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Presidency again delays lifestyle audits for ministers and deputies

18 March 2021 - 18:45 By aphiwe deklerk
President Cyril Ramaphosa's promise of lifestyle audits has again been pushed back. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's promise of lifestyle audits has again been pushed back. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The presidency has again pushed back the deadline for lifestyle audits for members of cabinet and deputy ministers.

Deputy minister in the presidency Thembi Siweya confirmed this during a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon.

She said the presidency would not be able to finalise the framework for lifestyle audits by the end of this month — the promised deadline made by late minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu last year.

Mthembu succumbed to Covid-19 related complications earlier this year, and minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is acting in the position. She was absent on Thursday.

Siweya could not give a new concrete deadline, only saying that the framework will be in place  by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.

“The late minister Mthembu committed, on October 29 2020, that consultation on the framework will be completed by the end of March 2021. This commitment was made before the Covid-19 second wave.

“And as such, events arising affected progress on the planned action thereof. Notwithstanding that, cabinet remains subject to the existence of the laws and the executive ethics code. Consultations are still ongoing in relation to the lifestyle audit framework,” said Siweya.

But DA MP Solly Malatsi, who had asked the question about lifestyle audits, slammed the presidency for the delay. He said it's been three years since President Cyril Ramaphosa made a promise on lifestyle audits and, by comparison, Western Cape premier Alan Winde has already implemented the decision in the province despite having taken charge only in 2019.

“When exactly during the 2021/22 financial year will these lifestyle audits be finished?” asked Malatsi.

Siweya said the March deadline had to be pushed back because of Covid-19 but she insisted that consultations were ongoing and needed to be thorough because the framework will not just cover one province but the whole country.

She also pointed out that there were other mechanisms to hold to account ministers as they are required to declare their interests to parliament and take an oath of office.

Both IFP MP Mthokozisi Nxumalo and EFF MP Veronica Mente were, however, critical of Siweya's defence on the delay.

“It is unacceptable to use Covid-19 any more and nor should the passing of the late honourable Mthembu be an excuse,” said Nxumalo.

Mente said the government had a situation where senior officials in all organs of state refused to be vetted.

“If we have a status that is open-ended of 2021/22, that's not good. Can we get a date when you are finishing this business so that we are able to push the officials who are refusing to be vetted as well?” said Mente.

She further questioned the accuracy of the declarations in parliament, saying former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi's disclosure at the Zondo commission had proved that there were benefits provided to MPs from the company which were not declared to parliament.