What started off as a meeting to allow the Public Protector’s Office to propose to the Justice Portfolio Committee why it required an expanded budget in order to finance its operations degenerated into what was referred to by some MPs as a circus, with the chairman of the committee, Mathole Motshekga as the clown master. This emerged after the committee met with Thuli Madonsela and her team on Wednesday. The meeting had been convened so that the Public Protector’s office could present its annual budget briefing to the Justice Portfolio Committee for further representation to the Treasury and consequently, consideration in the annual budget. Madonsela and her team had recommended to the committee that the Chapter 9 institution needed an increase of R200 million in order for them to be able to deal effectively with their current caseload.
Madonsela and her team were given the opportunity to present their reports, albeit with persistent interruptions from Motshekga, who accused the South African Ombudsman of failing to state how she proposed to deal with the apparent lack of financial management at her office, an observation that was pointed out by the Auditor General as well as the same committee last year. “Everything that the three of you have said has not addressed any of the issues raised by the committee last year as well as any of the issues raised in the Auditor-General’s report and what is happening now is that we are reminded of the structure and the need to find a structure, things that we were told last year, which means that this session has actually become meaningless,” fumed the Committee Chairman. He argued that, consequently, it would be difficult for the Office of the Public Protector to get the support of the Committee for an increased budget demand from Treasury.
To this, Thuli Madonsela responded that she had addressed the issues that the Auditor General’s report had raised last year and that she was prepared and ready to respond to the questions that any of the members of the committee had. However, the chairman advised that she would have to return the following Wednesday in order to respond to questions from the committee. Madonsela said this could not be possible as she would be away on a trip that her office had already paid. Members of the Democratic Alliance were often to be seen and heard coming to the defence of the Public Protector. Said Werner Horn at one point, “Chairperson, in terms of the rules of Parliament I think you are abusing your power,” and “You are presenting at this stage a view of the committee which you have not consulted with the committee at all. With all due respect, I and I think a few of my colleagues, differ in that you accuse the Public Protector of not addressing issues raised last year while I specifically noted quite a number of changes effected already by the CEO and the CFO in addressing the issues raised not only by this committee but also by the AG.” He went on to say, “I don’t think it is your purview now to take to task the Public Protector. You are to chair this meeting and to allow members to engage.” In the end, however, opportunity was granted to Madonsela to address the question of irregular expenditure.
After the meeting, DA federal council chairman James Selfe said that he had written a letter to the committee secretary that there be an opportunity to conduct a vote of no confidence in Motshekga. He said in his statement, “It was outrageous. A circus with him (Chairman) as the clown master.”