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Govt tightening screws against corrupt public servants

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Public Service and Administration Minister, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo says screws are being tightened to stop public servants who are involved in corrupt activities.

Speaking at the two-day Lifestyle Audit Indaba held at Emperors Palace, east of Johannesburg on Thursday, the Minister said: “today, I want to make it clear:  If a public service employee is involved in criminal conduct, he or she must know, that sooner or later, they will be detected through the lifestyle audit process and steps will be taken against them. 

“We cannot professionalise the public service, improve service delivery or have economic growth, if we condone unethical conduct and ignore corrupt behaviour. 

“The screws are being tightened against public servants who engage themselves in wrong-doing and corruption. These employees know who they are, as they have already been identified by law enforcement agencies and are currently under investigation.”

According to Minister Dlodlo, lifestyle audits are not a punitive measure and was certainly not adopted because “we regard corruption amongst public servants to be alarming.”

However, she said: “but…we cannot deny the fact that we do have corrupt public service employees.  This was painfully laid bare during the COVID-19 Pandemic, were public service employees were found to be involved in procurement theft and other criminal conduct. 

“The exposure of this behaviour in a number of investigative reports, the last released by the Special Investigating Unit in December 2021, clearly shows the need for departments to manage corruption and ethics risks better.” 

The theme of the Indaba, “Building an ethical public service through lifestyle audits,” and the Minister said the theme ties perfectly in with the aims of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, as lifestyle audits are one of the priorities outlined in this Strategy. 

She emphasised that lifestyle audits are only one part of the broader drive of government to professionalise, modernise and optimise the public service. 

“Lifestyle audits will not only probe unexplained wealth, but it will also detect conflicts of interests that have an impact on the productivity of public service employees and on service delivery. 

“Thus, although lifestyle audits are a mechanism or tool to address corruption, in its essence, it is aimed at restoring ethics to be at the centre of the public service,” she said.

Since April 1 last year, the conducting of lifestyle audits became compulsory. Appearing before the Portfolio Committee on Wednesday, Minister Dlodlo reported that by the end of January 2022, sixteen (16) national and seventeen (17) provincial departments commenced with lifestyle audits. 

She said some of these departments not only performed lifestyle audits, but even went further with conducting lifestyle investigations. 

The Minister singled out the Western Cape Department of Health who referred more than 700 non-SMS members for investigations, to investigate possible conflicts of interest.

The Western Cape Provincial Treasury also referred three senior officials for investigations into possible conflicts of interest. 

Minister Dlodlo said these departments followed the guide on implementing lifestyleaudits in the public service, which is proof that the lifestyle audit process is working.

“Although this is a start, it is not good enough.  We need a 100% compliance and we will achieve it!  I therefore, urge those departments that have not started to conduct lifestyle audits yet, to do so speedily.” She said.

The Minister also used the platform to acknowledge the immense role of Ethics Officers in managing ethics in their respective departments. 

“As change agents in your departments, you have a great responsibility, as you are responsible for institutionalising the values, norms and standards of the public service!

“As the Minister responsible for setting norms and standards on ethics and integrity in the public service, I want to express my appreciation for your dedication and support, acknowledging that ethics management is an over and above task.  “I want to encourage you and the departmental investigators to continue with your good work in conducting lifestyle reviews and investigations.  Keep on being diligent and ethical, so that we can build ethical departments and an ethical public service,” she