Public Protector investigators sharpen their teeth

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pretoria - Eighty-five Public Protector investigators from all over the country are currently receiving training to ensure that they are more effective in their investigative work.

Termed "Sharpening Your Teeth: Advanced Training for Administrative Watchdogs", the three-day course, which started on Monday, is conducted by a well-known international Ombudsman from Ontario in Canada, Andre Marin, and his team comprising Director of Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT), Gareth Jones, and Manager of Investigations, Sue Haslam.

According to the Office of the Public Protector, the course enjoys the backing of the International Ombudsman Institute and has been attended by hundreds of administrative investigators and ombudsmen from all over the world.

These include the Canadian federal and provincial agencies, US state and federal departments, Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, South America and Asia, amongst others.

Speaking during a roundtable discussion in Pretoria, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela commended Marin's work.

"He is a well-known Ombudsman in the international community," she said, adding that she hoped investigators in her office would get the best out of the course.

"We are here to help our friends in the Public Protector office and it's good to exchange ideas," said Marin.

According to Marin, in his country, they receive about 16 000 complaints a year.

Asked about the relations between the Office of the Public Protector and government, Marin said it was normal for tensions to exist between the two parties.

He said the Public Protector enjoyed strong protection from the Constitution.

With regard to the Public Protector's reports that are leaked to the media, Marin said this was a punishable offence.

"Reports should be kept strictly confidential," he said.

On the question of the constitutional act upon which the Office of the Public Protector is established, Marin said it was imperative that the act be reviewed from time to time to make sure that it remained relevant to current situations.

In Canada, Marin has an unsurpassed reputation for fair, thorough and objective systemic investigations. His SORT model has resulted in major government reforms that improved the lives of the people of Ontario.

These include Ontario's procedures for the property tax assessment system, funding for the disabled and special needs children, out-of-country medical treatment, crime victim compensation and legal aid.

Marin's report on the Ontarian government's passing of a secret regulation that police used to detain people near Toronto's G20 summit of world leaders last year ranks as one of his career highlights.

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