18/01/2017 12:04 SAST | Updated 18/01/2017 15:26 SAST

How The Public Protector's Absa Apartheid Report Was Leaked

The office of the public protector lays the blame for the leak of the Absa apartheid preliminary report at the door of the interested parties.

If the confusion about different investigations that informed the preliminary report about Absa's apartheid billions that the bank owes wasn't enough, the office of the public protector now says the report's leak did not originate from it, but rather the implicated parties.

Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told HuffPost SA on Wednesday 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," he said.

In the draft report, which was published by the Mail & Guardian last Friday, Mkhwebane recommends that Absa must pay back R2,25 billion to the Reserve Bank. The report said it was because of an illegal and improper loan, donation or so-called lifeboat made to a now-defunct bank, Bankorp, which Absa acquired in the early 1990s.

She has since laid criminal charges against those responsible for the leak.

Segalwe said the office changed how it informed parties of findings and gave them an opportunity to comment on the findings after past reports were leaked. He said following those incidents, it was decided that no one would receive the full report until the conclusion of the investigation.

High-level reports from the public protector's office have been leaked in the past.

In 2011, a report into police building leases was leaked before it could be released by the public protector. It related to complaints and allegations of maladministration, improper and unlawful conduct by the Department of Public Works and the South African Police Service with regards to a building lease in Durban. The report, "Against the Rules Too", was very critical of former police commissioner General Bheki Cele, Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and businessperson Roux Shabangu. Cele was subsequently removed from his position for his role in the matter.

In 2015, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) investigation report was leaked. The report titled "Derailed" looked into allegations of financial maladministration and wasteful expenditure. The report was not very friendly towards then CEO Lucky Montana.

Segalwe said the leaks prompted changes in the manner in which the office conducted business, but that an investigator mistakenly sent the entire report.

"Unfortunately it [report] was erroneously sent in full instead of the sections pertaining to the individual parties involved. We don't know where it was leaked from," said Segalwe.