Report of non-compliant North West departments, municipalities to be tabled in provincial legislature for action
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane welcomes Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature, Hon. Susana Dantjie’s pledge to table in the legislature a report detailing multiple instances where provincial government departments and municipalities seemingly ignored findings of maladministration and related remedial action taken to cure and redress the wrongdoing.
During a meeting with Hon. Dantjie and Premier Bushy Maape at the Provincial Legislature in Mmabatho on Tuesday, Adv. Mkhwebane revealed that the implementation of remedial action in more than a dozen investigation reports remained outstanding and that enquiries to the relevant organs of state went unanswered. Several members of the provincial Executive Council, Heads of Departments, the Chairperson of the Provincial House of Traditional Affairs Kgosi Moshe Mabe and chiefs attended the meeting.
Reacting to this state of affairs, Hon. Dantjie vowed to have the report referred to the chairpersons of relevant portfolio committees. Perpetrator organs of state and functionaries will then be hauled before the respective committees to account for their actions. The Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) will also be invited to take committee members through the findings and remedial action in question. One of the investigation reports concerned details how the Mahikeng Local Municipality in 2011 strung the community of Kaalpan and Nooitgedacht along regarding a R4.8million project to tar a 3.1km dirt road connecting the two rural villages.
More than a decade later, the community is still waiting for the road and, yet, the contractor was paid R4.4 million for the incomplete job three years after moving on site. Officials certified that the job was done to satisfaction and authorised the payment to the contractor. In its current state, the road is inaccessible in rainy seasons, blocking members of the community from making their way to schools and work.
The Public Protector had ordered the Municipal Manager to conduct an analysis of the outstanding work, determine the costs thereof and the timelines within which the project could be completed. The Manager also had to provide the Public Protector with an action plan in respect of the appointment of a new service provider to complete the project, and determine the amount overpaid to the initial contractor with a view to initiating a legal process to recoup the excess. Other cases in which complainants have been high and dry include those of the irregular appointment of staff through failure to follow proper recruitment and selection processes and the irregular appointment of service providers.
There was also the own-initiative investigation into Madibeng, Mahikeng, Moretele and Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati municipalities’ improper and unlawful investment of hundreds of millions of rand in public funds meant for service delivery with the VBS Mutual Bank, resulting in the misuse of the resources. In terms of the Economic Freedom Fighters and others v Speaker of the National Assembly and others case handed down in March 2016, the Constitutional Court held that the Public Protector’s remedial action is binding unless reviewed and set aside by a court of law. None of findings and remedial action in the cases in question were reviewed and set aside.
“We are encouraged by Hon. Dantjie’s undertaking that our report will be tabled in the legislature. We are more than keen to appear before the respective portfolio committees to take them through our findings and remedial action. Premier Maape also assured us that the executive arm of the provincial government will give this matter the urgent attention it deserves. This kind of cooperation between the organs of state is needed in order for the system to work,” Adv. Mkhwebane said.
The three PPSA service centres in Mahikeng, Matlosana and Rustenburg are currently investigating 111 complaints of fraud, corruption, nepotism, undue delay to render public services, abuse of state power and resources, tender irregularities and improper prejudice. In carrying out their work, the three offices often encounter a number of impediments, including increasing failure by provincial organs of state to respond to complaints or to address issues raised in allegation letters from investigators. Complaints suggest that the North West is a province ravaged by acute water shortages, poor road infrastructure and low-cost housing problems.
Deputy Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka appealed to the Executive Council to exhaust all other available remedies prior to taking the Public Protector’s investigation reports on judicial review. Such remedies could include an engagement with the PPSA to understand the rationale behind findings and remedial action. Adv. Gcaleka told the meeting that the state’s litigation bill was extremely high and some of the review application were frivolous.
Following the successful meeting with provincial authorities, Adv. Mkhwebane and Adv. Gcaleka paid the impoverished community of Reagile and Nyetse outside Zeerust in the Ramotshere Moiloa Local Municipality a visit. In a meeting attended by municipal officials, the traditional council informed the PPSA of their service delivery challenges including the closure of the local social grant pay-point, bad roads, lack of a healthcare clinic, lack of access to water and insufficient pastoral land. Adv. Mkhwebane tasked the provincial office of the PPSA to take up the community’s grievances will the relevant organs of state and report back in due course.
Adv. Mkhwebane and Adv. Gcaleka were in the province as part of the Public Protector Stakeholder Roadshow 2021/22. The roadshow is a flagship outreach programme of the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) during which the office interacts with parties interested in its work in fulfilment of its constitutional mandate to investigate, report on and remedy alleged or suspected improper conduct in all state affairs and to be accessible to all persons and communities.
Through the roadshow, the PPSA seeks to strengthen ties and foster collaboration and cooperation between itself and organs of state including provincial legislatures, government departments, municipalities and traditional authorities, with a view to promoting quality service delivery and good governance in state affairs. The roadshow has already been to the Free State, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The next province is the Western Cape.