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Budget cut for NPA would reverse gains in the fight against corruption – Shamila Batohi


NDPP Shamila Batohi at a meeting of the Portfolio Commitee on Justice in March 2020.

  • Recent state capture-related prosecutions are just a tiny speck on a massive iceberg, national prosecutions head Shamila Batohi said.
  • She said the prosecutions show that the wheels of justice are turning.
  • However, a proposed budget cut could halt the progress made.

The era of impunity is over and the wheels of justice are turning, but they can grind to a halt if the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) budget is cut, NPA head Shamila Batohi told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday.

She added that corruption-related prosecutions the NPA brought recently was only a “tiny, tiny pinpoint on a massive iceberg”.

EXPLAINER | How Ramaphosa’s new state capture inquiry rules will help the NPA

Batohi presented the NPA’s Annual Report for 2019-2020 and a report on the first quarter of 2020 to the committee on Wednesday morning.

“The wheels of justice are turning. It has been slow,” she said.

“In the past, these cases might never have seen the inside of a courtroom,” she said, adding that things have changed at the NPA.

When she joined the organisation, she found that it was under-resourced in terms of skill, capacity and funding, that the organisation had lost credibility and that staff morale was at an all-time low, she said.

Convictions

It was clear that change was required to rebuild an independent, professional, accountable and credible NPA. And over the past year, much effort has gone into this, she said.

The first step was to address top management and appoint fresh, committed people of the utmost integrity.

The second step was to listen to the staff and understand their concerns.  

The NPA also managed to go on the biggest recruitment drive in its history, thanks to an additional budget allocation.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock said 183 government officials were convicted of corruption during the 2019-’20 financial year.

However, National Treasury’s proposed budget cut in the wake of Covid-19’s economic devastation could see the NPA lose 585 prosecutors.

Batohi said the proposed Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget cuts would undo the gains the NPA made and “undermine the president’s commitment to a rebuild the NPA”.

“Fighting corruption is a priority for the NPA and needs a huge investment and commitment from government,” she added.

The NPA has formally written to National Treasury, which indicated that it would consider the NPA’s concerns.

“We must be really careful that the NPA does not lose any of the money it has received,” Batohi said.

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