Public protector shines light on FS

2017-04-12 06:02

The public protector, Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, will release four reports investigating alleged irregularities amounting to R1 billion in several projects initiated by the Free State provincial government.

“The public protector’s office will release reports on the Mangaung Taxi Rank, the Vrede Dairy Project, Operation Hlasela and the Free State government website scandal at the end of April,” Mkwebane said at the Free State legislature in Bloemfontein.

Mkhwebane has been asked to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of the Mangaung taxi rank, which cost taxpayers R400 million.

Completed in 2009, the taxi rank remains a white elephant after taxi operators said the facility is defective and small.

Other outstanding reports include the R570 million Vrede Dairy Project and the R40 million Free State government website.

Lodged as far back as 2009, Mkwebane said delays in finalising cases were caused by large case backlogs in the public protector’s Free State office. On average, the provincial Office of the Public Protector investigates 200 cases per month and 2 000 cases a year.

Addressing various stakeholders, Mkhwebane mentioned several state-owned organs who do not cooperate with officials of the Chapter 9 institution in investigations.

Citing the Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality, Mkhwebane’s office subpoenaed the municipal manager, Robert Tsupa, for failing to cooperate with her office.

“Several cases, including water- and electricity-related complaints, were instituted against the authority by locals,” said Kevin Malunga, the deputy protector.

Other state organs failing to cooperate with the public protector’s office include the municipalities of Matjhabeng and Mantsopa and the Department of Police, Roads and Transport.

Mkhwebane thanked the Mangaung Metro, the Setsoto Municipality and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) for working efficiently with her office.

The premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, urged Mkhwebane to investigate farm evictions and warned political parties and the media not to “set the agenda for the Office of the Public Protector”.

Mokwebane said her office should be capacitated to investigate private sector complaints. Mentioning the death of Andries Tatane, the public protector encouraged state organs to establish their own internal complaints desk and create ombudsman options for various public sectors to avoid violent protests.

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