Office of Public Protector to set aside R7 million for Mkhwebane’s legal representation: Gcaleka

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The Office of the Public Protector says it expects to pay an estimated R7 million for the legal representation of suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in her impeachment hearing this financial year.

Mkhwebane is currently facing a parliamentary inquiry into her competence to hold office. The hearing was initially scheduled to be finalised this financial year but is likely to continue into the new year.

The Office of the Public Protector was briefing the Portfolio Committee on Justice on their annual financial report.

Office of Public Protector needs R7 million more for Mkhwebane inquiry: Adv Gcaleka

Mkhwebane won a Constitutional Court case where she challenged Parliament’s rules that disallowed her legal representative to speak during the impeachment hearing.

She has been represented by Seanego Attorneys who are briefing Dali Mpofu as the lead advocate. PPSA Chief Executive Officer, Thandi Sibanyoni, says they will be able to cover the costs with the help of the Department of Justice.

“This is an expense we didn’t really budget for. However, we are in talks for the current financial year with the DOJ to also bail us out and it seems as if they might be able to assist. But for the next financial year if this process should extend beyond the current financial, we might need extra funding for that because it’s an expense we didn’t expect and didn’t budget for,” says Sibanyoni.

Sibanyoni has admitted that their current security measures, especially at their regional offices, are not up to the required standard.

This is a matter that members of the Portfolio Committee have raised as a concern in the past. She says they have started the process of addressing these concerns.

“During this reporting period, we were able to recruit 28 new employees. It is unfortunate that as we people others leave for promotions and other reasons probably. We recruited 28 but then we had 24 people leaving the institution. And at the end of the reporting season our vacancy rate was standing at 7,18 %.,” she adds.

Issue of staffing

On the issue of staffing, she indicated that the office of the Public Protector has a very high staff turnover. She says most of their staff are young, mobile professionals who are in demand and are poached by better-paying departments in government.

“We require at least in the next financial year an amount of 6.1 million for security. We are currently undertaking a process to do an audit of all our offices for us to know what level of security to deploy. We need to do an audit to determine the risk associated with every office because that will inform us the extent and the number of security we deploy for each office,” she further adds.

While the office has managed to obtain another clean audit, there were still some irregularities. They have an irregular expenditure of over R10 million which has been condoned by the National Treasury.

For the current year, the office has a wasteful and fruitless expenditure of R52 000. The Auditor General, however, found these figures were not significant enough to impact on their clean audit.