ATMs for maintenance payments

5 August 2003

A revolutionary financial system set to be introduced by the department of justice will allow divorced women to draw their maintenance money from automatic teller machines (ATMs) installed at magistrates courts throughout South Africa.

To make it easier for people with minimal literacy, the ATMs will be equipped with a biometric device that will read the recipient’s fingerprint, making it unnecessary to key in a pin number.

Another huge advantage of the new system is that it will allow for traffic fines to be paid at any bank rather than at the magistrate’s court in the district where the offence was committed.

Alan Mackenzie, chief financial officer of the department of justice, said negotiations were well advanced with banks and other institutions that would be involved in the system.

“What it means in essence is that we [at the justice department] will hand over our entire cash management system to banks who have the manpower, financial system and expertise to handle it”, Mackenzie said.

Eliminating corruption
“Apart from the fact that it will expedite maintenance payment to people who are in desperate need, it will also eliminate corruption and mismanagement of money, a problem currently plaguing the department.”

Mackenzie, who has been seconded to the justice department from Business Against Crime (BAC), said the management of money held in trust relating to bail, fines imposed by magistrates, traffic fines paid by motorists, and maintenance money, would all be administered by banks once the system was implemented.

“We have received the go-ahead from government. What needs to happen now is to get the banks on board to provide the services required by the system.”

One of the issues currently being negotiated is for commercial banks to allow savings account users the use of services such as debit orders without incurring bank charges.

Once the system is implemented, it will make a significant contribution to poverty alleviation in rural areas.

“At present, a divorced woman in a deep rural area has to travel to the nearest court to request payment of maintenance due to her”, Mackenzie said. “Depending on how far away she is from the court, she could incur significant charges for a taxi. It is often necessary for a second visit to collect the cheque.”

Mackenzie said the new financial plan has the full support of Justice Minister Penuell Maduna. “He is absolutely determined to root out corruption and mismanagement. He believes very strongly that by eliminating cash handling from courts, this will go a long way to achieving the goal of cleaning up the department.

“In addition, he is of the view that it will make the department more efficient in investigating cases of errant husbands falling behind in payments and in administering the whole system.”

He said an additional R20-billion had been made available by the department to get maintenance investigators in place to improve the payment of maintenance.

Source: Business Against Crime