After a long and laborious search on how the preliminary Absa report got leaked, the office of the Public Protector has unmasked the culprits behind the act.
Information gathered from the office indicated that the report slipped out from the hands of an official working in the office of the Public Protector down to implicated parties. One of the parties, in return, forwarded it to local media house – the Mail and Guardian.
Touching on the matter, the spokesperson in the office of the Public Protector, Oupa Segalwe, said an official from the office made a mistake and sent the entire report to the implicated parties instead of the sections pertaining to them.
“The report was accidentally sent to the parties and it was during that process that it was leaked. They were supposed to get a section 7 (9) notice, which requires the public protector to give the parties a right to comment on the preliminary findings,” Segalwe added.
This is not the first time a high-level report from the public protector’s office has been leaked.
In 2011, a report into police building leases was leaked before it could be released by the public protector. The report, titled: “Against the Rules Too”, embodied criticism against former police commissioner General Bheki Cele, Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and businessperson Roux Shabangu.
On Tuesday, Public Protector Mkhwebane opened a criminal case over the leaking of the provisional Absa report. This was because the office believes that leaking information dents the image of the institution and results in a trust deficit. It could lead to people not trusting our processes, especially whistleblowers who may not want to be identified.
The report was put together by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and it detailed how the banking institution (Absa) benefited from a state-sponsored bailout towards the end of apartheid in the 1990s.
It recommended that the bank pays back the R2.2 billion it received from state coffers. Its release was initially held back by an “administrative error”, as clarified by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.