Judicial inquiry needed into secretive scandal at SARS - Dion George

DA MP questions whether 'rogue unit' is the real reason for the current political purge of the revenue service

DA calls on President Zuma to appoint Judicial Commission of Inquiry into secretive scandal at SARS 

9 February 2015

The DA will write to President Zuma, requesting he institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry in terms of section 84(2)(f) of the Constitution, to investigate the complete administrative disarray and the alleged political purge that is currently ensuing at the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS). 

This follows reports today suggesting that the State Security Agency (SSA) initiated an inquiry into this matter back in 2010, with nothing materialising from this investigation, and SARS having yet to receive any feedback or report from the State Security Agency. In addition, SARS wrote to the then police commissioner, Bheki Cele, in 2010 requesting an investigation into the ‘rogue unit' and its activities. This request was ignored (see BDlive report).

This latest development in the matter leaves an array of questions as to both the timing and the motives behind this sudden action by SARS. In September last year, newly appointed SARS commissioner Tom Moyane initiated an investigation into the alleged wrongdoings committed by the SARS 'rogue unit'. Following the conclusion of this investigation, there has been a mass exodus of senior officials in the Revenue Service, with senior SARS official and Head of Investigations, Johan Van Loggerenberg, being the most recent case.

Van Loggerenberg joins a long list of senior SARS officials who have either left the Revenue Service; been suspended, or have been redeployed to other divisions. These officials include: Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay; Strategic Planning and Risk Group Executive, Peter Richer; Chief Operations Officer, Barry Hore; Deputy Chief Operations Officer, Jerome Frey; and Anti-corruption and Security Head, Clifford Collings. 

While this purge has been executed under the guise of disciplinary action relating to the alleged wrongdoings committed by the SARS ‘rogue unit', the DA has reason to believe that this is as a result of the sensitive investigations that are ongoing at SARS. 

These investigations include a probe into the tobacco industry - as well as a tax investigation into the ANC's tax bill and the President's own tax bill.

The precarious timing and the secretive nature of the process warrants a thorough independent investigation. Given Parliament's agenda at the moment it is highly unlikely that it will hear and proceed with the matter expeditiously. Therefore, given the seriousness of this matter and the implications this will undoubtedly have for high-profile investigations, we believe an independent judicial probe is necessary if this matter is to be handled with the speed and attention it deserves.

While SARS have had ample opportunity to respond and set the record straight they have remained silent on the issue. 

wrote to the Chairperson of the Finance Portfolio Committee, Yunus Carrim, requesting he summon SARS Commissioner, Tom Moyane, to appear before the committee, and to table the report into the wrongdoings of the National Research Group of SARS. This report is the prima facie evidence and justification on which these suspensions are based.

This was ignored.

I subsequently submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application in order to gain access to the report, which was unjustifiably stalled on "procedural grounds" by SARS officials on two separate occasions. 

The report was still not forthcoming. 

I then wrote to Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, requesting that, as a matter of urgency, the report be tabled at the first sitting day in terms of rule 302 of the National Assembly. 

I have yet to receive a response.

This raises more questions than answers, and as the body responsible for the effective administration of taxpayers' money it should be above reproach. 

The DA is committed to ensuring that all state institutions are completely independent and free from political interference. In order to do so, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the matter is required. 

Failure to act by the President will go a long way in confirming many of the allegations that currently persist. 

Statement issued by Dr Dion George MP, DA Shadow Minister of Finance, February 9 2015

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter