Johannesburg – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has disbanded a secret intelligence unit that was created unlawfully in 2007 and has damaged the public’s confidence in the institution, a government-appointed investigation found.
The SARS “does not have and did not have the statutory authority to covertly gather intelligence,” Judge Frank Kroon, who heads a committee probing allegations of impropriety at the agency, told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
No budget was allocated for the unit and money and human resources spent on it was wasteful and fruitless, the committee found. SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane has disbanded the unit, Kroon said.
The tax agency has been rocked by resignations of several senior executives since Moyane took office in September. Local newspapers have reported a range of allegations of wrongdoing, including that the Revenue Service operated a “rogue” unit, which spied on senior political leaders, including President Jacob Zuma.
Kroon, who was appointed by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in February to lead the investigation, said the committee didn’t probe the claims of spying against Zuma.
Adrian Lackay, a former spokesperson for the agency, denied the allegations of a “rogue” unit in a letter to the parliamentary finance committee on March 24. He said selected facts published in the media have created a lack of clarity that’s harming the agency’s credibility and may undermine the fiscal prospects of the country.
In February, Moyane ordered a review of the agency’s work, including information technology systems and personnel. At least 10 senior employees of SARS have either been suspended or resigned in the past six months, Business Day reported on April 9.
Kroon said SARS employees who were involved in creating the secret unit should be held to account. The findings of an investigation by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, on which Kroon and his committee based their recommendations, must be published, he said.