The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), situated within the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, had the honour of hosting a public lecture by the Auditor- General of South Africa, Thembekile Kimi Makwetu. Zintle Dolweni reports.
The talk, held on 19 March in Eden Grove Blue, was attended by a number of esteemed guests, such as the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela . Also in attendance were members of the office of the Auditor-General, journalists, civic activists, members of the general public, as well as staff and students from the Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies.
PSAM Director, Jay Kruuse, welcomed the guests and introduced the crowd to the Auditor-General. The charismatic Makwethu began his presentation with a screening of a 10 minute video entitled “Million bags”. This video highlights how the main objective of the office of the Auditor-General is “to strengthen the country’s democracy through the auditing of the country’s public finances”. The informative video can be found below:
The primary focus of the lecture was a general overview of the work the office of the Auditor- General does. Unfortunately, not much time was spent specifically addressing the dire state of Makana Municipality. The 2012/13 Auditor General’s (AG) report on Makana indicated that a the decision by the Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury to intervene in the financial management under Section 154 of the Constitution was not enough, and a section 139(1) intervention by provincial government was urgently required. Makana Municipality was placed under the administration of Pam Yako six months ago. Furthermore, the various fraud allegations of top Makana municipal employees in the Kabuso forensic report, which has still not been released, are just some of the issues that are currently contributing to the state of this municipality. However, that is not to say that the presentation by the Auditor-General was any less informative.
Apart from discussing the importance of auditing, and the office of the Auditor -General, Makwethu also addressed other important issues, such as ethics and transparency. Makwethu believes that transparency is his department’s number one priority. “Someone who handles the money, your money, has to handle it with transparency, people doing these jobs have to have the right skills and demonstrate the minimum level of knowledge required for the job,” said Makwethu. Makwethu also believes that problems tend to arise from public officials who do not care. The basic principal of ethical behavior, in his opinion is “good work is done by people who care, not text book ethics!”
A question and answer session followed the presentation . An important question was raised which addressed the role citizens play in ensuring that departments are held accountable for their actions. Makwethu responded by stating: “The community are the ones that have to report if departments have not done what they claim to have spent money doing. The office of the Auditor-General places great emphasis on creating awareness and educating both the public and government institutions.” Makwetu, believes that journalists play a significant role in transmitting this message.