JOHANNESBURG, May 26 – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, received an urgent request from the Auditor-General (AG) to urgently intervene and deal with the intimidation of audit managers at eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities, his office said on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, the eThekwini Metro said it would be supplying a provincial Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) team with municipal security after one of the auditors received death threats while auditing the city’s books.
“This incident is unprecedented and is both shocking and unacceptable. A line has been crossed. We cannot allow a situation where audit managers are intimidated and are unable to carry out their important tasks which are critical for clean governance in our country,” Mkhize said in a statement.
“All departments and spheres of government are expected to respect Chapter 9 institutions including the Auditor General, and allow them to carry out their duties without fear or favour.”
In the statement, Mkhize’s office said that AG, Kimi Makwetu, requested the minister to “urgently intervene” after the AG office withdrew audit managers from the two municipalities due to intimidation and threats.
“We will work with the relevant departments nationally as well as the Provincial government to ensure that this matter is arrested and that the audit functions are carried out in the two municipalities as planned, without any hindrance,” said Mkhize.
The alleged threats, received on Tuesday via phone, saw AGSA’s provincial office deciding to cease audits and withdraw its team on Wednesday. AGSA is a Chapter 9 institution mandated to audit government entities.
At a media briefing at city hall in the Durban city centre on Friday, city manager Sipho Nzuza said the metro would be supplying municipal security for the auditors and confirmed that AGSA would also be supplying private security. He stressed that the audit would continue.
Speaking at the same briefing, mayor Zandile Gumede said that they learned the auditors were withdrawn on Wednesday. Gumede and Nzuza were out of the country on official business at the time but cut short their trip.
“I have instructed the head of security management, Mr Dumisani Bhengu, to develop a security plan for the AG staff members to ensure they are safeguarded during the auditing period.
“We are in constant communication with the AG office, we hope that by next week they will be back on site,” said Gumede.
KwaZulu-Natal’s department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) said on Friday morning that it would “investigate the circumstances” that led to AGSA KwaZulu-Natal withdrawing its team.
“We will not allow this situation to be left unattended. This issue must be dealt with and must not repeat itself. Organs of state, chapter nine and independent institutions, should be allowed to do their work without fear or favour,” said Gumede.
She said that police and law enforcement agencies should prioritise the matter. The municipality was “fully committed to clean governance,” she said.
“I recently met with Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, on 1 March 2018, and I committed to support the AG and to also strengthen our controls and oversight on governance issues.
“In addition, all senior municipal officials including the city manager have also confirmed that they had meetings with the office of the auditor general on 16 May 2018, and they committed to fully support the auditing process,” said Gumede.
The revelations were made public just a day after Makwetu released the 2016/2017 consolidated audit outcomes for municipalities, which showed serious regressions countrywide.
Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Auditor-General, Vincent Smith, said in a statement on Friday that he was “extremely concerned” at reports of the death threats.
“The threats are a direct affront to good governance and to the spirit of the Constitution,” he said.
“It is both unfortunate and criminal to seek to intimidate AG’s officials and prevent them from doing their work. This matter must be escalated to the relevant law-enforcement agencies for proper investigation,” said Smith.
He called on the South African Police Service to “urgently” investigate the threats.
eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and her executive committee on Friday said they would reply to allegations that some staff members have issued death threats against officials from the auditor-general who were tasked with auditing the municipality’s books.
Gumede and her committee are expected to respond on Thursday.
This comes after reports indicate that the Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s office has taken an unprecedented decision to withdraw its audit team from eThekwini municipality with immediate effect after its employees received death threats and that their safety had been compromised.
The provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) has also launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to the auditor general’s decision to stop auditing the municipality’s books.
On Wednesday, Makwetu released the audit report of all 257 municipalities in the country showing that they had regressed in their financial reporting and that irregular expenditure had increased by 75 percent.