Asset Forfeiture Unit hamstrung by lack of staff
Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has warned that the previous financial year has left the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) saddled with the shortage of key staff including financial investigators and analysts.
This happened as some of the unit’s staff were transferred to the newly-established Investigative Directorate (ID) within the prosecuting body.
This in turn had led to the unit being unable to meet its targets during the year under review.
In its annual report tabled in the National Assembly recently, the NPA said the vacancy rate at the AFU was at 30% and it was in excess of 50% for the financial investigators and analysts.
“The primary function of the investigators is to identify and trace assets, which is a fundamental function that enables the AFU to confiscate or forfeit assets. This high vacancy rate has had a major impact on the AFU’s ability to meet its targets,” said the report tabled by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola.
The AFU is part of the arsenal used by the government in the fight against corruption and it institutes civil forfeiture by targeting the proceeds of the crimes.
In its annual report, the NPA says the primary challenge affecting the AFU is that there are a number of serious corruption matters, State Capture, and other complex cases involving high values under investigation.
The NPA also said most of the AFU employees that worked on the highly complex and high value State Capture cases were transferred to the ID, which negatively affected the regional offices.
“Cases that the AFU had already commenced working on were subsequently drawn into the ID.
“Since the high value State Capture cases and serious corruption matters require huge amounts of time to finalise as they are highly complex and voluminous, it contributed to delays in the investigation of these matters, which also translated into delays in attaining asset forfeiture orders.”
The report said the AFU completed 417 forfeiture cases against a target of 510. This was a decrease compared to the 495 completed in the previous financial year, and the 563 in the 201819 financial year.
“It emphasises the inability of the unit to maintain previous performance levels given the prevailing situation of vacant posts over the past few years.”
The report also said AFU obtained forfeiture and confiscation orders to the value of R455 million against a target of R2.5 billion.