IPID responds to claims of premature closure of cases, says report expected 'within weeks'

Within the next few weeks, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is expecting a report on the premature closure of cases to manipulate performance statistics.

This comes after an exposé by Viewfinder, a new accountability journalism project, detailed how since at least 2012, the police watchdog manipulated statistics.

Viewfinder's investigation found that on the days before the end of the financial year, many more cases would be closed than on other days.

Internal documents, seen by News24, reveal that IPID investigators complained that they were forced to complete or close cases without concluding a proper investigation.

These included reports from Amar Maharaj, IPID's former ethics and risk manager, after visits to IPID's provincial offices in KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and Gauteng in 2014, in which investigators explained how they were forced to close or complete cases before a proper investigation was completed.

There is also a memorandum on the fraudulent closure of 152 cases between April and July 2016 in Gauteng, in which it is alleged that the usernames and passwords of deceased IPID officials or those who were no longer employed there were used to close cases on IPID's system.

There is also a whistleblower's report from KwaZulu-Natal, dated September 2016, about more than 900 cases that were closed without proper investigation. 

In a statement responding to the Viewfinder article, IPID acting spokesperson Sontaga Seisa dealt with the memorandum on the Gauteng cases.

"In 2016, the former IPID employee, an ethics officer allegedly received a whistleblower report in respect of the 'special closure' of investigations at the Gauteng provincial office. He then indicated that the whistleblower alleged that the following cases were being fraudulently closed as 'special closures' at the Gauteng provincial office: assault, corruption, discharge of a firearm, death as a result of police action, death in police custody, and rape," reads the statement.

"It was alleged that the cases were closed without due process being followed in respect of conducting the required investigations. He forwarded a report to the office of the then executive director requesting that an investigation be launched into the fraudulent closure of cases at the Gauteng provincial office during the period April 2016 to July 2016 as 'special closures'.

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"Upon receiving the report, our Integrity Strengthening Unit was then tasked with conducting an investigation."

The investigation had to look into the high number of cases closed under special closures during the period April 2016 to July 2016 at the Gauteng provincial and satellite offices respectively.

It also had to identify any loopholes which might exist in the procedure applied, in deciding which cases should be closed using the 'special closure' route at the IPID and which person should be held accountable for any transgressions.

"Upon investigating the cases closed [in] Gauteng province during the period April to September 2016, it was found that cases closed as 'special closure' were done as per instruction received from then acting provincial head," reads Seisa's statement.

"When our Integrity Strengthening Unit investigators approached the then acting provincial head of Gauteng's office, he refused to co-operate with investigators and did not provide his reasons for ordering these special closures. The then acting provincial head has since resigned from the IPID."

Based on the Gauteng investigation, IPID extended the investigation to cover all provinces to "determine the extent of the problem".

"The final report is expected to be provided within the next few weeks. The acting executive director (Victor Senna) has directed that this process be expedited," reads the statement.

Furthermore, IPID's standard operating procedures has been updated to close any loopholes. Its integrity unit does regular docket inspections and an internal audit unit regularly conducts an audit to test the integrity of reported information.

"All responsible officials will be held accountable where it is established that any wrongdoing was done," reads the statement.

IPID is expected to brief the Portfolio Committee on Police on their annual report for the 2018-'19 financial year on Thursday.