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A decentralised NPA will free up resources - Batohi

NPA head Shamila Batohi said "a small specialised, highly skilled capacity at the national office to actively support prosecutors in the regions" would free up resources to be deployed elsewhere and was in line with the NPA Act.

Prosecutions boss Shamila Batohi at a media briefing in Pretoria on 24 May 2019 where she introduced the head of the newly established Investigative Directorate, Advocate Hermione Cronje (right). Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN

PRETORIA - Prosecutions boss Shamila Batohi said she would be restructuring the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) into a decentralised model that would provide more support for prosecutors across the country.

Batohi made the announcement at a briefing in Pretoria on Friday where she discussed her vision to rebuild public trust in the organisation.

She also introduced advocate Hermione Cronje as the head of the investigative directorate that will focus on serious and complex fraud and corruption cases.

Batohi said "a small specialised, highly skilled capacity at the national office to actively support prosecutors in the regions" would free up resources to be deployed elsewhere and was in line with the NPA Act.

“This will build more capacity in the regions, maintaining specialisation, for example, with regard to the Specialised Commercial Crime Court, terrorism and other crime types that maybe identified, for example, cybercrime," she said.

Batohi said securing a bigger budget for the institution was a priority.

Speaking at the Pretoria briefing the unit's mandate and powers, newly appointed Cronje said her office's immediate focus would be on preparing existing cases for prosecution.

The advocate said they would focus on three areas, including corruption within the criminal justice sector and state-owned enterprises.

She said the first of the three areas that would receive attention was corruption within the criminal justice sector.

“We want to ensure that we restore the integrity of government and to do that, we need to get our own house in order first. The public needs to have confidence that those who need to address this problem are able, capable and have the integrity to do so,” she said.

While the directorate would also look at state-owned entities, it would also prosecute high-level public and private sector corruption.

“The idea is to focus on those who have systematically and actively sought to corrupt government’s procurement systems and policies for private gain.”

Cronje said cases were already being prepared for prosecution.

President Cyril Ramaphosa established the directorate earlier this year to focus on serious and complex fraud and corruption matters such as those emanating from the commissions of inquiry.

Advocate Cronje said they were in the process of establishing a very small, core operational team in the investigative directorate.

“We have procured the services of Advocate [Geoff] Budlender, SC, to provide strategic legal advice on a range of topics relating to preparing these cases for court. We’ve also secured the return to the NPA of Thanda Mngwengwe.”

Mngwengwe is the former operational head of the Scorpions.

She said the directorate would not employ permanent staff.

“But rather, it envisages that we select a matter for investigation and then we identify the skill and capacity needed to address that particular problem,” she said.

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