The ACDP commends the department on eventually obtaining an unqualified audit on third party funds held in trust by the department.
I have been waiting for this for almost twenty years. It is noteworthy that the third party funds received a disclaimer in 2014/15, followed by two qualified audits in 2015/2016, with at last receiving the unqualified audit for the 20-17/18 financial year. Well done. The Mojapay system has been implemented in 277 courts and 15 State Attorneys offices - with the turnaround time to pay maintenance beneficiaries having improved to just two days.
However the department sadly received a qualified audit opinion with various findings; a deterioration from previous unqualified audits. The main reason was that the department does not have adequate internal controls to accurately estimate likely settlement amounts for claims against the department - amounting to R1.7 billion.
One of the department’s priorities is to build safer communities and fight corruption. The SIU and NPA (with the Asset Forfeiture Unit) play key roles in this regard. Regrettably, notwithstanding volumes of prima facie evidence available in various reports, we see little action to bring the perpetrators of corruption and state capture to book. This morning Eskom executives indicated that they were working closely with law enforcement agencies, but again, we have seen no arrests in what to us are very clear cases of fraud and corruption arising from state capture and other nefarious acts. While we appreciate budgetary constraints, surely we need to see some action. Hopefully, when a new National Director of Public Prosecutions is appointed, we will see some arrests.
The ACDP shares concerns expressed by the Committee regarding the short time frames set out in the Money Bills Act to effectively oversee the departments and entities that report to it. We trust that the amendments to his Act will assist in enhancing the oversight role. We would also strongly recommend that the next parliament consider reverting to the previous situation where justice and correctional services are split between two portfolio committees. We have not been able to effectively exercise oversight.
While we appreciate that budget cuts had to be made, largely due lower than forecast revenue collection (due inter alia to the capture of SARS), we cannot allow the situation to continue that justice is delayed. The delivery of justice is labour intensive - as the committee noted, “without knowledgeable officials to ensure the delivery of a wide range of vital services, our legal system will eventually collapse and with it our democracy.” The ACDP agrees. Legal Aid SA, the NPA and other entities can no longer absorb the budget shortfalls - with the only recourse being not to fill vacancies and even to reduce the staff establishment.
ISSUED BY STEVE SWART MP
21 November 2018