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Durban - It seems the SAPS has ghosts in its system - or managers of the men and women in blue base budgets on a wish list of staff numbers rather than bodies in uniform or in offices.
Members of the parliamentary committee on police grilled the top brass, including national police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega, on Tuesday on how the SAPS could claim to have spent 100 percent of its salary budget when it admitted there were vacant posts, some of which were unfunded and unapproved.
Then questions arose over how the police determined the vacancy rate reflected in their 2012/13 annual report: the actual number of posts for which salaries and other money have been allocated, or a wish list?
The police’s approach to staffing and funding appears to fly in the face of efforts by Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to clean up the public service - and the review of every national and provincial department’s structure that is under way to ensure posts are properly planned and funded.
Earlier this year, Sisulu said that 217 435 unfunded vacancies had been removed from the government salary system Persal, saving the government an estimated R10 billion over the next three-to-five years.
Of the unfunded posts that were scrapped, 13 691 were in the SAPS, Sisulu told MPs about three months ago.
Phiyega said yesterday that when she assumed office just over a year ago, components appeared not to dovetail: “The (number of) ideal posts and (the number of) funded posts were not talking to each other.”
Under what the police call the normalisation and stabilisation process, Phiyega said, her management team were asked to “show me the boxes, show me the money” and to ensure that these aligned.
However, there was no answer to police committee chairwoman Annelize van Wyk’s question about the number of vacancies among the SAPS’s “actual funded posts, not on your wish list”.
“The vacancy rates are wrong, or they are right and the 100 percent (salary) compensation is wrong,” Van Wyk added.
“This (annual) report is not reflecting a true situation.”
It all started over crime intelligence: with a vacancy rate of 16.8 percent, or just 11 of 17 posts filled, it soon appeared that the 17 available posts were not funded, in other words there were no salaries for them.
Finance and administration divisional commissioner Lieutenant-General Stefan Schutte said the compensation, or salary, component also included payments like overtime.
On the question of office space, Schutte admitted that the SAPS had yet to finalise steps regarding the controversial R1.7bn lease for its proposed new Pretoria head offices, the handling of which cost Bheki Cele his job as national police chief.
The public protector found that Cele and then-minister of public works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, who was subsequently sacked from the cabinet, had acted unlawfully in the matter.
Schutte said the lease matter remained before court, and until it had been decided the SAPS could not say whether it would incur costs in relation to it.
Yesterday was the first of four days on which the top brass are appearing before the parliamentary committee to account for the SAPS’s financial and operational dealings.
Phiyega told MPs this was welcome and necessary.
“It makes us not sleep when we come here… We know the drum here beats hard. This is a healthy situation,” she said.