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Public Protector’s investigation team gets a boost

Written by * Oupa Segalwe
The Public Protector South Africa has appointed 100 trainee investigators to help improve the speed and rigour of its investigations.

Trainee investigators Carina van Eeden (from left), Neo Mashigo, Bridgette Makama and Jeffrey Mphahlele have joined Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s (seated) team to help deal with the workload.The Public Protector is an institution established to conduct investigations into complaints of improper conduct in all state affairs from members of the public.

The investigators, who have been stationed at the institution’s 20 offices countrywide, were recruited late in 2012 in a bid to strengthen the office’s investigative capacity, pending Parliament’s approval of a proposed organisational structure.

In terms of the proposed structure, the Public Protector required the number of investigation staff, which stood at 137 at the time, to be doubled in order to match the office’s workload. In the financial year ending March 2012, the office processed 26 000 cases, of which 20 000 were received during the same period. This means on average, each investigator was handling around 400 investigations at a time. Out of the 26 000 cases processed, 16 700 were concluded.

Welcoming the trainee investigators based at her Pretoria office recently, Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela told the trainees that it wasn’t only her office that expected a lot from them, but the South African public also had high expectations.

“We always say we are not swift and thorough enough because we don’t have as many people as we need … Your arrival here increases our establishment by 25 percentage points,” she said, noting that the recruits took the total number of staff members, including those from corporate support, from 300 to 400. She told the group that, as members of the Public Protector team, they had an important a role to play and the effectiveness of the office depended on each member of the team.

The Public Protector said the group has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the office successfully serves as the conscience of the state in order to help guarantee fairness and opportunity for all.

The Public Protector urged the group to help ensure that the Public Service is not characterised by indifference, cynicism or selfishness. “Usually, when public money has been wasted, there is anger all round but when people have been treated badly the anger is not that much. You should inspire the Public Service to treat people with a sense of ubuntu,” she appealed.

The Public Protector thanked the National Treasury for responding positively to her office’s request for funds that eventually led to the recruitment of the trainees.

One of the trainees Boitumelo Motholo, a law graduate from the University of Witwatersrand, was excited at the opportunity to learn while helping to entrench South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

“I have always wanted to work for the Public Protector and contribute to the cause of bettering the public administration. I also see this as an opportunity to develop a strong sense of work ethic,” she said.

The trainees will be assigned their own cases under close supervision, working alongside experienced investigators, whose duties include, among other things, showing the beginners the ropes.

*Oupa Segalwe works for Public Protector.

If you need the Public Protector’s help call the toll free number on 0800 11 20 40 or the Customer Service Line on 012 366 7143.