Kimi Makwetu
JOHANNESBURG - The Auditor General is crying wolf in urgently requesting the assistance of Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize to deal with intimidation and threats to his audit managers, because his office has the power to deal with the problem itself.

In terms of the Public Audit Act of 2004, a person is guilty of an offence if that person, among other things, hinders or interferes with the auditor-general or any person exercising a power or carrying out a duty in terms of the Public Audit Act.

On conviction of an offence in terms of this act, a person engaging in these prohibited acts was liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

Attempts to obtain comment from auditor-general Kimi Makwetu yesterday were unsuccessful.

Zweli Mkhize confirmed last week that he had received an urgent request from Makwetu to urgently intervene and deal with the intimidation of audit managers at eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities.

Mkhize said the office of the AG had to withdraw audit managers from the two municipalities, because of intimidation and threats.

“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.

“All departments and spheres of government are expected to respect chapter nine institutions, including the auditor-general, and allow them to carry out their duties without fear or favour,” Mkhize said.

Legadima Leso, the head of communications for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said yesterday that there had been a discussion between Mkhize and the KwaZulu-Natal MEC to see what could be done to ensure that the work of the AG was unhindered, while the law enforcement agencies would have to look into all instances of intimidation.

Implicated

Leso was unaware whether criminal charges had been laid against any of the officials implicated in the intimidation and threats.

This is not the first time the AG’s office has raised the issue of intimidation and threats to its audit managers.

Makwetu in December told Parliament’s Standing Committee on the AG that there were a number of instances of intimidation and threats against the staff of the AG while they were executing their duties in recent months and specifically during the then current audits of municipalities for the 2016-2017 financial year.

Africa Boso, the senior manager media liaison and communications for the AG, declined in December to respond to specific questions from Business Report about what action had been taken against the municipal officials who were allegedly involved in the intimidation and threats.

This included questions on whether the AG had laid criminal charges against the municipal officials who were intimidating and threatening the AG’s staff and, if not, why not.

Vincent Smith, chairperson of the standing committee on the AG, issued a statement in December condemning these incidents of threats and intimidation.

Smith subsequently confirmed that the statement he issued was based on information provided by the AG and the AG’s office should respond to these questions.

Business Report was unable at the time to obtain any further comment from the AG’s office.

-BUSINESS REPORT