15 November 2018

South Africa: Auditor General's Battle for Accountability Needs Political Backing

analysis

If the government is serious about tackling corruption, it must support the use of the enforcement powers of the Auditor-General that the audit bill envisages, by ensuring that those indicated as responsible for irregularities are brought to justice.

There have been several attacks in 2018 on staff of the Auditor-General as they probe the financial affairs of South Africa's municipalities. In October, one auditor was shot and her laptop stolen from a guest house in Emfuleni, where she was scrutinising municipal accounts.

While this is a deplorable situation, these attacks also show that audits have come to be seen as a threat by those who misuse public funds. In fact, municipal audits are now among the most important sources of information about corruption and mismanagement and crucial for any efforts to hold responsible officials to account.

It has not always been this way. Since South Africa's municipal structures were reformed in the early 2000s, the Auditor-General has consistently worked to increase the salience of municipal audits. The fundamental mandate for this work is contained in chapter nine of the 1996 Constitution, which is dedicated to "state institutions supporting constitutional democracy".

The Auditor-General...

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