'No more blank cheques, we want a clean audit,' justice department told

12 November 2021 - 18:51
Department of justice and constitutional development director-general, advocate Doctor Mashabane,
Department of justice and constitutional development director-general, advocate Doctor Mashabane,
Image: Department of justice and constitutional development

The justice and constitutional development department has achieved 66% of its planned annual targets for the 2020/21 financial year, an improved performance from 51% in the previous financial year.

Parliament’s justice portfolio committee, however, said this was not good enough and demanded that the department up its game to achieve clean audit outcomes.

Director-general Doctor Mashabane told MPs that lockdown restrictions impacted negatively on service delivery, creating a backlog especially in masters offices, criminal cases and other services provided at the courts.

“This was due to the rotational system implemented which reduced the capacity at service delivery points. However, we are currently implementing measures to address backlogs while managing day-to-day service delivery needs.

“We are intensifying our focus on service delivery in order to improve the lives of citizens,” said Mashabane.  

Though the performance of the department demonstrated an improvement of 43% from 2019/20 to the 2020/21 financial year, Mashabane said there were still challenges that it needed to overcome to realise its intended outcomes.

“Areas of  improvement include upgrading information technology (IT) infrastructure that meet the needs of the department, a robust audit action plan to address audit findings for clean audit outcomes, improving capacity, skills development, policy and process review, alignment of performance management system to the strategy among others,” he said.

To address some of its challenges, the department said it developed and monitored strategic interventions in the 2020/21 financial year, including strengthening governance structures.

The department last met its 85% target in 2015 and has since been on a decline.

Portfolio committee chairperson Gratitude Magwanishe said: “I think you will understand why we are so worried ... as of March 31 next year, after that year, we want a clean audit from the department. We don’t want to give you a blank cheque any more because we don’t believe that a clean audit is an accolade. A clean audit should be a minimum standard to show that government is properly functioning and is accounting for the resources given to it by the citizens.”

The department’s annual report shows that it had 61 cases of irregular expenditure under determination and investigation amounting to R2bn as at March 31, 2021. 

Fifty-four cases involving R1,608bn were carried over from previous financial years. Of the total cases, only 20 were reported during the 2020/21 financial year. 

“We don’t accept it that a department under our stable doesn’t have clean audits, especially the justice department. We are demanding it because we can see it is achievable if you can focus on those contingent liabilities,” Magwanishe added.  

The committee vowed to track and monitor closely the progress made by the department on a quarterly basis. 

The department vowed to co-operate in this regard.  

“We are focusing on areas of service delivery and modernisation of justice services to continuously improve the provision of services to the public. To promote accountability and transparency, we are taking prompt and effective actions to prevent irregular and wasteful expenditure,” said Mashabane. 

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