The office of the Ombudsman has been accused of being too lenient on Permanent Secretaries because both the former and the latter are government employees.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)-Ombudsman, Festina Bakwena revealed that her office is struggling to deal with a backlog of cases most of which involve government ministries.
“About 43% of the cases are from the previous years because ministries have proven to be nonresponsive when we call them for cases they are involved in.” Bakwena complained.
But PAC committee member Kentse Rammidi accused the Ombudsman of purposefully being too lenient on Permanent Secretaries because “they are your colleagues”. He said the leniency was at the expense of complainants who are often ordinary workers.
Bakwena told the committee that her office has powers to subpoena anyone requested to give information to the ombudsman but she conceded that the powers have not been utilized as they usually only write letters of requests to ministries who in turn ignore them.
“That you have powers to subpoena people but you are just sitting on that power shows that you are being too friendly and nice to your colleagues,” said the committee chairperson Nehemiah Modubule.
The Ombudsman said the office has reduced its response time in handling cases, from three months to ten days.
Bakwena was asked to list clearly the names of Permanent Secretaries who refuse to cooperate with her office in the next year’s report.