We're not clipping Thuli Madonsela's wings – Michael Masutha

2014-07-15 15:52

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Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has received more criticism from the justice ministry for her remarks to the media and her perceived reluctance to refer cases to other agencies.

“The public protector may be approaching issues in ways that other people might not be very happy with,” said Justice Minister Michael Masutha. “That is democracy in the works, things get said in the media which not all of us are particularly happy with.”

He added that the Public Protector accounted and reported to the National Assembly and it was up to it “to deal with some of those issues”.

Masutha denied that the government planned to alter Madonsela’s mandate – a step which would necessitate a constitutional amendment – in the wake of remarks by justice portfolio committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga that there was a need to review it.

“I don’t think that the insinuation that this is a backdoor attempt to clip the public protector’s wings is well-placed,” he said.

“[The Public Protector] is perfectly entitled to exercise her mandate. I am not aware of any efforts to impede her in any way.”

Instead, he said, government wanted Madonsela to avoid wasting resources by taking on investigations into maladministration and corruption that were, or could be, handled by other watchdog agencies.

Last week Madonsela told a parliamentary committee that her office’s budget of just under R199 million was “woefully inadequate” for the caseload it handled.

As Motshekga did 10 days ago, the justice minister cited the recommendations of the Kader Asmal report on “Chapter Nine” institutions.

“There are still ... issues ... to be resolved and one of them is going on the whole question of synergy, improving collaboration, reducing duplication,” he said, ahead of the budget vote speech to the National Assembly.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery faulted Madonsela for focusing on high profile cases and failing to provide the justice ministry with feedback outlining the main trends in maladministration evidenced in the roughly 24 642 reports her office completed last year.

“What were they about? Do any of you know?” he asked.

“What is important is we start getting reports on those. It is only a few high profile ones that one sees. What we need to start seeing is the systematic proposals from the public protector’s office on what we can do to combat maladministration and service delivery.”

He added that in overseeing the work of Madonsela’s office he hoped that the National Assembly would focus on how she could avoid overlapping with other bodies, such as the Public Service Commission.

“The mandate needs to be broad. The issue is how ... you make best use of your resources to ensure maximum impact.”

Madonsela’s relationship with the portfolio committee has soured in recent years.

Earlier this month, she was lambasted by ANC members on the committee for “political posturing”.

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