IT to improve justice system

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The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) says it will continue to work on the transformation of the judiciary by increasing spend on IT.

In its medium-term expenditure framework for 2009/12, the department allocated R3 billion for IT projects and emphasised the importance of IT in the judicial system. Menzi Simelane, the director-general of the DOJ, added that the department expected increased spending pressures in the medium-term and would make additional investments in IT infrastructure.

The budget would be spent on IT infrastructure, hardware renewal, network infrastructure, data security and the expansion and roll-out of information systems. Simelane also noted that efficiency gains would be used to fund additional investments in IT infrastructure, maintenance, licensing, hardware renewal and backup.

The department received total allocations of R11.3 billion, marking an increase in its spending. A total of R9.9 billion was allocated for the 2008/9 financial period. The department's administration programme, which deals with the development of strategies and policies for the efficient administration of justice, was allocated R1.03 billion, which is 9.8% of the total budget. The Master's Office, in Pretoria, which has recently automated all its processes and migrated to an electronic system, has been allocated R38 million to improve its IT processes.

The department has allocated R3 billion to court services, while the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) received R2.4 billion for its programmes. State legal services were allocated R569 million, while auxiliary services received R1.6 billion.

IT is key

Simelane emphasised the modernisation of IT systems as key to enhancing efficiency in the department. He said the department would work towards ensuring staff are provided with the appropriate “tools of trade” to allow them to perform their work optimally. Modernising the department's IT systems was one of the key strategic objectives for the period, he noted.

The advantage of capturing documents electronically is that they are more easily secured and this was a key requirement for the department, he added. This meant, for example, that far fewer cases of dockets could go missing and efficiency would be improved.

Simelane said the department had recognised that external users may experience difficulties accessing information now available electronically. Processes would be improved and external users would be given the tools to access this information.

Securing data

IT systems and networks would need to be upgraded to ensure the successful implementation of the key Bills, which will be passed this year, Simelane said.

This follows statements made by justice minister Jeff Radebe that the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill was a matter of urgency and would strengthen crime-fighting efforts. Speaking during his budget vote speech before Parliament, Radebe said the Bill would be finalised this year.

The Bill is aimed at strengthening the criminal forensic investigation powers of the police by broadening the fingerprint database and establishing a DNA database, which needs to be secured. Simelane said the department would push ahead the processing of the Bill and implement systems that would ensure the efficient collection and secure analysis of fingerprints and DNA.

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