Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-01-28 Reporter: Meridy WixleyParkwood Editor:

Sluggish Baqwa


Publication  Business Day
Date 2003-01-28


Meridy WixleyParkwood

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Business Day often headlines new investigations by the public protector, but rarely reviews his final reports. Is this because you do not follow up your stories or because the public protector fails to report? I offer two "potted" histories so that your readers will be able to draw their own conclusions.

In November 1996 the Venda Patriotic Front lodged a pension fund complaint with former public protector Selby Baqwa. The complainants petitioned the high court in late 2001, complaining that Baqwa's office had "dragged its feet" and "failed to complete its investigation and to report thereon".

In January 2002, Baqwa was ordered by the high court to complete his investigation and deliver his report to Parliament, which he did in April. The public protector's annual report for the year ended March 2002 neither discloses these facts; nor does it make mention of the arms deal investigation.

In June 1997 Arlette Franks and I blew the whistle on the Pact/State Theatre slush fund debacle and took our case to Baqwa. Almost five years later, in April 2002, Business Day reported that Advocate Gary Pienaar of the office of the public protector had sent a statement of case to Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Minister Ben Ngubane with a three week response period.

To date, in spite of requests from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, all he has achieved is a draft response and his report remains unwritten.

Geoff Budlender, manager of the Legal Resources Centre, has called the time lag "inexcusable" and "ironic, given that one of the functions of the public protector is to investigate undue delay'".

No newspaper has reported in any depth on Baqwa's effectiveness as SA's first public protector, or analysed his annual reports to the National Assembly. Please would Business Day fill the gap?

With acknowledgements to Meridy WixleyParkwood and Business Day.