Editor's note: While the various of commissions of inquiry continue to unearth more revelations of state capture, no prominent government officials have yet been put behind bars for corruption. Journalist Tim Cohen argues that the NPA should be given a financial injection so that it can prosecute corruption charges more forcefully.
"At Business Maverick’s Business Against Corruption conference at the end of June, the new National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, said her budget was “a massive problem” and that she was engaged in a “very strong budget diplomacy” with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on the topic.
"No doubt, almost every other head of government departments is also involved in what is delicately called “budget diplomacy” and would have one or several good arguments to hand about why their budgets should increase.
"But it’s worth noting how unusual it is for a member of the civil service to make this kind of plea in a public forum, especially in such explicit terms. It’s the kind of thing frowned upon within the civil service because normally it’s the job of the political head, and also because every civil servant knows that every other civil servant wants their budget to go up. The question is whether Batohi has a legitimate case.
"So far, the Treasury has looked askance at Parliament’s requests to increase the National Prosecution Authority’s budget. The 2018/19 budget review mentions the NPA only once, responding to a request from the Justice Portfolio Committee to increase the budget.
"Treasury responded by saying, “Due to the constrained fiscal outlook, the scope to provide additional funding is limited. Departments, public entities and constitutional institutions are required to re-prioritise funds within their existing baselines to fund any emerging priorities. Should the fiscal outlook improve, future recommendations for additional funding may be considered.
"Neither has the NPA’s budget been crimped more than other departments. The NPA’s budget is around R4 billion, about a quarter of the total justice sector. It’s expected to increase by about 7% a year over the next three years, as opposed to the department as a whole, whose budget is set to increase at a little less than that.
"R4 billion for the entire prosecution service with about 4,000 staff, of whom about 2,800 are prosecutors, seems small by comparison to the Budget as a whole of R1.2-trillion. Yet, every division of most government departments could make the same claim.
"Turns out there are three main problems here."
Read the rest at the Daily Maverick.
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