ATC090219: Report on 2006/07 Annual Report of the Office of the Public Protector
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development on the 2006/07 Annual Report of the Office of the Public Protector, dated 19 February 2009
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, having considered the 2006/07 Annual Report of the Office of the Public Protector, reports as follows:
1.1. The Committee was briefed on the 2006/07 annual report of the Office of the Public Protector (OPP) on 19 February 2008.
1.2. Those who appeared before the Committee for the briefing included: Mr Z Docrat; Ms K Masiba; Ms P Mogaladi; Adv ML Mushwana; Ms S Thoke; and Adv M Shai.
1.3. This Report should be seen against the background of a very busy and somewhat shortened parliamentary year. The Committee has had to be realistic about what it can accomplish in terms of oversight in the time it has available to it before Parliament rises.
1.4. Our main concern is to assess how the OPP has performed, especially when measured against its Strategic Plan and the specific targets it set for itself for the 2006/07 financial year under review.
1.5. The approach of this report is to first give a brief summary of the OPP‘s presentations to the Committee and then to offer our response to them in section 7 of this report.
2. Overview by Public Protector, Advocate Lawrence Mushwana
2.1. The Public Protector, Advocate Lawrence Mushwana, provided an overview of the Office’s activities and performance for 2006/07.
2.2. The Office of the Public Protector (OPP) was established by the Constitution as a state institution supporting democracy to ensure government’s accountability and to provide remedies for maladministration and abuse of authority. In order to do this, the Public Protector is empowered to investigate, report on, and suggest remedial action for a wide range of wrongdoings in the public administration.
2.3. The OPP consists of a national office, together with 9 provincial offices. In addition, there are regional offices in the North West, Western Cape and Mpumalanga, while there are plans to open further regional offices in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Free State.
2.4. The Public Protector highlighted certain achievements in the 2006/07 year under review:
· The recruitment and appointment of managers to key positions. Of particular significance was the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on 1 April 2007, as the Office had been without a CEO for approximately two years.
· 73 clinics and 167 information sessions were conducted as part of the OPP’s outreach programme, the purpose of which was to increase accessibility to and public awareness of the Public Protector.
· The OPP participated in a ‘landscaping survey’ conducted by the European Union (EU) through the Civil Society Advocacy Programme (CSAP). The study resulted in a number of valuable recommendations, which the OPP is implementing with the European Union’s financial assistance.
2.5. The Public Protector also mentioned various challenges that the OPP has been faced with in the 2006/07 year under review:
· There were difficulties in filling critical posts, including those of the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer; the Senior Manager: Information Technology; the Senior Manager: Human Resources; the Senior Manager: Provincial Co-ordination; the Senior Manager: Communications and the Senior Manager: Administration. While most of these posts have since been filled, the vacancies nevertheless impacted on the OPP’s ability to achieve its strategic objectives for 2006/07. This is particularly evident in the performance of Programme 4: Knowledge Management and Communications and Information Technology.
· As a result of problems with its information communications technology, the Public Protector lacks an electronic system to manage its cases. This has meant that statistics are compiled manually, which not only makes the collation of statistics time consuming but also makes tracking the progress of cases difficult. While external auditors have been appointed to verify these manually compiled statistics, the underlying problem experienced with SITA that led to there being no computerised system remains unresolved.
· Although there is some collaboration, ensuring systems for effective collaboration and co-operation with the other Chapter 9 institutions remains a challenge.
· Making the OPP more accessible, especially in remote areas, is yet another challenge.
· There is a need to increase public awareness of the Public Protector’s work.
3. Programme Performance
3.1. The Office of the Public Protector has 4 programmes:
· Investigations and Reporting;
· Communication Services;
· Corporate Support Services; and
· Knowledge Management and Information Technology.
3.2. The Investigations and Reporting programme, conducts national, special and provincial investigations. Key achievements for this programme in the 2006/07 year under review include:
· A total of 12 629 new cases were received in 2006/07, although this is less than the 17 415 cases received in 2005/06. Of the cases received in 2006/07, 2 781 fell outside the jurisdiction of the Public Protector. 13 434 cases were finalised in 2006/07 compared to 17 619 in 2005/6.
· In 2006/07, 8 systemic and 22 own initiative investigations were conducted, of which 9 were finalised.
· 95% of cases were finalised in the targeted turnaround time of 2 years.
· The Executive Manager: Provincial Co-ordination was appointed to improve the effective and efficient co-ordination of provincial offices.
3.3. The Communications programme has 2 sub-programmes: Outreach, and Marketing and Communications. The programme’s overall objective is to improve internal and external communication and to encourage a common vision and improved profile for the Office of the Public Protector. Selected achievements for the 2006/07 year under review include:
· An outreach strategy was adopted and an Outreach Co-ordinator and 5 facilitators were appointed by the Civil Society Advocacy Programme (CSAP) to assist the Office to implement this strategy.
· 73 clinics were conducted, and flowing from these clinics 1 852 complaints were lodged.
· 167 information sessions were conducted in order to increase public awareness, far exceeding the target of 5 information sessions per province.
· On the issue of collaboration with other Chapter 9 bodies, although a collaboration plan has not been achieved, areas for collaboration have been identified with the assistance of the CSAP.
· A communications and marketing strategy was developed to improve communication and flow of information to stakeholders.
3.4. The Corporate Support Services programme has 4 sub-programmes: Human Resource Management; Finance and Supply Chain; Administration and Support; and Security Management. This programme aims to achieve and sustain an efficient and effective corporate support programme. Selected achievements for the 2006/07 year under review include:
· A draft retention strategy was developed, while the implementation of the remuneration strategy is ongoing and is expected to be finalised during 2007/08.
· A costing model for investigations was partially developed, in that levels of complexity for cases received have been defined and key variables have been identified to be included in a costing model.
· A divisional budgeting model has been developed and budget guidelines prepared. Also, the OPP’s accounting system is able to produce budget monitoring reports for each business unit.
· A Security Management Unit was established and needs analysis conducted for 7 of the OPP’s 9 offices.
3.5. The Knowledge Management and Information Technology programme, was unable to fill the post of Knowledge and Research Manager and, consequently, was unable to meet most of its targets for the year under review. It did, however, report the establishment of an African Ombudsman Resource Centre at the Universityof KwaZulu-Natal as a key success for 2006/07.
4. Corporate Services
4.1. The Office of the Public Protector has 238 posts, of which 205 were filled on 31 March 2007. There were also 6 additional posts. These are posts funded by the European Union through the Civil Advocacy Support Programme starting from 1 January 2007 to allow the OPP to expand its Outreach programme.
4.2. With regard to employment equity, 42% of the OPP’s employees are African males, 21% African females, 21% White males, 8% White females, 4% Coloured males and 4% Indian males. These percentages remain the same in terms of senior management. The OPP’s staff comprises 71% males and 29% females.
4.3. The average vacancy rate for the OPP is 13.9%, while its turnover rate is 17.1%, the majority (88%) of which are resignations.
5. Financial Matters
5.1. The Public Protector receives its budget allocation in the form of a direct transfer from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. In 2006/07, the Public Protector received R62.9 million in total revenue in 2006/07, while total expenditure was R62.4 million.
5.2. For the fifth consecutive year, the Auditor General gave an unqualified audit opinion with no matters of emphasis.
6. Way Forward and Selected Challenges Identified in the Year Ahead: 2007/08
6.1. The OPP identified two aspects to its strategic framework for 2007/08 - organisational and operational. The organisational framework identifies the need for the OPP to remain lean, professional and to be able to expand or contract its staff complement according to its caseload. The use of database of contractors is envisaged. The operational framework identifies 3 focus areas:
· A thematic approach where specific themes are identified for the year.
· A project approach is aimed towards ensuring a more professional approach to investigations. Each investigation will be project managed (requiring a project charter, timeframes, budget lines and clear strategies). This approach also intends that cases are finalised within a year. Cases that take longer than a year to finalise will require special approval.
· A mobile office to make the OPP more accessible.
6.2. The strategic goals identified for 2007/08 are as follows:
· Programme 1: Investigation and Reporting. The focus is on improving Service Delivery Indicators (SDIs). The costing of investigative activities remains a challenge and is a priority for 2007/08.
· Programme 2: Executive Management. This is a new programme focusing on strategic management, marketing and communications
· Programme 3: Outreach Programme. This is to be a separate programme that mainly uses the CSAP budget. An outreach co-ordinator was appointed to take charge of implementation of the strategy defined in 2006/07.
· Programme 4: Corporate Services. Policies and procedures that have been developed must be implemented.
6.3. Selected key challenges or constraints identified for 2007/08 include:
· Despite the fact that the OPP’s receives its budget as a transfer from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the mere fact that its budget falls within the Department’s budget allocation creates the perception that the OPP is not independent.
· The OPP continues to be reliant on SITA for its information technology needs despite ongoing problems with the services offered by SITA.
· The term of the present Public Protector is to come to an end at the end of November 2009. In order to ensure continuity and the smooth transfer of knowledge, it is preferable that the appointment process is initiated and completed well in advance of the expiry date and that Parliament plays its role in ensuring that this happens.
7. Committee’s Response
7.1. The Committee commends the Public Protector for having received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General with no matters of emphasis for five consecutive years.
7.2. The OPP’s initiative to increase public awareness of its services is welcome, but the Committee feels more needs to be done. The OPP reported hosting 167 workshops and holding 73 clinics. The mere fact that these workshops and clinics were held speaks only to the OPP’s outputs and says little regarding the intended outcome, which is increased public awareness. The Committee suggests that the OPP revisit the measures by which it evaluates the effectiveness of its outreach programmes. Furthermore, the Committee notes that the need to increase public awareness was also raised as a concern by the Ad Hoc Committee on Operational Problems in the Office of the Public Protector, which found that the OPP needed an effective communication strategy to allow it to keep the public adequately informed of its work and progress with cases. It is pleasing that a communication strategy has been developed to improve communication with and the flow of information to stakeholders. But the Committee is unable to tell what its effective outcome has been. The flow of internal communications was also a matter of concern to the Ad Hoc Committee and the Committee urges that the OPP finalise an internal communication strategy.
7.3. While the various Chapter 9 and associated institutions have distinct mandates, it is important that they use available resources as advantageously as possible, and a strong argument exists in favour of greater and more structured collaboration. Not only can this assist in facilitating a seamless approach to complaints handling, it creates the potential for joint public awareness campaigns, human rights advocacy and training campaigns, etc. While the Committee is pleased to hear that there has been some progress in ensuring collaboration, albeit mostly informal, between the relevant institutions, it nonetheless believes that a great deal more can be achieved in this regard. Obviously, the responsibility to ensure co-operation and collaboration is that of all the Chapter 9 and related institutions, not only the OPP. It has raised this matter with all the relevant institutions that account to it, and will monitor this carefully.
7.4. The Committee finds it completely unacceptable that the OPP compiles its statistics manually. While an explanation was given for this longstanding problem, the Committee found the OPP’s answer unconvincing, and expects the problems to be solved by the time the OPP presents its next Annual Report to the Committee.
7.5. The Committee finds the OPP’s statistics relating to the receipt and finalisation of cases for 2006/07 to be incomplete: in previous years, the Public Protector provided the number of cases carried forward, but in 2006/07 only the cases received, finalised, and non jurisdictional cases were reported on. The Committee was able to deduce from previous years that the number of cases carried forward appears to hover around 12 000 to 13 000. It would have been preferable for this information be included in the 2006/07 Annual Report. The Committee does not understand why this did not happen as in previous years, as details of the number of backlog cases, and cases carried forward would have provided the Committee with greater clarity as to the OPP’s capacity to deal with its caseload.
7.6. The Committee finds it interesting that the number of new cases has dropped from 22 350 in 2004/05 to 12 629 on 2006/07. It is encouraging that the number of cases finalised has increased overall from 7 539 in 2004/05 to 13 434 in 2006/07, although this is a significant decline from 2005/06 where 17 619 cases were finalised. The Committee would be interested in why the fluctuation in the number of cases received and finalised occurred.
7.7. The Committee welcomes the OPP’s attempts to reduce the time it takes to finalise its cases. This is important not only for the sake of the individual concerned, but also as a means of increasing public confidence in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Chapter 9 institutions. However, the present target of two years seems to the Committee to be rather lengthy. It accepts, however, that this is just a start, and that the OPP intends to further reduce the time it takes to finalise its cases.
7.8. The Committee understands the Public Protector’s concern regarding the need for the process of appointing a new Public Protector to begin well before the expiry of the present incumbent’s term of office, in order to ensure continuity and the opportunity for the transfer of knowledge. This is a concern that has also been raised by the other Chapter 9 institutions that appear before this Committee regarding their own change of leadership. In addition to including this matter in its exit report, the Committee intends to raise the matter of appointments generally with the Speaker.
7.9. The Committee was interested to hear of the initiative involving the European Union Civil Society Advocacy Project, which produced a landscaping report and many recommendations that the OPP is implementing. The Committee would like to know more about this, particularly the proposed recommendations and will pursue this further with the OPP.
7.10. The Committee is aware of the dissatisfaction with the lack of legislative uniformity in the procedures to determine the salaries and conditions of service that are applicable to the various heads of the Chapter 9 institutions, as well as the lack of consultation with regard to increases. It also notes the regrettable failure to consult with the Public Protector on the recommendations relating to the remuneration of Independent Office Bearers, despite the relevance of these recommendations to the Public Protector. The Committee will pursue this further with the relevant stakeholders.
7.11. The Committee notes that the Ad Hoc Committee on the Operational Problems in the Office of the Public Protector raised specific concerns regarding the ongoing litigation between the Public Protector and the Deputy Public Protector. While the Committee respects every person's constitutional right to litigate in order to protect and enforce their rights, the Committee hopes that this matter, between the two highest officials in the OPP, can be resolved in a responsible and sensible way.
8.1. The Committee thanks the Public Protector and all those who appeared before the Committee for their co-operation.
8.2. The Committee acknowledges with appreciation the very valuable work done by Ms Christine Silkstone in shaping this report.
Report to be considered.
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