South Africa should more closely monitor the activities and financial dealings of senior civil servants if President Cyril Ramaphosa is to succeed in his battle to fight corruption, a National Treasury official said.
State employees with high levels of responsibility should be subjected to annual “lifestyle audits” to detect signs of corruption, according to Ismail Momoniat, a deputy director-general at the Treasury. The government should also be aware of details of senior workers’ bank accounts, he said at an anti-graft event in Johannesburg on Thursday.
“We need to have people who will ask questions, and without fear or favor,” he said. “The Treasury has lost a lot of people, but it can gain in capacity if the political will is there.”
Since December 2016, former President Jacob Zuma removed Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and Mcebisi Jonas his deputy. Lungisa Fuzile resigned as director-general and three deputy directors-general also left the Treasury.
Momoniat, who is in charge of tax and financial-sector policy at the Treasury, said that over the course of Zuma’s rule the department had become powerless to investigate allegations of corruption. “If you did see anything, you would get fired if you acted,” he said. “You couldn’t act, as the managers at the top didn’t want to act.”
His comments came hours after Ramaphosa was sworn in on Thursday following Zuma’s resignation the previous evening, which ended a nine-year tenure riddled with corruption scandals. The president has pledged to tackle endemic government graft, including so-called “state capture,” or the collusion by state officials with outside business interests to loot cash from institutions and influence appointments.
A special police unit known as the Hawks has moved to arrest members of the Gupta family, who are accused of using their relationship with Zuma and one of his sons to win lucrative state contracts and influence the appointment of cabinet ministers. They and the Zumas deny wrongdoing.
Momoniat was speaking at the event chaired by Peter Hain, the former U.K. cabinet minister who has campaigned against corruption in South Africa, the country of his birth. Now that Ramaphosa is president, there might be more scope for the Treasury to help in ongoing investigations into international companies linked to the Guptas, Hain said. KPMG LLP, Mckinsey & Co Inc., SAP SE, HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc have all been scrutinized for work done for the family.
“Treasury should put out an order on foreign governments, regulators and banks to get the information they need,” he said.
— With assistance by Arabile Gumede