Zondo commission must tighten its belt, MPs say, after R700m spent

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency

‘The Investigative Directorate is not affected by these [budget] cuts,’ National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said of the unit probing state capture cases.

While the department of justice and constitutional development’s budget cut has been smaller than originally feared, and will not impact on the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) functioning, MPs are concerned about the escalating costs of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services heard on Wednesday that the commission had thus far cost R700 million.

Several MPs questioned this amount.

Acting Director-General Jacob Skosana told the committee that legal fees were a major cost driver and that they had instructed the commission to control these costs. They had also given the commission a smaller budget than what was requested. The commission had been moved to a state-owned building, for which it didn’t pay, after previously hiring a building at a high cost.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said one could only imagine what it was going to cost the NPA’s Investigative Directorate to “address the avalanche of work that is comings its way” from the Zondo commission and others.

The department and its entities expected a budget cut of R2.2bn, but in the end it was only R416m.

Of this amount, R111m will be cut from the department’s budget for compensation of employees and R122m from the department’s infrastructure budget.

No further cuts

The NPA would cut R150 million from its compensation budget. Batohi said they planned to appoint 400 aspirant prosecutors, but would now only appoint 200.

She said they had challenges with the speedy appointment of aspirant prosecutors, so the money had to go back to Treasury.

“We didn’t suffer further budget cuts,” she said, adding that they might still be able to recruit more than the 200 aspirant prosecutors.

“The Investigative Directorate is not affected by these cuts,” Batohi said of the unit probing state capture cases.

The Special Investigations Unit will receive a budget cut of R10 milliion and Legal Aid South Africa R23 million.

Committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said they were pleased that the budget cuts were not as severe as what they thought they would be.

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