By Jessie Taylor

South Africa has embarked on a process to audit the lifestyles of government officials to crack down on corruption within the public service. The move, which has come into effect as of April, is just one of the steps being taken to professionalise the public service. 

Lifestyle audits are a way to assess the unexplained wealth of public servants, which could indicate they have been complicit in corruption or conflicts of interest.

The audits are not intended to be a punitive measure but are rather a tool to promote ethics among public service employees.


Champion for a ‘people first’ public service

Among those championing ethical public administration is Minister Chana Pilane-Majake, deputy minister of public service and administration. She states that senior public servants will be screened at least once a year, to establish if government officials are living lavishly beyond their means. This will allow her department to proactively identify possible corruption.

In her current role as Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Minister Pilane-Majake works towards the improvement of the public service, to promote the principles of Batho Pele (“People First”). Minister Pilane-Majake also serves as the Whip of Ethics Committee of Parliament.

Minister Pilane-Majake holds a Doctorate in Literature and Philosophy from the University of South Africa, a Master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of KwaZulu-Natal), Honours and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Limpopo and a Diploma in Development Studies from Stanford University in California, USA.

Minister Pilane-Majake, was born in Pretoria. Her father Mogale Pilane was a staunch member of the SACP and her mother, a nurse and community worker, Magdalene Pilane was part of 20 000 women who marched to the Union Building in August 1956.  In her youth, Minister Pilane-Majake started working with structures that supported the struggle for liberation and liaising with internal and exiled leadership of the ANC

She has been a member of parliament since 2014 but has also held important roles outside of the political area.  Minister Pilane-Majake was previously appointed as Chief Executive Officer for the Commission on Gender Equality, a role she held for eight years before joining VIP Consulting Engineers as Executive Director for Human Resources. Before joining the Commission on Gender Equality, she worked for the EU Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, a bilateral programme between South Africa and the European Union assisting in promoting the culture of human rights in South Africa.

She also has extensive lecturing experience, having taught at the University of the North and the University of Natal. She has also helped to establish a number of schools for children with disabilities. 


Programmes to professionalise the public service

Minister Pilane-Majake has supported the lifestyle audits, explaining that they will be focused on senior management every year, and non-senior management every second year, in a continuous process.

The audits will be managed by the ethics, integrity and disciplinary technical task unit, which will offer support to ethics officers at the departmental level and monitor and assess the effectiveness of the process, said Minister Pilane-Majake.

The lifestyle audits were made compulsory for all national and provincial departments under former public service Ayanda Dlodlo.

They are one of several programmes to eradicate corruption in the public service, guided by the government’s National Anti-Corruption Strategy. The strategy has been developed on the values of integrity, transparency and accountability, respect for the rule of law, and zero tolerance for corruption.”

The lifestyle audits aim to help professionalise, modernise and optimise the public service. They aim to probe unexplained wealth and detect conflicts of interests that have an impact on productivity and service delivery. They are a tool to the ethics which should lie at the heart of the public service.

The audits are to be carried out by heads of departments, supported by ethics officers and are compulsory for all national and provincial departments.

The process is divided into three phases. In the first phase, departments will carry out lifestyle reviews through ethics officers. This will involve the entail verification of financial disclosures. Should a conflict of interest or unexplained wealth occur during this stage, the second phase will commence. This will see lifestyle investigations conducted by departmental investigators. 

Should corruption or criminal conduct be found during this investigation, it will be reported to the police for further investigation. The third process will be carried out in the event of complex cases, involving concealed assets, external auditors may be called in to carry out a thorough lifestyle audit.



Bertha Gxowa



Corruption Watch

SA Gov

People’s Assembly

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