Public Protector presents 2012/13 Annual Report to Parliament
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday renewed her requests for more funding, telling Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development that the resources allocated to her office remained disproportionate to the mandate and strategic objectives of her office.
Presenting her office's 2012/13 Annual Report, the Public Protector requested additional funding to the tune of R35.3 million, a bulk of which would be used to fund newly-created posts. The remainder would be utilised for upgrading the remuneration of current personnel and the implementation of Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) for legally-qualified staff.
She told the Committee that these were key priorities that required immediate attention as the status quo impacted negatively on the office's ability to adequately execute its constitutional mandate. The constraints, the Public Protector explained, affected mainly the office's investigative capacity, OSD implementation and the expansion of the office's footprint.
Reporting on achievements for 2012/13, the Public Protector said her office had handled 37 770 cases, which were an increase from the previous year's 27 376. Of these, 22 400 were finalised, with just under half of the cases upheld, while 13 995 were carried over to the current financial year.
About 2 085 of the cases were referred to other competent bodies. Of the total cases handled, 25 860 were received or initiated during the reporting period while the rest had been carried over from the previous year. The office achieved 75% of its performance targets.
Turning to her score business, the Public Protector urged Parliament to note maladministration trends that formed recurring themes in her investigations and findings. These included indifference, systemic service failure, non-compliance, corruption, overbilling, overcharging, false billing and scope creep in state contracts or tenders.
Reflecting on lessons learned over her last four years in office, the Public Protector, whose term of office coincidentally commenced on 15 October 2009, said there had been a significant increase in the number and complexity of complaints. There had also been a spike in the reach of her office's services in line with the constitutional injunction on the office to be accessible to all persons and communities.
"There were increased productivity levels amid continuing challenges regarding balancing swiftness and accuracy despite an increase in staff and ongoing improvements in skills and work methods," the Public Protector explained.
She noted that there were systemic administrative deficiencies, mostly relating to lapses in compliance. Indifference and systemic failures in services such as the RDP housing programme, administration of estates and municipal services were rife.
There were, however, improvements in some service areas such as SASSA and ID matters, even though the issues surrounding the problem of duplicate IDs still persisted, posing a poverty threat to victims.
"There are growing reports of corruption and tender-rigging, " the Public Protector said. "Without ending impunity, no difference can be made."
She highlighted the need to assist local government with policy development and training; the need for tightening the ethics regulatory framework and training; and the need for consistency in the application of disciplinary action.
On the Auditor General's finding of "irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure" relating to the R13 million that had been spent on the office's Case Management System since 2008, the Public Protector indicated that she had inherited the problem as it predated her appointment in 2009. She said the office had decided to do away with the system as it had never worked. Processes to put out a tender for a new system were underway.
She told the Committee that processes were also underway to ensure that original tax clearance certificates were obtained for goods and services with a transactional value of above R30 000. This followed a finding that service providers had only been asked to provide copies of the certificates.
The Public Protector further indicated to the Committee plans to acquire an integrated financial management system to address, among other things, the challenges that led to some service providers not being paid within 30 days of receipt of invoices as required by the Public Finance Management Act.
When the discussion turned to her mandate as Public Protector, she maintained that she remained true to the Constitution, submitting that she had not expanded the scope beyond her predecessors. She presented evidence of investigations and reports by her predecessors relating to court delays, maladministration allegations against Parliament and conduct by fellow Chapter 9 institutions.
The Public Protector invited Parliament, the rest the state and the public to join hands and form a united front against corruption and impunity.