Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Monday cautioned Eastern Cape provincial government director general, Marion Mbina-Mthembu, that insulting her office could land her in hot water, with a fine or even a jail term.
Mbina-Mthembu was in the process of taking part of the Public Protector's findings in the Nelson Mandela funeral investigation on judicial review.
Mkhwebane welcomed this move, saying it was in line with case law on her office's powers, "in particular the provision that the institution's remedial action is binding unless reviewed and set aside by a court of law".
However, she was disappointed that Mbina-Mthembu had branded her in the media as "idiotic", following the finding that the province misused R300m of the state's money for the funeral.
"While criticism is always welcome, it should be remembered that insulting a public protector is prohibited by law and offenders run the risk of being fined or serving a jail term."
According to the Public Protector Act, someone convicted for insulting the office could be fined up to R40 000 or sentenced for up to a year in prison.
Mbina-Mthembu told City Press that Mkhwebane had seemingly missed the fact that she was not the director general (DG) of the province at the time of the funeral.
"The public protector is very idiotic. She has reported as if I was DG then," Mbina-Mthembu told the newspaper in a recent interview.
Mkhwebane's investigation found evidence of widespread irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the procurement of goods and services for the memorial and funeral.
Mbina-Mthembu was DG of the Department of Provincial Planning and Treasury at the time.
According to City Press, she wanted the public protector to explain how she decided that R300m meant for the Eastern Cape Development Corporation was "improperly diverted by the Eastern Cape government to be used for the funeral of former president Mandela".
Mkhwebane's office said on Monday that she stood by her findings.
"[She] reiterates that the provincial executive committee was misdirected by Ms Mbina-Mthembu, who was at the time the head of the provincial treasury and therefore an expert and voice of authority on public procurement matters."
Her office thanked the organs of state implicated in the report for implementing the remedial action.
"It is hoped that they have drawn important lessons from this experience and that, in the future, they will be circumspect, tactful and follow the relevant laws, policies and prescripts in their use of public funds."