Private funding for NPA not 'a foregone conclusion' - Lamola

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. (Jan Gerber/News24)
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. (Jan Gerber/News24)

Private funding for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is not cast in stone, more thought on it is needed to ensure the NPA's independence, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola said.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services released a statement seeking "to clarify what seems to be a misinterpretation of Minister Ronald Lamola's remarks on the matter of donor funding for the National Prosecuting Authority".

This followed Tuesday's press briefing, where Lamola was asked about private funding for the NPA. This after the head of the NPA's investigative directorate, Hermione Cronjé, recently mooted the matter of using private funds for the cash-strapped institution.

Lamola said the following on the matter: "We are in engagement with the National Treasury to see that whatever private funding is intended for the NPA, the NPA is insulated from any form of perceived or real kind of compromise of its independence.

"For it to be able to function it needs funding. If the fiscus does not have it, the private donor funding must be able to help us. But how do we ensure that the NPA is insulated from any conflict?

"Any kind of funding that comes to the NPA should be insulated from the perception of any kind of capture of the NPA."

"Societal and public expectation is that the NPA needs to work and help us to fight the scourge of corruption, so for it to be able to function, it needs funding. If the fiscus does not have it, private donor funding must be able to help us. But how do we ensure that the NPA is insulated?"

Then on Wednesday, during the debate on the presidency's budget, EFF leader Julius Malema railed against the use of public funding at the NPA. He said Ramaphosa "outsourced" his appointment of Shamila Batohi as National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and that she said "the NPA must accept private donations from private individuals and private companies". 

"What is South Africa going to be if the prosecuting authority is funded by private capitalists who in South Africa is exclusively white and often engaged in many crimes of tax avoidance, massive fraud and illicit financial flows," Malema said.

"How is the NPA going to independently investigate and prosecute the people and companies that will be funding it?"

He said his party will go to court to prevent that.

Lamola's statement reads: "It is important to note that, in his statements, the Minister does not state this matter is a forgone conclusion. On the contrary, the Minister makes it plain that it is a matter that should be explored with the involvement of the National Treasury. Donor funding to government is ordinarily channeled through the National Treasury."

He reiterated that if the funding option is to be pursued, it would have to be consistent with the current practice wherein donor funding supports various programmes in government, including the NPA. 

Donor funding cannot be utilised for compensation of employees. The compensation of employees in the NPA is appropriated by Parliament in terms of the Appropriations Act 2003.

"Transparent and carefully managed donor funding will support strategically important processes and capacities without replacing government funding for core operations and staff costs," reads the statement.

"The concern that donor or private funding may influence the NPA is legitimate; this is a perception that we must be vigilant about and constantly manage. 

"It would be imperative to ensure that the acceptance of donor or private funding does not impinge on the independence of the NPA especially with regard to its decisions on who it investigates and prosecutes. Therefore, before writing off this option, more thought is needed about how such funding could be accessed, under the guidance of National Treasury. It is impossible to build an effective and efficient organisation without adequate funds."

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