JOHANNESBURG - Lord Peter Hain, the anti-corruption crusader, on Friday gave his full backing to calls for senior civil servants and politicians to be subjected to annual lifestyle audits as a measure to curb corruption.

Hain said lifestyle audits could be a useful tool in combating the rampant corruption in South Africa.

“When legislators have declared their interest, lifestyle audits are a useful gauge to check whether they are living within their means or not. This is a direction South Africa should seriously consider taking to root out corruption,” he said.

The Kenya-born British parliamentarian and previous anti-apartheid activist played a leading role in the campaign against Bell Pottinger.

The PR company was accused of, and admitted doing, the biding on behalf of the Gupta family to popularise the phrase “white monopoly capital”.

Ismail Momoniat, a deputy director-general at the Treasury, last week became the first high-ranking official to publicly call for lifestyle audits in the fight against corruption.

He said South Africa should have regular lifestyle audits for people in decision-making positions.

“Senior public servants, like me, or politicians should be subjected to annual lifestyle audits, and I think that those sorts of mechanisms can pick up a lot of the potential problems that we have,” Momoniat said. He joined a growing chorus of voices calling for lifestyle audits in the face of debilitating corruption.

Last year, Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Science and Technology, called on the ANC to conduct lifestyle audits on its members to verify the source of their wealth.

Trade union federation Cosatu and the SACP have both previously advocated such audits on the political elite.

Earlier this month, corruption-ridden Eskom said its executives and senior managers would be subjected to independent lifestyle and conflict of interest audits as part of the power utility’s efforts to root out corruption.

Steven Powell, the head of the forensic services division at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, said lifestyle audits were an excellent barometer of the extent of the fraud risk within an organisation.

“What forensic auditors look out for is an excessive lifestyle; for example, properties or vehicles where the monthly repayment exceeds what would be reasonably affordable to the employee concerned. Often the properties are bond-free, which begs the question as to how the capital was raised for the acquisition,” Powell said.

Hain also decried the outcomes of South Africa’s education system, warning that the country ran the risk of missing out on the fourth industrial revolution. “If you’re benchmarking your economy for future prosperity and success, the country needs more graduates in science and mathematics. That is where the country would create millions of jobs.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, in his State of the Nation Address on Friday, said the country urgently needed to develop its capabilities in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

“We will soon establish a digital industrial revolution commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology,” Ramaphosa said.