Gauteng Prime Minister David Makhura appears to be following Ramaphosa’s lead, claiming since at least December 2020 that lifestyle audits of Gauteng’s top leadership are ongoing.
When Gauteng’s anti-corruption report was released in May, he said the audit results would be reported “soon”.
In fact, the report states that the State Security Agency (SSA) has “completed the Executive Council’s lifestyle reviews as requested by the Prime Minister” and the results “will be released separately upon completion of the proper consultations”.
Two months later it seems they are nowhere to be found.
Unathi Mphendu, director of ethics and accountability for the Integrity Management Unit, said the premier is waiting for the SSA’s final report, but added: “The process is ongoing.”
DM168 Attempts to set a time frame went unanswered.
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According to Mphendu, lifestyle audits are “a critical and legitimate management tool and part of a department’s risk management system [under Public Service Regulations, 2016] prevent and detect fraud and corruption in the public sector”.
He said: “They are conducted or conducted to determine whether an employee’s lifestyle matches that person’s known stream of income.”
Three exams are conducted in the public service:
- Lifestyle Review: A merging of reports from internal and external databases that provide a snapshot of specific aspects of an employee’s life;
- Lifestyle Inquiry: Initiated when a Lifestyle Review determines that an employee’s expenses consistently exceed their income and this cannot be explained; and
- Lifestyle Audit: An investigator may need the help of a certified public accountant to identify assets that could clarify an employee’s unexplained wealth and/or identify potential proceeds of illegal activity.
Given MECs’ well-known penchant for big houses and flashy cars, and the flurry of corruption allegations, the delays must raise questions.
It’s a “capacity issue”.
Terence Nombembe, Chair of the Gauteng Ethics Advisory Council, said the delay in completing the audits does not indicate a lack of political will or resistance from the MECs: “It’s not their fault, I promise you.”
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He said that given the sensitivity and seniority of the people involved, they “cannot be conducted by internal people in government, such as departmental ethics officers.”
“They have to be carried out by the competent authority like the SSA and that is where the problem lies. Their capacity leaves a lot to be desired.”
Mphendu said lifestyle audits are just part of the integrity management program, which included screening all senior officials and financial disclosure requirements.
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He said the financial disclosure form was drafted by the Department for Public Services and Administration (DPSA).
He said disclosures made by members of the Senior Management Service would be submitted electronically (via an electronic disclosure system also developed by the DPSA) and reviewed by the Public Service Commission.
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Other categories of staff — including those at the deputy director and deputy director levels — are reviewed by the department’s ethics officers, Mphendu said.
But ethics officers “must submit to the DPSA the reports of their review and the actions taken against the officers found to have conflicts of interest.” DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 Newspaper available nationwide for R25.