Cape Town – The Correctional Services Department is currently saddled with 939 civil claims amounting to R294.4 million.
This takes place against the backdrop of R32.7m paid in costs from civil claims, opposed matters and arbitration in the 2019-20 calendar year.
Briefing the justice and correctional services portfolio committee, Pheladi Kekana, a spokesperson, said a total of 143 claims were received between April 2019 and December 2019 to the tune of R25.5m.
In her report, she said the highest number of claims received fell in the category of assault, with 342 claims that were valued at R66.9m, followed by 232 unlawful detention cases valued at R26.2m, 81 rape claim at R63.5m, and, 66 damages claims to the tune of RR26.9m
Another 247 claims falling in other categories were valued at R45m.
Kekana said 81 claims had been finalised, with 75 of those being in favour of the department and valued at R14m. Six other claims were against the department assessed at R420 000, she said.
She told the MPs that 73 letters of demand have been prescribed with an assessed value of R13.3m.
There were two summonses assessed at R671 800, she said.
The summonses were in an Eastern Cape case where the department was sued for assault by an prisoner who failed to prove the case.
Another was that the department was found not negligent for granting parole to a prisoner who raped a member of the community, the spokesperson said.
Kekana also said the department was pursuing litigation on two cases, assessed at R741 000.
The cases involved a stolen vehicle and breach of contract.
Kekana confirmed that the stolen vehicle case related to the R165 000 against the tyre service chain Supa Quick after one of their trucks was stolen while parked outside the company’s premises in Silverton, Pretoria.
She also said there was a total of 138 opposed matters before courts that ranged from access to information, contempt of court, labour matters, transfer, violation of human rights and interdicts, among others.
Gauteng led the pack with 71 cases, followed by Eastern Cape with 30, KwaZulu-Natal 12, seven cases in Western Cape and Limpopo, as well as two each in Free State and Northern Cape.
Kekana said only 10 cases were finalised, with at least eight in favour of the department and 10 against it.
She said her department had reimbursed the State Attorneys’ office to the tune R32.7m as at December 2019 for litigation-related costs.
The department has received a R38m budget for legal costs for 2019/20 and managed to save R5.2m.
She said some of the challenges on legal costs included unavailability of automated integrated systems to manage payment of invoices from service providers.
There were also no supporting documents, such as instruction letters and court orders, as well as incomplete information on litigants involved and date serving papers to the department.
The Department of Justice also delayed responding to questions on invoices leading to late payments.
“The Department of Correctional Services is engaging with the State Attorney’s Office in the development of an automated integrated system to manage payment of invoices from service providers and to limit corruption,” Kekana said.
ANC MP Xola Nqola said litigation was a general problem in all government departments. “There must be a concerted effort to ensure we reduce the amount of cases.”