Public Protector cuts posts amid budget shortfalls

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Esa Alexander

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's office has had to cut a total of 125 posts as part of its restructuring due to budget shortfalls.

This was revealed in a report to the justice and correctional services portfolio committee in parliament on Friday afternoon.

In the presentation, Mkhwebane's office raised fears that despite the cuts, which were forced due to lack of funding, the office may still find difficulty in funding the new structure as the National Treasury was looking to again cut funding by a further 17%.

Addressing the committee, Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka said their new structure was a compromise structure mainly to address their budgetary issues.

“How would we be affected by the 17% cut if it were to take place? We would not be able to realise this structure that has been approved.

“As it is, with the current baseline, we are unable to realise the structure in its entirety,” said Gcaleka.

According to the report which Mkhwebane and her team presented, cutting the 125 posts would make it possible to trim its expenditure by R48m.

The organisation review process which led to the cut began in 2018. It follows years of the office's pleas for more funding in order to fulfil its mandate.

Addressing the committee, acting CEO Yelekile Lusibane, said it had proven to be impossible to fund the current organisational structure after several engagements with the National Treasury.

But even with the new structure, which saw a cut of personnel from 707 to 582, the office will still see funding shortfalls as it will be left with a total of 231 unfunded posts.

“In terms of the current structure, we are supposed to have 21 regional offices, five of those have been closed and eight have never been opened. We are currently operating with eight regional offices.

“This has affected our accessibility in terms of the services that we provide, which we are currently managing through our outreach programmes and roadshows,” said Lusibane, explaining their current financial challenges.

She said they have had to negotiate with other state organs like the CCMA, the department of justice, co-operative governance and traditional affairs department, SA Local Government Association and the SA Post Office in order to get office space.   

Lusibane also spoke about the overload of cases for their investigators where it was way above international best practice of a maximum of 25 cases per investigator.

They currently have an average of 79 cases per investigator.

“This average figure is not only the indication of high workload in terms of our resources. The type of complaints are increasingly complex and [we spend more] time on them,” said Lusibane.

But Lusibane said the reason for the restructuring was not just motivated by funding but they wanted to correct issues of administrative support in provinces and the allocation of investigators.

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