Mkhwebane slates EC education and health for not playing ball

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane yesterday singled out three Eastern Cape government departments and a metropolitan municipality as “bad apples” that refused to cooperate with her investigations.

Addressing members of the Bhisho legislature yesterday, Mkhwebane said the departments of health, education and human settlements, as well as the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, had the potential “to tarnish the good name of the provincial government” because of their refusal to cooperate with her office.

“The lack of cooperation by the department of health, which is leading the pack of bad apples, hampers our attempts to resolve complaints on conditions of service, especially matters relating to pensions,” said Mkhwebane.

This tendency of the departments – led by Dr Phumza Dyantyi, Mandla Makupula and Helen Sauls-August – said Mkhwebane, was the reason “justice delayed is justice denied”.

This is because her office depended on cooperation from organs of state to provide justice to the public without delay.

“The duty on the part of the state to cooperate is not merely a demand from us.

“It is a constitutional imperative,” she said.

Mkhwebane said if all state organs, including the Eastern Cape health and education departments, were forthcoming with information, it would save her office time wasted on issuing subpoenas.

The public protector is busy with several investigations in the province, including Buffalo City Metro’s Nelson Mandela funeral scandal and the Amathole district municipality’s Siyenza toilet saga.

Mkhwebane committed herself to finalising the Mandela funeral funds scandal investigation and releasing the report by the beginning of July.

She said all that was left in this “biggest investigation” was finalisation of Section 79 notices, which offer implicated parties an opportunity to respond to allegations.

“Once we issue those Section 79 notices it means it is at an advanced stage. The [report] should be published end of June or beginning of July.”

By then she would have given the implicated parties 14 to 20 days to respond, she added.

“This is a very involved investigation. It involves a lot of money so we have to give people enough time to give us evidence and clear their names so that once we finalise the report we know it is well consulted on and does not lead to us being taken for judicial review,” added Mkhwebane.

Among the cases that form part of this investigation is a 2014 Dispatch exposé on how millions meant for transporting mourners to the funeral of the late world icon were misappropriated in a scandal involving several heavyweight ANC politicians and politically-connected businesspeople in BCM.

A major part of the investigation would be into the millions of rands used to organise a provincial memorial service in Port Elizabeth a week before the funeral of the struggle icon.

Most of the funds were channelled to the Eastern Cape Development Corporation for the parastatal to manage.

But the Dispatch also revealed gross irregularities in how the tenders were issued, including millions more meant for infrastructure development which were channelled to entities including King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality in Mthatha for the same funeral.

The public protector said another main investigation pending in her office which involved the Eastern Cape was the Amathole district municipality toilet tender saga, which involved more that R600-million in taxpayers’ money.

The scandal implicated family members connected to high-profile ANC politicians.

However, Mkhwebane said, the investigation was far from concluded.

“The Amathole district investigation is ongoing but there has been a delay in finalising that particular matter and I would not commit on time frames for when it will be finalised,” said Mkhwebane. — zingisam@dispatch.co.za

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