Public Protector funds allocation criticised by opposition

BY CHARL BOSCH - APRIL 20, 2016

Opposition parties have taken aim at Justice Minister Michael Masutha’s apparent refusal to make more funds available for the office of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

In delivering his department’s budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Masutha said an amount of R262-million had been allocated for Madonsela’s office during the current financial year, and that it would be increased by 15% to a reported R300-million next year.

His announcement was however questioned by both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with the former as well as the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) demanding that the African National Congress (ANC) apologise to Madonsela for criticising her findings into the upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

“Now, faced with an opportunity to redeem themselves by making a public apology to the Public Protector for the abysmal way they treated her, they unashamedly and in the most unbecoming and undignified fashion, refuse to acknowledge that they owe her and her office an apology at all,” DA Shadow Minister of Justice Glynnis Breytenbach said.

“It is clear that they hold the view that if they cannot defeat her in the courts, where they have failed spectacularly, then they will try and defeat her by starving her of resources. In the 2016 / 2017 budget the Public Protector received R262 million. This equates to a real increase of a paltry 0.39%”.

Breytenbach said it has become clear that Madonsela had fallen out of favour with government for her involvement in the Nkandla saga, and that the ruling of the Constitutional Court last month, which sided with her findings that Zuma violated the Constitution by not adhering to her remedial actions, could be blamed for the shortfall in funds.

“To adequately fund the Public Protector’s office would cost less than half of what was splurged at Nkandla. The Public Protector could be fully funded more than 33 times over for the cost of a R4-billion presidential jet,” Breytenbach continued.

“The Public Protector has in fact been closing down offices as a direct result of underfunding in her office. Twelve offices have been suspended and four closed or moved. Unless and until the Public Protector receives proper funding for these offices, South Africans, particularly poorer rural South Africans, will struggle to access her services”.

EFF MP Mmabatho Mokause branded Zuma “a corrupt individual” and that many communities in rural areas, unable to afford the courts, “needs the office of the Public Protector and other constitutional institutions that are well funded” to tackle corruption. She was later told to withdraw the remark.

Speaking in a statement, Congress of the People (Cope) spokesperson Dennis Bloem said government’s failure to provide Madonsela’s office with more funds, only confirms it would implement any measures possible to protect the President.

“She has no control over the number of requests that pour in. As misdemeanours in government multiply, the bigger her load of investigations become. She must therefore be funded in keeping with the demands that are made,” Bloem said.

“If the ANC wants the Public Protector to operate within budget, the ruling party must enforce 100% compliance with the constitution and it must deal decisively with all abuse of power, bullying and corruption. It is ANC misgovernment that is putting pressure on the Public Protector’s budget [and] increasing [her] case load”.