Public Protector addresses internal audit conference on “Gaining and Maintaining Stakeholder Confidence”
Internal auditing is a function often underappreciated and undervalued by organisations, particularly those within the state, Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.
She told delegates at the 15th Annual National Internal Audit Conference in Sandton, Johannesburg that she held the view that the auditing process was the backbone of good governance.
“If internal audit functions optimally, it should be possible to pick up and arrest many of the risks that lead to problems uncovered by the Auditor General’s report,” the Public Protector said, referring to the Auditor General’s National wide Local Government Audit.
“The same applies to other anomalies my office and other enforcement mechanisms pick up when we step in at a point when there already is an allegation of governance failure.”
Properly appreciated, she said, auditors play a critical role in prevention and early detection of maladministration and other administrative maladies, including fraud and corruption.
Turning to the key thrust of her speech, centring on “Gaining and Maintaining Stakeholder Confidence”, the Public Protector used, as an example, the controversial meeting she addressed in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape last week. The meeting was organised by the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network.
She said the lessons learnt following her decision to attend and address that meeting included that stakeholder confidence must be gained and maintained on an ongoing basis. The Public Protector also emphasised the importance of credibility, independence, impartiality, consistency, transparency, consequences, impact, regular dialogue, empathy and confidentiality.
She explained that her decision to attend and address the event in question was based on her constitutional mandate to be accessible to all persons and communities. She also took into account the fact that although organised by a woman’s wing of a political party, the meetings itself was not a political event but a workshop on women’s constitutional rights and mechanisms such as the Public Protector that are available for women to exact accountability for state delivery on their rights.
The Public Protector reiterated her point that the meeting was also part of her current National Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue and an opportunity to reach out to some 700 ordinary women, mostly drawn from poverty stricken parts of Port Elizabeth and neighbouring areas.
Explaining the nature of the Consultative Dialogue, the Public Protector said the process transcended just public meetings with organised stakeholders, members of the public and inspections in loco. It included prearranged private meetings with interest groups such as the Provincial Legislature and Executive and political parties. Invitations to address interest groups were also factored in on the basis that they were in line with the objectives of the Dialogue and her office’s accessibility strategy.
Her speech on the day, she said, was focussed on the constitutional promise and mechanisms in place for women to enforce rights promised in the constitution and the role of her office as one of such mechanisms. This allowed her to explain her office’s mandate, modus operandi, including the RDP hosing systemic investigation and its impact on poverty and gender violence.
At the end of the event, women were presented with an opportunity to ask questions and lodge complaints as is normal practice. Most of the complaints related to RDP housing and the delivery of public services relating to violence against women.
“We meant to convey a message that we do not care who you are affiliated to, you will get our service because you are citizens and residents of South Africa,” she said.
The Public Protector further asked for the nation’s views on her decision to address the event. “I am interested in your views. In future when women, workers, people with disabilities or any special interest group affiliated to or associated with political party invite me, must I decline?” she asked.
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