South Africa’s Auditor-General

The office of the Auditor-General was set up in terms of Chapter 9 of South Africa’s Constitution. As one of the so-called Chapter Nine institutions, it was set up to safeguard the country’s constitutional democracy. Here we take a look at the Office of the Auditor-General, how it works, and what it does.

The Auditor-General produces audit reports on all government departments, public entities, municipalities and public institutions every year – with the aim of helping to ensure accountability and good governance in the public sector. (Image: Auditor General South Africa)

Brand South Africa Reporter

We take a look at the Office of the Auditor-General, how it works and what it does.

What is the Auditor-General?

The office of the Auditor-General was set up in terms of Chapter 9 of South Africa’s Constitution. As one of the so-called Chapter Nine institutions, it was set up to safeguard the country’s constitutional democracy.

The independence of the Auditor-General is guaranteed by the Constitution, which states the Auditor-General must be impartial and must exercise its powers and perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice.

What does the Auditor-General do?

Its functions are set out in the Constitution, and are further regulated in the Public Audit Act.

The Auditor-General produces audit reports on all government departments, public entities, municipalities and public institutions every year – with the aim of helping to ensure accountability and good governance in the public sector.

The audit outcomes are analysed in general reports that cover both the Public Finance Management Act and Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) cycles.

The Auditor-General also conducts discretionary audits, performance audits and other special audits. It can also investigate a matter raised by a member of the public if the AG considers it to be in the public interest.

Who is South Africa’s Auditor-General?

The Auditor-General is appointed by Parliament for a fixed term of between five and 10 years.

Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, a qualified chartered accountant, is South Africa’s Auditor- General. He was appointed as Deputy Auditor-General in 2007, and took over from Terence Nombembe as Auditor-General in December 2013. Shauket Fakie served as Auditor-General until 2006. The current Deputy Auditor-General is Tsakani T Ratsela.

What is ‘clean administration’?

In 2006, just a few days after his appointment as the Auditor-General, Terence Nombembe had this to say about clean administration: “Public sector audits go beyond merely expressing an opinion on the financial statements. When we audit the public sector, we also comment on the effectiveness of key management processes and give feedback on compliance with laws and regulations. We have to report in a manner that enables Parliament and the executive to account for how they deal with taxpayers’ money.”

What happens to the reports?

The Auditor-General’s annual and discretionary reports are tabled to the legislature with a direct interest in the audit – that is, Parliament, provincial legislatures or municipal councils. These reports are then used in accordance with their own rules and procedures for oversight.

Who does the Auditor-General answer to?

While independence of the Auditor-General is guaranteed under the Constitution, the office is accountable to the National Assembly and has to report on its activities and performance of its functions.

The main accountability instruments are the Auditor-General’s budget and strategic plan, as well as the annual report, both of which are tabled annually in the National Assembly.

The Standing Committee on the Auditor-General, established in terms of Public Accountability Act, oversees the performance of the Auditor-General on behalf of the National Assembly.

The Auditor-General’s office is a self-funding organisation that bills its auditees – government institutions – based on time worked at public tariffs.

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