Parliament petitioned for inquiry into PP – OUTA

Organisation says it was encouraged by thousands of signatures in support of action

OUTA petitions Parliament for inquiry into Public Protector

10 June 2019

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has petitioned the Speaker of the National Assembly calling for an inquiry into the conduct and competence of the Public Protector.

OUTA was encouraged by thousands of our supporters who signed a petition in favour of this action.

OUTA's petition was submitted to Parliament on 10 June, accompanied by a letter outlining OUTA's reasons for calling for the inquiry. This letter is signed by OUTA's Chief Legal Officer, Advocate Stefanie Fick.

Fick says in the letter that Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane “has failed in her constitutional duties and powers and that earnest action is required before serious damage is caused to the reputation of the institution, democracy and the Republic”. OUTA asks the Speaker to appoint a committee to investigate Advocate Mkhwebane’s conduct with a view to removing her from office.

Advocate Mkhwebane was appointed in October 2016 but less than three years into her seven-year term there have been “a series of blunders relating to her own conduct or to her investigations and subsequent reports”, says OUTA’s letter.

The National Assembly has the power to remove the Public Protector from office. This involves establishing a committee to inquire into her actions. A finding of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence could result in the National Assembly voting to remove her; this vote would have to be supported by two-thirds of the MPs.

OUTA’s letter refers mainly to the two court rulings which have been critical of the Public Protector.

The Public Protector’s report on ABSA in June 2017 was disputed and resulted in a Pretoria High Court judgment in February 2018 which was strongly critical of the Public Protector. The judgment included noting that “the Public Protector does not fully understand her constitutional duty to be impartial and to perform her functions without fear, favour or prejudice”.

The Public Protector’s report on The Vrede dairy farm and Estina was taken on review. The Pretoria High Court found in May 2019 that the Public Protector contravened the Public Protector Act and the Constitution, referred to “ineptitude or gross negligence in the execution of her duties” and “irrational and arbitrary findings and material errors of law”. The court said the Public Protector “did nothing to assure the public that she kept an open and enquiring mind and that she discovered, or at least attempted to discover the truth”.

OUTA’s letter says the Public Protector appears to have shown disrespect and disregard for Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. This committee discussed the Public Protector’s removal on six occasions.

Issued by Lois Moodley, OUTA Head of Communications, 10 June 2019