Parliament - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has defended herself against MPs over her meeting with the Presidency ahead of her finding on the Absa/CIEX matter, saying this was related to her investigation.
In February, a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria lashed Mkhwebane after Absa challenged her findings over the bailout of Bankorp which in June last year she had found was unlawful, ordering the banking giant to pay back over R3,2 billion.
The court ordered Mkhwebane to pay 85% of the costs of Absa and the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) in her official capacity, but to personally pay 15% of the costs, also on a punitive scale for the “unacceptable way” in which she conducted her investigation and her persistence to oppose the application to the end.
A clearly frustrated Mkhwebane, asked by justice and correctional services portfolio committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga, explained that her meeting was not with former president Zuma.
“I met with the Presidency’s legal advisor, I did not not meet with the (former) President (Zuma) to discuss this matter...the other meetings, were related to the public protector, and the Executive Members’ Ethics Act,” said Mkhwebane.
She was briefing the committee on public protector’s 2018/2023 strategic plan and its annual performance plan for 2018/2019.
Mkhwebane told MPs that for the three year medium term budget framework, the public protector would require R870 million to fund all its obligations.
“The key issue, even if we don’t get this R870 million, is that we’ve got some accumulative deficit since 2013,” said Mkhwebane.
She said her office required R57 million for “goods and services” but had only received R52 million.
“The balance of R5 million will be an issue of (a) deficit. In addition to that you’ve got your discretionary, additional operational issues which we cannot operate without them and they’ve been there in the system which amounts to R24 million….plus five it amounts to R29 million,” said Mkhwebane.
She said currently her office employed 363 people, which consisted of 190 investigators who are the core of the organisation.
“We have received several resignations on our staff compliment. For the 2017/2018 financial year, we’ve had five senior investigators who have resigned, they have received better offers somewhere else, three investigators better offers, and then one assistant manager which is under administration,” Mkhwebane told the MPs.
Asked about her former spokesperson Cleo Mosana, and the widespread belief that she been “purged”, Mkhwebane said that was not the case and that she had only been internally transferred.
“There’s no issue that she had been purged but that was a serious issue of a breakdown of trust between the Public Protector and the spokesperson,” said Mkhwebane.
Explaining the absence of her deputy, Kevin Malunga, Mkhwebane said he had been assigned to assist with training due to the concerns about the quality of reports which emanated from the public protector.