Protector's cash hopes

The office of the public protector is waiting for Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s budget vote speech later this year to find out whether it will get more money than it did last year.

Overloaded with complex cases to investigate, the office asked for R30-million in the 2011-2012 budget, but got only R10-million.

A total of 180 complex cases have been assigned to public protector, Thuli Madonsela, but they are not being investigated because of the large caseload, the Mail & Guardian has established.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated in his budget speech this week that the public protector would receive further unspecified funding.
But the office will have to wait for Radebe’s speech to hear how it will fare.

“Funds were requested for additional investigative capacity to address an increase in cases received,” said Kgalalelo Masibi, spokesperson for the protector. The caseload had increased tremendously in both numbers and complexity, he added.

Protector needs funding from the justice department
Yet, the protector’s office is still dependent on the overstretched justice department for its funding.

It has been overwhelmed with a high volume of complaints since Madonsela began showing the public that she was not scared to clamp down on corruption in high places.

One of Madonsela’s most high-profile investigations has involved the suspended former national police commissioner, Bheki Cele, who must appear before a commission of inquiry in March following her office’s probe of his alleged involvement in the signing of a controversial R1.5-billion lease for new headquarters for the police.

Haniff Hoosen, an Independent Democrats MP, has been vocal in his call for the public protector to be given more funding.

“The public opinion out there is that the public protector is doing a fantastic job holding our ministers and others to account in the fight against corruption,” he said. “It is wonderful that her office is getting increased funding to do her job.”

Financial stresses could hamper the protector’s impartiality
The public protector’s office is an independent chapter nine institution and subject only to the law and the Constitution. Although its mandate is to act impartially and perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice, doubts have been expressed about whether it will be able to keep up the good work if it experiences financial stress.

Another vital watchdog body, the Independent Complaints Directorate, which will be known as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate from April, has also been given a boost in the budget, although details were not given.

Spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the directorate was desperately short of investigators. It only had 127 and its caseload was likely to increase when its mandate changed shortly to include all cases of police assault and rapes in custody.

“We asked for more money, [but] we don’t know yet what we will be getting,” said Dlamini.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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