Public Protector calls on public officials to work with democracy supporting institutions to expedite accountability
Leaders in government have powers to limit resort to mass action by working with institutions supporting democracy such as the Public Protector to expedite accountability process and ensure that the outcome are just and swift. These institutions included the Human Rights Commission, the Auditor-General and others.
This was the view of Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela when interfacing with interest groups in Johannesburg on Tuesday during a public hearing on RDP houses and the alleged illegal conversion of panel vans into taxis.
The Public Protector’s call comes in the aftermath of several service delivery related protests in communities around the country. She emphasised a need for constructive engagement with communities to avert unnecessary march protests.
She is currently conducting a systemic investigation on RDP houses and has been met with a host of allegations ranging from corruption in the allocation and procurement of houses. Others included poor workmanship and material used in the construction which results in the houses falling apart.
At the meeting, most of the complaints dealt with people waiting for houses for long periods with many having applied since 1994. Many alleged that they had been allocated houses which were already occupied by others. Some of the houses were said to have been allocated to multiple beneficiaries with each having a fraudulent title deed.
Some complained that in areas such as Katlehong, Thokoza and others, houses were being sold to people of foreign nationality by the councillors. They alleged that councillors owned houses and rented them out to some people who had applied for houses but had not been allocated. One such example was a councillor in Mogale City who allegedly owns five houses and rented them out.
Allegations of corruption in the procurement and allocation of houses also dominated the dialogue. Communities alleged that construction of houses was given to companies close to councillors and some were left unfinished. Other complaints related to houses being left unfinished by contractors. The Public Protector was informed that in Khutsong 16 houses had been left before completion.
The Public Protector also heard complaints related to a waste management project in Hammanskraal which communities alleged it is benefiting local councillors. They said that the company involved in the project, built councillors houses allegedly as a token of appreciation for facilitating the deal.
On the taxi front, a SANTACO representative conceded that the panel vans issue needed to be attended by all parties concerned as it was a problem for taxi owners. They said the problem was a result of poor handling of the taxi recapitalisation process which left taxi owners with enormous financial burden. The taxi industry requested a specific meeting with the Public Protector to address numerous regulatory injustices it faces. The list includes long waits for licences and unreasonable legal requirements.
The Public Protector also received allegations of unfair treatment of refugees which included undue delay in the adjudication of applications and provision of access to basic services such as health and social services.
One complainant asked the Public Protector to assist a group of volunteers who alleged that they were not being treated fairly by the Department of Health while providing valuable services to people affected by HIV/AIDS. The main complaints related to pay and opportunities for permanent employment.
Responding to the complaints and allegations, the Public Protector told the communities that at the end of the process, her office will facilitate an agreed action plan between all relevant role players in the issues raised.
The Public Protector will wrap up her visit in the province by interfacing with communities of Evaton on Tuesday.
Public Protector South Africa
Tel: (012) 366 7006
Cell: 079 507 0399
Monday, August 27, 2012