The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) has a budget shortfall of close to R66.5m for the 2013/14 financial year, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development heard today. Committee Chairperson Mr Luwellyn Landers said the Committee would do what was necessary to ensure support for the OCJ.
The OCJ's Secretary-General, Ms Memme Sejosengwe, told the Portfolio Committee during a presentation on its annual report that the increase factored into the budget of R123.9m was inflation-based and did not consider the year-on-year growth required by the OCJ to perform its mandate. The shortfall includes R8.7m for capacity building at OCJ, R10m for capacity building at the Judge President's office, R15m for the development of a judicial monitoring system regarding court performance, R15m for judicial education and R17.7m for rental and furniture.
Committee Member Mr Steve Swart expressed concern about court hours, which he said seemed to be on the wane. He wanted to know how this would be addressed. Another Committee Member, Mr Jonas Sibanyoni, said the OCJ projects showed that the OCJ has great vision.
Ms Sejosengwe asked the Committee to ensure that the Office gets the capacity it needs to fulfil its mandate. She said the fact that the Chief Justice's office had to make do with three floors in a rented building was hampering its growth. She said the OCJ wants to move away from leasing, but this would require dedicated funding. The office of the Chief Justice was proclaimed in 2010 with the aim of supporting the Chief Justice in his dual roles as the head of the judiciary and the Constitutional Court.
Mr Landers said the Committee is excited about the developments of OCJ. It will raise the issue with National Treasury but could not assure the OCJ that the money would be forthcoming as National Treasury "always asks where they should take the money from".