South Africa

Lifestyle audits for government officials not turning up any red flags: minister

Acting minister of public service and administration, Thulas Nxesi, says that 70 government departments have concluded thousands of lifestyle reviews for senior officials, and none turned up any red flags.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, the minister noted that 27 national departments and 47 provincial departments rolled out the lifestyle audit process during the course of the current financial year.

Four departments have indicated that audits are still ongoing, but the remaining 70 have since concluded – none of which turned up any red flags.

The government adopted the Guide on implementing lifestyle audits in the Public Service, where lifestyle audits for the Public Service became compulsory from 1 April 2021.

The minister noted that the process follows a three-step programme:

  1. Lifestyle Reviews
  2. Lifestyle Investigations
  3. Lifestyle Audits

“When implementing the Guide, national and provincial departments follow a three-step approach, starting with lifestyle reviews. When red flags – such as unexplained wealth, conflicts of interest, etc. – are identified during this step, the department will move to the next step, which is lifestyle investigations,” the minister said.

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This step may lead to disciplinary action if an irregularity or wrong-doing was detected and if action is required in terms of law and prescripts.

“When an investigation proves to be challenging, a department will move to the last step, namely a lifestyle audit. This step involves the utilisation of specialist auditors that will employ specialist tools to trace unexplained wealth, for example.”

Given the three-step approach, the lifestyle audit process can end with a lifestyle review when no red flags are identified, Nxesi said.

“If investigations are conducted, the timeframe for completion will depend on the complexity of the case. There is, therefore, no due date for the completion of lifestyle audits. However, lifestyle reviews are to be completed at the end of each financial year for members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) and every second year for other categories of employees.”

No red flags

According to the reports received by the DPSA from state departments that have started to roll out lifestyle audits for their employees, the following employees are being audited:

  • Members of the Senior Management Service
  • Members of the Middle Management Service
  • Supply Chain and Finance employees

Nxesi said that departments that detected no red flags during the lifestyle review process are regarded to have finalised their lifestyle audit process.

All departments are expected to complete lifestyle reviews for SMS members at the end of each financial year, and for the other categories at the end of the second-year cycle when they are performing lifestyle audits on those employees.

“There are 70 departments that have finalised their lifestyle review process, which is the first step of the lifestyle audits. These departments did not identify any red flags, i.e. unexplained wealth, conflicts of interest, etc. hence there were no referrals for investigation. As a result, the lifestyle review process was finalised,” he said.

The four departments that indicated the number of specified lifestyle audits that are still in process include:

  • North West Department of Health – 1,402 employees
  • Limpopo Provincial Treasury – 20 employees
  • Free State Department of Human Settlements – 2 employees
  • Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development – 109 employees

Read: New low for corruption in South Africa as government officials take over low-income houses to drink and party in

Artmotion S.Africa

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