12 February 2013

South Africa: Public Service Commission Asked to Investigate Public Protector

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development will call on the services of the Public Service Commission (PSC) to investigate claims of maladministration in the office of the Public Protector. The Committee resolved today (12 February) that it did not have the capacity to deal with an investigation of this nature.

Committee Chairperson, Mr Luwellyn Landers, agreed to the suggestion that a letter be written to the PSC to ascertain if the Commission has the capacity to undertake such an investigation. The decision came after Mr John Jeffery, a Committee member, indicated that the Committee should try to solicit the help of the PSC to investigate the complaints.

Ms Dene Smuts, another Committee member, was of the view that the PSC might not have jurisdiction to investigate the matter as the Public Protector is a Chapter 9 institution which falls outside the public service. Other Committee members agreed to Mr Jeffery's suggestion which was later adopted by the Committee.

The Committee also resolved to call in the Public Protector, Adv Thuli Madonsela, to discuss the unresolved complaints of maladministration in her office. This came after Ms Pilane-Majake, who also serves on the Committee, indicated that Adv Madonsela should be given an opportunity to state her case as a similar opportunity was given to her previous Deputy Public Protector, Adv Mamiki Shai.

The Committee decided to call Adv Madonsela - even though the complaints were mainly made anonymously - because she herself had asked it to investigate. However, MPs from all parties said it was not the Committee's place to police disputes in Chapter 9 institutions but struggled with the notion of which oversight body did have the mandate to do so.

The issue was highlighted last year when the Committee called Adv Shai to substantiate allegations she made against Adv Madonsela. She alleged that her signature had been forged and that Adv Madonsela had withheld a report on the DA-led Midvaal Municipality until after local government elections.

Adv Madonsela has said the allegations were "false" and "misleading", and raised concerns that they would undermine the functioning of her office. Adv Shai was replaced by Adv Kevin Malunga late last year after her term expired.

Ms Smuts further said the Committee should consider the concerns that Adv Madonsela was exceeding her mandate by investigating problems within the justice department.

"There are matters that really belong with the Master (of the courts) that she intruded upon. She cannot take on issues that are beyond her jurisdiction." These investigations had come to light after Adv Madonsela briefed the Committee on her annual report last year and said the justice department was the source of most complaints brought to her office.

Mr Jeffery indicated he wanted clarity on the powers assigned to the Deputy Public Protector as well as the functions of the Chief Executive Officer.

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