Nothing wrong with Sars investigative unit - AG

Sars building in Krugersdorp. (Website)
Sars building in Krugersdorp. (Website)

Cape Town – The office of the Auditor General didn’t find anything untoward about the systems and processes, including a so-called “rogue unit”, at the South African Revenue Services (Sars) during its audit processes. 

Speaking to Fin24 on the sidelines of a parliamentary briefing on Friday, Auditor General (AG) Kimi Makwetu explained that his office scrutinises the systems that are implemented at institutions. 

READ: Gordhan hits back, asks Hawks to clarify Sars 'rogue unit' probe

“We looked into the system when Sars was introducing a new model and all was in order,” Makwetu said, adding that his office regarded the “modernisation programme at Sars at the time,” including the surveillance department, as something that enhanced South Africa's tax system. “That was the angle from which we looked at it.” 

Makwetu’s comments come after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Monday dropped charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and two former Sars officials, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay. 

Gordhan, however, is still under investigation for his role in the establishment of the surveillance unit during his tenure as Sars Commissioner.  

Under Gordhan’s auspices, a unit was established that investigated illicit economic activities. The unit, commonly referred to as a "rogue unit" was started with the knowledge of former finance minister Trevor Manuel. 

READ: Moyane refuses to answer MPs' question on Sars 'rogue unit'

Makwetu told Fin24 that the Auditor General’s office was never asked to do an investigation into the specific Sars unit. “But whenever we do an audit and there are changes in the way things are done we’ll look into it and all was in order.” 

More powers to the AG

During the Parliamentary briefing on Friday, Makwetu said he hopes the Constitutional Court would soon give his office more binding powers and the ability to exercise remedial action, such as that of other Chapter 9-institutions like the office of the Public Protector. 

Makwetu was frustrated, as his office highlights the same auditing problems at state and provincial departments year after year with no enforceability powers. 

He was echoing the sentiments of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng who said earlier at the annual convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) that the AG was doing valuable work, but that his powers should be binding. 

MPs who attended Friday’s Parliamentary briefing agreed that the AG’s office should have more “teeth” so as to hold transgressors and those who abuse the auditing system to account. 

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