputy Minister responsible for the DCS has not earlier seen the report that was being presented to the committee. His comments follow a follow-up engagement with the DCS in which officials provided written responses and the Deputy Minister, Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, could not provide further input as he had only received the document shortly before the commencement of the meeting. “I see this as a form of manipulation,” said Mr Magwanishe.”

The DCS submitted an emailed report shortly before the start of the committee meeting today, which contained questions posed by members earlier this week regarding its 2019/20 Annual Report.

Mr Magwanishe’s point was supported by committee member, Ms Jacqueline Mofokeng, who said it is imperative that the committee looks at how the DCS operates if reports are given to the Deputy Minister at that late stage. Another committee member, Ms Nomathemba Maseko-Jele, elaborated and said that was unacceptable.

The National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Arthur Fraser, said the report provided to the committee are responses to questions posed in the previous meeting earlier this week. “It was never an attempt to manipulate the committee but rather a manner in which I thought could assist members as we go through the responses.

“Furthermore, it would be unfortunate if an impression is created that we acted unconstitutionally by not working with the executive (minister and deputy minister) and not keeping them abreast of things. The only reason why the deputy minister did not receive the report in advance is because he was not in the previous meeting.”

Mr Magwanishe further said it is also concerning that the DCS always attends committee meetings with big delegations but parliamentary staff must assist with providing questions. “What is the purpose of such big delegations. Parliamentary support staff works for Parliament, not for the DCS.”

On the question of progress made by the DCS on some targets in its annual report, Mr Magwanishe said: “The question should be, sf the progress enough? The staff has been with the DCS for many years and has a wealth of experience, but cannot obtain a clean audit like other entities in the justice system family. We are not happy with progress at this snail’s pace.”

He told the officials to do some self-introspection during the festive break, just like the committee will do, and ask yourselves “is South Africa safe in your hands”?

By Rajaa Azzakani
4 December 2020