Lack of skills, manpower hampering NPA and Hawks with its 20 000 caseload, Scopa hears

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National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, with Hermione Cronje.
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, with Hermione Cronje.
Gallo Images, Phill Magakoe
  • South African courts have not prosecuted a major corruption case in the past decade.
  • This resulted in a lack of experience building in the NPA, ID head Hermione Cronje said.
  • However, the unit is making progress in investigating state capture.

A major corruption case hasn't been prosecuted in South Africa in the past 10 years.

This emerged in feedback which the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) gave the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday.

ID head, advocate Hermione Cronje, said among the challenges the unit faced was a lack of skills and experience.

"We have not, in the last 10 years, undertaken a major corruption prosecution, so there's very little experience in fast-tracking corruption prosecutions," she told Scopa.

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Cronje said the unit had made progress in its investigations into state capture and corruption among state-owned enterprises - including Transnet and Eskom. However, these large scale investigations were being broken down into smaller cases to allow quicker court prosecutions.

"We are learning enormous amounts as we go," she added.

The unit had been impacted by Covid-19, with suspects dying of Covid-19 complications and ID staff hospitalised.

The NPA was lobbying the Department of Health to include the NPA under its vaccination programme of essential workers, said National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi.

Capacity

The joint presentation between the NPA and the Hawks also highlighted capacity constraints in the Hawks' departments.

Hawks head General Godfrey Lebeya said the unit was operating at 47% capacity, with an additional 2 811 appointments needed before it reached its full complement of staff. He added that the process of filling 270 posts were under way.

The Hawks were carrying a caseload of around 20 000 cases as of 31 March, Lebeya said.

These cases added up to 76 000 charges, most of which were fraud, corruption, money laundering, infringements of the Public Finance Management Act, and the Municipal Finance Management Act.

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He added that there were currently 131 active cases which had been referred by the NPA and Special Investigations Unit - with a value of around R3.4 billion. Some of the organisations under investigation included state-owned enterprises such as the SABC and municipal, provincial and national departments.

Following the feedback session to Scopa, Batohi raised concerns about sharing details of ongoing investigations, saying the level of detail requested by Scopa could endanger cases.

"We need to engage on how to be accountable without endangering serious cases," she said.

"Once people get to know the facts of a case, the suspects are alerted... Suspects are all over, even in Parliament."

Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa responded, saying the committee had offered to accommodate a redaction of sensitive details in the presentation, and Scopa members had been alerted to this.

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