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Khayelitsha commission: Police must account for budget spend

Adam Armstrong

Police oversight should include matters such as how budgets are spent and not just how officers treat civilians, the Khayelitsha commission has heard.

The auditor general is unable to determine if funds are reaching police stations, the Khayelitsha inquiry heard on Tuesday. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Police oversight should be extended to include how the South African Police Service (SAPS) spends its budget. This was the testimony of Sean Tait, co-ordinator of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, at the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry into policing on Tuesday morning. 

Tait said that oversight should include more than just how police treat civilians. He highlighted the difficulties that the auditor general experiences with the SAPS. At a national level, the books balance: the SAPS can show how its budget has been spent in the appropriate categories. But the auditor general is unable to determine whether these funds are reaching police stations, said Tait.

He used the example of bulletproof vests. He explained that if the SAPS were to acquire 10 000 extra vests for new recruits, the current auditing system would not be able to provide a paper trail from station to national level. While it would be possible to show that the vests had been purchased, it would not be possible to determine if the intended recipients of those vests had in fact received them.

Tait testified that the SAPS budget over the past 10 years has increased at an average of 12% a year. For the year 2003-2004, the national budget was R21-billion. It is R68-billion for 2013-2014.

In his cross-examination, advocate Norman Arendse representing the SAPS asked Tait: "We have many more good stories to tell than bad stories … Wouldn’t you agree?"

"There are certainly good stories … however, there are also many unacceptable occurrences," answered Tait.

Community police forums
Tait’s testimony later dealt with community police forums (CPFs). The CPFs are intended to create civilian-police communication and oversight. 

Earlier this year, the commission heard evidence of defunct, disempowered and poorly run CPFs, overrun with local party politics. The Inquiry has heard that CPFs are met with apathy and disinterest from the SAPS. The success of CPFs across the country has been patchy.

Tait said: "Simply having a forum is not good enough … it needs to be a true and real partnership with communities, working out what the needs are … The entire spectrum needs to be brought into the conversation." – Groundup.org.za

GroundUp is a community journalism project that reports on stories from South Africa’s townships.

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