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Govt officials to go through lifestyle audits system

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The professionalisation of the public service space should involve conducting periodic lifestyle audits to curb corruption, says Public Service and Administration Minister, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo.

“We should look at deterrence [of malfeasance] and as much as we are arresting many people as possible, there are other issues that we need to look at ensuring that we do periodic lifestyle audits on all our public servants and those that surround them, so that we can then be able to determine where inexplicable wealth is coming from and that would be the starting point.

“Lifestyle audits’ have been on the pipeline for many years…for almost three years or since President Ramaphosa took office, we have been talking about this lifestyle audits. I think, now it is the right time to start to professionalise the public service, the lifestyle audits become a norm, not just an exception,” she said.

Minister Dlodlo was speaking on the 24-hour television news channel, Newzroom Afrika where she unpacked a holistic and integrated approach to fighting corruption in the public service.  

Lifestyle checks or lifestyle monitoring – are an accountability instrument that can be used to detect and prevent corruption often conducted when the visible standard of living of an individual appears to exceed their known income level.

Wage Bill

The Minister said the wage bill is way too high. “It is almost at a point of unaffordability if it is not already unaffordable and we are in conversations with trade unions trying to find ways in dealing with these,” she said.

Minister Dlodlo said one of the ways would be looking at wage setting mechanism and presenting a bill before Parliament, which they have drafted in consultations with trade unions to ensure that all relating to increases and employees benefits are properly scrutinised.

Babita Deokaran

Asked if the murder of whistleblower, Babita Deokaran could have been avoided. Minister Dlodlo said: “from the Department of Public Service and Administration perspective, her death should have been avoided.

“The matter was never reported to the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit, which looks into issues of ethical behaviours, that also assist with matters of anti-corruption and also it works as a pipeline to ensure the protection of whistleblowers and witness in cases that are corruption related.

“It is true that it was never reported to any of these bodies, but again, it would have been reported through conversations with family and friends and that should have come to the attention of government.

“I think it is also a matter of us being a little more vigilant and proactive rather than wait for individuals to report that they are seeing, hearing or receiving death threats or seeing funny characters in their homes. 

“We should be on the alert because in our drive for the professionalisation of the public service which includes ethical behaviour, we need to ensure that the provision is given…that when a person is a whistleblower on anything relating to their department that any measure of protection or scrutiny needs to be given so that we avoid instances like that.”

Last year, Cabinet released the framework for the professionalisation of the public service that will based on the need to change attitudes, behaviour and performance of public servants towards serving the citizens. 

The Minister said Public servants must have requisite technical skills and competencies to execute their responsibilities with regard to implementing government policies and plans.

“In the way that we recruit…in the way that we perform, in the way that we manage human resources…in the way that we dispense money in the public service, we need to ensure that it is in line with the development of our people,” she said.

The National Development Plan (NDP) requires reinvigorating the state’s role in producing the specialist technical skills to fulfil its core functions.