Appearing to follow Ramaphosa’s lead, Gauteng Premier David Makhura has, since at least December 2020, been claiming that lifestyle audits of Gauteng’s executive leadership were under way.
At the launch of Gauteng’s anti-corruption report in May, he said the audit outcomes would be reported on “in a short while”.
The report, in fact, says the State Security Agency (SSA) “has completed the lifestyle audits of the executive council as requested by the premier” and results “will be released separately after due consultations are completed”.
Two months later, it would appear they are nowhere to be found.
Unathi Mphendu, the Integrity Management Unit’s director of ethics and accountability, said the premier was awaiting the final report from the SSA, but added: “The process has not yet been finalised.”
DM168’s attempts to establish a timeframe went unanswered.
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Mphendu said lifestyle audits were “a critical and legitimate management tool and form part of a department’s system of risk management [under Public Service Regulations, 2016] to prevent and detect fraud and corruption in the public service”.
He said: “They are performed or conducted to determine if the lifestyle of an employee is commensurate with that person’s known income stream.”
Three tests are conducted in the public service:
- Lifestyle review: An amalgamation of reports from internal and external databases that provide a snapshot into certain aspects of the life of an employee;
- Lifestyle investigation: Launched when a lifestyle review finds that an employee’s expenditures constantly exceed his or her income and this cannot be explained; and
- Lifestyle audit: An investigator may need the help of an auditor to identify assets that could clarify the unexplained wealth of an employee and/or identify potential proceeds of unlawful activities.
Given MECs’ well-known penchant for big houses and flashy cars, as well as the swirl of corruption allegations, the delays have to raise questions.
It’s a ‘capacity’ problem
Terence Nombembe, chairperson of the Gauteng Ethics Advisory Council, said the delay in finalising audits did not point to a lack of political will or push-back by MECs: “It’s not their fault, I promise you.”
He said that, given the sensitivity and seniority of the people involved, “they can’t be done by internal people in government, such as departmental ethics officers”.
“They have to be done by the proper authority, such as the SSA, and that’s where the problem lies. Their capacity leaves a lot to be desired.”
Mphendu said lifestyle audits were only one part of the integrity management programme, which included the vetting of all senior officials and requirements of financial disclosure.
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He said the financial disclosure form was designed by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA).
He said disclosures by Senior Management Service members are submitted electronically (on an e-disclosure system also designed by the DPSA) and verified by the Public Service Commission.
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Other categories of employees – including those at deputy director and assistant director level – are verified by the departmental ethics officers, Mphendu said.
But the ethics officers “have to submit the reports of their verification and actions taken against the officials found to have conflicts of interest to the DPSA”. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.