Public Protector and Premier Mkhize sign landmark agreement
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela and KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Zweli Mkhize, on Wednesday signed a ground-breaking response protocol that is set to expedite investigation processes in cases involving high-ranking officials and office bearers in the provincial government.
The agreement, which was signed during a meeting of the provincial cabinet, sets out clear procedures and timelines on how investigations against Heads of Department (HODs) and Members of the Executive Council (MECs) will be handled.
The main aim of the agreement is to curb the stumbling blocks that are generally associated with delays in the finalization of investigations.
It terms of the protocol, all complaints against HODs and MECs will be directed to the Director-General (DG) in the Office of the Premier. The DG will have to acknowledge receipt of the complaints within five working days.
The DG would also have to have the matter looked into and supply the Public Protector or her duly delegated representative with a written response on the outcome of the internal inquiry within three weeks.
Should the Public Protector find the response inadequate, the DG will be given an additional two weeks to submit a clearer response. The agreement further states that, unless circumstances do not permit, the maximum period within which a matter needs to be concluded will be two months.
Commenting on the landmark agreement, the Public Protector said it would go a long way in not only regularizing the nature of interactions between her office and the provincial government but also assist in expediting investigations.
“We have the power to subpoena people and use search and seizures in order to enforce cooperation with investigations,” said the Public Protector. “However, we prefer using soft power and this protocol will help us a great deal in this regard.”
She added that the protocol would help reduce trust deficit in not only the processes of her office but also in government.
Premier Mkhize agreed, emphasizing that it was important for government and Chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector to work well together in order to better the lives of the people.
He located the basis of the agreement on Section 181(3), which enjoins organs of state to support Chapter 9 institutions to help such bodies maintain their independence and efficiency. “This agreement will be important in terms of expediting cooperation and timeframes,” Premier Mkhize said.
The Public Protector also used the opportunity to report back to the Cabinet all the issues observed and raised during her surprise visit to Edendale Hospital and meeting with the community of Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
These included problems with Emergency Medical Services in the Mgungundlovu area, long queues in healthcare clinics and hospitals, understaffing in such facilities, medical equipment that needed to be replaced, the plight of community health care givers, poverty-related issues such as the plight of street vendors and outstanding RDP housing issues such as the Mbali housing problem.
In his response, Premier Mkhize indicated that the provincial government was aware of the problems and was already attending to some of them. The Premier added that most of the problems would be responded to through the provincial government’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe.
He undertook to dispatch a team of senior officials to accompany the Public Protector on her looming visits to Ulundi and Richards Bay, with a view to help pick up and respond to community service delivery complaints.
The meeting was part of the Public Protector’s National Stakeholder Dialogue. The dialogue, which is coupled with public hearings, focuses on strengthening government's ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, with a particular emphasis on improving healthcare services and eradicating poverty.
The Dialogue proceeds to CBD Multi-Purpose Hall, Ulundi (10H00) and Sikhawini, Hlanganani Hall Richards Bay (10H00) on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
For more information, contact:
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7006
079 507 0399
0800 11 20 40