SA lacks skills to investigate 'complex corruption', Batohi tells parliament

NPA wants to absorb Zondo commission's capabilities 'at a reasonable rate'

09 July 2020 - 19:35 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
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National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi.
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

Prosecutions boss Shamila Batohi says the prosecuting authority wants to use the skills and capacity built up in the Zondo commission as it does not possess such expertise.

“The skills are very rare. There's very few that have these skills to investigate very complex corruption matters,” the national director of public prosecutions said about the state's law enforcement agencies.

Batohi told parliament's justice committee this week that the NPA has been engaging the Zondo commission in terms of being able to take over its IT systems and capabilities. These would be moved to law enforcement broadly — including the NPA's investigative directorate — to be able to investigate and prosecute complex commercial crimes.

Getting that capability “would be huge”, she said, but matching the salaries paid by the commission to its investigators and legal services remained a challenge.

“What we found is that, in government, the investigation and prosecution skills have been hollowed out in recent times.

“The DPCI [Directorate on Priority Crimes Investigation], which should be the key feeder into the directorate to deal with this, also has a serious lack of skills in terms of the ability to investigate highly complex corruption cases. And in the NPA, we also found that besides one or two cases, the highly complex corruption matters were not really being prosecuted,” she said.

The commission is scheduled to complete its work in March 2021.

Parliament heard that it has so far cost the state R700m and that investigating services and legal services were the main cost drivers because they used highly specialised investigating methods which are rare in this country.

Batohi said besides the lack of resources, capacity-building has been a serious challenge in SA's law enforcement.

The capabilities to deal with complicated commercial crimes is something that is still being built within the government, she said.

“One can only imagine what it is going to cost law enforcement, as well as the NPA, the investigative directorate that has been set up, in terms of skills and capacity to properly address the avalanche of work that is going to come from the Zondo and other commissions of inquiry,” said Batohi.

“When one looks at the amount of money that has cost the Zondo commission, we really need to look at what the impact is going to be on the investigative directorate in being able to take forward the necessary investigations and prosecutions in order to haul those accountable.”

The investigative directorate, headed by Hermione Cronje, is currently relying on secondments, which is provided for in the NPA Act, but this is not the best model, said Batohi.

She said the NPA and the public service in general cannot match the salaries that were paid by the Zondo commission.

“That is another challenge. If we want the capability and skills of people that are working at the Zondo commission at the moment, either as investigators or legal people, we have to look at how do we actually ensure that we can have those skills available to us — but not at that cost, which is simply not sustainable within the public service.”

She said talks were continuing with the commission and its bosses to see how their skills and capabilities could be made available to state entities moving forward.

“Getting those skills at a reasonable rate is going to be one of the challenges — because we do need them.” 

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