The Standing Committee on the Auditor-General is of the view that there is a need for political will and leadership if the worrying trend of threats against officials of the Office of the Auditor-General is to be curtailed. The committee reiterates its strong condemnation of threats against AG officials as it views this as a direct attack on the constitutional mandate of the office.
The committee today engaged with the Auditor-General, the South African Police Service (Saps) and the national Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to find workable solutions to this trend. The committee resolved that there is need for a proactive security action plan, particularly considering that municipal audits are being finalised. But above all, there is a need for strong political leadership at all levels of government to stop these threats.
The proactive security planning is necessary if the implementation of the recently passed Public Audit Amendment Bill is to be effective. “We are cognisant of the pressure that these threats are going to have on recruitment of capable individuals within the audit environment. Hence the need to arrest the growing trend,” said Ms Nthabiseng Khunou, the Chairperson of the committee.
The committee welcomes progress in terms of investigation of the various cases that were reported to the Saps. Also, the committee welcomes the reestablishment of good relations between auditees and the A-G where some of the threats were made, specifically in Ethekwini, Msunduzi and Madibeng municipalities. The A-G must at all times be protected and an enabling environment must be created, as its work is central to ensuring delivery of services and prudent spending of taxpayers resources.
Despite this, the committee urges employees at the office of the Auditor-General to speedily lodge complains in cases of intimidation and where threats are made, to enable the police to act swiftly. Furthermore, the committee has urged auditees to improve security for audit teams.
The constant contestations of preliminary audit findings by the Auditor-General has also been highlighted as a challenge that needs urgent attention, as it is a breeding ground for threats and intimidation.
Meanwhile, the committee welcomes the 2019-2022 strategic plan and budget of the office of the Auditor-General. It is important that plans contain the cost to auditees at 7%, which will ensure that auditees are able to fund their audit requirements. The committee emphasised the need to implement measures aimed at maintaining and strengthening the adherence to audit quality standards.
“This is even more important in the light of challenges faced by audit bodies in the recent past,” Ms Khunou emphasised. The committee welcomed initiatives by the National Treasury to assist the A-G in obtaining audit costs from auditees.
The committee has committed, through its oversight work, to support the A-G in implementing the strategy and implementing its constitutional mandate.
Issued by The Parliamentary Communication Services On Behalf Of The Chairperson Of The Standing Committee On The Auditor-General, Ms Nthabiseng Khunou