Public protector slams info bill

2010-11-17 16:26

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has slammed the original draft of the Protection of Information Bill, saying it presented “an impediment” to the functioning of her office.

Addressing a conference on whistle-blowing organised by the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) in Johannesburg today, she pointed out that the problem was the restriction of the provision of information to the police.

Her office was keeping an eye on reworked drafts of the bill, she said.

“As we speak, my office is planning a round-table to discuss the latest draft with a view to assessing its implications,” she said.

Her officials will probe the new draft’s implications with regard to:
» Unrestricted exercise of the mandate of the public protector and other oversight agencies;
» It’s reconcilability with the Promotion of Access to Information Act;
» Its implications for the country’s obligations under the United Nations and international conventions that seek to promote transparency as a strategy in the fight against corruption;
» The kind of balance it strikes between state security interests and open democracy;
» Its implications for whistle-blowing in the broader sense, in particular disclosures protected under the Protected Disclosures Act and the Companies Act and anonymous tip-offs.

Fraud study

Madonsela said a global study on fraud revealed that that auditing identified only about 5% of fraud in organisations, including organs of state.

The study further revealed that fraud detection is mainly achieved through tip-offs.

“If we accept the findings of this study, there should be no doubt in our minds that whistle-blowing should be one of the strategic focuses of our efforts in promoting good governance, incorporating zero tolerance for corruption.”

Her office, Madonsela said, fully supported efforts that seek to highlight whistle-blowing and to strengthen the protection of whistle-blowers.

“We see whistle-blowing as central to accountable governance which in turn is central to good governance,” she said.

The Protection of Information Bill was particularly relevant to the debate on whistle-blowing, Madonsela said.

Her take on the bill was that it had to be evaluated in terms of its ability to balance the country’s state security needs against the constitutionally protected value of open democracy and the country’s commitments to clean and accountable governance.

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