Makwakwa won’t escape criminal justice through resignation - committee

Cape Town – If there is a case for former South African Revenue Service (SARS) official Jonas Makwakwa to answer, it must be handled through the criminal justice system, Parliament’s standing committee on finance has said. 

The committee issued a statement on Wednesday night, following the announcement that Makwakwa resigned from his role as chief officer for business and individual tax at the revenue service. 

SARS head Tom Moyane announced Makwakwa's resignation from his position as chief officer for business and individual tax at a media briefing on Wednesday. 

Makwakwa was in late 2016 suspended from SARS over accusations of irregular deposits into his bank account, that had been flagged by the  Financial Intelligence Centre.

Makwakwa has denied he did anything wrong.

Following an investigation by law firm Hogan Lovells, Makwakwa was cleared of wrongdoing in an internal hearing and reinstated.

He returned to SARS in November 2017.

SARS commissioner Tom Moyane told SCOF on Tuesday, the day before Makwakwa's resignation, that Makwakwa had agreed to the release of the reports of the internal investigation by Hogan Lovells and his tax records to the committee.

At the same time SARS said it would submit the controversial KPMG report into SARS' so-called rogue unit to the committee. 

All the reports are expected to be submitted on Friday. The committee is expected to discuss the reports with SARS next week.

In the statement, SCOF said it did not have evidence of irregularities by Makwakwa and his partner Kelly-Ann Elskie. 

“However, if there is a case to answer, it must proceed through the criminal justice system and the pair will not escape this by (Makwakwa) resigning,” the statement read.

“A key concern has been the unacceptable way in which the South African Revenue Service has managed this matter,” said committee chair Yunus Carrim.

SCOF said it would continue to engage with SARS on the matter, to consider if there is a need to amend legislation or regulations to prevent a “similar controversy” in future.

“We feel very strongly that in view of the role that SARS plays, it’s important that senior SARS officials are not just above reproach, but are seen to be so,” said Carrim.

SCOF also called for the role of Hogan Lovells to be investigated further. The work the firm did on the investigation has been criticised by UK politician Lord Peter Hain as a “whitewashed” report which in effect enabled corruption at SARS.

Hogan Lovells in turn has responded to these allegations, indicating that the mandate of the investigation was not to probe the suspicious transactions directly. The firm only investigated whether Makwakwa and Elskie had contravened policies related to their work and employment contracts, Fin24 reported.

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