The South African Police Service has received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for the financial year 2010/2011, the organisation says in a statement.
Top police leaders appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Police for annual report hearings for two consecutive days this week on Programme 1 Administration, and Programme 2 Visible Policing, where the police were commended by the chair of the Portfolio Committee on Police Cindy Chikunga on the work done in ensuring that the “people of South Africa are and feel safe.”
The reduction in crime statistics “talks to the core business of fighting crime on which the SAPS is recording significant decrease thus making an impact towards making our communities safer,” the police said in a statement.
Meanwhile the financial statements and performance thereof was presented in detail together with significant achievements of targets within Programme: Administration and Visible Policing. A number of questions were raised by members of the Portfolio Committee in relation to administration, management of funds, service delivery and accountability. SAPS management provided responses accordingly indicating interventions towards the achievement of targets, the statement added.
The spending priorities were mainly directed to increased police personnel, skills development, increased stipend for new enlistments, enhanced technology, physical infrastructure, establishment of Tactical Response Teams and 2010 FIFA World Cup deployment for Programme Administration. Visible Policing spending priorities were mainly, crime prevention, borderline security, specialized interventions and world cup policing.
The oversight committee however raised serious concerns on some of the expenditure patterns and irregular expenditure during financial year 2010/11 for Programme Administration. However, these financials did not necessarily interpret to any form of qualification as they only related to some of the internal measures and controls that need to be enhanced. In addressing this, the department is implementing new measures and remedial action in the current financial year already. Escapes in police custody, management of SAP13 stores, police station management and sector policing were some of the concerns raised by the oversight committee during the interactive session with the SAPS.
Actual performance against targets was achieved significantly by the respective divisions within the SAPS as per the priorities detailed in the Strategic Plan 2010 – 2014 and Annual Performance Plan 2011/2011.
But opposition Democratic Alliance party police shadow Dianne Kohler Barnard takes a less sanguine view. She says she will write to President Zuma to request that he commission the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate tender procurement processes in the SAPS. “Figures revealed in a meeting of the Police Portfolio Committee this week indicate that irregular spending by the SAPS has increased from R2.5 million to R76 million over the last financial year,” she said.
“This increase is indicative of serious financial mismanagement, and raises questions about the extent of corruption in tender procedures. The SAPS has become synonymous with the reckless use of state funds.”
The Independent Group’s newspapers, in their take, said Cele’s “judgment was questioned … as he was chastised by … [Chikunga] … for the poor state of police stations – which she insisted was directly related to the choice of managers and a lack of oversight by his department. Drawing from the committee’s experiences during oversight visits to police stations around the country, … Chikunga said if she were commissioner for a day, “all SAPS officers would be dismissed immediately. It makes you not able to sleep at night… Those getting promotions, national commissioner, where do you get these people from; these people you are promoting, where do you get them from?” she asked.
In one instance, on a visit to the Pretoria Central police station, a stone’s throw from the SAPS headquarters, the committee found that 11 accused who were supposed to be in the holding cells could not be accounted for, despite the register’s having been checked and signed. At a police station in Gauteng, the committee found 3500 firearm licences lying in a box, despite the huge backlogs which frustrated the public. Officers at police stations often could not account for what work they did for the day. Firearm controls were practically non-existent. Belts, shoelaces and knives, among other suspect items, were found inside filthy cells – which the committee had to instruct the officers to clean, said Chikunga.
In the run-up to the World Cup last year, after having visited a police station in Mbombela, Chikunga said the committee had had to be “strategic” in its reports so as not to cast a bad light on the city by “making noise” about the state of the police stations. “National police commissioner, I’ll ask again, why is it that this is found by politicians? How can it be that it takes politicians to make things correct? For goodness sake, it cannot be. We are politicians… not managers. It’s a bad habit of the SAPS to sign but not check,” said Chikunga.
Cele said “we are working to change what would have been tradition” by “visiting provinces and stations”, among other initiatives. He said the SAPS was now employing the principle of “not listening but seeing”.
The SAPS was making great strides in rural policing, with a focus not only on farmers but also the farmworkers. And the decrease in car hijacking was attributed to hard work by officers and the emphasis on visible policing, especially in Joburg, Pretoria and Durban, said Cele. “At no other stage has car hijacking been this low. We are not stolen cars collectors; we must arrest car thieves.”
Crowd control remained a “sensitive area”, and while police had to take responsibility to respect and uphold the right of protesters, the onus also rested on the organisers. He said police had to work within the confines of the law and “can’t be trigger happy”, but that, as the management of the SAPS, they could not retreat from encouraging the police to protect themselves when going up against criminals.
“They don’t carry broomsticks and they don’t carry feather dusters – they carry serious weapons. We are not going to tell them (police officers) to go and kiss and hug them. They must work decisively,” he said.
Poor firearm control and the issues of the licensing of firearms and the number of escapes from police custody were of great concern to the committee. The SAPS reported that there were 468 escapes from police custody in the past financial year, while 191 detainees were unaccounted for.
The commissioner said that with regard to firearm control there was a “major war point between us and the management of stations – it’s a big war”. In an attempt to deal with the problem, the SAPS intended to establish “firearm banks”.
AVUSA’s BuinessLive websit reported a main bone of contention shared by all members of the committee was the exact budget of the two national police days held in 2010 and 2011. “The bill for this year’s National Police Day totaled R22 million, which included almost R12 million spent on performing artists alone. Last year, the SAPS incurred R13.6 million in irregular expenditure on this event,” Kohler-Barnard said. MPs from the ruling African National Congress and the opposition DA expressed their frustration with the SAPS hierarchy for not being able to give forthright answers to their questions about the irregular expenditure. “They refused to accept a long and obfuscating explanation by head of SAPS procurement General Mokoena about the expenditure being condoned because the state had received the goods and services that were purchased,” the site said. He also said that some of the irregular expenditure related to purchase order numbers not being applied for or granted.
Mokoena said that some of that irregular expenditure may have been to do with the 2010 Soccer World Cup when the police were called in at short notice to take over from security guards at the stadiums for a while. However, his answer did not gel with ANC MP Annelize van Wyk who retorted: “I can’t believe that that amount (R48 million) had to do with the World Cup. If it did, then it shows a massive lack of planning on your side.” Van Wyk went on to say that the police thought they could do whatever they wanted with their money. “But it is not their money. It belongs to the taxpayer,” she said.
Chikunga became visibly upset with the police delegation saying: “Why can’t you give a straight answer when we ask you a question?”