MPs want new AG to be credible, with no cloud hanging over their head
Cape Town - Parliamentarians say they want the next auditor-general to have a clean slate and for the process of appointment to be credible.
This emerged when the ad hoc committee on the appointment of the auditor-general met on Tuesday to shortlist candidates to be interviewed later this month.
The committee heard that 71 people applied for the top position that will be left vacant by outgoing Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu.
Among the aspirant applicants were cashiers, interns, bus drivers, chief executive officers and managing directors.
Ten applicants met the minimum requirements and the number was then whittled down to seven.
These were National Health Laboratory Services chief financial officer Michael Sass, Dr Moses Galela, CFO in the Office of the Premier in the Northern Cape, former SABC board member Rachel Kalidass, CFO in the Trade and Industry Department Shabeer Khan, Professor Tankiso Moloi of Wits, Deputy Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke and Zakariya Hoosain, who is the head of the Western Cape Treasury.
However, Edmond Shoko-Lekhuleni, who has a chartered accountant qualification from the UK, was added to the shortlist after a push by opposition parties.
During a discussion by the committee, ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said they agreed that most of the applicants were bus drivers who applied for the sake of applying.
"We came across the seven who have vast experience in the public sector and are well qualified as per the advertisement of this position," Dlakude said, giving the nod to the initial seven candidates.
DA MP Jan de Villiers noted that Shoko-Lekhuleni was a registered CA but was not included in the initial list.
"It looks like his qualifications and experience meet the requirement," he said, adding that Moloi was highly qualified but not a CA.
IFP MP Narend Singh was not impressed by the inclusion of Moloi but was prepared to give him and others without audit experience but who had finance experience a chance.
Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels pushed for the inclusion of Shoko-Lekhuleni and raised concern over Moloi’s lack of audit experience.
ANC MP Dipuo Peters welcomed the inclusion of Kalidass and Maluleke as the two women among the shortlisted men.
Committee chairperson Sisisi Tolashe said seven candidates was not enough.
"We must agree on what we bring to the shortlist in order to find the best candidate," Tolashe said. She said there was no problem with including Shoko-Lekhuleni and ANC MPs agreed.
"We take the list and bring in number 13 (Shoko-Lekhuleni) who was left out. We have said the list was short but there is not much we can do," she said.
MPs said they would ensure that they did everything to ensure the appointment process was transparent and that they allowed the public to make comments on the candidates when their CVs were published on the parliamentary website.
MPs wanted to have a session to go through the public comments before the interviews.
When MPs heard that the company conducting background checks focused mainly on academic verification and credit checks, they wanted the scope widened.
"This is an important position that deals with integrity and finances," ANC MP Sifiso Buthelezi said.
The committee heard that Parliament used a service provider to do academic background checks, and that vetting and screening were done by the State Security Agency (SSA).
However, it took longer to receive comprehensive background checks from the SSA.
ANC MP Sakhumzi Somyo said comprehensive background checks should not come at the tail end of the process.
Dlakude said they should undertake to do credible work that allowed them sleep peacefully at night.
She said Parliament should make a request to the SSA to come on board as soon as possible.
"The rate of corruption in our country is tearing our democracy apart. We don't want to find a situation where a person we recommend to the president is found to have some dark cloud over their head," Dlakude said.
Singh said: "We have to be absolutely thorough. We (should) rather stray on the side of caution," he said.