Public Protector needs R1 billion to stay afloat

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane  Picture: Ruvan Boshoff
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says her office will need at least R1 billion in funding to ensure that it “stays afloat” and remains effective.

Mkwebane told Parliament’s justice committee that the R301 million allocation for the 2017/18 financial year and the R319 million allocation for the following year‚ were not enough to ensure that her office was fully operational.

“It’s scary but it’s a reality” she said.

Mkwebane told the committee that currently only 50% of the required posts in the chapter nine institution were currently funded.

CEO Themba Dlamini told the committee that the R1 billion was a “conservative amount”.

He said that there was already a R626 million budget shortfall for the current staff complement over a three-year period.

“If we add an additional 50% for the complete structure‚ that puts us at R1.2 billion‚” he said.

He said this did not include the cost of appointing subject specialists like actuarial scientists and engineers who would be able to assist in highly technical investigations.

Mkhwebane‚ who in her very first appearance before the committee last year‚ scrapped the use of donor funding‚ said she stuck by this agreement‚ despite it later emerging that the funding from the USA and Germany had been secured on a government-to-government level and not by her predecessor Thuli Madonsela directly.

She said that donor funded projects which were already underway would continue until completion.

She added‚ however‚ that donor funding would not solve their financial problems as this funding could not be used for operational costs – only specific projects.

The committee also heard that the public protector’s office was in dire need of a security overhaul.

CFO Kennedy Kaposa said “only two of our offices have warm bodies in terms of security‚ and most of our offices don’t have security including CCTV cameras and other things”.

ACDP MP Steve Swart expressed concern about security in the wake of the break-in at the chief justice’s office and asked whether data was secure.

Mkhwebane said an integrated security system would include CCTV cameras and scanners and said these were necessary in the wake of an incident in which staffers were held hostage during a protest last year. She said they were also looking into advanced software for encryption “because we need to have secure systems”.

Mkhwebane’s call for more funds echoes those of Madonsela‚ who also complained that the organisation was under-funded. Mkhwebane‚ however‚ received a much warmer reception from ANC MPs than Madonsela did‚ facing personal attacks in two appearances before the committee.

EFF MP Sam Matiase said that he and the public did not have confidence in Mkhwebane‚ but was halted by ANC MP Loyiso Mpumlwana‚who said there was “no need to go on personal attacks” and said “you can’t say that you don’t have confidence in the public protector”‚ to which Swart replied‚ “that’s not what you told Madonsela”.

Mkhwebane also updated the committee on the progress regarding the State of Capture report telling them that her office would be ready to submit their affidavits to court “soon”.

The report is currently before the court after president Jacob Zuma challenged its recommendation that a judicial inquiry be set up‚ with a judge appointed by chief justice Moegoeng Moegoeng.

Mkhwebane said they met with all involved counsel and had secured a guarantee that any records availed to them in terms of Rule 53 would remain confidential.

She said their responding affidavit “might have some elements of a counter-application on certain elements” and outlined the challenges the office faced.

“If the court considers reviewing or setting aside that finding‚ then we will have to find a way of going ahead withthat investigation with our limited capacity.” – TMG Digital/The Times

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