NPA wants health department to prioritise its employees for vaccination
Quarter of Hawks staff also affected by Covid-19, Scopa hears
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it is in talks with the national department of health to prioritise vaccinating its staff who are essential workers.
“We have been engaging with the department of health for the NPA to be regarded as essential services, to be moved up in terms of vaccinations. We are hoping that will be rolled out very soon because it is having a serious impact on capacity and delivery,” said NPA head Shamila Batohi.
Batohi and other law enforcement heads, including Hawks boss Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya and the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) advocate Andy Mothibi, appeared before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts to provide a joint update on investigations.
The health department is in the process of concluding vaccination in the education sector and this week started vaccinating the police. They will be followed by employees in correctional services and then the military.
Lebeya said his members have also been affected by Covid-19.
“The reason the deputy national head is not with me [in the presentation] is because she is recovering from challenges relating to Covid-19 and is preparing for the funeral of her husband on Sunday after his death related to Covid-19 complications.
“The acting divisional commissioner is also hospitalised as a result of Covid-19.
“This has been a challenge that has been with us and 25% of our members have been affected by Covid-19. As I speak, the spouse of the one of the generals participating here is in ICU. We have lost 10 members as a result of Covid-19,” said Lebeya.
In her opening remarks Batohi, whose team was invited to account on cases referred to the NPA by the SIU, said she was not aware the committee expected her office to provide monthly reports on the Steinhoff investigation.
“We must allow law enforcement agencies to do their work, but I do understand the urgency in this matter and there are a lot of efforts in getting the matter ready for court.”
Batohi said capacitation within the organisation remained a challenge “inasmuch as there are many green shoots and very good progress recently with regards to certain cases but we are still moving incrementally”.
“If we want to move exponentially, we need to look at capacitation issues, particularly in the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) space and Investigating Directorate, which have similar challenges. One of the challenges is asset recovery and this is with all the SIU cases. We have to look at bringing back the money.”
Batohi said the NPA does not employ investigators.
“We have been able to hire investigators on contract and that is a huge challenge we face in the directorate and the AFU. What we have identified as a potential game changer with regards to asset recovery is the co-location of investigators from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) together with AFU professionals.”
While there has been a high-level agreement to implement this, “the forensic capabilities still remain a huge challenge in law enforcement and we are looking at creating a forensic capability within government, but this is not going to happen overnight”.
Batohi said the skills required in the NPA were extremely difficult to procure. “We have developed a scarce skills framework which will help us in this regard.”
She said the AFU played a critical role in “bringing in the money”, particularly from foreign jurisdictions. To bolster their efforts, the NPA is considering partnering with the private sector abroad in line with Treasury regulations.