Attacks on South Africa government auditors roundly condemned

26 Oct 18

Support has been promised to South Africa’s auditor general’s office after a spate of attacks on field staff.

Ministers and lawmakers condemned the attacks, which have included violence and death threats, as “unacceptable”. 

PF International understands that the people behind the attacks could be local government officials concerned that corrupt activity could be exposed. 

Earlier this month, an auditor working for Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) in Emfuleni was shot and wounded and her laptop stolen while staying in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Previous to the shooting, a number of government auditors received death threats while carrying out their duties in South Africa’s municipalities, including Tshwane, Madibeng and Moretele.

The Parliament this week issued a statement calling the attacks “completely unacceptable” and “extremely worrisome”.

Zweli Mkhize, minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, also said: “It is totally unacceptable that AGSA staff are intimidated and attacked when carrying out their duties.

“All structures and spheres of government must provide utmost support and cooperation to the office of the AGSA.”

He also urged South Africa’s municipalities to “fully cooperate with and support the staff of the auditor general”.

“Municipalities are at the centre of the economic revival being championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and as such, they need to show prudence in how they spend public finances,” he said.

The Standing Committee on the Auditor General, which monitors AGSA’s work, said anyone found to be “obstructing the work” of the auditors should be criminally charged.

“We call on the law enforcement agencies to fully investigate sources of the threats and bring them to book,” the committee’s chair Nthabiseng Khunou said.

The committee plans to invite auditor general Kimi Makwetu to discuss how these incidents have impacted the work of AGSA and what security measures are in place to protect employees.

Lindie Engelbrecht, managing director for education and members at CIPFA, told PF International that the threats were a “symptom of a society where corrupt officials are in the spotlight”.

Engelbrecht, who was formerly executive director at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, said: “The auditor general's office has really stepped up in the fight against corruption and are working to ensure that public money is spent right.

“It is really crucial that the parliament steps in to tackle this. It would be unfortunate if these threats stall the progress that South Africa has made.”

South Africa’s government, which has been led by Ramaphosa since February, has pledged to tackle corruption. The former president, Jacob Zuma, faced numerous allegations of corruption and was forced to step down.

Engelbrecht said: “Those working in the public sector have a responsibility to report on things that are not right.

“But when threatened, it can be hard to stick to your ethical standards and report on any wrongdoing.”

This latest spate of threats follows similar incidents in May this year affecting audit teams at work in eThekweni and Msunduzi, KwaZulu-Natal.

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