Public Protector dialogues with Opposition Parties
Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela wrapped up the 2012 Annual Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue with a meeting attended by leaders and representatives of the opposition parties at Public Protector House of Friday 07 August 2012.
During the meeting, the Public Protector gave a comprehensive preliminary feedback on the issues raised by the people and emerging themes on the service delivery matters that were the focus of the Stakeholder Dialogue and public hearings.
The Public Protector Stakeholder Dialogue and public hearings were held under the theme: “Joining hands to end maladministration and ensure responsive service delivery: Focus on RDP houses and regulatory gaps in the illegal conversion of panel vans into taxis.”
The process sought public inputs on a systemic investigation into RDP housing and another on alleged regulatory failures regarding the illegal conversion of panel vans into taxis. Members of the public were also asked to make representations on other service delivery matters that affected groups or communities.
On the RDP housing, the Public Protector summarised complaints into five categories, namely, Planning, Procurement of houses, Allocation of houses, Post Allocation Concerns and General Observations. Compliance with the Development Facilitation Act, which includes approved bulk infrastructure plans before construction, emerged as one of the key concerns. As a result, many settlements were built without basic facilities such as water, sanitation, electricity and roads.
“In one province we found settlements without water, sanitation and electricity for up to 8 years. Not very far away, there was a settlement with only toilets that had running water but no houses or occupants,” she said.
The public Protector singled out the implementation of the People’s Housing Programme as having given rise to a lot of complaints regarding planning, procurement and allocation of human settlements. Many complaints related to allegations of houses being smaller than approved plans and structurally defective houses that need to be demolished.
“A lot of procurement complaints point to endemic irregular and even corrupt procurement practices and fraud, including false billing in relation to quality assurance and invoicing,” she said.
The long wait for RDP houses, particularly by older persons, child-headed households and the so called back room dwellers, was highlighted as a major concern regarding allocation. The Public Protector also mentioned allegations of double and multiple allocations of houses, corrupt allocation and illegal sale of RDP houses, allegedly by councillors and public servants. The issue of disability friendly RDP houses and standardisation of the basic specifications for an RDP house given the fact that the subsidy amount is uniform were also highlighted.
Post-allocation problems primarily related to failure to provide title deeds and illegal sale of RDP houses, mainly by the beneficiaries themselves. On the issue of general observations, the Public Protector highlighted several policy choices that need to be reviewed. Key among these was the question of the provision of adequate housing as envisaged in section 26 of the Constitution to persons from rural areas that already have homes in those rural areas but have temporarily migrated to urban areas for work.
The Public Protector indicated that feedback received on the illegal conversion of panel vans seemed to point fingers at government, car dealers and banks. She further announced that she was planning to meet SANTACO on this and other taxi industry concerns that SANTACO had raised.
She went on to provide an overview of other service delivery concerns that had dominated the public hearings. These included rural development; fisheries; IDP concerns, mainly relating to lack of transparency and deviations; infrastructure such as roads, bridges , schools, storm water drainage, hospitals and police stations, particularly in rural areas and new townships; health services, particularly medical supplies and adequacy of health professionals; police conduct, conduct of traditional leaders, land claims, irregular sale of state land and illegal occupation of private and state land.
The Public Protector’s overview also touched on alleged governance failure in the management of public resources such as community farms and mineral rights. She advised that her office was already investigating some of these allegations.
The Public Protector told the gathering that during the two month stakeholder dialogue she had advised Municipal Leadership, Provincial Legislatures and Provincial Executive Committees to develop action plans to address, immediately, those complaints where they concede there were state wrongs and present these to her office, leaving the her to focus on investigating complex matters. She applauded leaders at various levels of government for embracing the spirit of joining hands and agreeing to develop and implement the agreed action plans. She also commended those that had commenced processes to deal with systemic RDP housing administrative deficiencies and the panel van fiasco.
The RDP challenges are classified according to planning, procurement, allocation and post allocation. Regarding planning, there is violation of the DFA and no proper planning with regards to infrastructure, roads, water and sanitation. Regarding procurement the service providers had failed to procure goods and often got paid for shoddy and incomplete work.
The Public Protector also alluded to the constitutional and legislative mandate of her office. She outlined the approach of her team to the mandate, likening the role of her office to that of the Makhadzi in Venda culture. She said her office’s key purpose is to give people a voice when direct dialogue between them and the state fails while operating as a second eye for those entrusted with public power with a view to mending relations between them and the people.
The Public Protector received constructive feedback on her briefing and also on her office’s services. Speaker after speaker confirmed that the Public Protector’s role is to enhance oversight in pursuit of public accountability as an important pillar of constitutional democracy. The parties particularly applauded the Public Protector for the proactive promotion of good governance, particularly the act of giving organs of state an opportunity to remedy problems without an investigation. The parties committed themselves to joining hands with the Public Protector to end maladministration as it impedes effective service delivery.
The Public Protector committed herself to a three phased reporting process, involving a Voices and Views Report at the end of September; a provisional report before the end of the year; and a final report shortly thereafter.
The Public Protector said: “The Voices and Views Report will be a preliminary report without any findings as we will not have investigated by then. That informal report will simply present what the people said and what we saw during each inspection in loco that we undertook.”
In the coming months the Public Protector will proceed with the systemic investigations on RDP housing and the illegal conversion of panel vans, factoring in the outcomes of the public hearings. Other systemic service failure matters that came up during the public hearing and not resolved through action plans submitted by organs of state will be assessed with a view to possible investigations. The Public Protector will also continue to meet selected groups such as banks and cell phone companies and to conduct outstanding inspections in loco.
Members of the public are encouraged to continue to send information and complaints on RDP Housing, Panel Vans and other service delivery matters to the Public Protector at 0800 11 20 40 or Registration2@pprotect.org
Spokesperson for the Public Protector
Tel: (012) 366 7006
Cell: 079 507 0399
Friday, September 7, 2012