Millions spent on prosecutor protection

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it has spent about R2 million protecting its prosecutors who face threats as a result of cases they deal with.

While the trend was on the increase, National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Menzi Simelane, has given the assurance that the threats were not an obstacle to the justice system.

He and his team appeared before Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development on Wednesday, tabling their five-year strategic plan.

Describing the threats as an "unnecessary nuisance", Simelane said they were coming mostly from organised crime.

On a different front, the committee asked him why they were no Directors of Public Prosecutions in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

For Limpopo, Simelane said there was a Deputy Director of Prosecutions, while 12 prosecutors had been identified for Mpumalanga.

The organisation said it had a vacancy rate of 15.3 percent and has filled nearly 200 positions from within (promotions), highlighting that it was set to recruit more stuff from the outside.

In the past four years, the NPA has received three qualified audit reports and a disclaimer as a result of poor financial controls and a culture of non-compliance to policies and procedures.

The portfolio committee said that while they would want to help the NPA, they wanted to know why they were under-spending. The NPA's budget has been cut from R2.6 billion to R2.4 billion.

The NPA told the committee they should expect an unqualified audit report, as they had developed an audit action plan and also were taking action against 18 people in connection with its financial issues.

Fielding criticism from a committee member about the scale of changes at the NPA, Simelane said nothing had changed in the organisation and all he had done was to make it work better by ensuring that, for example, some of the prosecutors worked on general prosecutions, while others worked on cases that were specialised.

He said that by 2014, they would have reduced case backlogs by 10 percent and increased the number of cases finalised by diversion and other alternative ways by 20 percent.