Master’s Office not operational
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) had a security breach on the evening of 6 September 2021. This incident resulted in all information systems being unavailable to both internal employees as well as members of the public. The systems that were affected include:
- Bail services;
- Payment of child maintenance;
- Court proceedings;
- DOJ&CD Website; and
- Master’s Office.
The Master’s office challenges have impacted the following services:
- The issuing of letters of appointment in insolvent estates;
- Scheduling of first meeting of creditors;
- Examining and issuing of query sheets of Liquidation & Distribution accounts;
- Confirmation of Liquidation and Distribution Accounts;
- Curatorships; and
- Guardian’s Fund payments.
The Master’s Office has in the interim used a manual process to provide bereaved families, in exceptional cases, with access to funds in deceased’s banking accounts, however, no manual letters of executorships or authority are being issued.
SAICA along with other affected institutions made recommendations to the Master’s Office on possible interim solutions through manual interventions which were declined.
The Master’s Office proposed the following way forward:
- Deceased estates – no manual appointments to be made and the Master’s office will assist in exceptional cases with access to funds for burial costs. Interim curators will only be appointed in exceptional and justifiable cases
- Trusts – no manual appointments allowed
- Curatorship – manual appointments may be done under strict monitoring
- Insolvency – no manual appointments allowed
- 4 October 2021 – Notification by the Director-General regarding potential compromises of personal information of a data subject, in accordance with the Protection of Personal Information Act, 4 of 2013
- 21 September 2021 – Update on the progress in restoring Justice services following ransomware attack
- 17 September 2021 – Update on progress in restoring Justice services following ransomware attack
- 9 September 2021 – The Department of Justice’s IT system attacked by Ransomware
- 7 September 2021 – IT System challenges affecting Department of Justice and Constitutional Development offices and courts countrywide
The fact that very limited manual services are currently being delivered by the Master’s Office has brought all services linked to deceased estates, trusts, and insolvencies provided by accountants and legal practitioners to a standstill. The Master’s Office was already 6 to 12 months behind in processing due to the various COVID-19 protocols and the current situation is exacerbating the backlog. Members and associates also need to take note that the Master’s Office’s emails are not working and at present no processing is being done. This has a knock-on effect on services provided by SARS and the finalisation of deceased estates by SARS.
The department has indicated that their IT division is working to restore the services as soon as possible and that it is currently busy restoring data and systems. The department has further taken measures to avoid any impact on court operations around the country by activating a business continuity plan and implementing contingency measures.
SAICA and various interested parties met with the Deputy Minister, Mr John Jeffery on 6 October 2021 to highlight the crippling effect that the provision of limited services by the Master’s Office has on the economy and specifically grieving families where estates cannot be finalised and trusts that cannot function where trustee changes are not processed.
The Deputy Minister has committed to engage with the various internal stakeholders and to provide feedback on a possible way forward in the week of 11 October 2021. We commit to keeping members informed of further developments.
Project Director: Governance and Non-IFRS Reporting
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