Dr Mimmy Gondwe, DA spokesperson on public service and administration, said barely a month after President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which he rightly pointed out that “… a professional public service, staffed by… ethical people, critical to effective government and ending corruption, patronage and waste’, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has revealed that the Presidency is one of the 17 national government departments that do not comply with the public service regulations that instruct 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 regarding lifestyle differences. When criminality is detected, a case must be opened at the South African Police Service (SAPS) with a notice to the Hawks.
“The DA welcomes the proposal by the DPSA to approach the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to conduct lifestyle audits on behalf of non-compliant departments as departments that treat these audits as if they are not compulsory, understand that there are serious legal consequences for failure to comply with the obligations,” Dr Gondwe said in a statement.
Despite the adoption of the Guide to Lifestyle Audits in the Public Service in April 2021, national departments such as the Presidency, National Treasury, Defence and Justice failed to provide feedback at the end of January 2023 to guide departments in conducting lifestyle audits to the DPSA on the extent of progress made in conducting lifestyle audits.
At provincial government department level, the extent of non-compliance is so severe that only two provinces, namely the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal, have been found by the DPSA to be fully compliant. Furthermore, as of January 2023, only 71 provincial departments across the country have provided feedback to DPSA on the extent of progress made in conducting lifestyle audits.
On 1 April 2021, it became mandatory 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 Rule 22 of the Public Service Regulations of 2016 (PSR), which gives effect to the legislative framework requiring lifestyle audits to be carried out in the public service.
“The implementation of lifestyle audits by government departments is largely a decentralised function process that requires each department to conduct lifestyle audits based on rule 22 of the PSR and the risks identified.”
Initiatives such as the National Framework for the Professionalisation of the Public Service introduced in 2022 will remain empty promises unless there is a firm commitment to strictly comply with the law and abide by laid down regulations.
“Ramaphosa, as the head of government, must start by correcting the persistent contravention of the Public Service Regulations by the Presidency before speaking out about the professionalisation of the public service,” Dr Gondwe concludes.