The Department of Justice and Correctional Services plans to introduce an updated system that will track and trace South Africans who have defaulted on maintenance payments.
Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, Justice and Correctional Services minister Ronald Lamola said the department recently conducted an investigation into the trend of the maintenance defaulters.
“The investigation found that most defaulters do not want to be found so as to avoid the maintenance inquiry processes and further that when they are found they conceal their means or distort the extent thereof so as to appear indigent and become exonerated from the liability to pay maintenance,” he said.
“The investigation further revealed that there are two forms of economies in South Africa – being formal and informal economies – and as such, most defaulters who claimed not to have means to pay for maintenance are within the informal economy.”
Lamola said that business concerns are not registered for tax and the defaulters do not have bank accounts in their own names, which makes it difficult for maintenance courts to process maintenance cases.
In light of this, a maintenance defaulters track and trace system was introduced. Initially, it was introduced through a service provider who provided information of the defaulters such as full names, contact details, property ownership and business ownership, he said.
However, the department is now developing a framework through which the concealment of income and assets gained in the informal economy can be traced for the courts to be able to grant maintenance orders in such cases, Lamola said.
While plans to update the system is ongoing, Lamola noted that there are a number of challenges and obstacles in implementing this system.
“The department had advertised a tender for a service provider to provide Online/Electronic Tracing Services. The department received the bids from prospective service providers and the said bids were found to be way above the funds available on the budget for this purpose.
“This resulted in the tender process being suspended to enable the department to approach National Treasury for additional funding of the project,” he said.
Lamola said that there are also Covid-19 related challenges that resulted in the planned training being cancelled owing to officials going on sick leave, quarantine and self-isolation.
The inter-provincial travel ban was also implemented in Gauteng and as such trainers who are based in Gauteng could not travel out of Gauteng to other provinces.
He added that there was a lack of civil enforcement capacity and forensic investigation skills and capability.
There is also a lack of tools such as laptops, cellphones and motor vehicles which are necessary for maintenance Investigators to conduct a physical investigation of cases, he said.