Kimi Makwetu. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Kimi Makwetu. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the auditor-general of SA to perform its work in some municipalities as staff members have had to face a hostage situation and threats from municipal officials and have even been shot at.

These are some of the instances of intimidation auditor-general Kimi Makwetu raised in a letter to parliament’s standing committee on the auditor-general. In the letter, dated October 15, Makwetu specifically details instances of intimidation at the municipalities of Emfuleni, Tshwane, Madibeng and Moretele.

Makwetu says in the letter he believes the instances of intimidation deserve national attention, even though the office of the auditor-general will still work with the local and provincial governments in question.

"These instances not only pose a threat to the life and
limb of innocent professionals employed by the AGSA [auditor-general SA], but also put the broader public interest at risk," he said.

The finances of municipalities, which are tasked with basic service delivery such as water, sewerage and electricity provisioning, have been deteriorating, with only 33 out of 257 municipalities obtaining clean audits in the 2016/2017 financial year, according to Makwetu.

The report for the 2017/2018 financial year to June will be released in 2019.

In the letter, Makwetu details some of the "serious and unacceptable intimidation threats" levelled against officials over the past few weeks.

It included information about a member of the auditor-
general’s auditing team, who was shot at a guesthouse in Emfuleni in the Vaal Triangle on October 12. Two laptops, one belonging to the auditor-general, and a cellphone were stolen.

It is unknown at this stage whether the incident was linked to the Emfuleni audit. The audit team has since been withdrawn from the municipal premises while the matter is being
dealt with by the police, Makwetu said.

He also revealed that two of his staff members were held hostage, together with a Tshwane official, on October 5 for about four hours by subcontractors of the municipality while conducting asset verifications. The audit team in Tshwane will be accompanied by metro police for the remainder of the verification process.

In the Moretele local municipality north of Hammanskraal, a municipal official told the auditor-general’s auditing team that "his cousin had been fired due to audit findings raised and that his cousin wanted to kill the auditor concerned". The auditing team has now been withdrawn from Moretele while their safety is being assessed.

The team in eThekwini was withdrawn in May after one of its staff members received death threats.

Makwetu says in the letter that he has "pleaded" with co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize to help "address the dilemma that is playing out at these municipalities".

Nthabiseng Khunou, chair of the portfolio committee, said last week that anyone found to be obstructing the work of the auditor-general should be criminally charged and face the full might of the law.

"We call on the law enforcement agencies to fully investigate sources of the threats and bring them to book.

"Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils rely heavily on the audited financial statements by the AGSA in order to effectively
hold the executive accountable," Khunou said.