The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has denied lacking accountability, labelling the “allegation” by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan “unfounded”.
In a parliamentary reply this week to a question by DA MP David Maynier – on whether there are specialised units within the entity, such as the Sars High Risk Investigation Unit – Gordhan said: “This information was provided by Sars on November 8.
“The ministry of finance cannot verify its accuracy because of a lack of accountability and cooperation from the Sars top management.”
According to Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela: “With dismay, the Sars has noted today’s media reports where the Sars’ leadership is accused of lack of accountability.
“Sars wishes to express its deepest concern and disturbance at this turn of events that cast aspersions and blemishes on the character and integrity of its leadership.”
Memela said in addressing “the unfounded allegations pertaining to the alleged lack of accountability by the Sars leadership”, it was important to note that since Gordhan took office in December last year, Sars leadership had received 29 parliamentary questions.
These were through Gordhan’s office and “were responded to timeously”.
“No deadline was missed. Since the finance minister took office, the Sars’ leadership has appeared before the standing committee on finance and Scopa five times,” Memela said.
Sars leadership had also met Gordhan eight times since he took office “to discuss issues of mutual interest”, Memela said.
“In this regard, the Sars record of meetings attest that the finance minister has never, at any point, expressed lack of confidence and/or lack of accountability in the leadership of the Sars.”
But political analyst Daniel Silke said Gordhan made clear in his reply that he was no longer “ready to hide many of the deficiencies at organisations that exist”, and “the relationship between his office and Sars”.
“It’s clearly an honest and unflinching way to provide a critique of the situation at Sars.”
Silke said Gordhan’s claims added to the “broad demoralisation many South Africans may have with the instruments of the state”.
“It again questions South African citizens’ faith in critical institutions of government.
“But I don’t think it will add to a tax revolt.”
Economist Mike Schussler said if there were any discrepancies within Sars, “it is wrong, very wrong”.
“Very simply, it’s the one agency that cannot afford any corruption.”