Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has noted the outcry of the Public Protector for additional funding for her office.
During her presentation on her Annual Report for 2016/17, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the Public Protector (PP) indicated she needs more than R846m over the medium term to fully fund the organisational structure. According to her, the office has an establishment of 707 positions of which only 392 are funded in the 2017/18 financial year. In terms of case management system, the Committee heard that additional funds of more than R26.9m was requested for support and maintenance in the 2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
The office of the PP, finalised 10 787 cases out of a workload of 16 397 and 803 community outreach clinics across the nine provinces where the public was educated on the work of the Office of the PP were conducted. Backlog of cases older than two years were reduced by 61%.
The Committee further noted the cost savings measures introduced by Adv Mkhwebane in the 2017/18 financial year. This relates to a reduction in the travel and subsistence budget, savings on advertising for recruitment, reduced catering, the cancellation of the use of consultants and the appointment of a legal panel board in an effort to reduce costs for legal fees.
Acting Committee Chairperson, Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, commended the Office of the Public Protector for these attempts at saving money and assured the PP that the Committee will give consideration to the request for additional funding, noting that there should not be huge discrepancies in the funding of a Chapter Nine Institution. The Committee also recommended cost-saving measures such as doing away with rental leases and using state-owned buildings, reviewing positions and freezing positions with lesser output.
The Committee further noted the explanations of the PP regarding the South African Reserve Bank court action on her remedial action. The Committee accepts her explanation that she had not meant to instruct Parliament to amend the Constitution, but merely recommending that should be given the necessary attention. The Committee is of the opinion that this flawed action should not overshadow attempts to investigate the role of the Reserve Bank in the reduction of poverty in South Africa.
Although the Committee expressed concern about the increase of R18m deficit of her office, it noted that some of these expenses occurred prior to her taking office in October 2016 – midway through the financial year. This included overseas travelling, local travelling and an escalation in catering costs. The Committee recommended that a clear strategy of dealing with the deficit be developed by the office.
Dr Pilane-Majake expressed the Committee’s concern regarding the recent incident where a roof was damaged due to rain and damages to records at the office of the Public Protector occurred. “We are concerned that records were destroyed as the media indicated there were no back-up of records. The office must ensure that back-ups exist as you do important work for the country,” said Dr Pilane-Majake.
The Committee would like to express concern and condemn the attack on the house of the Public Protector. It is hoped that security measures will be strengthened.
Issued by Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, Chana Pilane-Majake