SARS spies report to stay under wraps

26 March 2015 - 02:15 By Jan-Jan Joubert

The government is worried about the effect on the SA Revenue Service's reputation of reports of a "rogue unit" in the organisation but is refusing to make public the results of an investigation of the allegations. The rogue unit allegedly spied on taxpayers, including high-profile criminals and politicians.Yesterday, Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas and acting SARS commissioner Tom Moyane told parliament's finance portfolio committee that they were "worried about the erosion of SARS' reputation".Moyane said SARS was considering creating, in conjunction with state intelligence agencies, a unit similar to the one against which the allegations had been made. But, he said, the new unit would " operate within the law".SARS, long regarded as the crown jewel in the public service, has suffered from a series of resignations by senior staff in the past few months.Jonas said he opposed releasing the Sikhakhane report to the public because its contents were "almost sub judice".Moyane said the "rogue unit" was formed in terms of a memorandum of understanding between SARS and the intelligence services but the provisions of the memorandum had not been formalised.The Sikhakhane report therefore found the unit to be unlawful and covert, creating an atmosphere of "intrigue, fear and subterfuge" in SARS.Said Moyane: "The prima facie evidence was that abuse of power and illegal conduct occurred."The report recommended that the unit be disbanded and the people involved "debriefed" and that measures be taken to prevent intimidation.A forensic audit report on the unit is expected to be finalised by June. The Kroon Commission of Inquiry has been appointed to investigate the issue, and two foreign consultancies are advising SARS on how to improve its operations.Moyane said once all the investigations had been concluded it would be clear who had established the controversial unit, what its funding model was and what costs it had incurred.ANC MP and committee chairman Yunus Carrim described the situation as "pretty grim"...

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