MPs issue dire warning to Madonsela

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IOL SI Thuli Madonsela .jpg (37907101) INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Parliament - ANC MPs on Parliament's justice portfolio committee on Friday accused the public protector of political posturing and suggested her powers should be reviewed.

“We have seen the office of the public protector taking certain postures, both in the media and in the country and even outside the country, about government when she herself is part of government,” Bongani Bonga said.

“So we will not promote as the portfolio committee a situation where the public protector will make political views,” he added.

“I think we should warn the public protector to desist from making certain views that are political in nature because of the integrity of the office she is leading... That office takes postures that seems to be taking a political party line.”

The comment drew support from several ANC colleagues and firm objections from the opposition, with the African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart asking chairman Mathole Motshekga to rule it out of order.

“Broad allegations like this are totally unacceptable and I would ask you to rule that it is unparliamentary,” he said.

Motshekga suggested that the details of what Bonga implied were “public knowledge” and dismissed a call by the Democratic Alliance's Marius Redelinghuys that Bonga be made to withdraw the remark as the committee could issue no warning to Madonsela unless it had resolved to do so by vote.

Madonsela later described Bonga's remarks as “worrying”.

She was briefing the committee on her office's R199 million budget and asked for its backing for an increase, noting that it had originally asked Treasury for R300m for the current financial year.

Madonsela said her staff's caseload was such that investigators had initially refused to sign performance agreements, citing impossible targets, and only did so after threats of disciplinary action from management and further pleas from her.

Last year 333 employers handled 35 029 cases.

Madonsela said the “undue litigious approach” of some government offices was eroding funding, with some R10m going on legal costs in cases where her findings were taken on review by the state.

“We need money for legal fees,” she said.

In later comments to the media, she voiced her frustration at widespread refusal by the government to implement her recommendations.

“We are increasingly spending a fortune on litigation, and our view is a lot of that litigation is not necessary because the Constitution provides for co-operative governance.”

Madonsela and her chief executive officer, Themba Mthethwa, revealed that an urgent court application brought in November by the ministers of the security cluster to secure more time to comment on the interim Nkandla report, and then subsequently withdrawn, cost the public protector's office an initial R1.2m, of which only half was recovered from the state.

She confirmed that she had reluctantly accepted funding from German development institution GIZ for training courses, which drew a protest from Bonga.

“The issue of sourcing out funds from the Germans and the Americans... I think it is a problem. You can't detect when a counter-revolution is started, because you don't know those funders, what is their interest,” he said.

Speaking to the media after the briefing, Madonsela said she would not use donor funding for internal processes but matters had reached a “crisis point” and she had reasoned that “it is just a question of allowing the institution to fall apart or to get funding”.

Madonsela's relationship with the justice portfolio committee has been increasingly fraught in the past 18 months, but appeared to reach a new low on Friday when Motshekga called for her powers to be reviewed.

He veiled it in a suggestion that Chapter 9 institutions were duplicating each other's work, and that this was adding to her office's excessive caseload.

“I think the powers of these institutions, including yours, should be reviewed to avoid this costly duplication.”

Madonsela swiftly pointed out that her powers could only be changed by changing the Constitution.

To this Motshekga responded that he had not intended a Constitution change.


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