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SAPS boss Masemola tightens the purse strings on food, travel and new appointments costs

SAPS boss Masemola tightens the purse strings on food, travel and new appointments costs
Illustrative image: Air Force airplane (Photo: John E. Moore III / Getty Images) | Fannie Masemola. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier) | Enoch Godongwana. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | South African rands. (Photo: iStock)

Daily Maverick recently reported on how National Treasury was trying to prevent the country’s finances from collapsing. Now, even the police are having to tighten their belts, with new limitations being imposed on everything from travel to catering.

The effects of government-wide budget constraints are becoming more apparent, with South African Police Service (SAPS) officers being told to curtail their spending in various ways. This includes opting for cheaper transport and accommodation if they have to travel for work.

State vehicles should also be used for “absolute essential and operational travelling”.

Cops curb costs 

More details about how police officers should avoid unnecessary expenditure and use the “limited resources available” are outlined in a six-page note on “cost containment measures” that National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola directed to police bosses, including the head of the Hawks and provincial commissioners, on 17 September 2023.

It said that “the Department” – presumably the SAPS – “was requested to down manage expenses and impose more stringent cost containment measures”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bheki Cele’s police budget highlights progress, but opposition points out gross failures

Fuel price increases and rolling power blackouts have been flagged as issues exacerbating budget constraints.

‘Internal document’

Daily Maverick has seen the document, which sources with ties to policing say is authentic.

On Tuesday, 26 September, national SAPS spokesperson Athlenda Mathe, in response to Daily Maverick’s questions, said: “This is an internal document and was only meant for members within the service. 

“The SAPS will not discuss this internal communiqué in the public domain.”

While some have said the budget constraints will negatively impact policing, others say it could force cop bosses to be extra innovative and encourage more community input when it comes to crime fighting plans.

‘Worsened significantly’

Masemola’s 17 September note starts by saying: “Cabinet noted that the economic growth outlook has worsened significantly relative to expectations outlined in the 2023 Budget, given the impact of more intense load shedding and freight and port logistical constraints, amongst other factors…

“Given the need for urgent action, National Treasury proposed stringent measures to Cabinet in respect to budget implementation and budget adjustments, for the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.”

Masemola’s note ends with: “In order to support Government in strengthening the economic outlook, and to ensure a professional policing service is still rendered, the Management of SAPS is requested to deal with these internal control measures in a serious light and to implement saving measures with the view to enhance performance with the limited resources available.”

In August, Daily Maverick reported that South Africa’s finances were worse than initially thought.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA’s delivery of crucial services under threat after Treasury desperately calls for public ‘fiscal consolidation’

That article stated: “To prevent a total collapse in the country’s finances, National Treasury has told all government departments in provinces that no new spending will be allocated to them. 

“Treasury is even prepared to implement budget cuts in 2024, which will be a blow to departments that are already reeling from previous cuts that threaten the delivery of services to the vulnerable and poor.”

NPA suspends prosecutor intake

Other critical government departments have already indicated how budget constraints are impacting them.

At the start of September, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that “due to ongoing and government-wide budget constraints”, it was “forced to suspend the 2024 intake” of aspirant prosecutors.

It apologised to applicants.

“This is indeed a very disappointing development that is beyond our control,” the NPA said in a statement at the time.

Past cuts meet present constraints

As for the SAPS, it is not the first time that budget issues have been a concern.

Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa feels the sting of police budget cuts in wake of provincial violence and looting

In 2021, it was reported the biggest budget cut was made to visible policing.

On 13 September this year, the latest budget constraints were referenced in Parliament, with Masemola acknowledging that this could impact resources.

Frozen appointments and capped overtime

His internal 17 September communication to SAPS bosses provided more details on how officers need to spend more wisely.

It stated that “the appointment[s] of all new employees are frozen”.

Exceptions would be made if, for example, an offer was already signed off on or if it involved a critical post.

Masemola’s note also said that overtime should be limited in terms of administrative duties, “with no Sunday hours and Public Holidays to be considered”.

The brakes were also put on (barring a few exceptions) non-essentials.

“The purchasing of all non-essential resource items planned for should be discontinued with immediate effect.”

Travel restrictions

In terms of travelling, Masemola’s note said:

  • “Only essential travel abroad, with limited personnel, will be considered.” In addition, only in “exceptional cases” would approval for accommodation within a 150km radius of a workplace be considered. If a provincial commissioner or the head of the Hawks deemed cases exceptional and approved these, a monthly report on the merit of each approved case would need to be given to the divisional commissioner of the police’s financial management services.
  • “In all cases, the cheapest accommodation and flight, where travelling is required, should be considered.” The transfer of state officials “must be limited to the absolute minimum”.
  • “The use of state vehicles is to be limited to absolute essential and operational travelling. Considering the recent unprecedented fuel price increase, the use of state vehicles will have a detrimental effect on the Department’s operational budget.”
  • Virtual platforms should be used for meetings or “gatherings” and “only meetings with a security risk may be considered for a contact session on condition that the applicable Head: [Hawks]/Divisional Commissioner/Provincial Commissioner approves such application”.

Cutting back on catering

Masemola also highlighted that catering needed to be watched.

Apart from exceptional cases that could be considered, “all applications for catering services should be frozen/not considered, irrespective of the duration of the meeting”.

For major events such as the annual SAPS’s National Excellence Awards and ministerial imbizos, catering services and external venues could be considered.

Masemola’s note continued: “Provincial and Divisional excellence awards, to the run-up of the National Excellence awards, must, as far as possible, be hosted at a venue without any cost and with lights [sic] meals, not exceeding R115.00 per person. This excludes instances where orders have already been issued.”

‘Cops will be undermined’

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s national spokesperson, Richard Mamabolo, told Daily Maverick on Tuesday that budget constraints were bad news for the SAPS.

“These suggested cost-cutting measures, which are based on instructions scandalously issued to departments by the Minister of Finance, are regrettable,” he said.

“Part of the challenges faced within the SAPS are due to unfilled, vacant posts in expanding its staff complement. The uneven allocation of resources and the infrastructural integrity of our police stations, among others.

“What this means is that there will be even less spending on addressing these issues, and therefore, with the rising crime levels in the country, our police officers will continue being undermined and overwhelmed as they would not be in a position to fulfil their mandate.”

‘Tight budget could force clever policing’

However, other sources with policing knowledge said budget constraints could curb unnecessary spending on things like travel, and could see police managers become more innovative.

Instead of simply hiring more officers to boost visible policing, existing personnel could be used to forge better relationships with residents, and this could improve community policing.

Police managers could also analyse and implement ways of decreasing the high number of civil claims against cops.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The cost of arbitrary SAPS arrests — in human and financial terms — is unacceptably high

Money saved in that manner could, for example, be used to upskill younger officers. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    They could also have less meetings and commissioned officers could also work outside

    • John Smythe says:

      Some of those cops are so oversized they’d drop dead if they tried putting them out in the field. Best to sit in an office and get even fatter.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Crime doesn’t have a budget ….

  • Iam Fedup says:

    Quite frankly, we’re almost already living in a Mad Max world of total anarchy, and if it weren’t for private security it would be over. What seems to elude the stupendously foolish minds of the ANC leadership is that we’re broke because there are too many civil servants getting paid to do nothing. Heaven forbid that they lose a few million voters by doing what’s good for SA. hopefully, their time to account will come sooner rather than later.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    A truer case of putting makeup on a pig there never was. (pun not intended)

  • Patrick Devine says:

    What’s completely absurd about this story is that, apparently, National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola does not have a security clearance.

    This is (apparently/allegedly) because his personal finances are in complete mess.
    He hasn’t received secret or top secret clearance because he owes too much money and is therefore a primary candidate to be easily ‘bought’ or ‘owned’.

    Is this true Caryn?

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Why the utterances of these fools remains newsworthy is a mystery to me. SAPS budget allocation has ballooned (their own material shows an average 5 year growth of 76.2%) since the advent of democracy and the rates of convictions have plummeted. In the same time it’s anyone’s guess why so few of their criminal capos have earned any jail time despite their manifest engagement in criminal activities.

  • John Smythe says:

    “it could force cop bosses to be extra innovative and encourage more community input when it comes to crime fighting plans.” Even MORE input??
    So, it’s not enough that I participate in my neighbourhood watch, install an alarm system, pay for armed response, install cctv, install electric fencing, contribute to my neighbourhood watch motion detection cameras AND pay my tax. Now I must be even MORE encouraged to contribute MORE input to crime fighting plans. Maybe he should try making his own plans for a change.

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