Claims made by a publication that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had spent almost R400 million on advocates has been blasted for being inaccurate and “farfetched”.
In a statement on Tuesday, the NPA – citing a Pretoria News article – slammed claims that outgoing head of the Investigating Directorate (ID), advocate Hermione Cronje, had spent the money on “white advocates from the Western Cape”.
Cronje asked to vacate her office last week, before her term ends.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said Cronje’s pending exit was the “culmination of various factors”, and during a media briefing on Monday, maintained “occasional disagreements” were “normal”.
Pretoria News reported, citing sources, that Cronje had sent “rude emails” to Batohi, and that she attempted to blame Batohi for the lack of high-profile cases being solved.
These sources allegedly also told the publication that Cronje was “running away”.
‘Pretoria News’ reporting is ‘factually incorrect’
ID spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a media statement on Tuesday that it received a R38 million budget allocation, as per its annual report submitted to Parliament, during the adjusted estimates of national expenditure process.
In addition, as per the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework – a three-year spending plan – the ID was appropriated R372 million (R155 million for 2020-2021, R126 million for 2021-2022, and R130 million for 2022-2023).
“The ID’s actual expenditure for the financial year 2021-2022 to date is R106 million.
“The Pretoria News report that the ID spent R400 million on “white advocates from the Western Cape is therefore not only inaccurate but extremely farfetched.”
Seboka said the NPA did provide the correct information to the publication, and requested it be made public to its readers.
However, she said Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi responded that the publication had “no intention to retract the article”.
Seboka says Rampedi responded that the publication trusted its sources, “and have no reason to doubt the credibility of the information given to us”.
All is peachy at the NPA
Batohi rubbished media reports to the effect that Cronje’s resignation was due to a strained relationship between the two during a media briefing on Monday.
“It makes for dramatic reporting, that is where it ends,” Batohi insisted at a press briefing on Monday morning.
During the press briefing, Batohi said despite speculation to the contrary, the NPA was not in a crisis.
“The ID was and remains under constant pressure to perform and my job is to ensure it delivers,” she said – adamant there had been “significant progress” since its establishment in 2019, and lauding Cronje for having “played her part” and helping to “lay the foundation”.
When asked about the slow pace the ID appeared to be moving, especially when it came to high-profile cases, Batohi said new entities took time to be established.
Batohi said it “shouldn’t be surprising or concerning that it’s taken just over two and a half years to get to this point”.
She committed to implementing a “detailed transition plan” going forward, which she said would include “interim management and oversight arrangements to ensure the ID delivers on its mandate”.
She added the new head of the ID would be “right person with the right skills”.
Compiled by Nica Richards. Additional reporting by Bernadette Wicks