The office in Kururman was closed but added that measures are in place to ensure that people in the area are provided with necessary services
THE OFFICE of the Public Protector in the Northern Cape has denied claims that it is on the verge of collapse.
This follows information that the regional office in Kuruman closed last year, while another office is operating with only two staff members and staff at a third office have to conduct their duties with limited resources.
Only two employees, one investigator and the regional manager, are appointed at the Upington regional office. There were previously three staff members, which included an administrative assistant, who has since taken up a position at the office in Pretoria.
The shortage of staff is not the only challenge the chapter nine institution is faced with in the Northern Cape, as employees at the Kimberley office apparently have to work without access to the internet and no telephone lines.
However, the provincial representative of the Public Protector, Mlungisi Khanya, has lambasted claims that the offices in the Province run the risk of closing their doors.
“All Public Protectors offices in the Northern Cape are fully operational to execute their constitutional obligations and their existence in the Province is fully entrenched. The allegations that the Public Protector’s offices in the Province are on the verge of collapse are unfortunate, baseless, irresponsible and opportunistic,” said Khanya.
He admitted that the office in Kururman was closed but added that measures are in place to ensure that people in the area are provided with necessary services.
“A decision was taken to close the Kuruman regional office because of the location of the office and the low number of complaints received by that office. The office was not accessible to the Kuruman community because of its location. It was also not financially viable to continue with the Kuruman office with only 43 cases and a staff complement of five staff members.
“However, in order to expand the Public Protector’s footprint in the John Taolo Gaetsewe (JTG) region, the Public Protector is currently negotiating with the Kuruman Magistrate’s Court for office space to be used by the Public Protector to service the JTG community. Outreach activities will also be conducted to address the issue of accessibility to the Public Protector’s services in the Kuruman area.
“The Kuruman regional office was closed in December 2019 and all Kuruman staff members were transferred to the Kimberley provincial office from January 2020 to deal with the backlog of cases and to boost capacity in order to ensure the speedy resolution of cases.”
Khanya added that the issue of shortage of staff at the Upington regional office was also being dealt with.
“The Upington regional office is currently operating with two staff members. One additional staff member will be reporting to the Upington office in the next couple of weeks. The said staff member has been transferred from the George office. Two legal interns will also be appointed to boost capacity at the Upington office.”
He admitted that the institution was faced with budgetary constraints but that it did not hamper the productivity of employees.
“It is public knowledge that the Public Protector, like any other chapter nine institution, has budgetary constraints which may sometimes make it challenging for employees to perform their duties. The allegations that the Kimberley office has no resources like phones, internet and cars are unfortunate.
“The Kimberley office has one brand new vehicle that was delivered the first week of February 2020. Before the delivery of the new vehicle, hired cars were used for outreach activities.
“Due to load shedding at our head office in Pretoria during the last two weeks, services like internet and e-mails were mainly affected because our server is connected to the main server in Pretoria. The system is now up and running and staff have access to e-mails and the internet.
“Kimberley has also been experiencing violent storms of late and as a result the telephone line system was struck by lightning during one of the storms late in January 2020. The office is currently using a pool cellphone to contact complainants and stakeholders until the telephones lines are repaired. We are currently procuring the services of a service provider to fix the telephone lines. This is a temporary inconvenience and the landlines will be fixed in the next couple of days.
“Despite these minor challenges our offices are operating fully, cases are investigated, finalised and reports released by the Public Protector. From April 2019 to January 2020 a total of 327 cases have been finalised and four formal reports have been issued by the Public Protector including the recent formal report against the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture released by the Public Protector on January 21, 2020,” Khanya concluded.