Presidency is among 17 national government departments that are in serious breach of public service regulations on lifestyle audits

Issued by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration
02 Mar 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP.

Barely a month after President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which he rightfully pointed out that ‘…a professional public service, staffed by…ethical people, is critical to an effective state and ending corruption, patronage and wastage’, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has revealed that the Presidency is one of the 17 national government departments that are failing to comply with the public service regulations mandating national and provincial government departments to implement and conduct lifestyle audits.

Lifestyle audits for public service employees were introduced to report conflicts of interest and red flags pertaining to lifestyle discrepancies. When criminality is detected, a case must be opened with the South Africa Police Service, with a notification to the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation.

The DA welcomes the proposal by the DPSA to formally approach the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to conduct lifestyle audits on behalf of non-compliant departments as departments that are treating these audits as if they are not compulsory, or at worst voluntary, should be made to understand that there are grave legal consequences for failure to comply.

Although the DA welcomes the proposal to involve the SIU, it cautions the DPSA against completely delegating its departmental responsibilities, in this regard, to the SIU which has its own mandate. The DPSA remains the sole custodian of ensuring norms and standards in the public service. It is also telling that not a single person has been held to account for this flagrant violation of regulations pertaining to lifestyle audits.

Despite the adoption of the Guide to Implement Lifestyle Audits in the Public Service in April 2021, to guide departments in conducting lifestyle audits as at the end of January 2023 national departments such as the Presidency, National Treasury, Defence and Justice had failed to provide feedback to the DPSA on the extent of the progress made in conducting lifestyle audits.

At provincial government department level, the extent of non-compliance is so bad that only two Provinces – namely the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal, have been found to be fully compliant by the DPSA. Moreover, as of January 2023, only 71 provincial departments across the country had provided feedback to DPSA on the extent of the progress made in conducting lifestyle audits.

On 1 April 2021 it became compulsory for departments to conduct lifestyle audits and in the same month, a Guide to implement lifestyle audits in the public service was adopted and shared with departments. The guide was developed and adopted in fulfilment of Regulation 22 of the Public Service Regulations of 2016 (PSR), which gives effect to the legislative framework that requires lifestyle audits to be conducted in the public service.

The implementation of lifestyle audits by government departments is a largely a decentralised process of function which requires each department to conduct lifestyle audits on the basis of Regulation 22 of the PSR and the risks identified.

Initiatives such as the National Framework towards the professionalisation of the public service introduced in 2022, will remain empty platitudes unless there is a firm commitment to strictly observe the law and adhere to laid down regulations. Ramaphosa, as the head of government, should start by fixing the persistent violation of the Public Service Regulations by the Presidency before pontificating about the professionalisation of the public service.