Public confidence in the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and the public protector’s office is at a three-month low, just as the former recently announced the start of the tax filing season.
According to the South African Citizens Survey (Sacs), conducted by Citizen Surveys, trust in Sars which held steady at 61% in April and May, declined by 3% to 58% in June.
“Trust in Sars reached an all-time low in 2018 corresponding with the beginning of the commission of inquiry and the revelations about the cost of state capture.
“Trust improved over the national and provincial election period, however, in June, it was once again on the decline,” said Reza Omar, strategic research director at Citizen Surveys.
He said South Africans who had been battered by a contracting economy and had been stretching their budgets were once again going to be asked to dig deeper.
“Given there is likely to be a shortfall in tax collection, and a greater need for tax compliance, restoring high levels of trust in Sars is critical,” said Omar.
He said another public institution that had lost the trust of the public was the office of the public protector, which dropped from 58% in April to 56% in May and 53% in June.
“This is not surprising, considering the amount of political commentary regarding the national elections and State of the Nation address that occurred between April and June,” he said.
Omar said it was of concern that only just over half of South Africans trusted the public protector, whose mandate is to strengthen constitutional democracy by investigating, rectifying and redressing any improper or prejudicial conduct in state affairs.
Corruption Watch’s (CW) head of legal and investigations Deborah Mutemwa-Tumbo said CW had seen the results from Sacs which illustrated the decline in trust for the two institutions.
“We cannot say we are surprised, given the troubling revelations emanating from the commission of inquiry into Sars and the incumbent public protector’s recent conduct, it is nevertheless deeply concerning,” said Mutemwa-Tumbo.
“We are particularly concerned about the loss of trust in the public protector. This is the Chapter 9 institution constitutionally mandated to protect the public and hold those in power to account. But so many South Africans no longer see the public protector as an effective institution.”
Mutemwa-Tumbo said the wave of judicial reviews of the public protector’s reports given by courts in setting aside her reports was alarming.
“We echo the courts’ concerns that the protector does not appear to understand her mandate.”