Sun, 20 Oct 2019

The DA wants the acting head of the Independent Police Investigating Directorate (IPID), Victor Senna, and the former head Robert McBride to be summoned to Parliament to explain allegations that the police watchdog prematurely completed or closed cases to manipulate performance statistics.

"SAPS members are literally getting away with murder, assault and torture," an IPID official reported on the police watchdog's policy of closing cases in an internal document.

An expose by Viewfinder, a new accountability journalism project in South Africa, details how IPID, since at least 2012, manipulated statistics and in the process failed the victims while violent errant police officers were not held to account.

Viewfinder's investigation found that on the days before the financial year-end, many more cases would be closed than on other days. Internal documents, seen by News24, reveal that IPID investigators complained that they were forced to complete cases without completing the investigation.

A report from Amar Maharaj, IPID's former ethics and risk manager under McBride, dated October 17, 2014, after a visit to the KwaZulu-Natal office, include the following statements: "Investigators reported that they are placed in an ethical dilemma when they have to 'complete' cases [without proper investigation] to achieve targets. The file is then set aside while they move on to 'complete' new cases. Investigators complained that as the month goes on, the resolve to 'complete' more cases becomes greater.

"Investigators reported that the people who are evaluating you ask you to 'complete cases'.

"Investigators reported that the integrity of investigations are compromised when cases, including cases of murder, torture and assault, are 'completed' without proper investigation, to achieve targets and report statistics to national office.

"An investigator reported that 'the people who are evaluating you ask you to complete cases to make targets. He reported: 'In a murder case where you may need five or six statements ... you obtain three statements and the PH [provincial head] wants you to complete the case. More enquiries could be done but the case is completed. It could have been a solid murder case that could have resulted in a conviction. The focus then shifts to new cases for completion'.

"Investigators reported that often murder, torture and rape cases never get to the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP]. Or may have DPP queries that are not attended to.

"Investigators reported that the system of 'completing' cases was designed to generate stats and it ultimately defeats the ends of justice.

"An investigator reported that the current IPID system of 'completing' files is a 'dereliction of duty and a deviation from the mandate of the IPID'."

He reported that "SAPS members are literally getting away with murder, assault and torture", adding that "we are asked to take the files to the DPP just to get a signature, and the file is completed".

A report from Maharaj's visit to the Northern Cape office, dated October 2014, contained similar statements, as did a report from the Gauteng office, dated June 23, 2014.

There is also a memorandum on the fraudulent closure of 152 cases between April and November 2016 in which it is alleged that people who were not in IPID's employ anymore or deceased IPID members' usernames and passwords were used to close cases on IPID's system.

Testifying before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture earlier this year, McBride said that when he returned from suspension in October 2016, he was alerted about "allegations that certain cases that were being investigated by the IPID had been prematurely closed without carrying out proper investigation processes as contained in the standard operating procedures".

"This was done in certain instances to push the statistics and other acts that amounted to defeating the ends of justice. These cases were termed 'special closures'. This was intended to manipulate statistics to give an impression that performance had been better under Kgamanyane."

Israel Kgamanyane headed the directorate while McBride was on suspension.

McBride said he had instructed IPID's integrity strengthening unit to investigate the allegations and that the Auditor-General also flagged some of the cases. One employee has been dismissed and another resigned when he was approached to make a statement.

The premature closure of cases comes against the backdrop of an organisation struggling to make ends meet. At IPID's meetings with Parliament's portfolio committee on police, the matter of capacity constraints was raised without fail.

At a meeting earlier this year, Senna told the committee that without adequate funding, the fight against crime "will be seriously undermined".

IPID's chief financial officer, Patrick Setshedi, told the committee that its budget allocations had increased from R234.7m in the 2014/15 financial year to R336.7m for 2018/19 at a growth rate of 34%. The increase is the result of increased funding for the police.

Its expenditure is expected to grow from R336.7m in 2019/20 to R381.6m in 2021/22 at an average growth rate of 13%, mainly to accommodate operating costs and contractual obligations without increasing the directorate's capacity.

Of IPID's total budget allocation for 2019/20 of R336.7m, R228.8m is spent on compensation for its employees, of which most are investigators.

Setshedi added that R55.5m was spent on contractual obligations, which left only R52.3m for IPID's operations during the financial year.

He said it was experiencing "capacity constraints" in general, with the following functions "extremely affected":

Integrity strengthening and protection;Legal services and contract management;Service delivery coverage and accessibility;Accounting, compliance and reporting responsibilities;Community outreach events.

Reacting to Viewfinder's report on Tuesday, DA MP and spokesperson on police Andrew Whitefield said that the portfolio committee on police should summon Senna and McBride.

"These are serious allegations of misconduct and fraud which require a full interrogation by Parliament. This alleged criminality on the part of IPID does not only defraud the state of millions, but it also robs victims and their families of justice," Whitfield said in a statement.

"IPID has since denied these allegations. However, it is apparent that this investigation followed a clear paper trail and its findings require scrutiny by the portfolio committee. If these allegations are true, it is a serious offence as IPID clearly misled Parliament and the public in its annual reports."

He said IPID was not above the law and any wrongdoing on its part would not be tolerated.

IPID is expected to appear before the committee on Thursday.

News24 approached IPID for comment - this will be reported once received.

It has, however, denied that its management was aware of the manipulation of statistics to Viewfinder. Kgamanyane dismissed McBride's testimony and that he had applied to cross-examine him, Viewpoint reported.

In a statement released last week, IPID said it was a "credible oversight body which conducts its investigations with the highest level of integrity and professionalism".

"IPID will continue to hold those police officers accused of wrongdoing accountable without any fear or favour and will not be distracted in this mission," read its statement.

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