Office of the Public Protector receives a clean audit

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The Office of the Public Protector has received a clean audit from the Auditor-General but it comes with material misstatements on irregular expenditure. The AG detected irregular expenditure as a result of the unfair allocation of external legal work to the tune of R18.6 million for the 2022/23 financial year. The Public Protector’s office has tabled its 2022/23 annual report in Parliament.

The Public Protector’s office says it had a challenging 2022/23 fiscal year. As a result of pressures from costs associated with the Parliamentary Section 194 enquiry probing axed Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Legal costs for the enquiry stood at R30 million and travel and accommodation at over a million rand.

Irregular expenditure has increased by over R18.9 million, bringing the total legacy irregular expenditure to just under R50 million. This is because no proper tender processes were followed in contracting legal law firms over the past four years. However, last year, the AG said there were also no fair, equitable, transparent and competitive processes. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure has increased by R157 000, bringing the total legacy fruitless and wasteful expenditure to R2.8 million.

Acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka says in the annual report that legal costs, adverse cost orders from historical litigation, as well as the Section 194 enquiry exacerbated the financial pressures and budgetary constraints.

“We are committed to take a leaf from many judgments against the institution and took every step to ensure that we do not repeat same,” says Gcaleka.

Gcaleka says they have reconfigured the quality assurance processes of investigations. She says the office received an overall achievement of 86 %.

Mkhwebane was in charge for just over two months of the year under review before she was suspended in June last year. Gcaleka took over for the remainder of the financial year, which ended in March this year.