If the South African government is indeed committed to fighting corruption, the budget allocated to the Office of the Public Protector needs to increase, according to a statement issued today by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
In his medium term budget policy statement in Parliament on 22 October, finance minister Nhlanhla Nene noted that corruption and wasteful expenditure were costing the country financially and hampering efforts to deliver to the poor.
That same day, Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela told Parliament’s Justice Committee that her office is not receiving sufficient funds to handle the 39 817 cases of corruption they are currently investigating.
"It is deeply concerning that the public protector is not receiving adequate funds to promote the interests of the people of South Africa over those of corrupt public officials," said Gareth Newham, head of the ISS Governance, Crime and Justice division.
"The large number of cases under investigation shows that the public protector is fulfilling its constitutional mandate by playing an important role in tackling corruption and maladministration in South Africa."
The Office of the Public Protector was established in 1995 and is tasked with investigating complaints against any public agencies or officials. Although the Treasury has approved 500 employee posts for the public protector, the lack of funds means that only 314 posts have been filled. The budget for the current financial year is R199.25-million. Madonsela indicated that an additional R24.3-million is required for 2015. This is only 10% of what the state spent on upgrading the private Nkandla home of President Jacob Zuma.
"The president regularly tells us that ending corruption is a priority and last week finance minister Nene highlighted the enormous costs to the country," said Judith February, senior researcher in the Governance, Crime and Justice division. "But if the institutions mandated to do the job aren’t properly funded, it remains difficult to take government at its word.".
The public protector has effectively exposed powerful politicians and public officials who lie, cheat and steal from the people of South Africa. Despite government’s stated commitment to tackling corruption, senior politicians and their supporters seem determined to undermine and weaken this important institution.
The minister of finance and those parliamentarians who value transparency, accountability and good governance should ensure that the Office of the Public Protector receives sufficient funds to do its work.
For more information contact:
• First published on the Institute for Security Studies website