30 November 2016

South Africa: Gordhan Climbs Into SARS Top Management

Photo: GCIS
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan admitted in a parliamentary response that there is a lack of accountability and co-operation from the top management at the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

The Democratic Alliance's David Maynier posed a question to Gordhan, asking him whether he was aware of the existence of a Sars High Risk Investigation Unit and if so, to elaborate on its role and persons involved.

In his response, Gordhan said the information, which was provided by Sars cannot be verified, "because of a lack of accountability and cooperation from the Sars top management".

Sars, however, denied that there is currently a high risk investigation unit.

"The unit was formally dissolved in 2014," Sars said in its response, "and Sars has since implemented a New Operating Model and the current position in dealing with non-compliance in high risk areas (including areas such as the illicit economy) is guided by the focus in the ... Sars Compliance programme."

Maynier told Fin24 by phone that Gordhan's response shows the extent to which the relationship between Gordhan and National Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane has broken down.

"President Jacob Zuma has claimed that he is playing a mediating role between Minister Gordhan and Mr Moyane, but this is evidently not working."

This is the second public disagreement that surfaced between Gordhan and Moyane recently.

In October, Gordhan claimed in a separate parliamentary response that Moyane had failed to inform him of the suspension of unusual payments to now suspended Sars official Jonas Makwakwa.

Gordhan at the time said he only became aware of the issue through an article in the Sunday Times published on September 11 2016.

The standoff between Gordhan and Moyane has been boiling for some time now and came to the surface when Moyane had been accused of purging Sars executives that helped Gordhan transform Sars into the respected institution.

Moyane was also allegedly behind the probe into the alleged illegal "rogue" unit, which Gordhan had set up during his tenure at Sars.

In addition, Moyane openly defied Gordhan's command that all restructuring plans at Sars be halted earlier this year.

In a different parliamentary question, Maynier asked whether Moyane is using the services of bodyguards to which Gordhan again replied: "This information is provided by the South African Revenue Service (Sars). The Ministry of Finance cannot verify this information."

In the response, Sars confirmed that Moyane indeed has "protective service officers allocated to him".

According to Sars, Moyane needs bodyguards, because he works for a "critical institution which is tasked with revenue collection, including high profile individuals and businesses".

"Due to the nature of its mandate it's vital that the Commissioner and Sars employees who are threatened or deemed to have been threatened by individuals or syndicates under investigation are provided with personal protectors."

Sars said Moyane has been allocated bodyguards for this precise reason.

Sars has refuted media reports that Moyane had a hand in charges laid against Gordhan in October this year by the National Prosecuting Agency - two weeks before he was due to deliver the medium-term budget policy statement.

The charges were subsequently dropped, but the verdict is still out on whether Gordhan will be investigated for his alleged role in a so-called rogue unit, which had investigated illicit activities.

Sars has also dismissed reports of ongoing tensions between Moyane and Gordhan.

Source: Fin24

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