Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has confirmed that the risks associated with private donors funding the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have been “thoroughly considered” and the parties have reiterated their commitment to ensuring any funding provided is channelled per the approved framework.
The idea of private donations first made headlines after the head of the NPA’s investigative directorate, Hermione Cronjé, mooted the idea of using private funds for the cash-strapped institution.
NPA head Shamila Batohi, briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services in July listed, among the NPA’s myriad challenges, “severe budgetary limitations“, which had led to high vacancy rates, low staff morale as well as limited professional development and training.
During the budget vote debate on the Presidency later that week, EFF leader and MP Julius Malema railed against the use of public funding at the NPA.
He said Ramaphosa had “outsourced” his appointment of Batohi as National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), claiming she had said “the NPA must accept private donations from private individuals and private companies”.
“What is South Africa going to be if the prosecuting authority is funded by private capitalists who in South Africa is exclusively white and often engaged in many crimes of tax avoidance, massive fraud and illicit financial flows?” Malema asked.
On Tuesday, Lamola gave clarity on this matter while answering questions from National Council of Provinces members.
DA MPL George Michalakis asked him what were the outcomes of his department’s discussions with the National Treasury on how to protect the NPA’s independence if it were to make use of private donor funding.
Lamola said “the potential risk relating to the impact of donor funding on the government, in general, to ensure the protection of objectivity and the independence has been thoroughly considered throughout the years by our government”.
“This risk has been properly managed through ensuring a proper framework under the auspices of the National Treasury, which regulates the acceptance and allocation of donor funding both internationally and locally.
“Given the significant risk in relation to the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] specifically, the parties have reiterated their commitment to ensure that any funding provided to the NPA will be channelled, as per the approved framework, through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.”
In response to a follow-up question, Lamola explained what the money was most likely to be used for.
“… this kind of funding has always been used with regard to training. We are well aware of the shortfall in terms of the budget challenges of the NPA. And there is an ongoing discussion between the department and the National Treasury that is not yet concluded, which is aimed to resolve these challenges of budgetary constraints of the NPA.
“As and when the discussions have been concluded through the budget report process of the government, we will be able to make an informed communication to members here and to the public,” he said.
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