Department of Justice budget vote: Urgent attention will be given to transforming office of the State Attorney

August 1st, 2019

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said ongoing attention is being given to transform the Office of the State Attorney. Mr Lamola spoke at a media briefing on 16 July when he tabled the budget vote, in Cape Town. He added that his office department will soon be approaching Cabinet with a business case and a draft Bill designed to transform the office.

Mr Lamola said an efficient State Attorney’s office plays a role in relation to the allocation of state legal work or what is loosely termed as ‘briefing patterns’. He pointed out that his department has increased the target to 80% in the 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan for the allocation of state legal work to previously disadvantaged legal practitioners. He added that the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014, which came into effect on 1 November 2018, established the Legal Practice Council (LPC), as a new regulatory structure for both advocates and attorneys. The LPC, is now in place, and the provincial councils will follow suit.

Mr Lamola pointed out that his department will be pursuing the development of the Legal Services Sector Charter, which will, among others, result in many young graduates entering the legal profession. He added that the modernisation of the justice system lies at the heart of the transformation trajectory of the department. ‘A total of R 1,3 billion has been allocated for the department’s modernisation programme. As such, through the Integrated Justice System, the department is driving a multi-department effort to increase the probability of successful investigation, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation of offenders,’ Mr Lamola added.

Mr Lamola said the modernisation efforts extended to the Masters’s offices where work is underway on the Master’s online project, which is scheduled to be implemented by 2020. He pointed out that the project aims to streamline the Trust registration process and will assist in curbing fraud. He added that fighting corruption and fraud forms part of his office’s core mandate. ‘The levels of brazen corruption and avarice we see in our society can and must be halted. The various commissions of inquiry currently underway are part of the process of addressing fraud and corruption. The department will continue to provide the necessary administrative support to enable these commissions of inquiry to do their work,’ he added.

Mr Lamola said the Investigative Directorate will work collaboratively with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the SIU Special Tribunal (the Tribunal) and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation to ensure that perpetrators of acts of fraud and corruption are speedily brought to book. He added that the regulations of the Tribunal will soon be finalised, which will enable the institution to commence with the task of recovering money stolen through corruption and maladministration. Mr Lamola pointed out that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is projected to have a shortfall of R 121,5 million for the 2019/20 financial year. He said his department will further solicit support from Parliament to increase funding for the NPA through the adjusted estimates of national expenditure in October.

Mr Lamola spoke about supporting the work of the judiciary, he said it is emphasised in the Budget Policy Statement that one of his office’s functions – as the executive – is to provide support to the judiciary. ‘As part of broadening access to justice, all nine provinces now have a Division of the High Court, with the recent opening of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court, which has the main seat in Mbombela and local seat in Middleburg. This is an achievement for the people of South Africa as they will now be able to access justice services closer to their places of residence,’ Mr Lamola said.

Mr Lamola added ‘as an illustration of government[’s] unwavering commitment towards the independence of our judiciary, the budget of the [Office of the Chief Justice], consists of R 3,84 billion for voted funds and R 3,54 billion for judges’ remuneration from the National Revenue Fund. The Office of the Chief Justice still remains largely unfunded for the court modernisation processes.’

The following is a breakdown of the budget allocation that includes transfer to five entities, which form part of Mr Lamola’s budget vote –

  • R 15,6 billion has been allocated to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, inclusive of R 3,9 billion that has been allocated to the NPA;
  • R 1,958 billion has been allocated to Legal Aid South Africa;
  • R 31,4 million has been allocated to the Office of the Public Protector;
  • R 363 million has been allocated to the SIU; and
  • R 189,2 million has been allocated to the South African Human Rights Commission.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.