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Maintenance turn-around project continues to bear positive results

The number of complains received from maintenance beneficiaries in the year 2011 was signicantly reduced after the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development embarked on a pilot project to improve the maintenance system in the country. The pilot project aims to identify challenges experienced in the court’s maintenance cash halls and generate mechanisms to rectify these problems.

In June 2011, the first pilot site was identified in the Moretele Magistrate’s Court, north of Pretoria, where most of these challenges were reported. The Moretele Magistrate’s Court, which serves parts of the North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga regions, handles a total of 19 714 maintenance files and currently 9 093 maintenance beneficiaries have been created on the new system.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Director for the Leadership, Management and Administrative Training Charles Mooke said they have been visiting the Moretele Court for two days each month to conduct follow-up visits which will continue until the end of December 2012.

The purpose of this exercise is to check whether the staff at the court is still applying the Lean Methodologies, introduced by the Lean Institute Expert Anton Grutter. Lean Methodologies include taking measurements on maintenance trends daily and displaying data graphs, checking on whether standard work is done and weekly meetings are conducted as well as ensuring that further training and support is given to staff. “I believe that this project has turned things around in the Moretele Magistrate’s Court. There have been no complaints received since the project started,” said Mr Mooke.

He added that this project also changed the staff attitude as it boosted their morale, looking at the way in which they have embraced the changes. “This really shows that they are happy with the project.” said Mr Mooke.

In ensuring that the project reaches a milestone this year, Mr Mooke said the department’s plan was to extend this initiative and the implementation of this project already commenced in the Johannesburg Family Court in March this year. He further said that the department has already trained 20 delegates from Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga and the training is currently rolled out in other provinces as well.

Russel Mudzunga, a maintenance officer at the Moretele Magistrate’s Court said the project helped the maintenance staff to identify a number of challenges and provided specific processes to follow. “We had a serious shortage of maintenance and investigation officers but since the project started, the maintenance office has improved dramatically,” he said. The office has now been equipped with two staff members who are legally qualified to assist. “The pilot helps in terms of recording and updating monthly reports, it is also simple to see how many orders are obtained, cases opened and applications via the system,” added Mr Mudzunga.

Legal researcher for the project, Advocate Mmaleya Ramabulana said the project was initially delayed as a result of the shortage of staff and resources but since then, the project has introduced a national signage for maintenance in courts so as to improve access to these services.

Between September and November 2011, the department conducted a baseline research in all the nine pilot courts to collect the ‘as is’ data before the adoption of Lean Methodologies. This data will act as a baseline to evaluate the success of the project.

Asked about the improvements of the project, Ms Ramabulana said additional appointments of 38 maintenance investigators, 10 maintenance complaint managers, 30 maintenance officers and 18 data capturers have been approved. Other resources in the form of office partitioning, installation of network points, and the procurement of steel cabinets for improved filing system, computers, printers and office furniture have been done in all pilot courts. The newly appointed 18 data capturers have already been deployed to the nine pilot courts countrywide. These officials are responsible for assisting in the capturing and verification of data and to reduce backlogs in the pilot sites. They also assist with data capturing in the implementation of the recently developed Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) and will also introduce the cellphone SMS updates to maintenance clients to improve information management and related services.

Amongst other things to be achieved in the 2012/13 financial year is the development of monitoring tools to measure progress on implementation of the project as well as conduct project evaluation for the nine pilot courts. The team will strive to roll out mediation services in maintenance courts and facilitate the appointment of more maintenance and maintenance investigating officers.

By Glory Msungwa
Justice Today 2012, Issue 1, p 12