Parliament calls for an increase in the security of the General Auditor's staff

The Standing Committee of Parliament's Auditor General (AG) called for greater security for AG personnel to ensure effective implementation of the recently adopted Public Audit Change Act (PAAB).

In a letter to the committee in October, general auditor Kimi Makwet detailed the intimidation cases faced by the auditors in Emfuleni, Tshwane, Madibeng and Moretel. He said some employees had to face hostages, threats from officials, and even shot dead. Some municipal officials attempted to bribe AG employees to alter the unfavorable audit results.

Makwetu said that intimidation cases deserve national attention, even though AG will continue to work with local and provincial governments. "In a number of municipalities, people are not comfortable with the rigor that audits are doing," Makwetu said on Friday when he told the Standing Committee on Threats.

National police commissioner Lieutenant General Khehla Sitole told MPs that a security plan was being developed in the AG office. He noted that the environment in which the auditor is working is high risk and requires more stringent security. MEPs stated that a proactive security action plan is needed, especially as municipal audits are completed.

"But, above all, strong political leadership is needed at all levels of government to halt these threats," said committee chairman Nthabiseng Khunou. "We are aware of the pressure that these threats will have on recruiting skilled people in the audit environment, so we need to stop the growing trend."

Proactive security planning is essential if the implementation of the recently approved PAAB is to be effective, she said. Earlier in 2018, parliament passed a bill that wants to give AG's office more teeth.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently considering the bill

If approved, the AG will be given the power to refer the reports to the investigative bodies in their reports of unfavorable findings as well as to recover funds lost from accountants for non-compliance with the Public Finance Act.

Makwetu suggested that the introduction of the law would help stop the worsening of municipal finances.

Only 33 out of 257 municipalities in the country received a clean audit in 2016-2017, compared to a year before 48. Repeated councils and warnings to accountants over the past five years have been ignored. Not only did the municipalities not take steps to find AG, but the environment in which audit teams have to work has become increasingly hostile and increased threats to employees, Makwetu said.

MEP Michael Shackleton called for an amendment to the Audit Law, which would introduce harsh punishments for anyone who hinders AG's work, and notes: "I agree with AG if someone tries to bribe the auditor or try to defend the audit teams, I think it would should be considered a crime against the state. "

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