News24 Wire
Wire Service
4 minute read
10 Oct 2019
10:07 pm

IPID admits ‘a few cases’ were prematurely closed in Gauteng

News24 Wire

Internal documents, seen by News24, reveal that IPID investigators complained that they were forced to complete or close cases without concluding a proper investigation.

Picture: Alaister Russel

Despite admitting there were “a few cases” in Gauteng where the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) didn’t do proper investigations before cases were closed, the police watchdog questioned the whistleblower’s credibility before the Portfolio Committee on Police.

Earlier this week, an exposé by Viewfinder, a new accountability journalism project, detailed how IPID, since at least 2012, allegedly manipulated statistics by closing or completing cases before an investigation was completed.

Internal documents, seen by News24, reveal that IPID investigators complained that they were forced to complete or close cases without concluding a proper investigation.

These included reports from Amar Maharaj, IPID’s former ethics and risk manager, to then IPID executive director Robert McBride after visits to IPID’s provincial offices in KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and Gauteng in 2014, in which investigators explained how they were forced to close or complete cases before a proper investigation was completed.

There is also a memorandum on the alleged fraudulent closure of 152 cases between April and July 2016 in Gauteng, in which it is alleged that the usernames and passwords of deceased IPID officials or those who were no longer employed there were used to close cases on IPID’s system.

There is also a whistleblower’s report from KwaZulu-Natal, dated September 2016, about more than 900 cases that were allegedly closed without proper investigation.

Introducing IPID’s presentation on their annual report to the committee on Thursday, acting executive director Victor Senna said he had to address the report.

He said in 2012, similar allegations were taken to the Public Protector, who found they had no merit.

He said then in 2016, the then ethics officer again made similar complaints.

McBride instructed that an investigation should be conducted, starting with Gauteng.

“In the Gauteng office they identified that there were a few incidents where cases were prematurely closed,” Senna said, without elaborating how many a “few cases” entailed.

McBride then instructed that the investigation be extended to the other provinces.

Senna said the report is expected on October 18, when he will also share it with the minister and the committee.

He said IPID already takes measures to prevent the premature closure or completion of cases. Their standard operating procedures were revised, their integrity strengthening unit goes through every case and the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) audits every docket.

“So whatever is published in the annual report, is confirmed by the AGSA,” he said.

“Now these things have again been rehashed.”

IPID head of investigations Matthews Sesoko said the whistleblower had an arbitration hearing last Friday.

“So it is not a surprise that these things are coming out again,” he said.

He said he was dismissed in 2013 for “similar issues – going to the media, leaking information, publishing misinformation about the department”.

He was then reinstated when McBride was appointed as IPID head.

“From the integrity strengthening unit’s investigation, in the Gauteng office, these issues were picked up where cases were not properly investigated and then closed,” Sesoko said.

He said an employee has been dismissed, one resigned,

“It shows the department has been taking this matter seriously.”

He said criminal charges of defeating the ends of justice has been laid, and they are expecting a decision from the National Prosecuting Authority on it soon.

One of Viewfinder’s findings was that on the days before the financial year-end, many more cases would be closed than on other days.

Sesoko said this is based on a misunderstanding of IPID’s processes.

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said: “The trust in IPID has been compromised.”

She said the report was worrying.

The committee would engage with IPID on October 23 on the report.

“Now is the time to be totally transparent,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

“Open the books. Allow yourself to be scrutinised, because your reputation has been tarnished.”

She said the committee should take the matter seriously.

“We have to instill confidence in IPID.”

Senna also said IPID is at the “forefront of fighting corruption” yet they are “grandly underfunded”.

He said this meant they have been forced to close five satellite offices, it impacts on IPID’s independence and it causes low staff morale.

DA MP Andrew Whitfield said IPID was critically under-resourced, and it must be one of the committee’s focus areas.

IPID achieved a clean audit in 2018-2019 and they have met 83% of their targets, compared to the 65% of the previous year.

These targets were not all related to closing cases.

They have referred 2 044 cases to the NPA.

There have been two instances of irregular expenditure, amounting to R1.8m in total – a R615 000 contract with Fidelity which was awarded without following prescribed procurement processes and the salary of an irregularly appointed analyst.

DA MP Okkie Terblanche congratulated IPID on the clean audit and the improvement in meeting their targets.

“It’s quite an achievement, keep it up.”

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