Betrayed by his Facebook post

2013-09-08 10:00

Auditor-General candidate sweats over his comments.

Watch what you say on Facebook – especially if you want to become the country’s next Auditor-General (AG), a job that requires that you act without fear or favour.

It’s a lesson Avhashoni Ramikosi learnt the hard way this week.

The senior auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers was one of six candidates interviewed by MPs tasked to recommend a successor to AG Terence Nombembe, whose nonrenewable term ends in November.

Relaxed and assured, Ramikosi eloquently detailed why he was the best man for the job and how he’d try to turn around disastrous municipal-audit outcomes.

Key qualities needed? Independence and strategic thinking, he said.

But he was taken aback when DA MP John Steenhuisen revealed he’d visited his Facebook page and found he’d “expressed some quite strong political views”.

What would he do, if chosen, to ensure the political independence of the office?

Ramikosi defended his involvement in branch structures.

“If I were to be appointed?.?.?.?I suppose I’d have to recuse myself from active political participation, but it’s important for our democracy that we have?.?.?.?young people involved. You don’t want to wake up and realise there’s a leadership vacuum in the country.”

He couldn’t quite remember what the political views were, which prompted journalists to visit his page.

“Agang SA has now been launched, so what do South Africans say about this new political party, particularly the black middle class to whom this party is probably aimed at. Are they excited or is this another wasted space just like Cope?” read his February post.

There was also a picture of a row of seminaked women with what seemed to be price tags attached to them. Ramikosi wasn’t asked about this, but may regret not heeding a friend’s warning ahead of the interview to see to his page.

Deputy AG Kimi Makwetu and MTN executive Lily Zondo emerged as the strongest contenders.

Zondo, who worked at the AG’s office and was short-listed in 2006 when Nombembe got the job, impressed with her vision and track record as a person of integrity.

Recently, she blew the whistle on MTN chief corporate services officer Robert Madzonga, who was suspended in the face of allegations over funds linked to last year’s ICT Indaba and axed communications minister Dina Pule’s partner, Phosane Mngqibisa.

Madzonga threatened to sue MTN executives, including Zondo, for defamation.

Would she step aside if he succeeded, she was asked.

“I would not do anything that would embarrass the office, the country and, most of all, myself and my family,” Zondo replied.

“But what we need to understand with this case is that it is in the very pursuit of integrity?.?.?.?and my independence and objectivity – that I find myself where I am. I am a woman who believes in standing up for what is right,” she added.

Makwetu brought the weight of his six years as Nombembe’s deputy to bear, the promise of continuity and a safe pair of hands.

On joining six years ago, he had a “very clear” understanding with Nombembe that “I must spend a lot of time in the kitchen” while the AG dealt with broader issues. His role was to develop the machinery for the office to fulfil its mandate.

“I played the deputy role knowing I should do nothing to stand in the way of the AG, who is the public face of the organisation, so there’s no confusion about the consistency and continuity of the message,” Makwetu said.

At the same time, he invested in forging relationships with those responsible for good governance across all levels of government, from Cabinet down.

If appointed, he’d apply the same principles in choosing his own deputy, Makwetu told the committee, adding there was “a critical mass” of capable people in the AG’s office.

Makwetu and Zondo’s strong showing left MPs with a dilemma: If they picked Zondo, would Makwetu stay on? And if he left, what would that mean for continuity and stability?

The committee must report back to the National Assembly by September 20.

For the record

In an article headlined “Betrayed by his Facebook post” (City Press, September 8 2013), we reported that Avhashoni Ramikosi, who was interviewed by Parliament for the Auditor-General position, was an auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The professional services firm has responded, saying Ramikosi is not and has never been employed by PwC. The information published by City Press was based on a document given to journalists by the parliamentary committee secretary, which described Ramikosi’s current position as “Audit Senior – PriceWaterhouseCooper (sic)”. Ramikosi’s own CV says he worked at PwC from 1996 to 1999.

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