Public Protector welcomes Mpumalanga’s tighter accountability mechanisms
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Deputy Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka have welcomed Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s announcement that provincial administration officials who commit “material transgressions” and circumvent accountability in relation to investigations will face “concomitant disciplinary action”. They hailed the announcement as a turning point in the fight against maladministration and impunity in the province.
Adv. Mkhwebane and Adv. Gcaleka also embraced Speaker of the Provincial Legislature, Hon. Makhosazane Masilela’s assurance that portfolio committees will in future invite the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) to present investigation reports in which functionaries within provincial organs of state are implicated in wrongdoing as part of accountability measures.
During a stakeholder roadshow meeting in Nelspruit on Monday, Premier Mtsweni-Tsipane also announced that accountability to institutions such as the PPSA is to be included in Accounting Officers’ performance agreements.
In addition, PPSA investigation reports will become a standing agenda item at the Provincial Management Committee’s monthly meetings, where the Director-General and Heads of Department sit. Hon. Masilela, on the other hand, vowed to see to it that provincial government departments include compliance with PPSA remedial action in their performance plans.
“We are encouraged by the big step that both the Mpumalanga executive and legislative arms of government have taken. It has the potential to boost, in a material way, ongoing efforts for good governance and quality service delivery. It will further send a message to officials that cooperation with our investigations and compliance with remedial action are not optional,” Adv. Mkhwebane said, adding that such a step ought to be replicated across the public administration.
Earlier in the meeting Adv. Mkhwebane had drawn the attention of Premier Mtsweni-Tsipane, Hon. Masilela, Members of the Executive Council and senior government officials to up to ten investigation reports whose remedial action had seemingly been ignored. These include those involving irregular appointment of staff, irregular awarding of tenders and failure to allocate RDP houses.
The PPSA is currently carrying out 103 separate investigations into the provincial administration and municipalities. These include undue delays in the processing of applications for RDP houses, Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits, delays in the finalisation of land restitution claims, irregular billing for municipal services and the incorrect or inaccurate capturing of service records of civil servants, which affect the payment of pension benefits.
Adv. Gcaleka decried government’s apparent fragmented approach to governance, which sees the provincial administration, local government and traditional authorities seemingly working in silos.
She emphasised the interconnectedness of these spheres of government, urging them to embrace the concept of cooperative governance. This, she explained, would eliminate the shifting of responsibility to the detriment of communities, where service delivery is concerned.
Adv. Mkhwebane and Adv. Gcaleka, who also met with the provincial House of Traditional Leaders and took them through an investigation report on strengthening relations between traditional authorities and the local sphere of government, later conducted an inspection in loco in Kabokweni outside Nelspruit. Locals complained about poor road infrastructure, water and sanitation. The PPSA provincial office is taking up the issue with the Ehlanzeni District and the Mbombela Local Municipalities.
During the roadshow, the PPSA engages parties interested in the office’s work in fulfilment of the office’s constitutional mandate to investigate, report on and remedy any alleged or suspected improper conduct in all state affairs and to be accessible to all persons and communities. The roadshow has now been to eight of the country’s nine provinces. It will culminate in the Eastern Cape on Friday.