Mkhwebane denies owing PPSA money for her accommodation

Mkhwebane says “payments were made with knowledge and approval of the office”.

13 October 2023 - 21:41
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Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is adamant she will get a one-off gratuity worth almost R10m.
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is adamant she will get a one-off gratuity worth almost R10m.

Impeached public protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane denies owing the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) money for her accommodation at the Bryntirion Estate which also houses the president and his deputy.

Mkhwebane told TimesLIVE on Friday that all the expenses made for her benefit were known and approved by the office.

“It is not true that I owe the PPSA any of the expenses in question, all of which were incurred with the full knowledge and agreement of the office,” she said.

Mkhwebane was responding to the PPSA’s claim in parliament that she concealed advice that the office should not pay for her accommodation at the ministerial estate in Pretoria.

The office wants advice from the National Treasury on whether it can recoup the R2.1m it said was spent over the years in rental for Mkhwebane’s accommodation at the prestigious estate.

“It is surprising and unprofessional that I hear about these issues for the first time in the media as nobody has seen it fit to raise them with me for further clarification.

“On the contrary there has been silence about the overdue payment of the gratuity which is payable to me according to my conditions of service. It is obvious that the intention is to continue to humiliate me in public while illegally delaying the payment of my benefits,” she said.

Mkhwebane said she will soon announce legal steps she will be taking to challenge the lawfulness of her removal from office as well as “these further acts of harassment and provocation”.

Internal documents show that the police, through a divisional commissioner for protection and security services, approached the department of public works and infrastructure (DPWI) to secure access to state-owned housing for Mkhwebane, after security threats were identified against her, and which she reported to the police in September 2017.

The police said the requested “protection that responds to the threat is currently provided outside the provision of the RIMAs” (the Risk Information Administration System), according to one document.

The DPWI responded that the police request for Mkhwebane’s accommodation as a measure of security protection, could not be acceded to “as there is no policy to support provision of state houses to public protectors”.

This was also confirmed by the National Treasury in July 2021, which said the DPWI should only continue to house the public protector in the Bryntirion Estate after obtaining the required cabinet approval.

DPWI indicated at the time, it was willing to allocate an official state-owned residence to Mkhwebane for a period of 12 months, pending “the presidential response to the request made by the public protector to presidency” to extend the benefits of the ministerial handbook to Mkhwebane, at a market-related rate that was to be communicated to her in due course and subject to the implementation of a stop order with the department for the rental payment.

The ministerial handbook provides for the accommodation of members of the cabinet and their deputies in the estate. 

But the rental amount was not communicated to Mkhwebane.

A reconciliation of account done for the period December 2017 to April 2019 from the date Mkhwebane occupied the house revealed the public protector had a debt of R595,000 in respect of arrear rental (at a market rental amount of R35,000 per month).

This was provisional market rental as determined by valuation services subject to Land Affairs Board (LAB) approval, said then public works director-general Sam Vukela.

The documents show there was no signed lease agreement and the amount of rental for the premises, whether estimated or actual, was not communicated to her and the PPSA could not factor the amount into its previous financial statements as an accrual.

The PPSA, which stated it was not party to the arrangement as it was facilitated by the police as a proposed security measure, then requested DPWI to write off the outstanding balance and that the department facilitates a new lease agreement for Mkhwebane until the end of her term.

Mkhwebane later moved to a cheaper unit, a flat at the same estate.

The PPSA told parliament’s portfolio committee on justice it was seeking clarity from the Treasury on whether Mkhwebane should be made to repay the amount spent on her accommodation and other costs the office paid for her benefit.


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