The question preceding this statement occurred to me back in August this year and I tried to get an answer to it from Parliament by lodging a few questions to the Minister of Police through a representative. Unfortunately, I still didn’t have an answer by the end of September, at which point using the Promotion of Access to Information Act seemed like the way to go. PAIA is a law from 2000 that obliges government departments to disclose specifically requested information. Obviously, there are restrictions to the use of the act though. For example, information doesn’t need to be disclosed if it affects national security.
So, lodge a PAIA request I did: “I wish to obtain the records that show the annual maintenance and administration costs related to the Central Firearms Registry established in terms of the Firearms Control Act of 2000.” Three weeks later, I paid R0.60 for a single page document telling me what I wanted to know. I had to stare at the paper that barely covered seven lines of expenses in a table format for about ten minutes, before any of it made some kind of sense.
Firstly, the cost was significantly less than I expected for the CFR (but still expensive), and secondly, I didn’t have a cooking clue as to what on earth two of the categories meant. I still don’t. The two standout figures were in the ‘approved budget” and ‘total expenditure’ columns. The former said ‘R21 000 000’, and the latter said ‘R161 462 230’. For those of you that do not have an affinity for maths, let me explain that for you: CFR exceeded its approved budget for 2016/2017 by over eight hundred percent. Eight hundred percent!
Furthermore, is there an accountant that can help explain what ‘households’, and ‘goods and services’ mean in this context? Because ‘households’ had a budget of exactly zero, but ended up costing R432 601 anyway and ‘goods and services’ had a budget of R14 000 000, and cost R14 914 903 – over budget by R914 903. Kudos to CFR on the ‘machinery and equipment’ budget of R1 000 000, of which they only spent R986 218. So, CFR saved R13 781 there, and went over budget by a minor R140 462 230 for everything else. Frugality triumphs.
“What about the R145 128 507 missing from the above breakdown?” you may ask. Well, the budget for salaries was R6 000 000. And that’s where the wheels really came off the bus, it seems, because salaries instead cost R145 128 507. We essentially have the employment expenditure required for 96 police officers at National Commissioner Level being ploughed in to a single office – an office that doesn’t have a single National Commissioner in it.
I have no idea what’s going at the CFR. It makes no sense, because I can’t even reconcile spending just shy of a million rand on a handful of printers and scanners, when the annual expenditure of an institution such as the University of Stellenbosch doesn’t even come close to that figure, despite being a significantly larger institution with a lot more employees. I have since filed two new PAIA requests, to find out what annual expenditure on DFO offices and staff is, as well as the cost of all firearm related court cases regarding expired license holders. Stay tuned for some more bombshells, because CFR’s costs given so far don’t include those things.
By: Jonathan Wright