Hermione Cronje, right. Picture: GCIS
Hermione Cronje, right. Picture: GCIS

The department of justice and constitutional development has had to reprioritise its budget to kickstart a new elite prosecution unit that is meant to investigate those implicated in state capture.

The National Treasury is yet to provide funds for the unit, which was established to look into revelations made at the commissions of inquiry into state capture, the SA Revenue Service and the Public Investment Corporation.

The new directorate was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February. It was seen as a massive step in upping the fight against corruption, which has been one of Ramaphosa’s priorities since he took office. So far, only R38.4m has been made available. 

In response to questions from Business Day, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the new directorate, which is led by Hermione Cronje, has so far been started up with funds reprioritised by the CFO of the justice department from the “baseline budget” in the national budget.  

Presenting the budget in February, finance minister Tito Mboweni said no money had been allocated for the directorate. He said then that the Treasury and the justice department would work closely with the NPA on the matter.

NPA communications director Bulelwa Makeke said the medium-term expenditure framework process needed to be followed and that the NPA’s bid would be considered by the Treasury in the adjusted estimates of national expenditure (AENE) in October.

“The NPA has prepared a budget request in line with the prescripts. In the interim, the department of justice and constitutional development has repriortised within the budget vote and has made funds available for the investigating directorate in line with the AENE budget request,” Makeke said.

The NPA had prepared a bid to access funds from the criminal assets recovery account, which is a separate account within the national revenue fund, into which monies and property are deposited after a judicial forfeiture or confiscation order, she said.

The request was considered by the development committee’s criminal assets recovery account-subcommittee in a meeting on Tuesday, she said. There has not yet been any indication as to whether the bid was successful.

National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi has met new justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola and raised the issue of funds for the NPA, as well as for the investigating directorate.

Makeke said Batohi had discussed the NPA’s key priorities, as well as the prosecuting authority’s budget challenges.

“We can confirm that he (Lamola) is committed to supporting the NPA in its submissions for budget for the NPA as a whole, and the investigating directorate specifically, both in the AENE and the estimates of national expenditure process and for the criminal assets recovery account bid,” Makeke said.

The Treasury referred questions to the justice department.

Chrispin Phiri, Lamola’s spokesman, said it was important to the new minister that the NPA’s independence was unhindered by anything. Lamola would ensure that the NPA and the criminal justice system had the financial means to fulfil their constitutional mandate, Phiri said.