The R112m white elephant Correctional Services now has to feed
The department still owes more than R100m to the service provider of tracking devices for parolees
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) may soon be forced to cough up more than R112-million it owes to a service provider that supplied GPS tracking bracelets to more than 560 parolees.
These tracking devices on 562 parolees have been removed, which means the DCS has to revert back to physically monitoring their movements, at a huge cost.Last November the DCS lost its case during arbitration hearings with the service provider of the tracking bracelets, Engineered System Solutions.
Retired Judge WJ van der Merwe, who headed the arbitration proceedings, granted claims for unpaid invoices to ESS for the total amount of R112-million.
Now, almost three months later, the DCS has still not paid, according to ESS lawyer Gert van der Merwe.
“If they fail to pay after the order is granted, I will get an order for the department’s assets to be attached,” Van der Merwe told Times Select last week.
The battle over the contract between ESS and DCS started last July when Correctional Services cancelled its five-year agreement with ESS – two years before it was due to lapse.
This was amid allegations of procurement irregularities in the awarding of the contract to ESS. It rolled out a pilot project in 2011 and in 2014 ESS was awarded the tender for a full roll-out of the project.According to DCS, all of the 562 people that were being monitored have now had their tags removed.
“Only six awaiting-trial persons needed to go back to court for their bail conditions to be amended,” said DCS spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo, adding that none of the parolees ended up back in prison as a result of the de-tagging process.
“Parolees are still being monitored in the prescribed manner, as the majority of parolees were always monitored through normal physical [means],” he said.
“Each person placed on parole must appear every six months before the Supervision Committee for assessment of compliance to the stipulated parole conditions.”
Based on that assessment, Nxumalo said, parolees would be reclassified as medium or low risk.
But Van der Merwe claims this is a costly process for the DCS.
“It is an utter waste of taxpayer money,” Van der Merwe said.
“The department has now moved from a simple, easy programme of being able to monitor parolees … to a more expensive method of monitoring.
“Over a period of nearly three years, uncalculated time and effort, as well as millions of rands has been put into training DCS officials on how to use the systems and monitor parolees electronically, for much cheaper than normal procedures,” he said.
“There are all these skills now floating around DCS not being put to use.”Retired Judge van der Merwe in his ruling said the department, through their legal representatives, tried to “frustrate the [arbitration] proceedings” with a number of delays and last-minute rescheduling.
“The attitude of DCS to try and evade payment of what is due to ESS is somewhat incomprehensible when note is taken of previous acknowledgement of indebtedness by DCS to ESS,” he wrote.
“It is clear that DCS … at least their legal representative who acted on their behalf, left no stone unturned to delay the finalisation of the matter in one or other manner.”
DCS declined to comment on whether it would settle the amount owed to ESS as ordered.