Pretoria – The office of the Public Protector has condemned the leaking of its provisional reports, saying it was unlawful to do so.
Themba Mthethwa, CEO in the Public Protector’s office, has hit out at media that published the provisional reports, adding it was unethical.
His comments on Monday came after a weekend newspaper reportedly quoted from a provisional report relating to the Public Protector’s investigation into complaints and allegations of maladministration, improper and unlawful conduct by the Department of Public Works and SAPS over the leasing of offices in Durban.
Mthethwa said the Public Protector was considering taking up the matter with the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) to discuss a “mutually affirming way” of dealing with the issue. This included the possibility of agreeing on a memorandum of understanding with SANEF.
The provisional report was sent only to the parties involved in the investigation on 9 June 2011, in the strictest of confidence, he added.
“In terms of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994, parties against whom the Public Protector is considering potential adverse findings are entitled to be given an opportunity to engage with the basis on which the Public Protector is considering such adverse findings. It is for this reason that they are being favoured with copies of the draft report,” Mthethwa explained.
The Public Protector would then analyse the response from the parties, and where possible, integrate comments that have merit.
The Public Protector Act prohibits the publishing of details relating to a Public Protector investigation that was still underway, he said.
“This makes the leaking of the Public Protector’s provisional reports unlawful and this kind of conduct also undermines justice, fairness and the integrity of our investigations. It also strains relations between us and some of our stakeholders.”
Mthethwa stressed that provisional reports were not for public consumption because comments received from the parties involved might warrant adjustments to the content. Publishing the report in the provisional phase, may be unfair to institutions and persons named in the report.
He called on the media to be patient until the final report was released.
“We have given the parties until Thursday, 23 June 2011 to comment on the provisional report and only shortly thereafter will we be in a position to communicate the findings and the remedial action to be taken,” Mthethwa said. – BuaNews