MPs to ask for more money for justice dept

2012-04-19 17:23

Parliament - MPs have vowed to request more funding for the justice department after hearing how courts have fallen into disrepair, judges are unable to access records and vacancies remain because there are no offices for new recruits.

"We will make representations to the appropriations committee," Luwellyn Landers, the chairperson of parliament's portfolio committee on justice, said on Thursday after three days of briefings by the department.

"We cannot allow this to happen to justice."

The committee will then petition Treasury to adjust the medium-term expenditure framework for the department, which has faced budget cuts in real terms since 2009.

Acting chief financial officer Johan Johnson said the situation at this point was so dire - with an annual budget of R15.4bn - that in lower courts the department spent 78% of its allocation on salaries and only 22% on operations.

"We would have liked to at least achieve the public service ideal ratio of 60% to 40%."

Johnson said it was impossible to change the equation at present because the department simply did not have the money to open more facilities. It was therefore battling to fulfil its obligations under the Child Justice Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Child Maintenance Act because it lacked both the staff and the service points.

"There is no point appointing more staff if you have nowhere to put them."

He warned that a budget allocation of an additional R100m for court infrastructure would not go far, and once new courts were built there would likely be a lack of funds to run them.

"If we are going to open the Limpopo High Court, we will need operational funds to run that court."

A chief director at the department, Tshilidzi Ramanyimi, said the department had a backlog of 55 infrastructure projects at the moment. The cash shortfall meant it faced a stark choice between starting these and doing maintenance on existing structures.

"Our infrastructure is very old. The Durban High Court is over 40 years old and has not been upgraded. That will lead to a frequent breakdown of equipment.

"So unfortunately we are not talking about an upgrade, we are talking about a total overhaul that puts a lot of strain on our limited budget. So we have to strike a balance. Do we upgrade what we have in place, or do we go and provide a service where there is none?"

The committee heard that maintenance problems persisted even at the Supreme Court of Appeal, and expressed particular concern about the plight of staff at the high court in Johannesburg.

According to a report by the deputy judge president of the court last year, judges have for years battled with incomplete and inaccurate court records. It warned that plans for five new courtrooms were hopelessly inadequate to accommodate the division's growing caseload.

The justice department's budget is forecast to grow at 5.9% annually for the next two financial years. Johnson said this made it nigh impossible to absorb inflationary pressures and expand services.

The National Prosecuting Authority told MPs it needs at least an additional R250m a year to appoint more prosecutors to meet its performance targets.

National Director for Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba said pleas to National Treasury in this regard have thus far fallen on deaf ears.

  • bluzulu - 2012-04-19 17:38

    This just did not happen in a few days. Which department is charged with upgrading the infrastructure to coincide with growth of the Justice department? These guys need to be taken to task.

  • esethu3 - 2012-04-19 17:43

    Judicial Independence is put under threat once they have to continually go and partition for funding in parliament. In any given country, the Justice Department should not be begging for funds, they should have them. Its through them that the courts which are highly important for our country's democracy and the protection of the constitution are able to operate efficiently without the influence of POLITICIANS in parliament. They should not resort to petitions

  • Johan - 2012-04-19 17:50

    This is actually quite sad because the maintenance at courts is non-existence. They allow everything to go to rack and ruin. The only maintenance they know is to replace something they have allowed to deteriorate with something new. Then the cycle starts again

      Johan - 2012-04-20 00:52

      Bail is paid back to the accused when the trial is finalised. I doubt whether more than 5% of bail monies is forfeited to the state.

  • Hans Heydra - 2012-04-19 17:52

    Sadly there should be law that says if you make use of public defense lawyer or make use of public funds to defend your case you should be liable for all costs (doubled) should you lose your trial. This should put a stop to public officials using the courts public money. We can use their fortified assets or paidback money to refurb the courts. Just my 2c

      bluzulu - 2012-04-19 18:04

      That denomination of Legal tender NO longer exist.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-04-19 17:55

    About 3-4 yrs ago there was a huge outcry about the the state of the Justice, and the whole JCCP cluster. Findings were that everything was seriously up to sh@t and a whole new approach was needed. A coupla years down the line we hear the same song...the politicians cannot even implement/remember their out outcries from year to year. I heard yesterday on tv news about waterworks which hasnt been kept up at all for around 13 years... I hate to say it but...We are SO screwed...

  • Piet - 2012-04-19 18:04

    Remember the etags and gantries at every door!!!

  • raymond.kok3 - 2012-04-19 18:55

    its not money thats the problem but incompetance

  • braamc - 2012-04-19 19:22

    Put them in charge and you get the state on this nation

  • Hoosen Essa - 2012-04-19 20:08

    they should ask the other members in government since the tax payers money is in their back pockets.

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