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Frustration at slow pace of investigations into corruption

Mountains of evidence available yet people are still walking the streets.
From the amount of evidence that has been exposed it seems to the public that many cases are a slam dunk. Image: AdobeStock

Civil activist organisation the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has expressed its deep frustration with the pace of investigations and prosecutions of corrupt individuals in the South African government and civil society.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenhage said civil activist and other non-profit organisations are playing a far more meaning role than the authorities in fast-tracking some of the corruption cases.

However, it frustrates them when they do a lot of the work and nothings happens because the authorities just want “more and more” information.

“We believe by now so many more people should be in court and probably be in jail. It is taking far too long.”

Duvenhage said all one needs is clear proof of wrongdoing.

He was participating in a panel discussion on SA’s ability to recover stolen money at the Tax Indaba, hosted by the South African Institute of Taxation (Sait).

The authorities often just keep digging and try to cover their tracks by having more than one arrow in their quiver. “You only need one if your shot is very accurate. Digging more and more just muddies the water, brings more people into the process and makes the case more complicated. That is how people get away,” he said.

Enjoying the fruits of evil conduct

“That is why we are frustrated with the fact that for many years there has been so much evidence, but people are still walking the streets and enjoying the fruits of their evil conduct. That is not good enough.”

Several investigative journalists have painstakingly investigated the financial shenanigans of high profile politicians and their tax return declarations.

For the public the amount of forensic evidence that has already been discovered and exposed through these investigations, as well as those of Outa and Corruption Watch, it seems many cases are a slam dunk.

However, there is no feedback on the progress the South African Revenue Service (Sars) has been making on any of the information about tenderpreneurs or the under-declaration of assets and income from politicians.

Read: SA probe finds evidence of political pressure, fraud in Covid-19 contracts

Onus of proof

Raheema Ismail, senior manager of investigations at Sars, remarked that the onus of proof on Sars and other enforcement agencies is more onerous.

“We have different accountabilities and responsibilities. It may seem that the information that is gathered by journalists or non-profit civil activists is sufficient to prosecute someone, but we have to dig deep enough.”

It is necessary to bring a watertight case to court, even if it is just the one. “It will be remiss of us to only do part of our work in bringing a matter to criminal prosecution. We have to do everything in our power to achieve success.”

Ismail said it is not a matter of only recovering the stolen money, or putting someone behind bars. It has to be both, but it has to be based on the principle of proportionality.

Legislation is prescriptive around the sanctions for certain behaviours. If one simply goes after the tax, it is likely that in some instances the behaviour will not change.

Getting the money back

Chad Thomas, CEO of IRS Forensic Investigations, said there is a “symbiotic relationship” between corrupt players in the public sector and those in private sector. The relationship was created to plunder the public purse; whether it was by inflating a tender or by the creation of tenders.

Read: Why did PwC not identify corruption at SAA?

One manner in which stolen money can be recovered is to attach the pension fund of those who are found to be involved in criminal and corrupt activities. This method is not used often enough, he said.

“The funds can be returned to the fiscus to offer some form of restitution over and above the criminal restitution.” By attaching the pension fund, it can be used as a bargaining tool.

Nobody wants to lose their pension, but if the money can prevent them from going to jail it becomes another story altogether.

Thomas said legislation allows for the preservation of assets and pension funds even if the person has not been found guilty – there is room for putting interim preservation orders in place.

“Once the funds have been preserved [they] cannot be used for any other purpose except perhaps for the accused in respect of reasonable legal fees.”

Read: Tax is an important weapon in clawing back ‘ill-gotten gains’

‘Politically protected unit’

Sait CEO Keith Engel referred to the VIP unit that has been established by Sars to deal with the tax affairs of high-net-worth individuals, senior government officials, judges, the head of the army and other prominent persons.

The rumour is that the unit is really the Politically Protected Unit, he said.

“If the unit looks after you it seems you are safe from audits.”

Ismail discounted the rumour by saying that it was not created for the protection of anyone. “This is not a classification that awards privilege. It does not imply privilege. It is only to enhance the service offering [by Sars],” she said.

Engel acknowledged that privacy protection laws, especially in civil tax findings, remain important for Sars.

However, the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into governance and tax administration at Sars heard in the testimony of a former head of legal affairs that she had been instructed to write off tax or penalties for certain individuals who were part of the unit during the state capture era.

Read: The bankers, lawyers and liars who enabled state capture

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Total tax boycott long overdue and becoming more important by the day.

With so much proof of criminal activity by ANC Govt cadres and so little action the only conclusion is that SARS is still protecting them and that they are still captured and are still part of the problem.

The only way is absolute transparency (by law) of every state employees bank and tax affairs, and the absolute removal of the ANC.

Citizens are being exploited and oppressed by criminals because those criminals are ANC criminals.

They dismantled the criminal justice system rights under the noses of the Constitutional Court Judges. The courts, instead of protecting property, now support all kinds of plunder, either through direct action like enforcing BEE codes and tax laws, or through indifference by allowing criminals to live like kings.

The entire political/legal system is rigged for the exploitation of the public resources and the private wealth of the nation. This socialist organization uses the law in various ways to extract benefits from the economically active part of society for personal gain. This is not a democracy anymore. This is an oppressive and exploitative criminal state, that used its powers in the legislature to legalize illegal activities and to corrupt the law itself.

The constitution is wonderful words on paper, that ensure our freedom and promises equal opportunities, while in practice, we have been enslaved by socialism and we live at the mercy of criminals. For all intents and purposes, the law has become almost irrelevant, discarded like an old wig of an English judge.

“The real cost of the State is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don’t exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The State has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love.” – Frederic Bastiat

Criminal procedure takes a long time.

There is a faster process not necessarily to guilty verdicts but to recovery of assets : SARS. It is extremely unlikely that the corrupt have compliant company and personal tax and VAT affairs. SARS has teeth and can be relentless.

Is there a traceable process of reporting Acme and its director Joe to SARS for investigation along with basic information for SARS to look at? That RangeRover, gold watch, SAPS tender, homes, etc.

The ANC way – supported by the NPA and SARS – is to delay until the storm dies down. The NPA is now simply captured by another faction.

Despite a mountain of evidence in the public domain, the NPA has not moved against the leaders of the EFF for the millions they stole from VBS Bank.

The ANC needs EFF support for its more “progressive” policies and Julius Malema is still regarded as the prodigal son who will return to the fold.

The Zondo report will now only be released at the end of the year.

Bearing in mind that Ramaphosa has sat on the SIU’s Digital Vibes report for months without disclosing its contents, how long he “apply his mind” to the Zondo report?

If and when the report is released he may choose which recommendations to implement.

There will be a number of inevitable legal challenges to the report including appeals, giving the NPA a few more years of breathing space.

By then the next major scandal will have broken and we will need a commission of inquiry into that.

One must start to question the cognitive abilities of those who are still puzzled by the lack of action.

But I don’t understand! The ANC and Ramapromises in particular, are always “fighting corruption”, at least that’s what they constantly tell us.
But seriously, you can’t expect the cadres/comrades to charge other cadres/comrades with corruption and put them behind bars. SAPS and the NPA don’t work that way. And as for SARS, they have been instructed by yet other cadres/comrades to focus attention on the “ordinary man-in-the-street”. Top cadres/comrades are off-limits.

“Nobody wants to lose their pension, but if the money can prevent them from going to jail it becomes another story altogether.”
Yeah right; they literally steal hundreds of millions if not billions, do you think they care about some ‘lousy’ pension fund?

Know your enemy. Simply doing your job is not enough and being spiteful wont help. You can’t put in the work and leave it on someone’s shoulders. That’s when the real work start. Use leverage go to the media make sure the cases are public and transparent. Dont waste the courts time. Be a man. Not stop whining Rome was not built in one day.

End of comments.

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