Paul Hoffman | IDAC bill reveals cabinet’s desire for hegemony, seeks to trump good governance

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Chapter 9, Glenister Case | 0 comments

Besides a lack of attention to detail, there are several issues with the formulation of the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption bill that was published last month, argues Paul Hoffman. 


After years in the making, the structure of the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption was published last month. Be afraid, very afraid, that what has been made visible at long last is not the answer to severe, rampant corruption with impunity in SA.

What is styled as the “NPA Amendment Bill for Anti-Corruption Efforts” was “tabled in Parliament after receiving approval from the cabinet on 14 August … subject to a technical amendment on other ad hoc investigative directorates in the future, in line with the cabinet’s direction.” (Whatever that may turn out to mean).

The covering media statement, quoted from above, goes on to misdescribe the Investigating Directorate that is the subject of the bill as the “Investigative Directorate” despite the bill repeatedly referring to the” Investigating Directorate”. Lack of attention to detail is not the only failing.

The bill sets out to establish the Investigating Directorate against Corruption” (IDAC), which will swallow whole the existing ID, both temporary and created by presidential proclamation, and have its own investigators with powers and functions duly appointed after security screening, set remuneration and conditions of service as well as a complaints mechanism “to deal with complaints of a serious nature” against IDAC personnel.

Problems with bill’s formulation

The bill aims to ensure that the NPA “fulfils its constitutional mandate, to provide, without limiting the investigative powers of SAPS or the Hawks” via “the establishment of IDAC with investigative capacity, to prioritise and to investigate particularly serious criminal or unlawful conduct committed in serious, high-profile or complex corruption, commercial or financial crime.”

The first problem with this formulation is that the constitutional mandate of the NPA does not include investigative functions. It is true that Section 179(2) of the Constitution says that:

“The prosecuting authority has the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, and to carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting criminal proceedings.” (Emphasis added.)

However, in Glenister 1, the Constitutional Court did not buy an argument presaged on the notion that investigations by the Scorpions were constitutionally incidental to the functioning of the NPA, and it allowed the government to remove such functions from the NPA.

The government appears to have forgotten this outcome. It is not part of the constitutional mandate of the NPA to investigate crime of any kind. Its constitutional function is to prosecute the criminals.

In Glenister 2, the same court remained agnostic in relation to the location of the investigators of serious corruption, but insisted that they be STIRS compliant (specialised, trained, independent, resourced in guaranteed fashion and secure in tenure of office).

The government is at large to make “the reasonable decision of a reasonable decision-maker in the circumstances” when locating corruption investigators in the public administration. It is, however, bound to be STIRS compliant.

Is it reasonable to locate IDAC within NPA?

The question that arises now is whether locating IDAC within the dysfunctional NPA is the “decision of a reasonable decision-maker in the circumstances.” Cabinet has had four years within which to gauge the productivity of the ID.

In those four years, it has not secured the conviction of a single “big fish” from the serried ranks of the corrupt in SA and has managed only 97 dockets. This lack of progress at a time when the Chief Justice has warned that “an army of prosecutors” is required. The failure to extradite the Guptas and the collapse of the Nulane matter calls into question the reasonableness of locating the IDAC within the NPA.

The manner in which IDAC is set up is not STIRS compliant. No specialists worth their salt would be seen dead in IDAC. The training the NPA is able to bring to bear is questionable, given the track record of the ID. Neither IDAC nor the NPA can be regarded as independent, not in the sense meant in the joint majority judgment in Glenister 2.

The DG of Justice is the accounting officer of the NPA; the minister of justice exercises final responsibility over the NPA, and the entire operation of the NPA is conducted as a programme within the department of justice. This structure may be suitable for the run-of-the-mill prosecution of ordinary criminals, it is not the right way in which to go about dealing with serious corruption, which is why there is a decade or more of backlog of cases of this kind. This sad state of affairs is due to the government’s failure to properly implement the binding STIRS criteria at any time since the demise of the Scorpions in 2009.

Regular budget cuts for the NPA have been the order of the day for years – no provisions in the bill now tabled are designed to guarantee the necessary resources to IDAC, and without them, it will not be able to function effectively and efficiently as is required by Section 195(1)(b) of the Constitution.

Secure tenure of office is not possible in a structure that is the product of ordinary legislation of the kind now tabled as the answer to the corruption issues in the land. The Scorpions were closed by a simple majority vote in Parliament, and the new IDAC, if it ever sees the light of day, can be closed in exactly the same way. SA, as a law-abiding nation, is no better off than it was before the Scorpions were closed. The next feral elite that comes along will be able to shut down IDAC with 50% plus one in Parliament. This is not a bill that takes secure tenure of office as seriously as it should be taken.

Tension between mandate of Hawks and new manadate of IDAC

The new bill does not address the tension between the legislated mandate of the Hawks and the new mandate of IDAC. The Khampepe commission of inquiry into the Scorpions gave good advice on this tension which was ignored by the government in closing the Scorpions. Instead, investigative functioning carried out by the Scorpions was reserved for the SAPS new unit, the Hawks. The NPA lost all investigative capacity until the ID was set up in 2019 illegally and unconstitutionally. It is reasonable to expect the tension to take the form of turf wars between the Hawks and IDAC.

Already, the ID has been known to shunt unwanted serious investigations, for example, of the minister of police’s involvement in those World Cup SAPS HQ leases, off to the Hawks. It is not enough to state blithely that the bill makes all manner of intrusive provisions “without limiting the investigative powers of SAPS or the Hawks” which is the wording of the revised preamble the bill proposes. This structure is a recipe for conflict between the Hawks and IDAC.

One would have hoped that, having taken so long, something less underwhelming would have been produced. The underlying ethos of the national democratic revolution shines through in the bill. The desire for hegemonic control of all levers of power in the criminal justice administration is the rationale for the reform suggested by the bill. An independent body of corruption fighters is anathema to government and to those involved in corruption with impunity. Heaven forbid that any well-connected, politically exposed person be investigated, arrested, prosecuted and punished.

Despite duly accepted recommendations made by the Zondo Commission, the cabinet persists in cadre deployment of the kind that is both illegal and inefficient. This form of unconstitutional behaviour is bound to inform staff selection for IDAC to replace personnel in the ID with their woeful track record of convictions.

The revamped ID will be neither “permanent” (look at the fate of the Scorpions) nor constitutionally compliant, for want of compliance with the STIRS criteria as sketched above.

– Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now and was lead counsel in the Glenister litigation.

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