SCRUTINY: Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel wants lifestyle audits conducted on public figures. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Ebrahim Patel. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, approved by the Cabinet and by Parliament, should be signed into law so that banks can scrutinise prominent public figures, including government ministers, to curb corruption, says Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

Patel, who was addressing the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union national conference on Thursday, is the first Cabinet minister to speak out on the delays in assenting to the law. President Jacob Zuma has not signed the bill into law because of an objection, apparently over its constitutionality, raised by the Progressive Professionals Forum led by Mzwanele Manyi.

Patel said that if the political leadership failed to deal with the current"national drift" and with corruption, it would lose the "moral authority" to guide the country through the challenges it faced.

He suggested to regain this moral authority, lifestyle audits should be conducted on ministers and public figures to ensure the cars they were driving and lifestyles they led matched their income. Ministers should be open to their own bank accounts being scrutinised to fight corruption and state capture.

Workers and business would remain sceptical about government’s efforts to turn around the ailing economy when there were such massive losses to the fiscus resulting from corruption.

Patel suggested a package of measures to address corruption. Most of these were contained in the National Development Plan. They included strengthening the role of the public protector and the Special Investigating Unit to probe government corruption.

To curb private sector corruption, a structure similar to the public protector should be set up. He urged the tripartite alliance and unions to "mobilise" workers against the abuse of power and against corruption in society. He said there was a variety of responses to the revelations on state capture, corruption and poor service delivery.

These included denial, anger, shock, justification, diversion and powerlessness.