Public Protector asks government to act more than talk
It will take more than just mere commitments about taking her office seriously for the government to make a real difference in fighting corruption and improving service delivery, Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.
Addressing stakeholders including provincial government leaders, local government authorities and civil society during a consultative meeting in Cape Town, the Public Protector noted that government had on many occasions acknowledged its responsibility to take institutions supporting democracy seriously.
“However, mere pronouncements are an inadequate indicator of taking the Public Protector and other institutions supporting democracy seriously. What makes a real difference is what organs of state do after we have pronounced in favour of complainants,” she said.
In cases of service failure, disputes could not be considered resolved if the kind of conclusion involved does not bring complainants as close as possible to where they would have been had organs of state concerned acted right the first time, the Public Protector said.
She explained that the level of cooperation received from organs of state made it possible to swiftly put the people that are wronged in the exercise of public power out of their misery.
Also speaking at the same event, Premier of Western Cape, Hellen Zille, said the extent to which the country succeeds in consolidating and building its democracy would depend on the extent to which independent institutions of state fulfill their mandate in ensuring a clean, open and accountable government.
One of the issues that were raised during the meeting was the Public Protector’s potential role in investigating and taking remedial action in respect of ill-considered projects that lock the state into long term expensive commitments of up to 200 years. A project that was mentioned and referred to as a “white elephant” is Cape Town’s Green Point stadium, which was revamped for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Another issue that emerged during proceedings and which has been a common thread within all of the Public Protector’s engagements with stakeholders to date is the issue of accessibility of the office to communities and questions around the understanding of the mandate. Responsiveness to children and other marginalized groups in society including non-nationals was also highlighted.
The Public Protector undertook to explore leveraging stakeholder relations and improve the community outreach programme while taking cognizance of the limited resources that her office is operating within.
She is in the province until Tuesday as part of the nationwide stakeholder consultative forums launched early last month under the theme “The Public Protector Dialogues with the Nation.”
The forums are aimed at soliciting feedback regarding the work of the Public Protector and foster a common understanding of the institution’s mandate and role. They focus on the importance of implementing the Public Protector’s remedial action.
This is for purposes of ensuring administrative justice by organs of state in respect of service failure and ensuring accountability in the exercise of state power and control over public resources.
On Tuesday, the Public Protector will interface with ordinary members of the public at OR Tambo Hall in Tambo village during an outreach clinic, where she will be accompanied by a team of investigators who will register service delivery complaints at the venue.