Dear Public Protector. You are quite right to be deeply concerned about “false billing” – making the state pay for goods and services that were never supplied. And you’re right that the system of away-from-home accommodation for state employees needs a total overhaul. In our little Free State dorp we’ve seen any number of illegal practices. And it’s not just here: people who do the books of accommodation establishments in other parts of South Africa tell me that some B&B owners, gradually drawn into corrupt deals, now find that they can’t escape.
There are long-established practices for guest-management transactions, whether the person comes directly or through a travel agent, that ensure everything is above-board. But when guests don’t stay as private individuals – when someone else is paying the bill – it’s easy to “fix” the system, and the problem is most acute when government employees are involved.
Those movie scenes of a plane, about to take off, delayed when officials burst on board to arrest or release a passenger? Forget it. A top official of the Department of Home Affairs claims international law and local practice make it impossible to happen here.
But is he right? The head of immigration for the Western Cape, Tariq Mellet, has been at the centre of a row over the way his officials ignored an order of the high court last November.
As an aspirant farmer working a distant platteland smallholding, I would really love to buy a small tractor. So far, though, I’ve been shocked and intimidated by the difficulties and costs of getting a loan. But that’s only one reason for wanting to celebrate a judgment I read this week, Standard Bank v Dlamini.
The decision should be read by every consumer as well as all credit providers because it shows the courts in no mood to put up with bully banks that try to deceive people about the full extent of their rights.