THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences will not hesitate to conduct lifestyle audits on any minister or government official who is seen to live beyond their paygrade, director general Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole has said.
Adv Manyokole made the remarks last week during the declaration of assets by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his cabinet.
Last month, Dr Majoro said that among the priorities of his government were ending corruption and ensuring food security. And in line with the fight against corruption, Dr Majoro gave his cabinet two weeks to declare their assets.
Adv Manyokole said that while it was important for all assets and interests to be declared, the most important ones were the statuses of the officials’ bank balances, vehicles, estates and their business interests.
He said the declaration of assets by the cabinet would set the tone for all government officials to follow suit and this would dissuade them from engaging in corrupt practices.
“It is going to be very difficult for anyone of them to be tempted to gain any wealth fraudulently,” Adv Manyokole said.
“If we find that there are assets that they have not declared, then we will be forced to audit them. If they declare their newly acquired assets, then there would be no need to audit them.”
The assets declaration files will be renewed annually but would be audited whenever there is probable cause to suspect that one has not been truthful about their declaration, he said.
“The forms will not be reviewed until there is probable course to suspect that a minister is living beyond their means. Otherwise we are going to keep them in a safe storage without tempering with them. They are expected to make declarations every year to renew information on their new accumulations and those assets that they would have lost,” Adv Manyokole said.
Dr Majoro’s directive to government officials to declare assets has awakened the DCEO’s spirit to fight corruption as opposed to past regimes where attempts to fight corruption were stifled by lack of political will, Adv Mayokole said.
“Dr Majoro told me that he wanted the assets declaration process done publicly and we started the process by giving declaration forms to all members of the cabinet. We consider this a serious commitment because for a while now, the DCEO has wanted the ministers to declare their assets.
“The efforts have been futile in the past because only a handful of ministers would return their declarations. It was not given the seriousness it deserved… This is good initiative by the Prime Minister. This is the kind of leadership that makes our work worthwhile.
“It is going to make our work easier when the time comes for government officials to declare following the lead of their superiors. This is one of the hallmarks of political will in the fight against corruption,” Adv Manyokole said.
The process will soon move on to the principal secretaries and other senior government officials and is expected to be completed by December 2020.
For his part, Dr Majoro said the cabinet’s declaration of assets was just a prelude for all government employees to follow suit.
“I am proud to inform the nation that today the cabinet is executing a target we had set for ourselves not so long ago. Today it is just the cabinet but this should be done by all the 45 000 civil servants. Next, all the parliamentarians will declare their assets and they will be followed by the principal secretaries,” Dr Majoro said.