Public Protector offers more than ‘paper justice’

February 1st, 2013

By Nomfundo Manyathi

Towards the end of last year Public Protector Thuli Madonsela tabled her office’s 2011/12 annual report in parliament. The report presents an account of her office’s activities during the period under review and highlights its strategic planning framework and objectives and also provides a statistical overview of the cases and investigations it dealt with during this period.

In the report Ms Madonsela said that the year under review was a ‘rewarding’ one and that her office grew in terms of impact and accessibility, adding that the number of complaints had increased by over 25%.

In terms of investigations, the report states that the office handled 27 376 cases during the year under review. Of these –

  • 5 603 were carried over from 2010/11;
  • 16 763 were finalised (2 000 more than in the previous financial year); and
  • 10 183 were carried over to the next financial year.

The report states that the office initially received a budget of R 142 889 000 for the period under review. However, this amount was boosted by R 10 840 000 towards the end of the year in order to improve investigation capacity.

The annual report states that in order to make sure that her office’s findings and outcomes go beyond ‘paper justice’, the Public Protector monitors the implementation of all reports and settlements. In ordering remedial action, the report notes that the Public Protector believes she needs to place the complainant as close as possible to where he would have been had the state acted correctly in the first place. Ms Madonsela added that it was gratifying to note that almost all the 2011/12 findings were accepted by the organs of state involved and that remedial action was implemented.

The report notes that the patterns revealed by the cases investigated by the Public Protector point to a need to strengthen financial and procurement systems, leadership and disciplinary mechanisms, particularly at local government level.

Another key trend that the report mentions relates to compliance with supply chain requirements, particularly competitive processes and due diligence regarding reasonable pricing and quality assurance. ‘It cannot be right that the state ends up paying far above retail prices, whereas it should pay much less by leveraging its bulk-buying capacities,’ it states.

The report also notes that although state office leasing management eme­rged as a major source of concern during the period under review, similar patterns were indicated in other supply chain areas, including the procurement of hospital equipment and professional services. It also highlights the lack of compliance with strategic and integrated development plans as another area requiring ‘urgent attention’. The report notes that such anomalies are associated with corruption and have serious implications for government budget priorities. Another issue highlighted in the report is ethical governance.

In the report, the Public Protector requested parliament’s support in –

  • funding for increased investigation capacity, a functional case management system, a call centre, more regional offices and enhanced mobile offices;
  • popularising the importance of non-judicial ‘righting of state wrongs’;
  • assistance with organs of state that fail to cooperate during and after investigations; and
  • finalisation of the Public Protector rules.

Nomfundo Manyathi,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (Jan/Feb) DR 8.