Spending on security up

Taxpayers forked out a cool R350-million to protect South Africa’s dignitaries in the past financial year, at an average of R500 000 for each very important person.

The budget for the South African Police Service reveals the true cost of protecting the country’s 709 VIPs—President Jacob Zuma, his Cabinet and foreign diplomats.

And the VIP protection bill has escalated to R400-million in the current financial year. If the number of dignitaries protected by the SAPS stays the same, the average cost for each dignitary will rise to R564 000 annually.

Added to that is static guard services—police officers protecting ministerial residences, government buildings and “valuable cargos”. In 2008-09 the police spent R473-million on these, at an average of R1,4-million a building.
Expenditure in the new budget has increased to R562-million—R1,7-million a building for the year.

Unprotected South Africans might be more enthusiastic about the budget’s significantly higher allocation for detection and crime intelligence services, the largest increase.

Commentators were satisfied with this shift. Spending on detective services has increased by 14,8%, above the overall increase of 13%.

“This is a promising budget, with more spend on crime intelligence, detective services and forensic technology and equipment to assist them,” said Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies.

But he said the most important issue, not mentioned in the budget, is the spending on management and accountability of internal police processes. If accountability had been properly enforced, the country would not have seen a 50% detection rate for violent crimes in the past three years, he said.

“The resources are there; what’s needed now is a dramatic increase in the police’s strategy around crime and making sure that police do their work effectively, don’t abuse their powers and don’t get involved in corruption. We need to focus on whether we are getting enough bang for our buck.”

A major shift in the correctional services budget was the postponement of government plans to build four more privately run prisons until the 2012-13 financial year.

Former president Thabo Mbeki announced the building of private prisons in Paarl, Nigel, Klerksdorp and East London in 2004. Since then the costing of the project, as well as the funding shortfall in the department’s budget, has been mired in controversy.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan postponed the construction of the prisons for at least another three years and earmarked only R1.,-billion for the project in that financial year.

Given that R960-million was spent on a single prison in Kimberley, serious questions will be asked about the feasibility of the project.

The budget for the justice department reveals serious cost-cutting measures, including no catering during meetings, economy class domestic flights for all staff, no colour printing and an embargo on the use of official telephones for private calls.

The budget also highlights the immense pressure on all courts, with the Constitutional Court finalising only 56% of its cases in the past financial year and a backlog of 30% in regional courts.