Justice Minister pleased with progress on legal fees and access to justice

June 24th, 2021
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Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, presented the Budget Policy Statement for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development virtually to Parliament on 25 May 2021.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, presented the Budget Policy Statement for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to Parliament on 25 May 2021. In his address, Mr Lamola said it is anticipated that the South African Law Reform Commission will finalise Project 142: Investigation into legal fees, including access to justice and other interventions, by the end of the first quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year.

He added that the Solicitor General is also developing a comprehensive policy framework to address the transformation of the legal profession in a systemic manner, focusing on work distribution, management, oversight, skills development and exposure, as well as reporting. He noted that the framework is done with a particular bias to previously advantaged individuals. He added that he was also pleased with the progress to date on the Legal Sector Code. ‘Together with the Legal Practice Council, we have concluded all internal processes in developing the code. The transformation of the legal profession is not only a matter of demographical change, but it must also be linked to the quality of work that historically disadvantaged practitioners engage in,’ Mr Lamola said.

In his speech Mr Lamola pointed out that his department is also developing an online deceased estates system. He said the system will be a convenient method that allows people who want to report deceased estates to do so from the comfort of their offices, homes, or any other remote location. He added that the online system will cut across the population as both the rich and poor are affected by death. He said that it is envisaged that the system will be implemented in the 2021/2022 year.

Mr Lamola added that a trust online services system will also be introduced during the 2021 financial year. He said this will streamline the trust registration process and assist in curbing fraud as applicants will be able to lodge their applications online. ‘This will assist with the workload of the Trust Sections as most information will be captured and scanned in by the applicants, freeing the Masters’ hands to apply their minds thoroughly to the lodged documents and other clients,’ Mr Lamola added. He pointed out that the Master has a moral duty to protect the constitutional rights of the vulnerable ‘incorporated’ members of the society.

Mr Lamola said that the advent of COVID-19 has really forced his department to rethink the department’s processes and prioritise innovation. Mr Lamola pointed out that the allocated budget of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the financial year 2021/2022, amounts to R 21,5 billion, which is inclusive of the allocation for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and transfers to the two constitutional bodies, namely the Office of the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). He pointed out that the budget allocation also provides funding for the Information Regulator, as well as transfers to Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and a direct charge to the National Revenue Fund in respect of magistrates’ salaries.

Mr Lamola, however, pointed out that the above-mentioned budget was reduced by R 2,4 billion.

  • R 2 billion was allocated to Legal Aid SA.
  • R 437,9 million was allocated to the SIU.
  • R 329 million was allocated to the Office of the Public Protector.
  • R 195 million was allocated to the SAHRC.
  • R 4,446 billion was allocated to the NPA for 2021/22.
  • R 106,4 million has been set aside for the Investigative Directorate, while R 40 million is provided for the establishment of additional Special Commercial Crime Courts in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West Provinces.

Other key initiatives over the 2021/2022 period include –

  • maintenance services available on the Department of Justice (DOJ) Internet Portal (online);
  • protection orders available on the DOJ Internet Portal (online); and
  • expungement of criminal records services accessible via digital platforms.

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

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