Parliament, Wednesday, 8 February 2023 – The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today had a fruitful engagement with the heads of institutions it has oversight over.
Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe said today’s meeting came after it became clear in its normal engagements with entities and departments that obstructions in some matters cut across the entities or departments. “The committee wanted to deal with the blockages. It was therefore important to have the whole justice and correctional services family in the same house to discuss matters that create these blockages that can impact on the effectiveness of these institutions. The goal is to see how to remove these.”
The meeting included the heads of the South African Human Rights Commission, the Information Regulator (IR), the National Prosecuting Authority, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) and Legal Aid South Africa.
Concerns like inadequate funding, including the Public Protector’s legal costs in the Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into her fitness to hold office were raised and how these are impacting on the other work of the PPSA.
The committee heard that the PPSA is required to commit to funding the Public Protector’s reasonable costs in the impeachment proceedings before the Section 194 Committee. The Office received an estimated amount of R4 550 000 at the onset of proceedings, but has already spent R2.7 million. It is currently verifying invoices for the period July to September 2022 in the amount of R6.4 million. Invoices for the period October to December 2022 as well as January 2023 have not yet been received or processed. It is expected that these invoices will exceed R5 million.
The committee heard that at the current rate, it is estimated that the total cost of the proceedings may escalate to between R12 million to R15 million. Should additional funding not be allocated, the PPSA runs a risk of exceeding its allocated budget. Members of the committee requested the Acting PP to provide details of the cost of accommodation, travel and security for Public Protector Adv Mkhwebane’s team, which she promised to provide by the end of the day.
The committee heard concerns from the SIU regarding the non-payment of invoices of millions of rands for investigations conducted on behalf of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. This, the committee heard, hampers the work of other SIU investigations. The Department of Justice indicated that a “big payment” was paid in December. However, further invoices were received yesterday that will be settled in 30 days.
The September 2021 security breach at the IR, when its IT systems suffered a ransomware attack, has not been resolved and also featured as a topic of discussion in today’s meeting. Another topic of concern was the safety of whistle blowers and how a safer environment can be created for them.
Mr Magwanishe said the committee resolved to have several urgent meetings – one with the Speaker and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services regarding the funding of the Section 194 Enquiry and the impact it has on the Office of the Public Protector, and another with the Minister of Finance regarding matters pertaining to the Information Regulator and the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services.
He said another meeting of this nature will follow after June in order to check if “the family is really getting together”.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, MR BULELANI MAGWANISHE.
For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the committee’s Media Officer:
Name: Rajaa Azzakani (Ms)
Tel: 021 403 8437
Cell: 081 703 9542
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