The Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (PAEID-TAU) was invited by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to share information on South Africa’s electronic Disclosure System with the Ethics and Integrity Directorate of Botswana.
To assist Botswana with implementing the UNCAC’s requirement regarding asset declarations or financial disclosures as it is called in South Africa, the UNODC arranged a three-day training session, named Training on Assets Declaration for the Ethics and Integrity Directorate (EID).
Together with Ms B Mguni (EID), and Mr Itumeleng Mongale (UNODC) South Africas PAEID-TAU attended the three days training that was facilitated by Mr Itumeleng Mongale in Gaborone, Botswana from 23 – 25 November 2022.
The UNODC is providing technical assistance to all member States of the UNCAC to implement the Convention. The PAEID-TAU was requested to present its electronic disclosure system as a case study during the training session.
UNCAC is a legally binding instrument adopted by the United Nations in 2003 and was ratified by 187 states. South Africa and Botswana are both signatories to this Convention.
The EID, who started its operations in January 2020 and is headed by Director-General (DG) Beaulah Mguni, is mandated in terms of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act, 2019 to manage the asset declarations of about 4000 public officials, including public servants, politicians and judges of Botswana. The PAEIDTAU also presented this case study to the Office of the Director of Public Officers Declarations of Malawi in September this year.
DG Mguni opened the training session on day one where members of the EID of Botswana were provided with an overview of the necessary asset declaration concepts. This was followed by a reflection on the G20 principles for disclosure systems, the asset declaration process, the designing of an effective asset declaration form, and an explanation of the different disclosure systems utilised in Africa. Day one ended with a robust review of the existing disclosure form used by the EID.
On day two, Ms Pleasure Matshego, a Director in the PAEIDTAU who developed the eDisclosure system, demonstrated the functioning of South Africa’s electronic system via Teams.
Ms Motshego said the system was developed in 2000 and gradually evolved until it became an electronic system in 2016 to detect conflicts of interest.
The system allows designated public servants from level 9 to level 16 to disclose annually, (for senior management service members) and bi-annually (for non-senior management service members) to disclose their financial interests.
Disclosure of financial interests is compulsory and is regulated by regulations 18 and 19 of the Public Service Regulations, 2016. Information that must be disclosed includes amongst others: properties, vehicles, business interests and other remunerative work.
The national and provincial Ethics Officers scrutinise the submitted information and compare it to databases from the electronic National Traffic Information System, the Deeds Office, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and those databases maintained by departments, such as gifts registers and the register for employees having permission to conduct other remunerative work.
By comparing information to these external databases, available on the eDisclosure system, the information of public servants is verified for accuracy. This enables Ethics Officers to detect conflicts of interest, but also with a tool to perform lifestyle reviews as employees with unexplained wealth are identified.
Ms Matshego said with this element of lifestyle audits introduced, the South African financial disclosure system is currently adapting to become a dual declaration system that is similar to that of Botswana.
South Africa’s contribution was concluded with the provision of an explanation of the role and functions of the PAEIDTAU. As the EID and PAEIDTAU have closely related functions, the discussions following the explanation provided valuable insights regarding the challenges experienced by newly established Anti-Corruption and Ethics units, an opportunity to share innovative ways to address the promotion of ethics, and in general, to benchmark on critical performance areas.
The training intervention clearly showed that closer relationships between the PAEIDTAU and EID must be pursued and that more Ethics and Integrity bodies in the Southern African region should take hands to work together to develop a sustainable model of ethics management for the region.