The Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, introduced the newly appointed CEO, Mr Themba Dlamini, but noted that about 50% of the posts in her Office were vacant owing to a lack of funding. However, a senior investigator had been appointed and she was in the process of appointing a second senior investigator. The Public Protector noted in her presentation that, by the end of her seven-year term, the people of South Africa should have been empowered so that they could become Public Protectors themselves.
The Public Protector, the CEO and the CFO all made the point that the budget of R301m was hopelessly inadequate for the task that the Office of the Public Protector was obliged to perform and there would be a shortfall of over R600m in the current MTEF. She informed the Committee that at least R1bn was required to address the shortfall, fill important posts and address the challenges. The Public Protector requested that the Committee assist her Office in acquiring the additional funding. Technically, the Public Protector’s Office was insolvent because its liabilities outstripped its assets.
The need to revise the Public Protector Act in order to align it to the Constitution was mentioned several times. The draft was with the Department of Justice but the Committee Chairperson suggested that it be sent to the Committee so that they could expedite the Bill. Consideration was also to be given to the section in the Act which compels the Public Protector to act on any complaint about the Executive within 30 days. The Committee agreed with the Public Protector that it was more important to deal with issues at a grass root level. The EFF representative did not agree as he believed that addressing executive corruption and the abuse of millions of rand was critical.
Security issues had become a major risk as several break-ins and muggings had been reported in provincial and regional offices. More importantly, it was necessary to secure the IT system and a plan was in place to encrypt all data.
The Public Protector said that much had been achieved in her first 100 days in office. Nine investigation reports were released on matters affecting ordinary people. Performance on investigations improved from 11% to 22%. A skills audit had been conducted, and high-speed connectivity had been installed at 80% of the Public Protector offices. Due to financial constraints, they had not been able to relocate high risk provincial offices with urgency. Another matter of financial concern was the fact that National Treasury had ring-fenced R5m for the 21 cases currently on their books but each case would take between one and three years to finalise and could cost R1m per case, so there was a real risk of underfunding.
She noted one case where, when change had taken place in 1994, some white officials had formed companies and leased land from municipalities on 99-year leaseholds which prevented municipalities from gaining the land for housing and so on. Golf courses and race courses were amongst the land that was involved in that corruption. That matter needed urgent attention as it could provide land for redistribution.
Public Protector presentation
The Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, introduced her team, noting that she was accompanied by the new CEO, Mr Themba Dlamini, who started on 1 March 2017.
The Public Protector made the presentation, observing that by the end of her seven-year term, the people of South Africa should have been empowered so that they could become Public Protectors themselves. She noted the scarcity of professional investigators in South Africa and the limited means to retain and attract candidates of high calibre. She informed the Committee that nine investigation reports affecting ordinary people, and 16 Section 7(9) notices or provisional reports on various state departments and entities, had been issued. Second Quarter 2016/17 performance showed improvements in high speed connectivity; the establishment of a Risk Management unit; a proposal for the amendment of the Public Protector Act had been drafted; communications was also a key focus with 200 outreach clinics conducted and social media was updated regularly.
She referred to changes in the vision and mission in order to align these with the Constitution.
The CEO, Mr Themba Dlamini, presented the Public Protector strategic objectives and pointed out how they aligned to the National Development Plan. The key goals were ease of access to Public Protector services; adherence to defined investigation turnaround times, and the implementation of remedial action and settlement agreements. The Public Protector intended to own its own facilities as the Office had had problems in their offices from people demanding immediate results from investigations, and they needed to protect their officials. A key target was to reduce its audit findings made by the Auditor General.
The CFO, Mr Kennedy Kaposa, presented the budget for 2017/18 was R301.831, which would be increased by 6% over the MTEF (R319,326 for 2018/19; R337,208 for 2019/20). He presented a detailed breakdown of the budget according to goals and objectives. The CFO indicated that he had made certain changes to the internal distribution of the budget according to the objectives of the Office. This caused concern amongst the members of the Committee as the presentation on the screen differed from the figures given by the CFO. The presentation was therefore interrupted while adjustments were made to the presentation.
The Chairperson noted that some state institutions in South Africa were used for party political purposes. He requested that the Public Protector share her new approach to the position of Public Protector and inform the Committee of the criteria that she would use to prioritise cases that reach her desk as well as the high-profile cases that her Office had tackled to date.
The Public Protector responded that she had been assuring people at the public meetings, where she had been meeting communities and stakeholders and sharing her vision, that her Office was not going to be used by political parties or by people for their own agenda. She would be supporting constitutional democracy and would be guided by the Constitution, the rule of law and would investigate a government institution, if there was a complaint of maladministration. The approach was to educate the communities and they should initiate the process in their own spaces by knowing their rights. She had been educating the people about their rights to challenge government bodies such as municipalities.
She stated that the challenge was that the Public Protector Act did not give her any discretion in Executive Members Ethics Act cases as the legislation was very prescriptive. According to the Act, her Office had to investigate any complaint about the Executive within 30 days, and even complete that report within 30 days. With their lack of capacity, they had had to inform the President that they could not complete the work within 30 days. They had written to the President or Premier explaining that they were not in a position to complete the work in the required time and then had continued investigating. However, it had created the impression that they prioritised cases against the Executive that had been lodged by Members of Parliament. The DA and EFF had lodged complaints against Minister Mahlobo about a statement that he had made. The DA had lodged a complaint against Minister Nkwinti. The Office of the Public Protector had initiated its own investigation against the Minister, or rather Department, of Social Development. The DA also requested an investigation into the relationship between the Minister of Social Development and the contract with the supplier, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). People must be their own liberators which was why she had gone to the grassroots.
In response to the Chairperson requesting that the Public Protector take the Committee through the cases, Adv Mkhwebane started with the investigation into the alleged use of the KZN Medical helicopter by a Member of the Executive and a final report had been issued. A final report had been issued in the case against the Minister of Sports and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula, in an ethics case which was about the cost of travel. The case to do with the Department of International Relations about failing to declare a significant benefit was finalised. The case against the Minister for Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for wasteful expenditure in the use of a South African Defence Force aeroplane was finalised. The allegation into the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development and Special Programs for the misuse of funds subsistence and travel allowances was finalised in 2016. The case about abusing one’s position against the Department of Trade and Industry was finalised in 2016 and a case against the Limpopo Department of Transport and Safety involving maladministration and contravention of the Executive Members Ethics Act had been finalised in February 2017.
The Chairperson asked whether the Public Protector thought that the public was entitled to know what she meant when she said that matters had been finalised.
Adv Mkhwebane continued that in 2017 the investigation into the Limpopo Department of Transport and Safety addressed the issue of the MEC who intervened in the tender processes by appointing a forensic investigation company to examine the tenders that had been awarded. This was not within the powers of the MEC. There were recommendations to the Premier advising disciplinary measures against the MEC and recommendations that the Head of Department be disciplined as she had not played her role in ensuring that the prescripts of the PFMA were being followed.
Mr N Matiase (EFF) interjected, suggesting that the Public Protector did not understand what the Chairperson was requesting of her. He was of the opinion that the Committee would expect the Public Protector to give an account at least to the public of the matters involved in the cases. He wanted her to respond in a much more professional way.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked for a report in writing providing further clarity on certain investigations so that they could engage and discuss them with her. He asked that a distinction be made between a finalised report that had simply been issued and those in which the follow-up action had also been completed. He noted that finalised may mean that the report had been completed but not necessarily that remedial actions had been carried out.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) was concerned about the list of cases being itemised by the Public Protector and that it was not what they required. He did not know if there was a common understanding of “high profile” cases. He did not want to listen to the entire litany of cases and he did not want it in writing at the moment. It was too early to ask for details of cases from the Public Protector. They need to engage on what had been presented by the Public Protector.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) suggested that the Committee was being unfair to the Public Protector as the presentation was on the strategic objectives and the budget. It was not the Committee’s role to get involved in individual cases. A list was not helpful and not fair to the Public Protector. A separate submission might be necessary but the Committee required only an overview. He asked what was high level and who determined what was high level?
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) said that it was unfair as the Public Protector was not prepared to present cases and the Committee should not influence any matters, or interfere with her mandate including determining the time taken for an investigation. The Committee should focus on the strategic objectives.
Mr W Horn (DA) agreed that a verbal litany was not necessary at that point and may possibly be incomplete but Parliament had to be informed of the matters over which they had oversight and he expected the Public Protector to provide details of all investigations. The Committee needed to look at the capacity of the Public Protector Office to manage the cases before her as she had said that she was contemplating asking for funding per case.
The Chairperson said that he had offered her an opportunity to present matters affecting the National Executive. He had offered the Public Protector an opportunity to address public perceptions and the reference to the key cases relating to the Executive had been correct but it was not necessary to deal with provincial matters as the provincial legislatures would deal with those matters.
Mr Mpumlwana worried about micro-managing the Public Protector at that stage. It was not necessary for the Committee to worry about the public perspective.
The Public Protector indicated that there were around 11 cases that were ongoing – eight were closed. She had personally finalised only the Limpopo Department of Transport and Safety case. She informed the Committee that the reports of the finalised cases were on the Public Protector website.
Continuation of presentation
The CFO proceeded with the presentation. The CFO indicated the budget allocation per line item. The proposition was to submit a breakdown of additional funding needs to National Treasury.
A number of strategic challenges and problems were experienced by the Office of the Public Protector Office. Insufficient funding was a key concern. Staff morale was low and capacity was lacking, especially as salaries were low. The Office faced increased litigation and reviews as a result of their reports. Security of officials was a challenge. Only two offices had warm bodies to keep officials secure. Security cameras were also required. The poor turnaround times from support state agencies and institutions was hindering the work of the Public Protector.
Strategic interventions determined by the Public Protector was firstly for a Value Proposition or budget bid to be submitted to National Treasury. Interim measures had been put in place to address salary disparities and a human capital development strategy would be formulated. A review of facilities across the institution was to be undertaken and service level agreements would be implemented. In order to achieve these objectives, the institution was dependent on a capital injection.
An unqualified audit with 61 findings was received from the Auditor General in 2015/16 and all findings were being addressed: 21 findings had been resolved while findings related to Public Works and other institutions were being dealt with.
In her closing remarks, the Public Protector asked the Committee to take note of an overall lack of capital injection to address the risks associated with the institution’s mandate. The PPSA required at least R1 billion to stay afloat. It was a scary figure but a reality.
Mr Swart noted that the Deputy Public Protector was not in attendance. He thanked the Public Protector for the strategic plan document. Under-resourcing was the major challenge. It was becoming critical. R263m was just a drop in the ocean but how did the Public Protector get to the figure of R1bn as the amount required? He noticed that the total amount for litigation was R746m, which raised fresh concerns about the limited capacity of the institution. As far as security was concerned, he asked if the computers containing confidential information were at risk. Could they be stolen, as were the computers of the Office of the Chief Justice? He volunteered the assistance of the Committee in amending the Act. Section 9(2) of the Public Protector Act stated that nothing should inhibit Parliament from asking questions. On page 6 of the Public Protector report, she refers to the State of Capture Report that had become a “review case”. What did the reference mean? The Public Protector noted in the report that the matters raised by the President were complex. Was the Public Protector responding to the President or had she submitted a response in opposition? The Committee did not want to interfere but needed to understand where she was in the matter. What were the legal and cost implications of that report? The review refers to the requirement of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate various state entities about which many people were concerned. The report stated that the matter had been referred to the NPA. Was the Public Protector following up with the NPA on the crimes committed? Page 350 of the State of Capture Report referred to the serious allegations surrounding the Baroda Bank and mine rehabilitation funds. There were serious allegations about Gupta-related companies that could be investigated immediately. Surely, the NPA could investigate that immediately? The offer to the Deputy Minister of Finance of the position of Minister of Finance by the Guptas appeared to be a clear case of corruption. Could that not be investigated from a criminal perspective immediately as per the finding of the former Public Protector? Page 354 stated that the Public Protector brought to the notice of the NPA and DPCI those matters in the report “where it appears crimes have been committed”.
Mr Horn said he was aware of the stance of Public Protector Mkhwebane that donor funding was not acceptable but the current German and American funding was a result of government to government initiatives. That had to be handled differently as it had not been sourced by the previous Public Protector herself. What was the current situation regarding donor funding, specifically the German and American funding? Previously, the Auditor-General had, on an annual basis, said that technically the Office of the Public Protector was, in effect, insolvent. Had that been addressed? Had austerity measures been put in place? One of the strategic challenges was the slow turnaround by departments and state entities, specifically SAA. The previous year there had been the question of security clearance in respect of SAA. Had the security clearance issues of last year been finalised? The CFO said that 100% of the Auditor-General findings had been addressed. There was an indicator for the setting up of an internal audit unit functioning by 2018/19. Could that not be expedited? In respect of the Executive Members Ethics Act cases did the Public Protector deem that she had sufficient capacity and was it funded within the normal budget? What had happened about the senior investigator position? Had the position been filled? Had National Treasury been approached for funding on a case by case basis?
Mr Bongo believed that they had made a good recommendation saying that Adv Mkhwebane could hit the ground running on appointment. As far as the private sector was concerned, how did one ensure that the revised legislation could pay attention to the private sector? An issue from the road show was the requirement for land. There had to be a special focus from the Public Protector on trying to alleviate the plight of people on farms as far as land was concerned. The CFO had spoken of the unqualified audit but the Public Protector should have a clean audit report to be able to lead by example. The Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) spoke at length about funding and increasing the budget. At the centre of everything, was how one ensured that those who took matters to the Public Protector, especially government departments, were charged, or paid, so that a state institution paid for the investigation by Public Protector. Mr Bongo asked for more information about the vetting of staff. To what extent were consultants vetted? The office in Mr Bongo’s constituency had been closed so how was the Public Protector going to get to people on the ground? The budget did not talk to the vision as the budget went to the main office and not to people on the ground. The Public Protector response must be from the bottom. Too much money was being spent on the offices. Another matter that could alleviate funding was the purchasing buildings for the Office of the Public Protector as there would be a long term saving. Rental was expensive. The Public Protector ought to save where she could as everyone asked Parliament for money.
Ms M Mothapo (ANC) referred to access as raised at the Committee’s last interaction with the Public Protector. She could see that accessibility was good because the Public Protector was making use of traditional leaders and indigenous languages. The Public Protector had to protect people on the matter of land and other services. The presentation mentions 84 clinics per province, which means 756 clinics. Was that practicable in terms of budget? The audit report was unqualified, but with a lot of findings. The creation of an internal audit unit had been long awaited. How did the Public Protector think that she could achieve a clean audit without an internal audit unit in the current financial year? She should take that seriously. The Public Protector was to be congratulated on creating the position of Senior Investigator to look at Executive cases. Was she looking at case by case funding? Loss of morale amongst staff was a problem. Morale was very low. The Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) and job evaluation had to be addressed. The Polokwane offices were completely unacceptable. They were extremely hot, had no telephones and had no ablution facilities. Had the Public Protector been to the Polokwane offices and seen the terrible conditions?
Mr Matiase noted the Public Protector’s attempts to cover her first 100 days in office but he was not sure that she had reaffirmed South Africans’ trust and confidence in her office as the watchdog and guardian of the public. The doubt was in relation to her vision. He was concerned about her vision and mandate. He did not know whether she had retained the trust in her office or whether her trust had been ruined because she had classified some cases as “high profile” cases but had said that, in the main, she would be looking at grassroots common complaints. She had said that “high profile” cases were important, but not that important. Did she not understand the importance of “high profile” matters to the people because those cases were about high levels of maladministration, fraud and corruption, money laundering and illicit financial flows? Over the last 100 days had her office strengthened the confidence of the public in her competency to protect the public? Mr Matiase said that he was one of those who had expressed confidence and given her the benefit of the doubt when they had recommending her to be Public Protector.
Mr Mpumlwana interjected that Members were not to state that they had no confidence in a particular person. The Committee’s job was to scrutinise the work done by the Public Protector.
The Chairperson told Mr Matiase to continue speaking.
Mr Mpumlwana was adamant that the Rules of Parliament stated Members could not suggest that particular people were incompetent.
Mr Matiase stated that he did not take instruction from the ANC and that he would stand by his demand that the Public Protector’s Office fulfil its mandate. He supported the Office of the Public Protector to assist in dealing with the requirements of her job. Staff morale was of great concern as the Office had been ravaged by resignations and low morale. That should not happen in the Office of the Public Protector. Staff were going to the CCMA which reflected badly on the Office of the Public Protector. What was the strategic plan to deal with that?
The Chairperson interrupted and asked Mr Matiase to move on.
Mr Matiase asked what plan was in place to deal with leakages in the Office of Public Protector, especially the Absa Report leakage. The Public Protector had not issued a statement about how they were going to deal with leakages and those persons responsible.
Mr M Maila (ANC) noted that the Public Protector had identified key stakeholders. He would like the Public Protector to identify community workers as key stakeholders as they were in touch with the plight of the people. He approved of her intention to empower citizens to know their rights. It was an excellent strategy and would be taken care of during road shows. He also applauded the fact that the Public Protector had indicated that she was ready to share with like-minded institutions, which would do away with overlaps. What did the integrated security systems comprise? Could the Public Protector not share offices with another institution, given the scarce resources? After the first 100 days, he could see that the dust had settled. Initially there were altercations between the current and previous Public Protector. He raised the issue of the vehicle damaged by the former Public Protector’s son. There were indications that Adv Mkhwebane had been vengeful and angered. In the end the previous Public Protector stated that she would pay for the damage because of her moral compass. He believed there was error of judgment by Adv Mkhwebane, but he did not want her to comment as that would worsen her position. He commended the Public Protector on releasing the Absa Report. It was his observation that Absa might just have been the tip of the iceberg. There appeared to have been widespread corruption just before democracy. He would like to see an investigation into how immovable property changed hands just before democracy. One family owned three quarters of Polokwane. How had that come about? It required investigation.
Mr Mpumlwana congratulated the team on the work done and the report given. He was happy that the Public Protector’s Office had indicated what Parliament could do for them. The Public Protector had probably experienced stumbling blocks such as the section of the Act that stated the Public Protector must prioritise any complaint against the Executive within 30 days. How could the Public Protector have discretion to determine what to do and when but be instructed to deal in a particular way with the Executive? This could be problematic as the Public Protector Office could be inundated with complaints against the Executive and nothing else would get done. Should that aspect of the Act be changed? Secondly, there was a complaint about the lack of funding. Could South Africa not have a Public Protector tax, concentrating on the rich? It was not the job of the Public Protector to make such decisions but he was just throwing it out. How far advanced was the security clearance of staff? Did the Office of the CEO include personnel and how did that fit in with the Human Resources budget? What was included in the CEO budget and why was that separated in the budget?
Ms Pilane-Majake noted that the report showed that a great deal of work had been done. She warned the Public Protector that politicians would attempt to utilise her office for political gain but she should not be influenced by the noise. She should use her own office to deal with transformation in South Africa. She had to choose what she wanted to investigate. South Africans were starting to demand financial freedom. She appreciated the intended correction of the misalignment of the Public Protector Act. Team building was good as there had been resignations of top management and so there seemed to be a need for morale building. The IT system was being improved but the report indicated that they wanted to own the IT system. Was R15m for IT systems not problematic? The possibility of getting a building of their own would be better than paying for leases. Rent and leases wasted a lot of money. The strengthening of the Public Protector’s engagement with ombudsmen was commendable. It was good because where an ombudsman was paid by the industry, it was possible that the ombudsman’s action could be seen not to be fair. The Public Protector could ensure that justice was done. The Committee had previously suggested that the public awareness clinics could be done in collaboration with other Chapter Nine institutions. Cases reported about the Executive could result in the misuse of her Office so the Public Protector Act should be reviewed as soon as possible.
Dr M Motshekga (ANC) reminded the Committee that the Public Protector was required to strengthen government. Was it affordable and sustainable that government departments went to court to defend themselves against the actions of the Public Protector and that both the government department and Public Protector came to Parliament for money to go to court against each other? Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes and other internal remedies should be considered before cases are taken to court. In amending the legislation, attention should be given to resolving those differences without going to court. Could the Public Protector not work with other Chapter Nine institutions to advocate in clinics? Could the Public Protector Office not utilise some of the underutilised state buildings? A review should be conducted before buying a building. Land was an issue so how could some people own whole towns? In Greyton someone was about to buy land that had been claimed in a land settlement. The question of land must be a priority. Lastly, a member of the Polokwane Public Protector’s Office had spoken of concerns about corruption in the compensation of people who were moved. Were claims against white farmers not being pursued?
Response from the Public Protector
The Public Protector began with an apology from the Deputy Public Protector who was attending a meeting in Lusaka on behalf of the Public Protector who was Chairperson of the African Ombudsman Council.
The Public Protector responded to questions about the security of officials and computers. The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) was working with the Public Protector to get information on computers encrypted as a security measure. On the amendment of the Public Protector Act, a draft of the amendment had been sent to the Department of Justice as part of the consultation process. Payment by government departments was a thorny issue and the idea of a Public Protector tax would be deliberated. The Public Protector was busy with the preparation of an affidavit on the State of Capture report but there had been concerns about confidentiality. A guarantee of confidentiality had been received and work had progressed. The affidavit would indicate challenges especially in terms of the limited capacity for going ahead with the investigation. The Hawks’ findings were related to establishing a Commission of Inquiry but the Hawks or the National Prosecuting Agency could go ahead. Donor funding was still rejected by her. The Public Protector had engaged with National Treasury and the Department of Justice on the matter. The donor funding was intended to address capacity not employ staff. Donors were training and paying for the outreach model but they would not proceed with the rest of budget. The CFO would respond to the question about the Public Protector being insolvent. As liabilities exceeded assets, the institution was technically insolvent.
The Public Protector said that security clearance had been addressed and turnaround time had improved and new appointees had been vetted. Old officials were being vetted, prioritising senior management.
The Public Protector said that the senior investigator had started work and a second senior investigator was being interviewed. Both posts were funded. The Public Protector had jurisdiction over government only and could investigate private companies only if it related to government. Land gained in 1994 could not be investigated as the Office of the Public Protector was not in existence in 1994. The Public Protector was currently investigating the transfer of race courses to individuals. There was a need to check all farm evictions and land related matters. As far as white farmers were concerned, that was a legal matter and there were differing requirements for farmers. The Public Protector could track cases in the Land Claims Court. As far as the office in Limpopo was concerned, they were considering using offices in the magistrate courts and the traditional councils, which were being used as the venues for clinics. An MOU was necessary in order to arrange for utilisation of the offices. The clinics were about both education and for receiving complaints. The Public Protector agreed that there was a need to have a consolidated forum across all Chapter 9 institutions.
The Public Protector said that the vetting of suppliers in the supply chain was still to be done. The matter of buying a building was being considered as part of a review of cost-saving measures, including saving on buildings. The Public Protector saw a need to own her own building as she received no cooperation from government departments but she took cognisance of the Chairperson’s proposal to consider the use of underutilised state buildings. The Public Protector Act states that the Public Protector must be accessible so they would be using indigenous languages as well as radio stations.
The Public Protector said that low staff morale was being dealt with, although there were still pockets of low morale. OSD was being addressed with senior management. Phase 2 of the plan would address investigators and job evaluation. The low staff morale arose from the previous Public Protector’s time. The Public Protector had visited the Polokwane office but the contract only expired in 2020 so the CEO was looking into an escape clause from the contract but in the interim they had installed blinds to provide relief from the sun. The lack of ablutions remained a problem that could not be easily fixed.
The Public Protector said the provincial visits had been reaffirming with the public that the Public Protector was there to defend the Constitution. Meetings with traditional leaders would be used to strengthen the constitutional democracy and they would address the pockets of people who did not trust the Office. Section 181(3) provided a mandate to address the people. High profile cases were defined as those involving billions of rand that took two to three years to deal with. Sometimes the cases ought to have gone to court but the Public Protector was obliged to investigate if a request was made. The employee case in the CCMA was an administrative case because hers had been an unfunded position. A statement had been issued by the Public Protector on the matter of Absa and a case had been opened to get to the bottom of the leak.
The Public Protector said it was critical to engage with community workers but it was possible that they fell under Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and an MOU had to be signed with them. There was a need to avoid overlaps to save on resources. The Public Protector would look at undue delay in services related to land. Apartheid looting had to be dealt with by the lawmakers as it might be an opportunity for land redistribution. Executive management provisions of the Public Protector Act were for lawmakers to look at. The problem of politicians who intended abusing the Offices of Public Protector had been dealt with in the strategic objectives. Problematic issues arose around municipalities and the councils of chiefs where there was no communication and encroachment on each other’s land and sphere of rule. Urgent attention was required so that the problem could be addressed as soon as possible. People were being encouraged to approach the Public Protector and not to take the law into their own hands. The element of arbitration should be considered when reviewing the Public Protector Act as that would prevent government departments from taking them to court. There was an intention to share information with other institutions that were dealing with specific cases. Corruption in Polokwane would be followed up. They would conduct an investigation into why white people’s cases were handled more quickly than those of black people.
The CEO provided an explanation for the R1bn that the Public Protector was requesting. There was a shortfall of 50% of the current budget amounting to R626m over three years plus they needed another 50% for specialists such as actuaries. The MOU that had already been drafted was with the City of Johannesburg ombudsman; the MOU with SALGA was ready. MOUs that were a work in progress were those with CoGTA plus MOUs with various legislatures including KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga. Staff morale is low because the Public Protector had adopted a framework designed for the public sector and not one for specifically designed for their work. Public Service and Administration had designed the system. Some quick wins had been achieved in dealing with cases regarding salaries. The strategy required an overhaul whereby people were rewarded according to the unit they belonged to and bonuses would be paid according to the 360-degree model of evaluation. The Office of the Public Protector had already approached the Minister about a new building but would look at underutilised state buildings. 84 clinics per province was an achievable number if the courts were used. It was a target but would be evaluated mid-year. The clearance or vetting of individuals and companies was taking place. Encryption of data on laptops would be completed within a year. Shared services would be considered.
The CFO referred to the cases under review. There were 21 cases against a budget of R5m, ring-fenced by National Treasury. Cases could take up to three years and could cost R1m per case so there was a real risk of underfunding. He reiterated that technically insolvency meant that there was not enough money to pay liabilities, but it was only a technicality that the Public Protector Office was insolvent. In order to obtain a clean audit, he had had a briefing with the Auditor-General who had highlighted areas to be corrected. One issue was liquidity and, secondly, was whether there would be a deficit and thirdly, was the issue of meeting targets. The Office was paying attention to those matters. Currently the internal audit function was outsourced and the consultants were doing an excellent job. The budget for the outsourced function was R800,000 per annum and that would be the salary of just one senior manager so an in-house internal audit would be more expensive than the outsourced function and there was a need to budget to capacitate that unit. The Office of the CEO budget included salaries, goods and services and all other expenses.
The Chairperson was pleased to hear that the Office of the Public Protector was taking the issue of traditional leaders seriously. The Committee was currently addressing the Bill for CoGTA. Agriculture also had a role to play. When change had taken place in 1994, some white officials had formed companies and leased land from municipalities on 99-year leaseholds which prevented municipalities from gaining the land for housing and so on. Golf courses and race courses are amongst the land that was involved in that corruption. The 21 cases which were going to be very expensive needed to be addressed. Legislative proposals for amending the Public Protector Act should be referred to the Committee so that the Committee could instruct the Department of Justice to address these. Immediate action was needed to address the needs of the people.