The South African Revenue Service (SARS) cannot propagate tax morality nor enforce tax- and anti-money laundering legislation if its conduct or that of its most senior officials is not transparent and can withstand scrutiny.
That’s the opinion of Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) Chief Operating Officer Ben Theron. Theron has now written to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance, urging it to investigate the allegations of substantial payments made to SARS executive Mashudu Jonas Makwakwa and his colleague and partner Kelly-Ann Elskie, to compel SARS to fully disclose documents relevant to this inquiry, to take action against those implicated including Moyane and to recommend further criminal investigation. The letter was copied to the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance.
Theron called for Moyane’s suspension over his failure to take action against the two SARS employees, saying that Moyane’s failure to report them to law enforcement should not be construed as an insignificant omission, but rather as a crime itself.
The investigation arises from a May 2016 report by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) of payments into the personal bank accounts of Makwakwa and Elskie. The FIC report noted that payments to Makwakwa increased 152% from R1.3 million in 2010 to R3.4 million in 2015, while Elskie received cash deposits totaling R450 200 in December 2015. The FIC report urged an investigation to determine whether the funds were proceeds of crime.
Makwakwa was suspended from September 2016 to November 2017 because of this matter but the SARS annual report for 2016/17 showed that he was paid a bonus of R930 000 while on suspension.
Theron asked the committee to investigate why Makwakwa was paid the bonus and what had happened to earlier attempts to investigate the whole matter.
“SARS plays an important role in the prevention and combating of money laundering. Therefore, Parliament should take the Financial Intelligence Centre’s reports of suspicious transactions (related to money laundering) by a senior SARS official as serious,” he says.
“It cannot be overemphasised that SARS is legally mandated to combat corruption and money laundering. As the custodian of our country’s taxes, the conduct of SARS and its leadership must be beyond reproach,” said Theron.