Public Protector appointment process
The appointments process for the Public Protector was always going to be a contested one, and we appear to be gearing up for an interesting set of meetings on this by the committee in Parliament who are responsible for this. The Honourable Malema has referenced another appointments process as being something of a model – the process of appointing judges. This is indeed a useful bench mark.
Firstly, you have to fill in a form. A CV is a flexible thing, whereas a form creates much more standard information. You can, in such a form, ask if people have ever belonged to a secret organisation. This is a useful question. The Public Protector candidate will send in a CV, not fill in a form.
In the JSC process, the forms are made available, so that they can be subject to public scrutiny. This appears to be question mark in the mind of the Parliamentary committee, for some reason.
Then an independent research unit puts together a bundle of the judgments made by the candidate. This is somewhat similar to the forensic audit of CVs that is proposed by Corruption Watch.
Following that, we, as “Judges Matter”, put together a set of questions for the JSC members to consider, focusing on interesting aspects of the judgments. They also send in submissions on the different candidates, as do others.
Now, this is where the JSC process is less than good. The JSC has no way of processing those comments, and has found itself at the last minute dealing with allegations of court cases against candidates, or examples of them defaming other judges. This could possibly be better handled if there was a clearer process for such comment.
Where the candidate is an advocate, a set of quite substantive comments are made by their peers. Where the candidate is an attorney, they simply hand in a certificate of good standing, which kind of just means you haven’t stolen your client’s money. It says very little about your colleagues actual experience of you. This type of peer review is very helpful in making such appointments. It is difficult to see how such a peer review could be generated for candidates for the Public Protector.
What is true, is that even with its flaws, the process is an instructive one for Parliament. The Honourable Malema has been a very strong contributor to the JSC process – we can only hope he is as robust in this process.