THE office of public protector Thuli Madonsela is technically insolvent and it could struggle to continue with its operations in the next three years if its budget is not increased.
Madonsela revealed this in parliament yesterday when her annual report for 2013-14 was examined by MPs on the justice and correctional services portfolio committee.
But her request for additional funds was met with hostility from ANC MPs, who asked whether Madonsela was unable to manage her budget and accused her of spending money on roadshows.
Madonsela told MPs her office could find itself struggling to carry out its duties optimally from as early as next year if it was not granted an additional R24.3-million and a further R61- million in 2016 to allow her to acquire a full staff complement of just more than 500 people as approved by the Treasury five years ago.
The public protector’s office now has 340 staff members, including trainee investigators. It also has assets of R38-million and liabilities amounting to R40-million.
Madonsela said the existing budget of just under R200-million was inadequate for her office, which had seen its workload increase in recent years and had handled almost 40000 cases by the end of March.
“The organisation, if it is not given money to deal with the shortfall, can be considered technically insolvent,” Madonsela said.
She was constantly interrupted by ANC MPs.
The public protector said inadequate staffing had added to her office’s financial woes because its leave liability increased as crucial employees could not take the leave owing to them due to the heavy workload.
“Because we were trying get rid of cases older than a year, we asked people to defer leave.
“That would mean that in a particular year we accumulated more leave debts, so they then become payable,” Madonsela said.
“If we don’t get the money to address the shortfall, we’re not going to be able to operate.”
She said her office had also set aside funds to pay her a R6-million loss-of-office gratuity when her seven-year non-renewable contract expired in two years, whereas her predecessor Advocate Lawrence Mushwana’s gratuity was paid directly from the national fiscus.
But her appeal for more money did not sit well with committee chairman Mathole Motshekga, a senior ANC MP, who asked whether Madonsela was capable of managing the budget of her office.
Motshekga also suggested that Madonsela’s office was dysfunctional and her leadership style undemocratic.
“Your salaries went R90-million over budget. If that’s correct, how can that be justified?”
“Wouldn’t that boil down to inability to manage the budget?” he said.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said ANC MPs would not support Madonsela’s request for funds. “Given recent attempts by the ANC and its representatives in parliament to undermine the office of the public protector, it is clear that her office will not be capacitated as required. The ANC fears a fully funded public protector.”
EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said ANC MPs were behaving like a militia protecting President Jacob Zuma.
“These Zuma militias blame the public protector for the situation of insolvency her office is in, when in fact both parliament and the Treasury are refusing to allocate adequate funds for her.”