Mkhwebane says responses to Sars probe may have been 'co-ordinated'
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane believes responses to her investigation into public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan might have been “co-ordinated”.
In a statement issued on Tuesday - in which she confirmed granting Gordhan a deadline extension for him to submit documents to her office - Mkhwebane raised concerns about a meeting that allegedly took place after she had subpoenaed various implicated parties.
The investigation is in connection with allegations of improper conduct, a violation of the executive ethics code, and irregular and unlawful activities by Gordhan. These date back to his time as SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner.
Gordhan now has until May 3 to submit the documents.
In a statement, the public protector’s office said: “Advocate Mkhwebane would further like to bring to the attention of the public the fact that her office has received allegations to the effect that, shortly after the implicated parties were served with subpoenas, Sars held a meeting attended by most of the parties and that, at the meeting concerned, the kind of responses she received from the institution and the minister were co-ordinated.”
“[Mkhwebane] calls on the public to grant her the space to do her work without any undue hindrance and treat this case as they would treat an investigation involving the alleged conduct of any other public office-bearer, in the spirit of equality before the law,” the statement read.
Mkhwebane said Gordhan requested the extension, citing a decision by Sars to procure a legal opinion from counsel on whether it would be lawful to share with implicated parties, including Gordhan, certain records that are in its possession.
She said these were the records which she required for the purposes of her investigation.
“In the spirit of fairness, I have decided to grant minister Gordhan the extension he has requested so that he may have a reasonable opportunity to gather the information I need as some of it goes a few years back,” Mkhwebane said.
Mkhwebane said her office would subpoena the records in question directly from Sars.
She said should her office not be favoured with the information held by Sars she would have to invoke the Public Protector Act, particularly contempt proceedings, as a last resort.