Secrecy bill: Public Protector’s ‘bizarre’ letter to the speaker worries ANC

2011-12-09 00:00

IT seems Public Protector Thuli Madonsela may be interfering in Parliament’s legislative process, the ANC said yesterday.

ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said in a statement the party is concerned about recent correspondence she sent to the speaker of the National Assembly about the Protection of State Information Bill,

The letter deals with the non-inclusion of a public interest defence clause in the bill approved by the National Assembly last month.

Madonsela’s office has been quoted in the media as expressing concern over the so-called “Secrecy bill” and indicating that it would investigate the absence of a public interest defence in the bill if a complaint was made.

“If media reports are correct, then the Public Protector appears to interfere in Parliament’s legislative process by questioning and threatening to investigate the institution’s legislative decisions,” Motshekga said.

“The action of the Public Protector worryingly implies that Parliament is accountable to the office of the Public Protector, when in fact the opposite is true in terms of the Constitution.”

All state institutions supporting constitutional democracy, including Madonsela’s office, are accountable to Parliament.

As a Chapter 9 institution, the office of the Public Protector has the right to make submissions on draft legislation before Parliament, Motshekga said.

“Writing to the speaker expressing concern on the legislative process or decision is bizarre, as the speaker cannot be held responsible for or [be] expected to explain legislative decision of the Assembly.”

Motshekga added: “We are, however, hopeful that now that the Public Protector’s office has shown interest in this bill it will prepare proposals on the bill for submission to the National Council of Provinces ad hoc committee when it opens its public consultations drive [on the bill].”

Madonsela said she will engage Motshekga on the matter at the earliest opportunity and that there seems to be a misunderstanding about the letter she wrote to the speaker’s office.

Her spokesperson, Kgalalelo Masibi, said the Public Protector has not interfered nor sought to interfere with the parliamentary process. She has acted within the sphere of her responsibilities.

Masibi added that the speaker had in fact sent a polite response that did not suggest that Madonsela had acted outside her constitutional mandate.

The Public Protector was indeed advised by the speaker to engage the select committee in the NCOP. She will do as advised and invites the people who have complained to do the same, Masibi said.


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