Funding a concern for corruption busters - the SIU and NPA

2019-07-10 07:19
Advocate Andy Mothibi (File,Tebogo Letsie)

Advocate Andy Mothibi (File,Tebogo Letsie)

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It is budget season in Parliament, which means that the phrase "budgetary constraints" are often heard in committee rooms when state entities make presentations to committees. 

This was also the case on Tuesday when two key institutions in the fight against corruption - the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) - made presentations to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.

SIU chief financial officer Andre Gernandt told the committee the body's current funding model was not sustainable over the long term. 

He and SIU head Andy Mothibi were at pains the point out that the unit was currently financially sound, and they were concerned about the future. Much of the concern has to do with the almost R500m owed to the SIU by state institutions it had investigated. 

Gernandt said this was due to the systemic issue that the entities do not have an adequate budget, especially at municipal level. Furthermore, he added, there was also often a conflict of interests, as the senior people who were responsible for the payment were being investigated themselves.

"We're not going to write it off," Gernandt said. "We'll do everything possible to recover the debt."

Mothibi said: "We're in sound financial status, but the debt is an issue. If this debt situation is not addressed, it is going to become a real risk."

The Department of Justice, under which the SIU falls, is one of the departments owing it money.

Later on, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi briefed the committee. 

Among the NPA's internal challenges, she listed "severe budgetary limitations", which had led to high vacancy rates, low staff morale and limited professional development and training.

Batohi said because of the freeze on recruitment over the last three years, the NPA had lost out on the appointment of about 600 new prosecutors.

The NPA's acting chief financial director, Hanika van Zyl, said it had overspent its budget by about R150m in the previous year, with the bulk of this figure being compensation. The overspend was authorised by the Department of Justice, which it funded through a virement. 

It foresaw another shortfall on the compensation budget in the current financial year, and it seemed there would not be another virement from the department this year, Van Zyl added.

Despite a vacancy rate of 20%, the NPA spends almost 89% of its budget on compensation. Batohi agreed with committee members that this was not sustainable.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said: "I cannot understand why you're not given more funds."

He added the SIU and the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit recovered money for the state, and they would be able to recover more money if they had more funds.

Read more on:    npa  |  siu

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