eThekwini Municipality‘s mayor has vowed to “fully support” the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in their probe, after the provincial Auditor General‘s office halted its auditing of the municipality‘s books.
“It is a great regret that we note the withdrawal of the Auditor General‘s (AG) staff from our offices this week,” Zandile Gumede said at a press briefing in Durban on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, KZN Cogta said in a statement that Auditor General Kimi Makwetu‘s office recalled its staff from the council after allegedly receiving a series of death threats.
“The KZN office of the Auditor General is the supreme audit institution in the province and it is mandated to audit all government entities, including municipalities which are, in turn, obliged to submit themselves to regular audits.
“We cannot tolerate alleged threats that compromise this process,” said the department‘s MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Gumede said the municipality would co-operate fully with the Cogta investigation into the matter.
She said the municipality received the letter from the AG‘s office, which notified them about the withdrawal of their staff on Tuesday.
She added that both she and City manager Sipho Nzuza were out of the country on official business at the time that the municipality received the letter.
Acting City manager Phillip Sithole and senior executive committee members met with the AG on Wednesday to discuss the issue of threats to the staff members, Gumede said.
“I have instructed the head of the municipality‘s security to develop a security plan for AG staff members to make sure that they are safeguarded when performing their duties,” she said.
Gumede said the staff from the AG‘s office were doing their “normal work” when the incident occurred.
“One staff member received a threatening call from a particular individual and then she spoke to other staff members,” she said, adding that she couldn‘t reveal the contents of the call to the media.
City manager Nzuza said it was important for the municipality to protect Chapter nine institution‘s such as the AG‘s office and said he had met Makwetu on Thursday morning about the matter.
“They were concerned that they received some threats from some individual who [knows] the movement of the person heading the interim audit (of the City) which forms part of their audit for the year.”
Nzuza said the employee who was threatened, was dealing with supply chain management audits at the time of the call.
“The person who called was not happy with that kind of work,” he said.
He insisted that the work of the auditors would carry on. He said the municipality would provide security for the auditors as well as security at the AG‘s office itself.
He also confirmed that the workers from Makwetu‘s office were in possession of the documents they required.
“We want to put it on record that this is an administrative routine, but not the official audit,” he said.
Gumede urged the staff member who was threatened to open a police case.
She had instructed the employee to share the contents of the call with law enforcement agencies.
Africa Boso, spokesperson for Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), told News24 via email on Friday, that the AGSA took any threats against its team members seriously, as it was important for their employees to execute their duties independently, honestly and without fear.
“The Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) confirms that it has engaged the relevant national, provincial and local government leaders about threats being made to its audit teams – including a recent incident at the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality where we have had to withdraw [the] audit team due to such threats.
“We are encouraged by the commitment shown by the relevant government leaders we have engaged with, that they are seriously looking at this matter with the sense of urgency it deserves.”
In an email on Friday afternoon, KwaZulu-Natal police said they had no knowledge of the matter.