Tom Moyane: Makwakwa returned to his job while probe still underway

Senior tax official Jonas Makwakwa is already the focus of a criminal investigation by the Hawks relating to the suspicious transactions in his accounts flagged in May 2016.

FILE: Tom Moyane. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

CAPE TOWN - South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane has revealed that he returned senior tax official Jonas Makwakwa to his job last month while an investigation into whether or not he is guilty of tax avoidance or evasion is still underway.

Moyane made the admission under questioning from members of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance a short while ago.

Makwakwa is already the focus of a criminal investigation by the Hawks relating to the suspicious transactions in his accounts flagged in May 2016 in a report sent to Moyane by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC).

Makwakwa returned to work last month after being suspended for almost a year after he was cleared of charges relating to misconduct as an employee in an internal disciplinary process.

Moyane has stunned Members of Parliament (MPs) by confirming that Sars' own investigation into whether top official Makwakwa is guilty or not of tax offences is still underway.

Moyane has argued Makwakwa must be treated as an "ordinary taxpayer" with regard to alleged tax offences and that until a Sars’ probe confirms any wrongdoing, no action can be taken against him.

Committee chairperson Yunus Carrim pressed Moyane for answers.

“The tax administration is very clear we treat Mr Makwakwa as a taxpayer and, therefore, if I am going to violate the very Tax Administration Act which was enacted by Parliament I’d be violating the very principle for which we stand for.”

Carrim said: "He’s not just an ordinary taxpayer. He’s managing the taxes of the country and there are exceptional responsibilities there where he has to be seen above reproach.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Alf Lees said he found this incredible.

“How was it possible to put the man on suspension for more than a year, without the kind of evidence you’re now suggesting is required before he can be suspended?”

Moyane responded: “We are discussing a taxpayer, and I can’t discuss a taxpayer’s matter.”

Moyane has told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance that he has ‘no clue’ whether or not Makwakwa has committed any offence and says until the probe, being carried out by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, is complete, this is just an inference.

The committee on Tuesday also heard from international labour law firm Hogan Lovells, whose chairperson Lavery Modise confirmed the scope of their investigation was limited to breaches of the employer-employee relationship.

Modise told the committee the investigation of possible criminality relating to the concerns raised by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) in its report to Moyane in May last year was left to the Hawks, while it was up to Sars to determine whether Makwakwa complied with the tax laws relating to the payments flagged by the FIC.

It’s also emerged that Makwakwa’s “partner”, fellow Sars employee Kelly-Ann Elskie, was suspended while on maternity leave but also reinstated.

The money deposited into her account was apparently from her mother; it has yet to be determined whether she paid donation tax.