Friday, September 25, 2009

18% of total police budget spent on legal claims

R7,5 billion. That's how much taxpayers paid out for police assaults, shootings, damage to property, police actions, vehicle accidents and legal costs in 2008/09.

Each
police officer costs the taxpayer R50 000 a year in civil legal claims.

If this doesn't paint a sorry picture of woe in the SAPS then nothing does and explains the recent dreadful crime stats. This organisation is our frontline against criminals, criminals whose IQs average 67! How can we expect this organisation to overcome a crime scourge that would tax the abilities of the best police forces in the world when you have police officers of this calibre employed in the SAPS. South Africa is done, stick a fork in it.

Related:
DA calls for merit-based appointments in the police

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The South African Police Service (SAPS) annual report reveals that the police spent R7.5 billion on civil legal claims against the department in 2008/09 - equivalent to 18% of the total SAPS budget. This is an astonishing figure, and reveals just how exceptionally mismanaged and unaccountable the Police Service has become in recent years. Given these figures, we reiterate our call for the immediate resignation of the head of the SAPS Legal Services Division, Lindiwe Mtimkulu, who has quite clearly run SAPS Legal Services into the ground.

The total claims figure is up from R5.7-billion last year, meaning that civil legal claims have increased by 31% in just 12 months. These claims include: assault, shootings, damage to property, police actions, vehicle accidents and legal costs.

The average police officer now accounts for more than R50,000 per year in civil legal claims.

To put in context just how enormous this amount is, consider that it could have paid for another 75 000 additional police officers to be on our streets protecting our citizens this year.

In other words, the inability of the SAPS to hold its own officers to account constitutes one of the most significant impediments to expanding and improving the quality of policing.

What is even more shocking is that the ANC government continues to do everything in its power to prevent the police watchdog, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) from getting the teeth it needs. This week, my attempts to introduce a private member's bill to radically empower and expand the role of the ICD were put on hold for the umpteenth time. Once again,
it's all talk, no substance - even when the solution, which is to give the oversight authorities proper oversight authority, is actually relatively straightforward.

The other half of the problem is that the SAPS legal services division is clearly in a state of crisis. The Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS) report revealed gross mismanagement of the police litigation structures. At the time that the report was commissioned, the backlog of civil claims stood at 19 000, and many claims took three years and upwards for the SAPS to settle.


The report revealed that divisional commissioner Lindiwe Mtimkulu operated in an ‘autocratic' fashion, and was unable to make legal decisions because she suffered from "a fundamental misunderstanding of the law and legal processes".

The report cost more than R7-million to compile, and up until now no action has been taken against Mtimkulu. No wonder departments with absolutely no oversight are in such a mess.

Mtimkulu must go, the SAPS legal services division must be fixed, and the Independent Complaints Directorate needs real teeth. Until those measures are taken, public money will continue to be sucked into civil claims, and away from where it is needed: in preventing and detecting crime.

Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard, MP, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of police.

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