Cape Town: The National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Tom Moyane, told Parliament on Tuesday that his department was putting measures in place to tackle financial and performance challenges.
Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services on the department’s annual report, Moyane said they were working hard to turn the tide on some of the Auditor-General’s findings, which include underspending of R893.5 million on the department’s R16.7-billion budget.
The department, which received an unqualified audit for the 2011/12 financial year, has set a target of achieving a clean audit within the next 18 months.
“We are not proud of the outcomes, but we need to highlight that measures have been put in place (to deal with them),” he said.
He said despite resistance to change from some officials, the department had improved its score around leadership, with senior positions in the department having been filled, while the number of consultants, who had often been at the helm of the department, had declined in recent years.
Moyane also listed as some of the department’s successes the establishment of a remand and detention branch, and the setting up of the medical parole board.
Added to this, a pilot on the electronic monitoring system for those on parole had begun and so far, 212 parolees and others sentenced to life imprisonment had been tagged.
Correctional Services hopes in the next three months to make an assessment on the system.
An increased focus by prison officials on basic security measures saw the department meet its target for the percentage of inmates who escape from remand detention facilities and prisons – with 0.03% (against a target of 0.036%) or 41 of the 160 103 prison population, involved in escapes.
Referring to the cancellation earlier this year of the public-private partnership contracts to build new prisons, Moyane said the state could not abdicate its responsibility to deal with offenders.
Of the 47 unnatural deaths that happened in the 2011/12 financial year in correctional facilities, in excess of 10 were classified as unknown, and Committee chair Vincent Smith asked why it was taking so long for post-mortems to be performed.
Moyane said he was concerned about this and pointed out that the department had a policy in place for autopsies to be conducted within an acceptable time period.
Turning to dismissals of prisons officials, Smith said it was worrying that only 183 of the 421 officials found to have committed offences in 2011/12 had been dismissed.
These offences included 152 officials found to have committed theft and briberies, eight to have committed sexual assault, 41 found sleeping on duty, 119 on alcohol abuse and 31 for misuse of fire-arms.
Moyane agreed that the 183 dismissals were not enough, but added that his department was looking to overcome these types of violations.
He pointed out that the department had last year fired prison officials at a Free State prison last where 41 prisoners escaped last year.
Smith said the department needed to implement minimum standards on which offences were immediately dismissal.
Briefing the committee, Mpho Mathabathe, the portfolio committee’s researcher, told the committee that despite the concerns about the department’s performance, a welcoming development was the department’s plan to build 30 dedicated centres or units to house those offenders serving sentences of less than two years.
However, he cautioned that an unintended consequence of this move might be that more prosecutors would push for prison sentences for more minor transgressions of the law.