Underfunding hampers Public Protector accessibility
With an annual budget of only R140 million it is going to be difficult for the Public Protector to bring services closer to all communities as required by the constitution, Adv Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday.
She was speaking during a dialogue with interest groups including provincial and local government authorities, civil society and traditional leaders in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal as part of her nationwide stakeholder consultative process.
Concerns around the physical accessibility of her services to ordinary members of the public, particularly those in remote areas, were among the prominent issues raised during the meeting.
Some delegates complained that in their rural and far-flung localities communities were in the dark about the existence of the Public Protector and the services the institution rendered.
In response to the complaints, the Public Protector highlighted her concern regarding inadequate funds her office had at its disposal to carry out the enormous task of being accessible to all communities.
She said the 900 complaints received by her office in the province, which boasts 10 million people, were not indicative of the vastness of the region in terms of population figures and the surface area.
While still waiting for government to address the issue of funding, her office would work jointly with state organs that had pledged to avail their resources to increase the visibility and accessibility of her services, the Public Protector said.
“We will explore the possibility of working with organs of state and we will also take into account the fact that we should be seen to be operating independently from such institutions,” she said.
Other issues included complaints about social housing and the accountability of companies that show poor workmanship but continue to get more contracts from the government.
The consultative process is aimed at soliciting feedback regarding the work of the Public Protector and fostering common understanding of the institution’s mandate and role. It also focuses on the importance of implementing the Public Protector’s remedial action.
This is for purposes of ensuring administrative justice by organs of state in respect of service failure and ensuring accountability in the exercise of state power and control over public resources.