Correctional Services warns budget cuts will have dire consequences on their mandate
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Cape Town - Parliamentarians heard on Tuesday that the Budget cuts in the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will inevitably have dire consequences on the future of the department carrying out its mandate.
Briefing the justice and correctional services portfolio committee, chief deputy commissioner for human resources Cynthia Ramulifho said the department’s salary bill has been cut by R2.7 billion in the 2021/22 financial year.
Ramulifho said this continued in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) with a R3.5bn cut in 2022/23 and R4.7bn in 2023/24.
She said the scarce and critical skills, personnel, correctional officials, learnership, nurses, artisans, to name a few, could be negatively affected.
Ramulifho also said their human resources unit was faced with challenges of filling vacant funded posts due to the cuts.
“This is a financial strategic risk that emerged as a result of inadequate personnel to deliver on the DCS mandate.”
The department has in recent months been under fire for failing to absorb learners from its learnership programme started two years ago.
In her presentation to the MPs, Ramulifho said in the past the learners were offered employment contracts at the end of the learnership programme.
“This was aligned to the vacancies at coalface that the department had and budgeted for the remaining period of the MTEF.”
Ramulifho said the department had projected 4 000 vacancies at the centre, a situation that needed an urgent response
She also said based on a memorandum of understanding with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to address the projected shortage, the management took a decision to consider appointing 2 000 SANDF youth reservists while the other 2 000 posts were reserved for the correctional service learnership youth programme upon completion of the programme.
“This decision of appointing SANDF youth reservists was based on the assessment that they had already undergone military training and only required a short-bridging training course to meet appointment requirements in the DCS.
“This approach was seen as cost-effective whilst at the same time creating employment for the youth as it was targeting those unemployed.”
Ramulifho said the appointment of the SANDF youth reservists unfortunately attracted criticism.
She said during the period when the Budget cut was announced the department already employed 1 317 of the planned 2 000 SANDF youth reservists and they were awaiting the completion of the training programme.
This while the two groups of departmental learners started their programme in March 2019 and October 2019 and completed it in December 2020 and March 2021.
Ramulifho said commissioner Arthur Fraser has granted approval for the absorption of 923 learners to be appointed with effect from June 1.
“Communication has been issued to the regions to start facilitating the absorption of learners as from to date,” she said.
Ramulifho told the MPs that the salary bill for the financial year stood at R17.4bn to fund 37 836 posts.
“Absorbing a total of 194 learners will require a total of R356 033 880 in the current financial year while natural attrition would only yield R152 391 779 and this potential saving is less than the required funding for learners.”
She also said the department would delay filling of other critical posts, a move that will result in potential savings for re-prioritisation.
“However, delays in filling other critical posts continue to impact negatively on the provision of service delivery,” she said, adding that development programmes would also be impacted.
Ramulifho, however, said the department would explore engagement with the relevant departments or parties to explore possible solutions to ease the budgetary constraints.”