Questions sent to Gordhan only 'for clarity', Nhleko insists

Mar 02 2016 16:52
Tammy Petersen, News24

Cape Town - Questions sent to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by the Hawks don’t mean the former Sars head is under investigation, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said on Wednesday.

"It is for clarity," he insisted at a media briefing, saying the response would form part of the probe.

Nhleko confirmed Gordhan had indicated he would not be able to respond by the Wednesday deadline, saying he had been informed that the minister had requested an extension.

Among the 27 questions posed to the former Sars commissioner are whether he had any knowledge of the disbandment of the National Research Group (NRG) in 2009, leading to the establishment of the High Risk Investigation Unit (HRIU) or the "rogue unit"; the aims and objectives of the new unit; and who was heading the unit and to whom it was responsible and accountable.

Nhleko said there were also no charges yet, arguing that one "can’t have charges without investigations into possible violations".

The Hawks are investigating the existence of the "rogue unit" behind suspected illegal operations within the South African Revenue Services (Sars), Gordhan was a commissioner at Sars at the time that the covert unit was allegedly established.

The Sikhakhane Report compiled after an investigation into the unit, found there was prima facie evidence of the unlawful establishment of a unit that operated ostensibly in a covert manner, Nhleko said.

The findings also said the establishment of the unit was without the requisite statutory authority and was indeed unlawful, and that the unit may have abused its power and resources by taking part in activities it had no lawful authority to perform, he continued.

It advised that a more detailed investigation be conducted, resulting in a forensic investigation by KPMG.

Gordhan previously rejected claims that auditing firm KPMG had confirmed the existence of such a unit at Sars. He said the rumours of the unit's existence were baseless.

The Sikhakhane Report also found that surveillance technology and assets totalling over R1.6m were procured between 2009 and 2014.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo said it had to be established if intelligence laws were breached through the possession of the equipment.

"When the investigation is advanced, a determination is going to be made to say whether the equipment which was there were in the hands of people authorised by law," he said.

"It’s not everyone who can buy a jammer, or surveillance equipment. There is clear legislation about who can have what."

The authorisation process, how it was procured, as well as who gave the authorisation to acquire the equipment, formed part of the probe, Mahlobo said.

The Sunday Times in 2014 ran reports which detailed allegations that Sars was running an apparent illegal unit, which was accused of running a brothel and spying on President Jacob Zuma, among others. 

Nhleko dismissed questions of the investigation being a battle between the president and Gordhan, saying it was "a perception, not established as fact".

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sars  |  hawks  |  pravin ­gordhan  |  sa economy


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