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.