Public sector CFOs offer their respects to the deceased Auditor-General

CFOs who worked with Kimi Makwetu in the public sector share their memories of the Auditor-General.

On 11 November, esteemed Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu passed away from lung cancer. While his death has been a great loss to the entire country, the CFOs of the public sector have not only lost a colleague, but also a role model.

Read more: Outgoing Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu passes away

“It is a sad period for our profession and the country,” says Avis Fleet CEO-designate Ramasela Ganda, who worked with the Auditor-General during her term as group CFO of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. “Kimi was a great man of honour and integrity, an unsung hero. I have the utmost respect for him.”

She explains that one of the things she admired about him, was that he was not afraid to tell it like it is. “He dealt with everyone respectfully and engaged with both administrators and politicians without fear or favour. He was determined to get our country on the right path. May his soul rest in peace.”

SANParks CFO Dumisani Dlamini describes Kimi as a visionary and as someone who was passionate about governance and financial management in the public sector. “I met him a few years ago when he was speaking at the Finance Indaba. He had a great sense of humour and put a great flavour in audit.”

He says that Kimi made him understand what he was trying to do as the Auditor-General and that every finance professional in the room wanted to assist Kimi in every possible way.

“He was one of the most hardworking public servants that I have known,” Quality Council for Trades and Occupations CFO Innocent Gumbochuma reflects. “He was a fearless and principled leader who held the government and its entities accountable.”

He says that Kimi was instrumental in making the office of the Auditor-General respected and was a key figure in amendments to the Public Audit Act to give the office more “teeth” in enforcing audit outcomes. “The country has lost one the shining stars in public sector governance. My condolences to his family and the entire country at large. May his soul rest in peace.”

Department of International Relations and Cooperation acting CFO Caiphus Ramashau describes Kimi’s death as a “great loss to our quest for the creation of a better Africa in a better world through accountability and ethical leadership”.

Kimi's death is a loss to the audit profession at a time when it is under scrutiny both in South Africa and on a global stage.

“A gentle giant, not only measured in stature but wisdom, has fallen. However, we should draw comfort from his legacy espoused by ethical conduct and professional integrity that shall live on,” Caiphus says. “May the Auditor-General’s soul rest in peace. My condolences to his family and the entire accounting profession.”

Upon learning of Kimi’s death, the first thing that came to the Competition Tribunal head of finance CFO Devrani Moonsamy’s mind was his words: “No matter where we start, we make sure that the end is always better than the beginning”.

She says that leadership is much more than an art, a belief, a condition of the heart or a set of things to do. The visible signs of leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice. “This week, we lost a great example of leadership. Through his personal example and insightful contribution towards encouraging public sector excellence, he influenced millions of people regarding how we do leadership.”

Even as a trainee at the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) and throughout her career, the work Kimi had done continued to inspire Devrani. “He always encouraged clean audit opinions, as this is a reflection of public funds being spent in the most effective and efficient manner,” she says. This has been her ultimate goal in every public entity she joins.

“Kimi, your legacy shall live in our hearts forever. May your passion for making a difference in the lives of each and every South African be cherished and passed on to every one of us, so that, together as a South African nation, we can achieve anything.”

City of Cape Town CFO Kevin Jacoby has known Kimi for his full term that he served as the Auditor-General. “From my very first meeting as the CFO of Cape Town with Kimi I got the distinct comfort that he only wanted the best for myself and the auditee.”

Kimi built a very strong team in the AGSA. “Over a short space of time one could observe the internal capacity he built in the AGSA which limited the insourcing of contractors for audits. With this strategy he was able to attract highly capacitated staff, improve his service to his auditee and most importantly also prevent the risk the auditor was exposed to when the profession was materially challenged by findings of unethical behaviour globally,” he says.

Kevin describes Kimi as a friendly person who could engage at any level with a most loving humour. “If I had an opportunity to show gratitude I would show gratitude to his family who were most probably aware of the positive impact he was having on this country of ours. I would want to thank them for allowing him to give all his attention to his job. A job that could not have been done with divided focus. Thank you Makwetu family and please accept my condolences for the passing of your loving family member. A son, a husband and a DAD.”

eThekwini Municipality CFO Krish Kumar says that it has been a pleasure and a privilege to have served and worked with a person of Kimi’s calibre, especially during his seven years as the deputy Auditor-General, and the further seven years as the Auditor-General. Krish also served with him on the Accounting Standards Board.

He says that Kimi leaves a proud legacy and that the new Auditor-General has big shoes to fill. “It must also be appreciated that he served as our Auditor-General during a very turbulent time in all spheres of government. As Kimi said in a recent interview: ‘It was scary to watch how this changed. Oversight systems were being reversed so quickly, and supervision was regressing fast. Huge amounts of money were slipping through. This happened in a very short period.’”

He mused at how frank and direct Kimi always was. “Accordingly, accountability was a key theme of his term as Auditor-General. He did not only look at audit outcomes, but also systemic failures. He brought the issue of unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure to the forefront. His unwavering critique of transgressions and impartial analysis has certainly led to improvements in compliance, reporting, planning, business processes, contract management and internal controls. He was also a champion for effective consequence management which has helped ensure greater accountability.”

Kimi once said:

“As South Africans, we owe it to ourselves to make sure that our environment is created through a culture of doing the right thing. It goes for the delivery of basic services…. We can do better.”

Krish says that, although Kimi was fighting lung cancer over the last two years, he held on and persevered even in his last month in service. “He was a dedicated and committed public servant that has been an exemplary role model. We hope and pray that the Lord will give his family the strength and fortitude to overcome this great loss. It is a great loss to our country as well.”

“Lala ngoxolo my brother and comrade. May your soul rest in peace. We will certainly miss you. However, your legacy will live on,” Krish says.

In order to facilitate a dignified, inclusive send-off for Kimi, the AGSA has announced that it will be holding daily prayer services from Saturday, 14 November, to Wednesday, 18 November.

The services will also be a platform for colleagues and friends to share their messages of
condolences with the family. Due to covid-19 protocols, these services will take place virtually.

Kimi’s memorial service will take place on 17 November at 2pm. Due to covid-19 regulations, there will be restrictions to the number of people who can attend the memorial service at the venue. Therefore, there will be live streaming of the service on AGSA social media platforms.