R3.7m 'excellence awards' queried

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Cape Town - The Department of Correctional Services spent more than R3.7 million on an “excellence awards” ceremony for staff, despite receiving a qualified audit for the past financial year.

The National Correctional Services Excellence Awards - where department officials were rewarded for outstanding performance - were held in East London earlier this year.

Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele revealed this in a series of written replies to parliamentary questions from DA MP James Selfe.

In addition to the R3.7m, Ndebele - in a separate reply - said just under R1m had been spent on 54 events held during the month of August in commemoration of Women’s Month, bringing the total to more than R4.5m.

Correctional services spokesman Logan Maistry told Independent Newspapers on Monday that women were a “special category of our population” as both inmates and offenders.

“The unique needs of female inmates must be catered for. Female officials must also have equal opportunity in this historically male-dominated environment,” he added.

The total cost of the awards function included the venue, accommodation, travelling, entertainment, a get-together for the nominees and their partners, gifts and the excellence ambassadors development programme. A 24-page booklet had also been printed for the event and distributed to 39 000 officials in the department and cluster departments, said Maistry.

Selfe said on Monday that the department appeared to be more concerned with “celebration than rehabilitation”.

“Although we do not disagree that excellent performance should be acknowledged and that Women’s Month should be celebrated, the department should be ensuring its core mandate receives priority,” he said.

Maistry said the cost of the event was only 0.026 percent of the department’s overall budget and it had been “duly approved and authorised as per the relevant budgetary processes and legislation”.

Selfe said: “The department needs to start paying more attention on its core mandate, which is rehabilitation, not celebration. We can celebrate once they start achieving this.”

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