Public Protector tables her office’s strategic plan
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Thursday presented her office’s three-year strategic plan to Parliament, reporting an upsurge in her workload and the cases the institution managed to finalize in the 2012/13 financial year.
Though the latest figures were unaudited, the Public Protector said they showed that the case load, which encompasses cases received and those brought forward from the previous year, had been on a steady rise over the last three years. Having risen from 19 603 in 2010/10 to 27 376 in 2011/12, the number of investigated matters rose to 33 533 in 2012/13.
New complaints received in 2012/13 rose to 23 350, up from 20 626 and 16 252 in the 2011/12 and 2010/11 financial years respectively. More than 20 000 cases were finalized in 2012/13 compared to 16 763 and 14 148 in 2011/12 and 2010/11 respectively.
The Public Protector told members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development that her office had observed an increase in complaints relating to service delivery, corruption, protected disclosures and those relating to the ethical behavior of members of the executive.
With regard to accessibility, the figures showed that the Public Protector reached more than 48 million people through media and outreach activities in the year under review. The Public Protector also reported an improvement in the thoroughness of investigations.
The biggest challenges facing the office, however, were minimal resources and government’s increasing use of lawyers to respond to queries from her office, something that the Public Protector said led to unnecessary delays in the resolution of complaints.
To address the challenges, the Public Protector told the committee that her office planned to meet with state lawyers to dialogue about the issue, with a view to finding solutions that would include a proper understanding of her constitutional mandate and her jurisdiction.
Her office would also conduct an internal assessment process to check the level of compliance with its own customer service charter and train its workforce in a bid to enhance efficiency, she said. Another engagement with agencies within the integrity sector aimed at avoiding duplication of work was also on the cards.
On the issue of resources, the Public Protector told committee members that over and above the R199 million budget allocated to her office this year, she would require a further R77 million to finance unfunded posts in the office’s approved organizational structure.
The structure has 556 posts, of which only 317 are funded. Of the 239 unfunded positions, 174 are of investigators. The figures exclude the 100 trainee investigators that were recruited at the beginning of this year in a dib to bolster the office’s investigative capacity.
The Public Protector explained that her staff was struggling to deal with the growing workload, adding that this had a bearing on meeting the office’s constitutional mandate. She, however, thanked Parliament for its continued support, which resulted in her budget increasing by nearly R60 million in the last three years to the current R199 million.
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