Fakie Wants More Power
Johannesburg - Auditor-general Shauket Fakie wants powers to search and seize documents from individuals for the purposes of forensic auditing and investigation of state entities.
These powers reside with the Scorpions and police who use them during raids on people's properties when conducting criminal investigations.
The controversial proposals to give Fakie super-powers are among those he has made in the draft Audit Bill, aimed at regulating the functioning of the auditor-general's office.
Fakie told City Press his office had been severely limited in its functions, as it lacks search and seizure powers. He has decided to include these powers in the bill currently under discussion by a standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).
The draft bill states the auditor-general can, on certain conditions, search any property where he can get information for auditing, with or without a search warrant.
The office of the auditor-general currently relies on the SA Police Service to search premises.
Fakie, however, faces opposition from MPs who believe such powers are excessive and will elevate his office to that of an investigator.
IFP MP and former Scopa chairperson Gavin Woods said the powers Fakie demanded were unnecessarily excessive for an auditing office.
The ANC head of the study group who is chairing the Scopa ad hoc committee discussing the bill, Vincent Smith, said with such powers the auditor-general could be used for political football.
Fakie said he often came across situations, during normal auditing of state institutions, which require search and seizure of information from an individual's properties.
"Because I don't have the powers, it becomes difficult to secure the required information in time before it is distorted. In the time between referring the matter to the Scorpions or SAPS, the information I need suddenly disappears or gets distorted," he said.
Fakie cited the Commission on Gender Equality and the Public Protector as independent institutions who derive seizure and search powers from their respective legislation.
These institutions hardly do forensic work, he argued.
Fakie also wants parliament to retain clauses in the bill which require him to consult with the cabinet or the president before deciding on whether to release information which may be deemed a threat to national security and interest.
In its submission, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) argues that the need for the auditor-general to consult with the president or cabinet before the publication of reports on confidential special accounts was drawn from apartheid-era legislation.
Woods also argued that this could subject the auditor-general to undue pressure from the executive and therefore compromise his independence. Consultation would limit the auditor-general from reporting anything which the executive may not like, he said.
However, in its submission, the office of the auditor-general disagreed.
"By excluding the consultation process as provided for in the bill, the auditor-general would be put in a difficult position to interpret national interest, and the protection of sensitive information such as defence capabilities, intelligence information and the protection of human lives.
Arms deal report
"It is common cause that the phrase 'after consultation' does not require that consensus needs to be reached. It does not prevent disclosure of any audit finding regarding unauthorised or irregular expenditure and criminal conduct," he said.
Fakie recently came under fire from opposition parties after he referred the draft report of the arms deal joint investigation into allegations of corruption to the cabinet, as it was feared the cabinet changed or edited the report to exonerate itself from any wrongdoing.
Then, Fakie cited the clauses which he wants retained in the bill to justify the referral of the report. But he also defended the report, saying there were no substantial changes.
Fakie this week insisted the clauses remain, as he did not want to make mistakes and include sensitive information in his audit reports.
Some MPs want the bill to have a clause which will compel the auditor-general to audit companies in which the state has more than 50 percent shareholding.
With acknowledgements to Mpumelelo Mkhabela and the City Press.