President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA
Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to clamp down on alleged serious maladministration in the Office of the State Attorney (OSA) has received a boost after the Justice Ministry backed an investigation into the organisation.

Last month, Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe alleged improprieties in the institution - which provides legal services to national and provincial departments - saying it had “suffered losses that may have to be recovered”.

“I deem it necessary that the said allegations should be investigated and civil proceedings emanating from such investigation should be adjudicated,” Ramaphosa said.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha has welcomed the wide-ranging probe instituted by Ramaphosa.

He concurred with Ramaphosa that there were concerns raised by numerous legal practitioners about the functioning of the OSA, calling on the public to come forward with information.

The SIU, according to the proclamation, will probe:

Improper or unlawful con- duct by some employees or officials in the office;

Any unlawful, irregular or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure or practice having a bearing upon state property;

Intentional or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property;

Contravention of the Pre- vention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act; and

Unlawful or improper conduct which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public.

The Justice Ministry said the probe would assist the department to put to rest concerns which have been raised by the public, the law sector and other government departments regarding the functioning and alleged irregular conduct of the office.

“Several legal practitioners and colleagues in government have raised concerns about the conduct of some officials in the Office of the State Attorney,” Masutha said.

“I felt that the gravity of the allegations warranted a fully fledged investigation involving the SIU rather than resorting to internal processes.”

The minister called on the public - especially women legal practitioners who have complained about the abuse of power - with material information that could assist the investigation to come forward.

The OSA, among others, plays a role in the assistance of drafting and managing of contracts on behalf of the state, as well as the handling of criminal and civil litigation cases instituted against state officials and committed by means of acts or omissions while executing their official duties.

Justice and correctional services portfolio committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga said he welcomed the SIU investigation.

“During our budget debate, I also raised concerns about that office, so it comes as no surprise that the president has issued such a proclamation,” Motshekga said.

The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach said the proclamation to investigate maladministration was a good thing.

“There have been a lot of issues surrounding the office for many years now. The investigation will probe how they spent public money,” Breytenbach said.

The probe comes almost two months after Ramaphosa authorised the SIU to investigate fraud and corruption in several government departments and municipalities across the country.

The Star