A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty-branded Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town. File photo: BLOOMBERG/DWAYNE SENIOR
A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty-branded Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town. File photo: BLOOMBERG/DWAYNE SENIOR

It’s taken seven years for the government to introduce lifestyle audits for all public servants. This will begin in February 2022 in a bid to prevent and detect fraud and corruption in the public service and to ensure employees’ lifestyles are in line with their declared income.

The audits have been in the pipeline since the 2014 establishment of the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit, within the department of public service & administration.

The audits will focus on all workers in the public service, starting in February 2022 for employees at the public service commission (PSC), according to PSC commissioner Michael Seloane.

“Sometimes the only clue to illicit activities is a sudden, unexplained change in an employee’s lifestyle,” Seloane said on Tuesday at the release  of the PSC’s quarterly bulletin, The Pulse of the Public Service. “The lifestyle audit is, therefore, a critical management tool to identify staff members who, based on extravagant lifestyles, may potentially be engaging in illicit activities.” 

Instances of public servants unduly benefiting from the state’s resources and procurement opportunities have increased and the “lifestyle audits will also help strengthen our already existing financial disclosure framework that helps us in determining conflict of interests” within the public service, Seloane said.

The PSC promotes constitutional values and principles governing public administration. Its officers will give technical assistance to national and provincial departments to implement the guide on carrying out lifestyle audits in the public service.

The compulsory guidelines for all audits of public servants in national and provincial departments, as well as state-owned enterprises, were approved by former public administration minister Senzo Mchunu in April 2021.

The unit has trained 42 ethics officers on the risk-based verification of financial disclosures (lifestyle reviews). Training material for ethics officers and investigators has been developed with the assistance of the Canadian government. Once finalised, it will be rolled out for electronic training, the PSC said.

The audits will include reports from various databases to provide a snapshot of the financial profile of public servants, according to the PSC report.

The audits aren’t witch-hunts for corrupt public servants “as there are public servants who could have acquired their wealth through honest means — for example, a wealthy partner and as a successful business-person”, Seloane said.

maekot@businesslive.co.za

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