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SAPS IN CRISIS

Ambitious ‘Project 10,000’ police recruitment dogged by training shortfalls and allegations of corruption

Ambitious ‘Project 10,000’ police recruitment dogged by training shortfalls and allegations of corruption

A parliamentary committee heard that the SAPS had begun a forensic review in June 2022 to determine whether there had been irregular appointments of recruits in ‘Project 10,000’.

In June 2022, a Hillbrow police officer was accused of attempting to bribe a recruitment officer with R10,000 in exchange for admitting the cop’s children into a training programme – then resigned before disciplinary action could be taken.

The SA Police Service (SAPS) provided this information to the parliamentary portfolio committee on policing on Wednesday, in response to allegations of corruption and bribery during the recruitment of police trainees.

Accompanied by senior officials, national police commissioner General Fannie Masemola briefed the committee on police recruitment and training procedures.

The committee heard that SAPS conducted a forensic review to determine whether there were irregular appointments of new recruits in “Project 10,000”. The review began in June 2022.

Aside from the allegations levelled against SAPS, the committee heard that SAPS does not have enough trainers and will be recruiting former officers.

Due to media reports and complaints from unions and MPs received by committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Petterson, the matter was prioritised and debated on Wednesday.

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More than 1,000 SAPS trainees nationwide, who passed their assessment tests but were omitted from the final list of recruits, claimed their names had been replaced with those of people who had allegedly paid bribes to recruitment officers.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Three arrests made so far in alleged police recruitment corruption scandal

Fears that scores of recruits paid for entry into SA police colleges

Police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed that the hiring process was the subject of a national investigation.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police confirm nationwide probe into alleged corrupt recruitment of trainees

Whistle-blower and former cop Patricia Mashale has taken up the cudgels on behalf of trainees who failed to be recruited. She told Parliament her life was now at risk.

‘Keep SA police and state security away from me,’ cop corruption whistle-blower in hiding urges Parliament

In its presentation to the committee, SAPS said that 523,666 registered applications for “Project 10,000” had been reviewed. The preliminary findings are subject to change as the investigation continues, and there are individual criminal cases that have been reported to anti-corruption authorities.

Masemola reiterated: “The SAPS disciplinary and preliminary findings will expose SAPS to litigation risk, which will harm the organisation’s reputation. The forensic review will be completed by [the end of] March 2023.”

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) stated in its submission that it was deeply concerned that the recruitment and selection process continued to be plagued by issues that, at times, “jeopardise the integrity” of SAPS.

Popcru’s Tryphina Phihlela said: “We propose a training indaba in which all stakeholders will collaborate to restructure the current training method in accordance with policing in a democratic dispensation.”

‘Major impediment’

Bethuel Nkuna, president of the Independent Policing Union of South Africa (Ipusa), told the committee the allegations of bribery and corruption involving SAPS trainees were a major impediment to attracting the best candidates.

Nkuna said mass recruitment should be used to target those who wanted to become police officers and serve their community, and not just those who were unemployed.

To avoid the time-consuming manual recruitment process, Ipusa said it was time for SAPS to embrace information technology not only in recruitment, but also in the fight against crime.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald asked how SAPS could accept so many recruits while not having enough trainers:

“What methodology is used when screening a high volume of applicants?”

‘Not without challenges’

Masemola responded: “Yes, it is true that we are not without challenges.” The training of 10,000 recruits presented several challenges, such as corruption, he said.

“At the moment, we don’t have enough trainers in the provinces at colleges. When we call for recruits of this magnitude, we call on trained personnel to come and assist. But first, they will go through police training to become trained, and once that is completed, he will become a trainer,” he said.

At the end of a heated debate, Lieutenant-General Lineo Ntshiea told the committee that the use of IT systems had been discussed at a 2019 indaba:

“We will have the system in place by the next intake in 2024… Recruitment is time-consuming and prone to corruption… the solution is an IT system,” she said.

On allegations that recruitment officers were corrupt, Ntshiea said they had found none to be corrupt, but that if the final forensic report (to be completed by the end of March) proved otherwise, SAPS would take disciplinary action. DM

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