Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane could be releasing some important reports

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane can be seen during the release of her reports at the Public Protector's offices in Pretoria, 28 January 2020. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Probes into Vrede Dairy Farm project, Eskom contracts are some of the top cases.

With Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane today expected to release her first tranche of reports for the year, some important findings could be forthcoming.

Mkhwebane’s offices at the weekend announced she would this afternoon be hosting her first quarterly media briefing for the 2020/2021 financial year and that she would be releasing “a number of investigation reports”.

Her spokesperson Oupa Segalwe would yesterday not be drawn to comment on which reports would be released but at a media briefing in January, Mkhwebane said her new investigation into the Vrede Dairy Farm project was at an advanced stage and that she expected to have it wrapped up by the end of March.

The 2018 report emanating from the public protector’s first investigation into allegations that hundreds of millions of rands in public funds intended for emerging black farmers in Vrede had instead wound up being channelled to the Guptas, was widely considered a “whitewash”.

Mkhwebane was criticised for not having interviewed some of the high-ranking politicians who were implicated in the scandal.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), together with the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), took the report on review in the Pretoria High Court where Judge Ronel Tolmay last year declared it unconstitutional and invalid and set it aside.

Tolmay found Mkhwe-bane had failed in her duties and she later also slapped her with a personal costs order for a portion of the legal fees incurred by the DA and Casac.

The public protector subsequently launched a new investigation, which was initially expected to be completed by last August.

In January, though, Mkhwebane said her office was still struggling to track down representatives for the intended beneficiaries.

Another important report which is currently outstanding, is that relating to Eskom’s renew-able Independent Power Producers’ contracts.

The public protector last year announced she would be probing allegations that the signing of the contracts, which took place in April 2018, was improper and unlawful.

When she briefed the media in January, though, Mkhwebane said these investigations were still ongoing.

Meanwhile, last April, and amid wide-scale social unrest in Alexandra, Mkhwebane’s offices announced she would be joining forces with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in a bid “to get to the bottom of service delivery complaints”.

They said the public protector would be tackling “the maladministration aspects” – including “the allocation of resources by respective governments towards the delivery of quality public services in the township” – and that her investigation would “cut across the different spheres of government, looking into the acts and omissions of national, provincial and local administrations ”.

The SAHRC wrapped up an inquiry in July but the public protector has yet to announce her findings.

Earlier this year, Mkhwebane’s offices also announced she would be investigating a complaint against Minister Patricia de Lille and her department of public works and infrastructure over the erection of a R37 million border fence that has since been vandalised and stolen. These investigations are still at an early stage.

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