Radebe, Simelane clash over NPA clanger

2010-04-25 11:22

NATIONAL Public Prosecutions boss Menzi Simelane has started

implementing radical changes to the operations of the National ­Prosecuting

Authority (NPA) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), despite Justice Minister

Jeff Radebe’s insistence that no plans had been finalised on the unit’s

future.

The NPA said this week the unit would stay and that the word

“disbanded” was a typographical error.

But sources say Simelane’s about-turn could be because of the

minister’s reaction at being kept in the dark about the proposals.

Radebe told Parliament this week he was unaware of ­Simelane’s

mooted “realignment plan” for the AFU. The two will meet next week.

Sources have suggested Simelane “jumped the gun” by going ­public

with the plans.

Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, said yesterday: “As a matter of

law and of procedure, any decision of such a nature with policy implications

must be brought before the minister. Any message that may have been communicated

in this regard is merely a proposal.

“No such decision has been taken at this stage.”

But sources told City Press this week the restructuring ­process

was well under way. The sources insisted the so-called “draft” restructuring

plans had been operational since the beginning of April.

Last week Simelane presented the plan to Parliament. Among ­other

things, he proposed the ­dissolution of the AFU. In terms of the new plan, all

AFU staff and ­investigators would report to the regional Deputy Directors of

­Public Prosecutions (DDPP).

However, in an exclusive interview this week, ­current AFU head

Willie Hofmeyr said it was never Simelane’s intention to get rid of the unit,

but “to ensure a level of reporting and ­accountability”.

Emphasising the document was a draft and awaiting ministerial

­approval, Hofmeyr described the choice of the word “disband” as “unfortunate”

and “not a word the NPA discussed” in its various ­deliberations on the unit’s

future.

On page 37 of the strategic plan, under the AFU section, is the

following: “Although the specialised ­support function of asset forfeiture

resides in a separate subprogramme, the unit has been ­disbanded and included as

a division in the regional offices.”

Hofmeyr retains his position as head of the AFU, but nobody

­reports to him. A directive has also been issued for all AFU ­investigators

seconded to the ­Special Investigations Unit to ­return to their desks.

Hofmeyr said that there were potential positive outcomes from the

proposed new model, such as training more staff in specialised asset forfeiture

processes, as well as being able to access greater “buy-in” from the DDPP to

take on important cases. But he acknowledged the new structure could ­introduce

more bureaucracy and possibly even reduce efficacy.

“It’s about how not to lose the benefits of having one single,

­coherent organisation,” said Hofmeyr.

The plans have been criticised in several quarters as an attempt to

“hollow out the capacity” of an ­already well-run, functional and ­effective

unit. But the NPA argues the new structures will improve service

­delivery.


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