Treasury's Momoniat slams SARS for not providing info in Makwakwa probe

Cape Town - Treasury has criticised tax agency SARS for not providing sufficient information to investigators during a probe of former official Jonas Makwakwa.

Treasury's deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat was updating Parliament's standing committee on finance on the investigation conducted into the controversial former official by law firm Hogan Lovells.

Makwakwa was suspended from SARS in 2016 over accusations of irregular deposits into his bank account. Following an investigation by Hogan Lovells, he was cleared of wrongdoing in an internal hearing and reinstated.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was also involved in parts of the investigation.

Makwakwa returned to SARS in November 2017, but resigned in March 2018.

Momoniat provided an overview of the report prepared by Hogan Lovells, which has been provided to the committee but not yet been made public. 

Momoniat told the committee that during the investigation, SARS appeared to have refused, numerous times, to provide further information about Makwakwa's finances when asked to do so.

According to slides Momoniat provided to the committee overview, PwC investigated whether Makwakwa had breached any internal or financial protocols.

Momoniat said PwC found it was unable to verify the source and nature of certain cash deposits into Makwakwa's account. It found the reasoning behind other cash deposits "plausible".

According to Momoniat, the investigation into some of these deposits could have been assisted had SARS been more forthcoming. "SARS didn’t provide information," he said.

Lavery Modise, chairperson of Hogan Lovells, told MPs that its investigation into Makwakwa had not been a "whitewash", saying it had followed the law. He added that alleged criminal activities needed to be investigated by the Hawks. 

SARS acting head Mark Kingon earlier told the committee he could not comment directly on these and similar matters. "If people did wrong, we will hold them to account," he said.  

He did, however, acknowledge that he believed the internal investigation had been carried out the wrong way. According to Kingon, SARS should have focused on the possible tax evasion by Makwakwa noted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), and not initially on breaches of internal company policy. 

MPs also discussed at length to what extent they could and should be talking about the report, as it was not yet in the public domain. 

EFF MP Floyd Shivambu questioned why Treasury was giving an overview of SARS and the report at all. He also questioned whether airing certain aspects of the report would undermine the upcoming disciplinary process of former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane.

Moyane originally hired the law firm to investigate Makwakwa in 2016. 

"The Hogan Lovells report is not the subject of a disciplinary inquiry," said committee chair Yunus Carrim. 

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