Remedial action is critical, says Public Protector

2011-06-03 07:47

It is not enough for organs of state to simply provide the service that was delayed or denied before her office stepped in, according to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Speaking during a public lecture at the University of Stellenbosch’s School of Public Leadership in Cape Town yesterday, she said her office had in recent times placed a spotlight on the constitutional imperative of taking appropriate remedial action.

“I am convinced that without redress, the Public Protector is a gate to nowhere”, she said.

“I firmly believe that remedial action should bring the complainant as close as possible to where they would have been had the state acted properly at the outset. While financial compensation is often the right thing to do, at times a simple apology is enough.

“In fact, apologising when you have wronged someone is one of the foundational values of traditional African societies and is interrelated with the values of ubuntu and human dignity,” said Madonsela.

Remedial action, she said, was also important in matters where conflict of interest, abuse of power, fraud and corruption played a role.

In the modern state, said Madonsela, the relationship between the citizens and public authorities is best described as a “David and Goliath scenario”.

Public accountability seeks to ensure that the enormous power wielded by public authorities is exercised within agreed parameters.

Public accountability is one of the checks and balances for preventing or curbing excesses in the exercise of public power, she said. It is also at the core of democracy.

“It provides political representatives and voters with the necessary inputs for judging the fairness, effectiveness, and efficiency of governance.”

Her office and the media have a responsibility to ensure that those entrusted with public power are subject to public accountability.

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