Public Protector ordered to issue OUTA with records on David Mabuza

Important win for transparency and accountability

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08/09/2021 07:25:44

Public Protector ordered to issue OUTA with records on David Mabuza

The Pretoria High Court has ruled in favour of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) in an unopposed application against the Public Protector’s office. The court granted an order directing the Public Protector to furnish OUTA with records relating to a report exonerating former Mpumalanga premier, David Mabuza, of procurement irregularities. The Public Protector released the report in May 2019.

“We celebrate this as a win, and not only a win for OUTA, but for transparency and accountability,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA’s Executive Director: Accountability. “We believe we are justified in our request for the documents, but the ruling also serves as a reminder that Chapter 9 institutions like the Public Protector’s office should be transparent at all times.”

The ruling was made on Tuesday 7 September.

In May 2019 the office of the Public Protector released a report after investigating the procurement of four official vehicles for Mabuza while still Premier of  Mpumalanga. The report stated that, although the vehicles were irregularly procured, Mabuza was not involved and was therefore absolved of any blame.

Upon release of the report, OUTA submitted an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to the office of the Public Protector, requesting access to the records she relied upon when absolving Mabuza.

The Public Protector furnished OUTA with some documents but failed to furnish the rest.  OUTA then approached the court to demand access to all the documents, as we have reason to believe that the Public Protector misconstrued her powers and failed to properly consider potential contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act in the 2019 report.

It is not the first time OUTA has been critical of the Public Protector’s work. OUTA also petitioned Parliament in June 2019 calling for an inquiry into Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold the position, based on various court rulings critical of her decisions.

Parliament is also busy with proceedings to remove Advoctate Mkhwebane as the Public Protector following various complaints and court judgments against her. The proceedings have since been temporarily halted  following the Western Cape High Court ruling that found some sections of Parliament’s impeachment rules to be unconstitutional.

A soundclip with comment from Advocate Stefanie Fick is here.

A copy of the court order is here.

Picture: OUTA