The Department of Justice says it has made enormous progress in eradicating backlogs in the lower courts following hard Covid-19 lockdowns.

According to a Beeld report, Deputy Minister John Jeffery highlights the impact of the pandemic in the department’s annual report which was tabled in Parliament.

‘The lower courts still struggle with backlogs in cases which were already significant before the national state of disaster was announced in March last year,’ Jeffery writes.

The department’s records showed a backlog of 53% (regional courts) and 48% (district courts) at the time.

‘By 31 March this year, the backlogs decreased to 48.87% (regional) and 14.14% (district),’ the department says.

The department credits the decreases to measures taken to prioritise gender violence, murders of women and children and corruption cases. It also procured 1 500 laptops for magistrates.

About 37 500 audio-visual appearances were done in criminal matters during lockdown, it said.

On the downside, DG Doc Mashabane highlighted an increase of R401.6m in irregular expenditure.

The total amount of irregular expenditure was R2.063bn. It relates to catering, stationery, online publications, copying machines, IT services and travel expenses.

According to Mashabane, the SIU is investigating fraud and irregularities in procurements worth R667m.

Full Beeld report