Parliament Supports Institutions Supporting Democracy
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The Public Protector chose to address the National Assembly (NA) and its Speaker through the media instead of arranging direct engagement with Parliament. The reason offered for this unprecedented move to address the NA and its Speaker is not consistent with the Constitution, the Public Protector Act and democratic practices which we are used to.
It is regrettable that the subject matter of the briefing is a matter which is currently before an ad hoc committee legitimately established by a resolution of the NA in performance of its Constitutional obligations. The unfortunate impression created is that the NA is malicious in dealing with matters that fall within its Constitutional mandate and that its sole intention is to discredit the Office of the Public Protector.
Parliament reaffirms its support for all institutions supporting democracy as they are partners in ensuring observance of the founding principles of our Constitution of accountability, openness and responsiveness.
In terms of section 181 of the Constitution, institutions supporting democracy, of which the Public Protector is one, are accountable to the NA and must report on their activities and the performance of their functions to the NA at least once a year. This is reinforced by section 8 of the Public Protector Act which also requires the Public Protector to table reports in the National Council of Provinces.
The assertion that the NA, by performing its Constitutional functions of considering a report on the matter once investigated by the Public Protector, is acting in contempt of the Public Protector is incorrect and simply flies in the face of the Public Protector Act. Parliament finds it ironic that the Public Protector in her media briefing referred to the Constitution and the Public Protector Act but chose to flagrantly disregard them.
Parliament wishes to emphasise that, as an institution established by the Constitution, it has the power to regulate its own internal arrangements. It cannot be dictated to by another institution – including the Public Protector – about how to conduct its business. The Office of the Public Protector can only exercise powers and perform functions given to it by the Constitution and the Public Protector Act.
The suggestion that Parliament treats the Public Protector with less respect than other institutions supporting democracy, in particular the Auditor General, is not supported by any evidence. Parliament reiterates that it treats all institutions supporting democracy in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution. The fact that Parliament established an Office of Institutions Supporting Democracy confirms the seriousness with which it treats these offices.
Parliament will continue to support all institutions supporting democracy and ensure that they exercise their powers and perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice. Parliament will assist and protect these institutions to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness as required by the Constitution. Parliament recommits itself to the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. It reasserts its independence as an institution that carries the mandate of the citizens of South Africa.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE RSA