Protector blames Shiceka for delays
Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has blamed Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka for delays in her probe into his alleged misuse of funds, but said a provisional report would be ready next week.
In a statement on Thursday, she rejected Shiceka's complaints that she was dragging her feet on the investigation, and that this prevented him from returning to work.
"The public protector refutes these allegations and would like to put on record circumstances that have led to the delay in finalising this investigation, which, in terms of the Executive Members' Ethics Act should have been concluded within 30 days."
Madonsela said the minister had been unco-operative to the point where she asked President Jacob Zuma to intervene.
She provided a detailed account of her difficulty in obtaining information from the minister, who has been on sick leave since February and is alleged to have misused around R1m in state funds.
Madonsela said she informed Shiceka of the investigation at the end of April and requested information from him. He asked for an extension until the end of May, but finally responded on June 10.
In August, she requested an interview with the minister, but this was declined because of his health.
"On August 3 2011, an unsigned letter was received in response to the public protector's request ostensibly on behalf of Mr Shiceka, notifying her that Mr Shiceka was on sick leave and was not in a position to meet her until he was declared medically fit to resume duties by a registered medical practitioner.
"This is despite information provided to the public protector... by witnesses who gave an impression that Mr Shiceka's health had apparently improved."
Madonsela said she then told Zuma of the "challenges that she was facing in concluding her report, particularly the unavailability of the minister".
On August 12, The Sowetan quoted Shiceka's spokesman as saying the minister was able to return to work and complaining that the probe was lagging.
Madonsela said she then contacted Shiceka directly and asked for an interview.
But she was again told that he "remained on sick leave until directed by the president and a medical practitioner to return to work".
He also asked to be given a provisional report of her findings. Madonsela declined, saying she lacked the necessary information to compile the report, and sent him written questions, to which his advisory team responded on August 31.
She said further information came to light while she was compiling her provisional report, which she would present to Zuma and Shiceka next week.
Shiceka on Wednesday told Eyewitness News that he was in good health and had been travelling and playing tennis.
He said he was ready to return to work, but could not do so until the public protector had completed her investigation.
Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj confirmed Zuma would not decide Shiceka's fate before the investigation was completed.
"We need that to be completed, otherwise the situation is untenable," he said.
Shiceka is alleged to have spent R355 000 to visit a girlfriend in a Swiss jail, R640 000 to stay in a luxury hotel in Cape Town, and more than R160 000 on plane tickets for his family.