My team and I recently worked on a project where we were obliged to look into certain aspects of the payments by Eskom to McKinsey and Trillian, to the tune of R1.6-billion. Large portions of the public remain severely disgusted at this ridiculous payment, and even Eskom has concluded that these payments were unlawful. The monumental disgust, in what has been reported on being another Gupta abracadabra, is however not what I found most ironic about this transaction. By IVAN HERSELMAN.
In the same week that we looked at the Eskom payments, I was asked by Phillip De Wet of the Mail & Guardian to answer some questions relating to the remuneration of the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Reading through the 2016/2017 annual report of the office of the Public Protector, it struck me in the opening pages, in the PP’s own words that the budget of the PP is “a relatively meagre budget of R274.9-million and a modest staff complement of 395 members, the office finalised 10,787 of the 16,397 cases lodged”.
A day or two later my mind must have weighed the payment of R1.6-billion to McKinsey and Trillian, for a single consulting engagement, with that of the annual budget of the Public Protector of R274.9-million, and it hit me like a bomb that the Chapter 9 institution has a budget of almost six times less than these consultants had for a single engagement. In other words, that money could fund the Public Protector’s office for almost six years (annual escalation not factored in).
I understand there are obviously many variables that determine whether a consulting budget is justified, but my word… six times more than the entire budget of the Public Protector, on whom so many South Africans peg their hopes and dreams of leading the charge in the fight against (in the words of section 5 of the Public Protector Act):
- Maladministration in connection with the affairs of any institution in which the State is the majority or controlling shareholder or of any public entity as defined in section 1 of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999;
- Abuse or unjustifiable exercise of power or unfair, capricious, discourteous or other improper conduct or undue delay by a person performing a function connected with his or her employment by an institution or entity contemplated in paragraph (a);
- Improper or unlawful enrichment or receipt of any improper advantage, or promise of such enrichment or advantage, by a person as a result of an act or omission in connection with the affairs of an institution or entity contemplated in paragraph (a); or
- Act or omission by a person in the employ of an institution or entity contemplated in paragraph (a), which results in unlawful or improper prejudice to any other person.
It is difficult to imagine that the office of the Public Protector can ever really successfully lead this charge with such a severely underfunded mandate. The process of investigating, analysing and making findings on the simple and many complex multi-layered voluminous cases involving the wrongdoing of public officials, might require an extra buck or two. A public outcry for some re-prioritisation of the public budget in this regard is long overdue. DM
Ivan Herselman is an admitted advocate and a director of a legal consultancy practice, Argumentum
Photo: Arnot Power Station (Eskom photo)
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