Cash strapped NPA needs R200m

2013-04-23 20:17
Parliament (Dan Calderwood, News24)

Parliament (Dan Calderwood, News24)

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Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) told MPs on Tuesday it had a budget shortfall of R200m, leaving it unable to fill vacancies and staff specialised courts.

NPA bosses said the lack of funding was largely caused by forced over-spending on salaries and bonuses and it had resorted to taking funding from other budgets, including goods and services, to pay staff.

Willie Hofmeyr, a deputy national director of the unit, said the result was that when prosecutors left, there was no money left to fill vacancies, which affected the NPA's strategic targets.

"The reality is our capacity is decreasing. Vacancies that arise are not filled. When we lose experienced people, we cannot replace them," Hofmeyr told Parliament's portfolio committee on justice.

"That will be part of our engagement with Treasury about the budget, but also about what the [performance] targets end up being."

The committee also heard from acting deputy national director Thoko Majokweni that the NPA's financial affairs meant it would not be able to supply the required two prosecutors for each of the 90 sexual offences courts the justice department meant to establish.

"We cannot tell how many prosecutors we will be able to field," she said.

"We are afraid that it might undermine the very existence of sexual offences courts."

Forced cut-backs

Newly-appointed NPA CEO Karen van Rensburg said for the past financial year the organisation was forced to find R83m to meet its remuneration commitments from other categories of spending.

She said this forced it to save money by cutting down on temporary and permanent appointments, overtime, office equipment, travel allowances, and workshops.

A training programme for aspirant prosecutors was put on hold.

Van Rensburg explained the over-spending last year stemmed from implementing the public service's occupation specific dispensation for legal staff, which widened the gap between different salary levels. She said the trend was set to continue.

"The current budget is already cut to the bone and any further cuts will have an impact on overall NPA operations," she warned.

Acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, said the R200m shortfall applied to the current financial year only.

"We will be going to Treasury and pleading that they give us more."

NPA criticised

MPs criticised the NPA for failing to set ambitious targets in its five-year strategic plan, and even setting lower benchmark success rates than those achieved in previous years.

For example, the NPA set itself a target of an 87% conviction rate in regional courts over the next three years, though it had in the recent past exceeded 90% for three years in a row.

Jiba said the budget constraints were affecting the targets the authority felt it could realistically set.

Hofmeyr added the guidelines the auditor general applied also contributed to cautious goal-setting.

Hofmeyr said this also applied to the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), which he heads.

"At the AFU we have traditionally set ourselves stretch targets, saying this is the target we will achieve if we do it really well. But it does mean that you miss targets regularly.

"The AG's approach now... when you set a stretch target you have done bad planning. It makes a comment in your report, saying the NPA did badly... it obviously did not plan properly.

"We are kind of being bludgeoned into a position where you must set soft targets, targets that are definitely achievable, and I don't think that is desirable from a general policy point of view."

Read more on:    afu  |  npa  |  willie hofmeyr  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013

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