Problematic staff morale‚ no proper handover‚ funding problems and a family matter to resolve: This is new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s take on what she is inheriting from her popular predecessor Thuli Madonsela.
During her maiden speech to Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice on Wednesday‚ she promised to do things her way.
She promised to do away with donor funding‚ consultants and even Madonsela’s catchy report-naming conventions – which included “Secure in Comfort” for Nkandla and “Derailed” for her probe into irregularities at South Africa’s state railway business.
She also said her focus would be on improving staff morale‚ which she said is low.
Mkhwebane was in Parliament to present the organisation’s 2015/16 annual report.
Like Madonsela before her‚ Mkhwebane told the committee that her office faced several challenges‚ chief among these – financing.
Many MPs were appalled to discover that the Public Protector’s office had received donor funding from USAID totaling $500‚000 saying this threatened the independence of the office. Mkhwebane‚ who said she agreed on issues of sovereignty‚ vowed that her office would no longer make use of donor funding but urged the committee to support her office in finding the funds it desperately needed.
“It’s a thing of the past. Coming from my background‚ it’s no secret that I worked at the State Security Agency‚ I know the implications of (international donor funding)‚” she said.
The Public Protector’s office spent R7 million on consultants last year- much of this was however for litigation costs‚ IT support and the preparation of financial statements.
Mkhwebane said she understood that only one senior investigator from her office had worked on the state capture report‚ and that Price Waterhouse Coopers and some university academics had been used as consultants.
She warned MPs that the audit for her office was unlikely to be a clean one‚ because initial briefings had revealed that consultants were still being used in the office and unfunded posts still being filled- she however also promised to do away with their use completely.
Mkhwebane‚ still outlining some of the biggest challenges for her office‚ said the case management system had crashed‚ she needed to tackle the case backlog‚ and raised the issue of office infrastructure.
She also promised to change Madonsela’s naming conventions for reports‚ and agreed that she too did not like referring to the “state capture investigation” as such.
Mkhwebane implied Madonsela had no time for her: She told MPs that she had only met with Madonsela for about 20 minutes on her last day‚ as she had been busy preparing for her final press conference. She said she had not received a proper handover report from her.
Mkhwebane also assured MPs that her office was “working on” settling the matter of the state-owned vehicle crashed by Madonsela’s son in 2012.
On John Robbie’s radio show this morning‚ Madonsela seemed puzzled this had resurfaced‚ saying the matter had been handled by two different processes.
– Aggregated from report filed by Bianca Capazorio‚ TMG Parliament