By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:
The Democratic Alliance is shocked that the apparent mishandling of government leases has caused the Kimberley office of the Public Protector to be cut off from the world. We will be submitting written questions to determine what went wrong and who should be held liable for the consequences.
It is absolutely unthinkable that an important institution such as the Public Protector is incapable of making phone calls, sending or receiving faxes or communicating with email. We appreciate the willingness of local businesses to assist. The fact that local companies have been sharing their fax facilities speaks of a community spirit and desire to help others, which is wonderful. But it is not ideal for the Public Protector to operate in this way. You cannot have a professional environment when your staff have to go cap in hand to local businesses just to send a fax. And it is ludicrous that staff have to use their own airtime and 3G connections for internet connectivity.
We are concerned about the impact this has on service delivery by the Public Protector. Surely these conditions will have created a backlog in dealing with cases. It can also create a false impression in the community that the Public Protector is unprofessional or unwilling to assist with community concerns.
We welcome the fact that community outreach officer Tebogo Moroka has exposed the situation. We applaud the courage it must have taken to come forward with the information.
We are concerned about the manner in which the department of Public Works facilitated the lease. How do you award a tender for accommodation to a bidder that is not the owner of the building? This sounds very suspicious.
We understand that the relevant building went under auction, which also complicated matters further. But the government simply does not have a good track record with the awarding of government leases. When you look at the facts of Ocean Echo and Trifecta, you are more inclined to believe that something sinister also happened with the handling of this contract. It comes as no surprise when dodgy decisions are made with lease deals. The department, both on a national and a provincial level, has a history of bad and corrupt choices.
We urge the stakeholders to resolve the situation speedily. We know that there are budgetary pressures in all spheres of government, but we would also like to see that staff are compensated for airtime used in performing their official duties.