Public Protector gets thumbs up from Canadian counterpart
Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday got thumbs up from her experienced counterpart from Ontario in Canada, Andre Marin, for the work that her office continues to do.
Marin, whose investigations in Ontario have resulted in major government overhauls that turned the lives of citizens around for the better, was taking part in a roundtable discussion with the Public Protector on his office’s approach to investigations.
He has been in the country since Monday to provide a free three-day training course called “Sharpening Your Teeth: Advanced Training for Administrative Watchdogs” to 85 Public Protector investigators.
The course, which enjoys the backing of the International Ombudsman Institute, has over the years been attended by hundreds of administrative investigators and ombudsmen from all over the world including those from Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Speaking during the roundtable discussion, Marin affirmed the Public Protector’s position that relations between governments and offices of Ombudsmen need not be adversarial as the two parties work towards a common goal of ensuring good governance, among other things.
“As Ombudsmen, we are the oil in the machinery. We are not there to reinvent the machine but to ensure that the machine runs smoothly,” he said.
In contrast to the Public Protector, Marin has enjoyed a 100 percent implementation of his remedies by the government of Ontario during his six-year reign as the Ombudsman.
Noting that this was not the case in South Africa, he said it often took time for the role of the office to be understood by organs of state. “We enjoy this success because we have been in existence since 1975 and it takes time to overcome the growing pains with government,” Marin said.
Even though his office also favours the parties involved with copies of draft investigations reports for comments, there has never been leaks of such documents to the media. Marin attributed this to the tough control measures put in place, which include the use of non-electronic copies and non-photocopiable paper.
Regarding the training course, Marin said it came about in 2005 as a result of an “emergence and proliferation of organisational Ombudsmen that diluted the brand [of the classical Ombudsman institution].”
In her response, the Public Protector reiterated the point that although the course focused on systemic investigations, its lessons were relevant to all investigations and would bring her office closer to achieving its goal of balancing thoroughness with speed to resolve complaints.
She added that her office would learn from the Canadian model of keeping draft investigation reports confidential.
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