The Public Protector revealed on Friday that her office is desperate for funding. She was addressing parliament in Cape Town when she presented her supplementary budget requirements. She said, in her statement that her department needed about R80 million to deal with the outstanding cases in her office.
The Public Protector is a Chapter Nine institution as set out by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which is mandated with the investigation of all complaints and cases that come before it. The investigations can be initiated by the Public Protector’s Office on its own initiative or it can respond to complaints from various sectors of the community. Chief among its list of investigations has been the notorious Nkandla report on the anomalies in the security upgrades at the President’s Nkandla home in KwaZulu Natal as well as the investigation into the conduct of the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, Pansy Tlakula, an investigation which has since been upheld by the Electoral Court.
By law, the Public Protector’s office is funded by central government by allocation of funds in the national budget. While her office has been allocated with a budget in the last presentation, Thuli Madonsela argues that this has not been near enough as her office has been inundated with complaints and requests for investigations. According to Madonsela, each of her investigators is having to handle about ninety cases per month, a near impossible task, which has led most of them to either opt out or refuse to sign performance agreements. This, she reveals, is because her office cannot afford to employ more investigators.
Madonsela, in her presentation before parliament, also argued that the other reason for her departmemt’s financial dire straits was litigation. She revealed that a big chunk of her office’s budget went towards responding to cases brought against it. She identified the ANC led government as the chief culprit in bringing cases against the Public Protector’s office. She went on to say that if the government continued to bring cases against it, her office would have less capacity to fulfil its mandate of conducting investigations. She added that it was her feeling that most of the litigation cases were not necessary.
She also revealed that the situation in her department was so dire that she has had to approach international donors. She further revealed that she had approached the German Development Cooperation(GIZ), which had shown a willingness to financially aid her department. She said that she had told them that she was not comfortable with foreign organisations in internal affairs but when she returned home, it was suddenly clear to her that there was no money in her department. She was further advised by members of parliament that accepting funding from foreign donors would compromise her independence. Furthermore, she also revealed that while her office needs more than R300 million to fund its activities, state coffers would only provide R217 million.