Public Protector pleads with Parliament to intervene in resourcing her office
Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela on Friday appealed to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to help her office get more financial resources and to collaborate with her in balancing the three constitutional values of access, promptitude and thoroughness.
During the presentation of her office’s Strategic Plan and Budget to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Madonsela said her office has a duty imposed by section 182(4) of the Constitution to be accessible to all persons and communities. She also said the Public Protector has an equal duty to balance the finalisation of investigations swiftly while using resources economically with a view to ensuring that investigations are effective or thorough.
She advised Parliament that while seeking to comply with the constitutional duty to be accessible, the strategy strategic plan is mindful of the existence of other internal and statutory oversight bodies to which her office always refers appropriate cases. She was also mindful of the fact that many of these institutions do not have equal powers and remedies as the Public Protector.
“For example, the SIU does not have the power to take appropriate remedial action. It has to investigate only that which has been authorised by the President and report to him. It does not have civil remedies. In a similar vein, the Hawks do not have civil remedies to allow them to ensure reversal of irregular transactions such as tenders or to quickly claw back monies paid irregularly while a criminal process is on-going,” she said.
The Public Protector further advised the committee that the plan she was asking Parliament to fund includes strategies aimed at strengthening synergies with fellow constitutional bodies such as the Human Rights Commission through mutual referrals. The space occupied by the courts and tribunals is also recognised whilst ensuring complementarity.
She further stated that the plan had been slightly adjusted to better position her to help Parliament, the Executive and other organs of state in the pursuit of redefined government priorities. In this regard she singled out the chapter 14 of the National Development Plan (NDP) which deals with forming a united front against corruption and to strengthen good governance. She also mentioned the State of the Nation Address which gives priority to combatting corruption and dealing with local government hotspots, among others.
The Public Protector indicated that the impact of the work of her office with limited resources has been felt in highlighting and pushing back the frontiers of corruption and malfeasance. Through partnerships with government and other institutions, the Public Protector has also brought hope in investigating Gogo Dlamini (ordinary people) cases and ensuring they get redress, while making an impact through systemic investigations and interventions.
Having advised the committee that the total case load handled in 2013/14 was 35 029 (unaudited figures), the Public Protector drew the committee’s attention to the following complaint trends that the strategic plan seeks to respond to:
- Systemic services failure
- False billing
- Scope creep in state contracts or tenders and
- Unnecessary services, for example, legal services
- Intake and referrals
- Majority of bread and butter issues
- Infrastructure: Water, electricity, roads, classrooms, hospitals and clinics
- Systemic governance failure often leading to community protest
She advised Parliament that the key result areas of the budget she was asking for will include finalisation of systemic investigations, in areas such as RDP Housing, Health, Worker’s Compensation, Administration of Estates by the Master’s Office, Maintenance, Home Affairs and a number of “hotspot” municipalities. The strategic plan also mentions the finalisation of systemic investigations relating to the management of finances of communities with natural resources starting with the Development (“D”) Account of the North West Province, and alleged m maladministration and corruption in land redistribution activities.
She highlighted the fact that the money was primarily needed for investigation capacity, stating that currently an investigator has to complete at least one case a day for the workload to be handled. She pointed out that this is impossible in respect of most investigations particularly in the context of the need to balance promptness with rigour.
The Public Protector ended her presentation with the following words:
“Let it never be said that indifference, self-interest and expedience prevented us from building a formidable partnership against maladministration, in all its forms from indifference to corruption. The pursuit of the constitutional promise of an improved quality of life for all demands that we work as partners in ending maladministration by the helping people exact accountability in the exercise of state power and control over public resources.”
For more information contact:
Spokesperson for the Public Protector
Tel: 012 366 7006
Cell: 079 507 0399
Public Protector South Africa