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Justice department shelves new courts plans due to budget cut

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola reveals the worrisome impact of the budget cut. File picture: GCIS

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola reveals the worrisome impact of the budget cut. File picture: GCIS

Published Nov 23, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Department of Justice and Correctional Services has shelved plans for building new courts due to a cut to its budget.

This was one of the measures the department took to cope with the budget cut, revealed Minister Ronald Lamola.

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He was replying to written questions in Parliament by the IFP’s Christian Themba Msimang.

Msimang asked Lamola what measures his department implemented “to reconcile the recent budget cuts with the key cost drivers of his department”.

Msimang also wanted to know how the measures were likely to affect services.

The department’s budget for the current financial year was cut by R194 million. A host of other departments and public institutions had their budgets reduced as well.

Lamola revealed that as part of the measures implemented to absorb the cut to its budget, the department “paced down the construction of new courts and prioritised the refurbishment as well as upgrading of existing infrastructure”.

The department also reduced its personnel headcount “by only filling critical vacant posts in order to manage the compensation of employees’ budget within the set budget ceiling”.

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Lamola said the department also maintained a negative growth on its allocation to items such as catering, travel and subsistence and venue hire.

In addition, the department reviewed its annual performance plan targets “to focus on high-impact outcomes”.

It also strengthened controls on the management of service providers’ performance to seal the expenditure leaks, said Lamola.

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He expected some of the measures to have a negative impact on service delivery. “The measures implemented with regard to compensation of employees are short term until the economy in the country stabilises,” he said.

“These measures will have a negative impact on service delivery where a reduction in front-line services is implemented.

“Managers are required to put mitigation measures in place to reduce the impact on the public.”

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The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) also implemented mitigation measures to cope with the cut to the department’s budget.

Lamola said the OCJ would only fill critical vacancies and reprioritisation of operational expenditure to provide for virtual operations.

He added: “These mitigation measures negatively impact on the capacity of the OCJ to resource the Superior Courts in relation to human resources, ICT equipment and replacement of ageing ICT infrastructure.”

This would have a detrimental effect on judicial functions, court modernisation and access to justice, Lamola said.

The OCJ revealed earlier this month that the budget cut meant it would not be able to fill many of the 155 vacancies it had.

The Star

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