MPs query prisons spending

PARLIAMENT’s justice and correctional services committee charged on Tuesday that the Department of Correctional Services lacked focus in spending almost two-thirds of its budget on the incarceration of prisoners and not enough on their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Correctional Services has over the years been a serial offender in the management of its finances.

National commissioner Zach Modise and his management team told the parliamentary committee that about 64% of its R21.5bn budget would be spent on incarceration.

Mr Modise said the department’s aim was three-pronged — first, to detain inmates in safe secure and humane conditions; second to correct offending behaviour with rehabilitation programmes; and third to build safe communities by reintegrating offenders.

Chief financial officer Nick Ligege joined Mr Modise in explaining that in this financial year, Correctional Services would spend R13bn on incarceration, R1.2bn on rehabilitation and R890m on social reintegration.

But members of Parliament were not convinced that the spending priorities were correct.

Committee chairman Mathole Motshekga said the objective of Correctional Services should be to turn prisoners into better moral beings for reintegration into society.

Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe noted that the number of prisoners being released on parole and probation as well as correctional supervision was increasing steadily, while the average number of inmates remained static over the medium term at about 156,000 awaiting-trial and sentenced inmates.

He said the budget was increasing only by 2.5%, and asked “Are you putting your resources in the right places?”

Mr Ligege said there were reductions of R427.5m in the allocation for employees’ salaries and spending on goods and services in this financial year and this would increase to R1bn and R1.2bn in the next two years.

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