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South Africa needs audits to halt graft, National Treasury says

Rand Refinery tour in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday, August 16 2017. The Kruger Rand is celebrating its 50th year of production as a commodity coin and they are made at Rand Refinery. Pic: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

By BLOOMBERG

JOHANNESBURG • 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 DG 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 last Thursday.

“We need to have people who will ask questions, and without fear or favour,” 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 as his deputy. Lungisa Fuzile resigned as DG and three deputy DGs also left the Treasury.

Corruption Allegations
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 man at the top didn’t want to act.”

His comments came hours after Ramaphosa was sworn in last 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.

Gupta Arrests
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 UK 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 scrutinised 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.