Zondo commission gets R75-million, but still needs more funding

A fresh allocation of R75-million from the budget of the department of justice will enable the Zondo commission to pay its staff, but more money is needed to allow it to complete its mandate, the department said on Thursday.

“We have found R75-million by redirecting money from justice programmes,” said justice department spokesperson Chrispin Phiri.

“It will enable the commission to pay its investigators, some of it is back payment,” he added, recalling that the state capture inquiry has struggled in recent months to pay staff.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has confirmed to the portfolio committee on justice that the sum was not the full amount required by the commission to complete its work.

His office said the expectation was that not the rest of the funding necessarily be found from the justice budget, and that talks with the treasury were ongoing.

“The director generals of justice and treasury are still in discussion as to how this can be achieved,” Lamola said

The treasury could not immediately comment. On budget day in February, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni brushed off questions about the financial shortfalls of the commission, suggesting there would be no further allocations.

“This perpetual extension of the inquiry into state capture is not really conducive. They must finish their work … It must end at some stage unless their DG [director general]  has anything to say. I don’t think I’m going to sign up on another tranche of cash to the state capture commission. They must finish their work,” Mboweni said.

At that point, finance director general Dondo Mogajane said the treasury would help the justice department to reprioritise its budget to help the commission, but raised concerns about some of the costs of the inquiry, suggesting that it might review the salaries of lawyers in its employ.

It emerged at the same time that the commission had not been able to pay some investigators for months; its secretary, Itumeleng Mosala, blamed delayed disbursements from the treasury.

On Thursday, the treasury did not immediately reply to a request for confirmation that it was now considering allocating additional funding to the commission.

The commission had, by March, cost about R800-million. 

Its mandate was extended for a final time by the high court in Pretoria in February until the end of June. 

Phiri said though it was obviously not ideal to remove funding from other justice programmes, there was an understanding within the department regarding the importance of the work, particularly because the investigations of the commission feed into the work of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

This follows a presidential proclamation last year that gave the NPA access to evidence gathered by the state capture inquiry.

The commission, which began sitting in August 2018, was initially expected to complete its investigation into the raft of rent-seeking scandals that have embroiled the state for more than a decade within 180 days.

Lamola in March said it was not anticipated that the commission’s work would take on the magnitude and complexity it did, and undertook to mobilise more money from within his department to help it confront the challenges it faced.

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