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Police now accompany auditors on high risk jobs

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Being an auditor is no longer a safe occupation in SA. A female auditor working as part of a team dispatched by the Auditor General (AG) to clean up maladministration in Emfuleni Municipality, south of Joburg, was shot twice in the leg last month in the guest house where she was staying. The assailants made off with two laptops and a cell phone, all presumably containing vital information on wrongdoing at the municipality.

Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu decided to withdraw his team which was looking into the finances of the municipality.

On a recent visit to Evaton, which falls under Emfuleni, the scale of the financial maladministration was obvious. Raw sewage pumped from out of the ground into the nearby stream, and then into the Vaal River, contaminating the water supply downstream. The Emfuleni water treatment facilities are broken, posing a health hazard to the millions that live in the area.

I was shown a playground supposedly built for R7 million for the local community. All that stands is a broken palisade fence. The rest, presumably, went into someone’s pocket. There is no refuse collection in this community, so rubbish is left to pile up on any green area that exists. The roads have been potholed and neglected for years.

It’s clear the municipality has more important things on its mind. Such as the AG’s decision to send in an audit team to find out what happened to all the money that clearly did not arrive at Evaton or any of the other areas for which it was intended.

In a letter to parliament’s standing committee on the AG, Makwetu reported instances of intimidation at the municipalities of Emfuleni, Tshwane, Madibeng and Moretele, though vowed to continue working with these administrations to get their financial reporting up to snuff.

The AG reported that only 33 out of 257 municipalities obtained clean audits in the 2016/2017 financial year.

Also last month, two AG staff members were held hostage by subcontractors in Tshwane when they were conducting routine asset verifications. Now these audit staff must be accompanied by metro police. The AG reported to Parliament that the audit team sent to eThekwini was withdrawn in May after one of its staff members received death threats.

There is a pattern of criminality here which has embedded itself into the DNA of SA’s governance. For a while we thought it was limited to the Guptas and those in their orbit. Now we are finding it runs much deeper. The pitiful conditions under which people live in Emfuleni, in Limpopo, North West and elsewhere is the result of a decades-long programme of looting.

Parts of SA have slipped into anarchy, but the example is set at the top. Alexandra residents in Joburg reportedly enjoy free electricity. There were riots in Soweto when Eskom attempted to install smart meters that would curb illegal power connections. Electricity arrears in Soweto were running at R16 billion a year ago and are no doubt significantly higher this year.

Auditors are the people who shine a light on financial criminality. The Portfolio Committee in Parliament has made it clear that anyone obstructing the work of the AG should be criminally prosecuted.

If barely 10% of our municipalities receive clean audits, and virtually all state-owned companies are technically bankrupt (absent the support of government-backed lending) and reporting staggering amounts of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, then the message to the rest of the country is clear: grab what you can and run.

The AG deserves credit for the nearly impossible task he has been given. But without our governance bodies setting the example, it seems we will make little headway in flushing out the gangsters that have taken over.

Being an auditor in SA is becoming a hazardous occupation. We cannot allow that to continue.

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