The former minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Ayanda Dlodlo, announced in March 2022 that lifestyle audits are compulsory for all national and provincial departments, as of 1 April.

Addressing the Lifestyle Audit Indaba, held in March this year under the theme Building an Ethical Public Service through Lifestyle Audit, Dlodlo, now an executive director at the World Bank, said the government has put several programmes in place for the purpose of eradicating corruption. “These programmes are directed by a National Development Plan, aimed to reduce the levels of corruption by 2030, and informed by a National Anti-Corruption Strategy that is based on the values of integrity, transparency and accountability, respect for the rule of law, and zero tolerance for corruption.”

Corruption undermines democracy and the rule of law, she said, and leads to violations of human rights, distorted markets, the erosion of quality of life, and the growth of organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security. Meanwhile, the poorest of the poor and the youth are particularly affected.

While compulsory lifestyle audits were introduced in April 2021, Dlodlo has now confirmed that they were being implemented across the public service. By the end of January 2022, she said, there were several national and provincial departments that had reported to the DPSA that they had either completed lifestyle audits or were in the process of the audits.

The South African government remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicate corruption, Dlodlo said.

“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 they 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.”

It is for this reason that the public service embarked on a process to implement lifestyle audits for national and provincial employees, and to do it within an ethics management framework, she said. The audits would be a decentralised function, where heads of departments, supported by ethics officers, are expected to analyse ethics and corruption risks as part of a department’s system of risk management.

By adopting lifestyle audits, the minister said the public service is demanding of its employees to reconnect with the values espoused in the Constitution.

“Lifestyle audits are not a punitive measure, but we cannot deny the fact that we do have corrupt public service employees. 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.”

Dlodlo cautioned that public servants who engage in wrongdoing and corruption would be exposed through the lifestyle audit process. Getting to the implementation stage was no mean feat, she added. “The public service regulations had to be reviewed to prepare for the effective implementation of lifestyle audits … This groundwork paved the way for the adoption of a Guide on implementing lifestyle audits in the Public Service, which made lifestyle audits compulsory for all national and provincial departments, as from 1 April 2022.”

Such audits are divided into three distinct phases, said Dlodlo. The first phase comprises ethics reviews, which are conducted by ethics officers. The second comprises lifestyle investigations, and is conducted by departmental investigators. The third, involving complex cases that require specialist
intervention, will be referred to qualified auditors.

Lifestyle audits already conducted

Dlodlo stated that by the end of January 2022, 16 national and 17 provincial departments had commenced with lifestyle audits. “Some of these departments not only performed lifestyle audits, but even went further with conducting lifestyle investigations.”

But, she added, although this is a start, it is not good enough. “We need 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.”

As of 19 March 2022, these 15 national departments had conducted the audits:

  • Communications and Digital Technologies;
  • Cooperative Governance;
  • Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries;
  • Human Settlements;
  • International Relations and Cooperation;
  • National School of Government;
  • Office of the Chief Justice;
  • Office of the Public Service Commission;
  • Public Enterprises;
  • Public Service and Administration;
  • Public Works and Infrastructure;
  • Small Business Development;
  • Social Development;
  • South African Police Service; and
  • Trade, Industry and Competition.

The Department of Basic Education was in the process of conducting lifestyle audits, while six of the nine provincial governments have completed or were in the process of completing lifestyle audits.

There were six provincial governments which were engaged in or had concluded the audits: 

  • KwaZulu-Natal: Arts and Culture; Economic Development; Tourism and Environmental Affairs (not completed); Human Settlements; Office of the Premier (still in progress); Provincial Treasury; and Public Works.
  • Gauteng: Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
  • North West: Health (in progress).
  • Eastern Cape: Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Office of the Premier.
  • Northern Cape: Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (SMS completed, rest in progress), Cooperative Governance (in progress), Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs.
  • Western Cape: Cultural Affairs and Sport, Economic Development and Tourism, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Health, Provincial Treasury.
  • Mpumalanga: Health requested extension to submit at the end of March 2022.

The Department of Small Business Development reported that seven employees were investigated for fraud, of which five were disciplined and dismissed. The department indicated that the process started long before the compulsory lifestyle audits were introduced.

The Human Settlements department reported that one senior management service (SMS) member was referred for an investigation for the possible violation of the law against public servants conducting business with the state.

The provincial department of health in the Western Cape referred 743 non-SMS members to be investigated for the non-disclosure of assets, vehicles and companies. The province’s treasury referred three SMS members for investigation for possible conflict of interest and two cases of possible conducting of other remunerative work without the requisite authorisation.