Cabinet has approved the introduction of the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, 2011, in Parliament. The amendment seeks to contribute to national security through the formation of an effective, efficient and a single department for South Africa’s civilian intelligence structures.
A Cabinet statement says the Bill will disband the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), South African Secret Services (SASS) and South African National Academy of Intelligence (SANAI) and transfer their functions a State Security Agency (SSA) within a Department of State Security. NIA will become the “domestic branch” of the SSA and the SASS the “foreign branch”.
The Bill comes two years after Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele announced a major overhaul of the South African intelligence community in order to cut duplication as well as waste and “put intelligence at the core of government business.” Announcing the move in October 2009, Cwele said too much of the country`s intelligence budget – then estimated at R2.8 bllion – is “being spent on corporate affairs rather than on operations which is the core business of any intelligence service.” Treasury documents show the current budget, regarded a state secret, is some R4 billion.
The minister added that President Jacob Zuma in May tasked him as well as his police, defence, home affairs, justice and prisons counterparts “to review the structures of the civilian intelligence community with the aim of developing a more effective and efficient intelligence architecture.”
He did not say at the time that Zuma had issued a presidential proclamation in September 2009 establishing the SSA. The Mail & Guardian newspaper in February 2010 reported that the proclamation “appeared to have no legal basis.”
The NIA and SASS were established in law in 1995 following the amalgamation of statutory and non-statutory organisations. Overseeing them was the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC). The NIA and SASS operated as separate services, each with their own accounting officer, while the NICOC headed by a director general was administratively supported by NIA.
The heads of these organisations reported to a minister of intelligence services, there being no intelligence department. Over the years, in an effort to create centres of specialisation, further structures were set up: the South African National Academy of Intelligence (SANAI), the National Communications Centre (NCC), the Office for Interception Centres (OIC), the Electronic Communications Security (Pty) Ltd, known as COMSEC and the Intelligence Services Council on Conditions of Employment (ISC).
Cwele said that each of these structures is headed by a deputy director general (DDG) and each of them has a corporate affairs capacity. It is this proliferation of structures that has resulted in a large portion of the budget being spent on corporate services, the minister said. “For example, we all know that information technology is highly costly, is constantly being developed and as such requires continual upgrading. The cost to business is enormous for IT alone and if not managed utilises a considerable share of the budget.
“The NCC, COMSEC and the OIC are highly technical environments that rely on state of art technology. Closer cooperation between these three structures will eliminate any further duplication and thus free up funds that can be invested elsewhere,” he said.