The compulsory national lifestyle audit process, which hit a snag due to a change in service providers, will be concluded soon, President Cyril Ramaphosa has told parliament.
“I do regret the delay, it should not have taken as long as it has but the intent is there,” he said.
The president was responding to parliamentary questions in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The sitting started with a moment of silence for the 77 people who died in the Johannesburg fire last week.
DA leader John Steenhuisen asked Ramaphosa whether compulsory lifestyle audits had been conducted on members of the executive and public servants after his commitments in 2018 and 2021.
Ramaphosa said by March 2023, more than 11,000 public servants in national government had undergone lifestyle audits. For members of the executive, he said, the process is spearheaded by the office of the director-general in the presidency and the secretary of the cabinet, Phindile Baleni.
“The process was initially initiated towards the end of 2022. It had been preceded by a number of processes. Earlier this year, I sent letters to the deputy president, ministers and deputy ministers requesting their consent in writing to the process to ensure that the information is obtained in a legitimate and legal manner.”
Ramaphosa said he received the same letter signed by Baleni.
“Members of the executive, including myself, have submitted all these consent forms for the nationally-driven process of lifestyle audits. The implementation of lifestyle audits has been delayed to some extent by the change of service providers. It is anticipated that this project will be concluded in a short space of time.”
Steenhuisen then asked Ramaphosa when a lifestyle audit would be conducted on deputy president Paul Mashatile, to which Ramaphosa said the matter, which is “right up on my radar screen and being attended to”, was not targeting certain people.
Mashatile’s lifestyle has been the subject of investigative reports by News24 in the past few months.
Ramaphosa said: “The delays have been occasioned by, initially, a process that would have led to a very superficial result which I sent back and said I want a more detailed process that would detail to us what our lifestyle is.”
This was followed up by a much more extensive outline, which was very complicated and would have resulted in even further delays, he said.
“We have now required that a service provider who would be able to do the lifestyle audit much more efficiently, quickly and the type of information that would come out, would be sufficiently comprehensive as to be able to indicate precisely what each member of the executive has in the form of assets and debts.”
That process is under way and Baleni, who is also in charge of the disclosures that members give, “is fully able and capable” of leading the process. “Her diligence in this regard is going to be quite thorough. I do regret the delay; it should not have taken as long as it is but the intent is there.”
Ramaphosa said the process does not focus on any specific member of the executive and admitted he was aware that the process is intrusive.
“One has to be very careful that whatever information is given will be dealt with sensitively and that is why in the executive, it is in the custody of the director-general.”
Ramaphosa said Baleni would be able to deal with the matter with “the measure of confidentiality” it requires.
The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa asked whether the government would have the capacity to conduct the mammoth task and Ramaphosa said: “The process of vetting has indicated that it takes too long and other people finally leave the public service without being vetted.”
The process the State Security Agency is involved in is intricate.
“I was discussing it with the minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who is responsible for SSA and that matter is being looked into, how the process can be capacitated better and how it can be speeded up.”
Ramaphosa said he views the delay in vetting people “quite detrimental” to the public service and dispelled the notion that only public servants are being subjected to lifestyle audits.
He said the presumption of innocent until proven guilty would apply in this process.