One in five internal auditors fear for their lives in reporting corruption

03 July 2019 - 07:00 By Nico Gous
The survey found almost one in five internal auditors have been intimidated or coerced into sweeping findings under the carpet over the last three years. File photo.
The survey found almost one in five internal auditors have been intimidated or coerced into sweeping findings under the carpet over the last three years. File photo.
Image: 123rf.com/ronstik

Almost one in five (18%) internal auditors say they would fear for their lives if they reported "questionable activities" - and that it appears the profession is "becoming increasingly more dangerous".

This is according to the “Plight of internal auditors” report, released by The Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa (IIA SA) in May this year.

"What is clearly coming through in this survey report is that there is a culture of fear in many organisations and that, especially where findings are raised that implicate leaders in the organisation, internal audit is often not protected," IIA SA CEO Claudelle von Eck wrote.

"What does worry me, however, is the prevalence of intimidation and fear in our country, and in particular the willingness of some to go as far as torture and murder to conceal their evil deeds."

In total, l,349 internal auditors from the private and the public completed the survey, while 94 partly filled it out.

Internal auditors working in local municipalities (33%), metro and district municipalities (29% each) and national government (26%) reported the greatest fear for their lives and that of their families.

"Clearly a significant amount of internal auditors in local government, across all three types of municipalities, are living with a sense of fear in their professional capacities. It is unclear how many would still do the right thing despite being afraid," the report said.

According to the report, the following auditors were killed while investigating corruption in recent years:

  • Andile Matshaya was an internal auditor at the national transport department when he was strangled to death in a hotel room in 2012;
  • The Free State agriculture department’s head auditor, Moses Tshake, died in a Bloemfontein hospital, three months after he was maimed in a hijacking in 2013;
  • Nongoma municipality internal auditor Zweli Duma was shot dead at his home in 2016; and
  • IIA Lesotho founding member and Lesotho Electricity Corporation chief audit executive Ignatius Nteso was shot dead in 2017.

The survey also found almost one in five (18%) internal auditors have been intimidated or coerced into sweeping findings under the carpet over the last three years, while 3% were suspended or put on paid or special leave while investigating corruption.

"Sweeping findings under the carpet could be likened to a festering wound. Eventually the infection could spread to the rest of the body and significantly weaken it or even take it to the grave," the report said.

"Human beings generally tend to resist being exposed, especially if they could potentially be prosecuted and jailed for their actions."

The report said companies such as Steinhoff showing wrongdoing at the top could have the most devastating impact.

"This means that they (internal auditors) should be able to audit unfettered without the fear that auditing areas that could implicate leaders in the organisation would result in them being victimised."


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