Allegations that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has been closing cases without proper investigation is no surprise given the budget cuts and lack of investigators at the directorate, says Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
An exposé by GroundUp and Viewfinder found that IPID completed 308 investigations in a single day, pointing out that the cases were completed or prematurely closed to meet their case competition targets.
Responding to the report, Burger was not surprised that cases appeared to be completed in a rush with little or no investigation, given the directorate's budgetary constraints and the targets that it set for itself.
Burger told News24 that since the IPID Act was promulgated in 2011, the directorate never received the necessary resources that also limited its predecessor, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD).
While the ICD worked within the South African Police Service (SAPS), the act gave investigators independence and a new legal framework which was meant give IPID more teeth.
But according to Burger, the new vision for IPID did not come to fruition as the directorate was still severely constrained.
In the 2017/2018 financial year, its budget for employees, including investigators, was reduced by R14.4m. The following year, the budget was cut again, this time by R24m, Burger said.
"If the budget is being cut year-on-year, it has serious implications for a number of personnel and investigation personnel at IPID. It inhibits the ability to affectively investigate complaints against the SAPS."
Burger said investigator shortages have always been an issue, but budget cuts have accelerated the problem.
This, coupled with the growth of the SAPS, meant that the directorate does not have the capacity to effectively play an oversight role and comprehensively investigate cases.
"The shortage of investigators [means] that they can't perform their mandate adequately and efficiently."
Target structure problematic
Burger explained that the directorate sets targets for itself that focused merely on case completion and not on the basis of a successful investigation.
He said this style of targeting meant that investigators would run through their case load with undue haste and without spending the dedicated attention to a proper investigation.
"They appear to be more concerned to get cases completed in time for a reporting period to improve on targets.
"It's about getting the cases finalised, not the quality of the investigations."