The Star Early Edition
Sars under fire for threat to sue publisher of damning book on JZ
THE SA Revenue Services (Sars) came under heavy criticism at the weekend after it threatened legal action against the publishers of Jacques Pauw’s book
The President’s Keepers and a Sunday newspaper for what it termed “breach of confidentiality of taxpayer information”.
In a strongly-worded statement on Friday, the Revenue Services said it was deeply concerned about the publication of confidential taxpayer information in contravention of Chapter 6 of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) 28 of 2011.
It said it was mostly concerned with Section 69 which prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information by a Sars official or former Sars official.
“Sars is duty-bound to address the violation of the TAA by Mr Jacques Pauw and the unsubstantiated allegation that Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding President Zuma to avoid his tax obligations.
“The premise of the piece hinges on the predictable narrative that the organisation cannot fulfil its mandate since the appointment of Commissioner Moyane because he is allegedly using his position to protect the president,” Sars said.
Pauw’s book alleges that President Jacob Zuma received monthly payments of R1 million from Roy Moodley in 2009 when he already was president, without declaring it to Sars among other alleged tax discretions.
Save South Africa said if Sars was truly concerned about tax compliance, it should be investigating the details of Zuma’s tax evasion contained in Pauw’s book.
“It has not escaped us, however, that Sars has inadvertently confirmed the veracity of Pauw’s information by threatening to act against him,” the organisation said. “Why else would they threaten to prosecute the publisher of tax information if that information is not, in fact, authentic?”
The Revenue Services has in recent times not shied away from taking on firms that it sees as “portraying its leadership in a negative light”.
In September, Sars commissioner Tom Moyane said Sars would institute legal proceedings against KPMG for reputational damage to Sars, including, but not limited to a civil claim.
“Sars sees KPMG’s conduct as nothing but a dismal attempt to portray Sars, its leadership, and in particular the Sars commissioner as incompetent, corrupt, inefficient and involved in a witch-hunt,” Moyane had charged.
He also said Sars would report KPMG to the minister of finance to consider stopping all work currently performed by KPMG in other departments as well as any work in the pipeline until all the work KPMG conducted for the state had been investigated and reviewed for quality and proper auditing quality and expected standards.
His sharp rebuke of KPMG followed KPMG’s admission that it had failed to apply its own risk management and quality controls and that part of the Sars report into the “spy rogue unit” which refers to conclusions, recommendations and legal opinions should no longer be relied upon.
Corruption Watch said the publisher of the book should stand firm against threats of litigation.
“The attempts by the State Security Agency and Sars to clamp down on freedom of speech, and their threats to go to court to prevent further distribution, printing or publishing of the book, suggest that both parties are prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that the president continues to act with impunity and is not held accountable,” Corruption Watch said.