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Debate on Vote 22: Office Of The Chief Justice And Judicial Administration Dr Mathole Serofo Motshekga, MP Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services

National Assembly Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Honourable Speaker (NA)

Honourable Members

Distinguished Guests and

Ladies and Gentlemen

Budget 2018 MTEF

The Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration receives R2.1 billion for 2018/19; R2.3 billion in 2019/20; and R2.5 billion in 2020/21. Of the total allocated, about half is a direct transfer for Judges salaries.

Notably, over the medium term, an additional R115.3 million is reprioritised from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the operationalisation of the Mpumalanga High Court.

In addition, the Integrated Justice System (IJS) programme will fund the OCJ's ICT Master's Systems Plan.

[Note: The OCJ has a relatively small budget compared to other Departments contributing to the Peace and Security function (it receives approximately 1% of the total allocation for this function).]

Mandate

Despite its relatively modest budget, the OCJ's role is key: it provides support to Chief Justice in the execution of his/her administrative and judicial powers and duties as Head of the Judiciary and Head of the Constitutional Court.

In 2014, the administration of the Superior Courts was transferred from the Department of Justice to the OCJ and, in 2015, the OCJ received its own budget Vote.

The Vote also provides for judicial education through the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) and for the Judicial Services Commission.

Although, at present, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development remains responsible for the administration of the Magistrate's courts, the Superior Courts Act, 2013, assigns to each Judge President a role relating to the co-ordination of judicial functions in respect of all Magistrate's Courts falling within the jurisdiction of the relevant Division. In this way, the judicial functions of magistracy fall under the oversight responsibility of the Chief Justice by way of the relevant Judges President.

The intention is to realise a single judiciary in line with section 166 of the Constitution.

In terms of spending, the OCJ has prioritised the following for the 2018 MTEF:

  • Administration: The spending focus during 2018/19 is on capacitating the OCJ by reducing the vacancy rate and implementing the ICT Master Systems Plan to ensure effective support to the Judiciary and the courts.
  • Superior Court Services: The spending focus over the medium term is on improving the court system through effective and efficient case-flow management.
  • Judicial Education and Support. The spending focus for this programme is on capacitating SAJEI and ensuring that the institute delivers on its mandate. A total of 246 judicial training and educational courses are planned for this financial year.

The number of posts at the OCJ is expected to decrease over the medium term from 2 645 in 2016/17 to 2 559 in 2019/20 because of cabinet-approved reductions for spending on compensation of employees. At present, the number of posts is at 2 579.

The OCJ has identified unfunded mandates of R144.8 million in 2018/19; R158.1 million in 2019/20; and R171.3 million in 2020/21. These relate to

  • Implementation of the Superior Courts Act (R40 million in 2018/19; R42.8 million in 2019/20; and R45.8 million in 2020/21).
  • Consequential costs for Judicial appointments (R11.1 million in 2018/19; R12.3 million in 2019/20; and R13.9 million in 2020/21).
  • Judicial projects (R32 million in 2018/19; R33.5 million in 2019/20; and R35 million in 2020/21);
  • ICT for court modernisation projects (R45 million in 2018/19; R50 million in 2019/20; and R56 million in 2020/21); and funding of the macro structure (R16.8 million in 2018/19; R19.5 million in 2019/20; and R20.7 million in 2020/21).

As in previous years, the OCJ has aligned its plans with the NDP and MTSF, as follows:

  • Administration is linked to Chapter 13 of the NDP, 'Ensure good governance in the administration of the Department'; and to Outcome 12, 'An efficient and effective development-orientated public service'.
  • The programmes Superior Court Services and Judicial Education and Support are linked to Chapter 14 of the NDP: Strengthening judicial governance and the rule of law. This is linked to Outcome 2, 'All people in South Africa are and feel safe'

The OCJ goals are to ensure the efficient and effective administration of the OCJ; improved administrative and technical support to the OCJ; and administrative support to the Superior Courts.

These goals are broken down into the following strategic objectives:

  • Capacitate the Office of the Chief Justice.
  • Ensure good governance in the administration of the Department.
  • Ensure the effective and efficient administration of the Superior Courts and Judicial Service Commission.
  • Enhance the judicial skills of serving and aspiring judicial offices to perform optimally.

The Vote as three programmes:

  • Administration: The purpose of this programme is to provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the department.
  • Superior Court Services provides judicial support and court administration services to the Superior Courts.
  • Judicial Education and Support provides education programmes to Judicial Officers, including policy development and research services for the optimal administration of justice. Importantly, funding for SAJEI and the JSC falls under this Programme.

The OCJ has identified the following key risks: An inadequate budget to fulfil its mandates(s); possible exposure to fraud and corruption; inadequate quasi-judicial services rendered; inadequate IT infrastructure and business operating systems for the modernisation of judicial systems; and inadequate resources to facilitate the training of judicial officers.

Committee's observations

The Committee raised a number of matters relating to judicial performance during its meeting with the OCJ. However, the OCJ was unable to respond to these on behalf of the Judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission as it is unable to answer questions relating to judicial functions. The Committee, therefore, has decided that it will request a meeting with the Chief Justice and Heads of Court to discuss court performance, and identified issues of mutual interest. The Committee has requested the OCJ to assist in facilitating the proposed meeting.

Accountability for court performance and that of the JSC.

The Committee expressed its ongoing frustration that it is unable to properly gauge the effectiveness of court performance (including the performance of the Land Claims Court), as the OCJ is unable to provide it with any statistics or further details regarding court performance. This places the Committee in a difficult situation as it is expected to make recommendations regarding the allocation to the Vote without access to important information regarding how well are courts are functioning.

The Committee believe that the/a solution lies in the finalisation of a court administration model, which will provide for an appropriate accountability model for judicial functions. The Committee, therefore, is frustrated about the protracted delays in resolving this matter and, therefore, requests that the Ministry ensure that finalisation of the Model is prioritised.

The Committee will also raise the specific matter of a mechanism to allow it access to statistical data regarding court performance when it next meets with the Chief Justice and Heads of Courts.

The Committee also queried if the Judicial Services Commission had tabled a report of its activities in Parliament (as required by the enabling legislation) and recommended that the report be tabled as a matter of urgency.

Land Claims and Capacitation of the Land Claims Court

The Committee expressed its dissatisfaction with the way responsibility for remedying the challenges of deciding land claims is passed between government departments. The Committee is of the view that there has been no significant progress in this regard (there are far too many land claims that remain outstanding).

With regard to the capacitation of the Land Claims Court, the Committee appreciates there are now Judges appointed to that Court but is not satisfied that these appointments are on an acting basis. The Committee therefore requests that the Ministry engage with the Ministry Rural Development and Land Reform on the need to expedite a review of the legislation relating to land claims and restitution and, in particular, the permanent tenure for judges of the Land Claims Court, as well as the capacitation of that court.

The Committee is also concerned about the issues of the use of language and legal representation in the Land Claims Courts as possible barriers to access.

The Committee will raise it concerns about the capacitation and functioning of the Land Claims Court when it next meets with the Chief Justice and Heads of Courts.

Progress towards a single judiciary

The Committee supports a single judiciary as envisaged by section 166 of the Constitution but are concerned about the slow progress in realising this. The Committee was not satisfied with the OCJ's response that the legislation relating to Lower Courts is within the control of the Justice Department, as the OCJ (and the Judiciary) is a key stakeholder. The Committee is gain concerned about the passing of responsibility between stakeholder departments on matters where some degree of co-operation and collaboration can be reasonably be expected. As this is not a new issue that is being raised, the Committee had expected that the OCJ would be able to respond on progress at the meeting, even if only from its perspective.

The Committee, however, requests that the Ministry introduce the necessary legislation to bring about a single judiciary as a matter of urgency.

Traditional Courts. The Committee is concerned that the programme to train traditional leaders and clerks to support the functioning of the traditional courts has stalled. The Committee has further concerns about the expertise of those offering the training. The Committee will schedule a meeting with both SAJEI and Justice College as soon as the programme permits to discuss the training.

Training. The Committee has requested that the training provided to Judicial Officers to ensure that they are also knowledgeable of indigenous African law. The Committee will engage with SAJEI on this at the meeting.

The Committee will raise this and the compulsory study of and indigenous African language and law as part of the LLB curriculum when it next meets with the Chief Justice and Heads of Court.

Outreach. The Committee noted that the OCJ intends to perform outreach work to inform communities of its activities in future, a lack of funds has meant that for now this important work is shelved. The Committee asked that the OCJ look to see how it can take up some outreach work now, even if only in a limited fashion.

Security. The Committee was informed that there is little progress in finding and holding those responsible for the break in at the OCJ's offices. Although the OCJ has increased the security within the available resources, we remain concerned.

Recommendation

The Committee, having considered the Budget Vote 22: Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration, supports it and recommends that it be approved.

The Committee will request a meeting with the Chief Justice to discuss matters in relation to court performance and other matters of mutual interest; and asks that the OCJ assist to arrange the meeting.

The Committee recommends further that:

The Ministry engage with the Ministry: Rural Development and Land Reform on the need to expedite a review of the legislation relating to land restitution; and, in particular, the permanent tenure and proper capacitation of the Judges appointed to the Land Claims Court be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The Minister introduce the legislation to promote a single judiciary in line with section 166 of the Constitution as a matter of urgency.

A Court Administration Model is finalised as soon as possible.

The Judicial Services Commission table a report on its activities as required by the enabling legislation as a matter of urgency.

A meeting with both SAJEI and Justice College is scheduled as soon as the programme permits to discuss the training of traditional leaders and clerks in support of the traditional courts.

The study of indigenous in African law and language is compulsory requirement for the practice of law in South Africa.

The OCJ look into how it can embark on an outreach programme within the limited resources available to it.

THANK YOU

     
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