Daily Dispatch

New PP vows to do things differentl­y


THE new public protector yesterday assured parliament’s justice portfolio committee she planned to do things differentl­y.

In her maiden speech, Busisiwe Mkhwebane pledged to do away with donor funding, consultant­s and even former public protector Thuli Mandonsela’s report-naming convention­s.

The ANC-dominated committee appeared to favour her new approach, with chairman Mathole Motshekga stating he liked her “refreshing approach” to the task at hand.

Mkhwebane was in parliament to present the organisati­on’s 2015-16 annual report.

She told MPs she would focus on the backlog of cases but high-profile cases like the state capture report would still remain a priority.

At the top of the list of questions for the new public protector was, however, the whereabout­s of the state capture report and questions regarding its release. DA MP Werner Horn said as the complainan­t, the party had a right to access the document.

Mkhwebane, however, said the matter was before the courts and refused to even comment on the covering letter, saying it constitute­d part of the file.

She said it was being kept in a safe in the office of senior staffer Stoffel Fourie.

Mkhwebane added she would be filing an answering affadavit in the court matter by Friday.

Speaking after the meeting, she said she was awaiting a court ruling, and should the court rule that the report be made public, it would be published as normal.

Mkhwebane told the committee that her office faced several challenges – chief among them financing.

Many MPs were appalled to discover that the Public Protector’s office had received donor funding from USAid totaling $500 000 (about R6.9-million) saying this threatened the independen­ce of the office.

NFP MP Sibusiso Mncwabe said “internatio­nal donors are not faithful friends of developing countries” and they could threaten the “sovereignt­y of the country”.

Several ANC MPs agreed and 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.

ANC MP Bongani Bongo raised concerns that Madonsela’s state capture report had been prepared by a consultant, particular­ly in light of irregular expenditur­e of R5.5-million for consultant­s highlighte­d in the annual report.

The Public Protector’s office spent R7-million on consultant­s last year – much of which was for litigation costs, IT support and preparatio­n of financial statements.

Mkhwebane said she understood that only one senior investigat­or from her office had worked on the state capture report.

Pricewater­houseCoope­r and some university academics had been used as consultant­s, she added.

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 – and she promised to do away with their use completely.

She also promised to change Madonsela’s now famous naming convention­s for reports.

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