Tag Archive | parliament

Treasury details illicit cash flows

.…Finance Standing Committee gets update

May 2020….In a recent meeting of the Finance Standing Committee, the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Illicit Financial Flows told MPs and chair Joe Maswanganyi that from 2108 until the present that investigations had resulted in the recovery of R400m. SARS also told parliamentarians at the same meeting that in terms of illicit flows outwards in 2017 alone, an estimated R93bn had left the country.The Committee had called upon IAWG for a briefing and update and as result, has called for a full report on the whole issue at the end of May which will be made available to the public.  IAWG coordinates the work of several agencies involved in combating IFFs. These are the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC); SA Reserve Bank (SARB); Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) commonly known as the Hawks;  SA Revenue Service (SARS);   Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA);    SA Police Service (SAPS);   the Special Investigating Unit (SIU);   and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Adv. Xolisile Khanyile, FIC Director, told Parliament that a definition of IFFs was “Funds that were illegally earned that were transferred or managed in a fashion that the money crossed borders”.  This, she said, could be deemed to include included transfers accumulated as a result of tax evasion and amounts earned from corrupt practices trade in contraband goods.  To this had to be added drug trafficking and counterfeiting activities.

Khanyile said that in taking a broader view on the effect IFFs had on the SA economy, there was no doubt such criminal activity drained its foreign exchange reserves, reduced tax collection, cancelled out investment flows and in an overall sense, worsened poverty.

Africa overview

She added that that the UN Economic Commission for Africa had estimated that current illicit flows from Africa probably amounted to some US$50bn per annum which was the amount that the continent received in developmental assistance.  Khanyile noted that the IAWG concentrated only on complex cases involving amounts of more than R100m.

Dr Mike Masiapato, who is FIC’s executive handling its monitoring and analysis processes, said to handle cases successfully, such had to involve at least three of the agencies within IAWG to make an investigation workable.   Eight cases were now under investigation.

Financial gangsters

These included a Ponzi scheme involving R126m taken out of the country, suspects appearing in court in May 2019.  R71.6m at this point, Dr Masiapato said, had been secured was and a process started to recover US$5m held in the USA.

In another case, mis-invoicing to the tune of R700m was involved where Reserve Bank had frozen R72m and processes start to forfeit the sums involved.  Exchange control contraventions amounting to R397m leaving SA were involved with DPCI and SARS involved in the follow up.  At this stage R9.3m had been surrendered to SARB.

 Brotherhood

A problem existed with hawala transactions (*Refer end note), Masiapato said, where a case involved a total of around R150m. The parties, similar to brokers, were being investigated in various countries and intelligence gathering started on the underground systems involved.    So far, SARB had managed to block R73.7m in transactions. This had damaged considerably the parties trading in this manner.

On the subject of illegal imports of cash, MPs were told that a major issue had always been “cash mules” at SA ports of entry and Dr Masiapato gave a figure of R67m recovered, but he did not elaborate on the period or the circumstances.

Old tacky

Exchange control contraventions, similar to customs matters, were always an ongoing issue and would continue always to be so, it was explained by Dr Masiapato.  One case currently involved R100m with the case now being closed and the culprit receiving an 8-year imprisonment imposed.

A major problem also was transfer of monies to China by organised crime syndicates. Recently, a transfer of R2.7bn was involved with a now well-known Chinese syndicate.  Reserve Bank successfully intervened by disrupting exchanges which at the time involved 175 bank accounts andR2.9m was recovered, Masiapato said.  Another current follow-up by SARB involving exchange control offences had involved a travel agent to the extent of R2.5bn, R78m of this so far being blocked. The case is ongoing.

Want to talk

Pieter Alberts, a senior manager from FIC , said the organisation was to explore new ways of improving the financial intelligence reports it provided to law enforcement agencies in terms of the FIC Act.  FIC would be creating considerably more private sector partnerships to access financial information needed on specific cases, he said, and would seek improved access to government databases.

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) told parliamentarians that for 2019/20, the year under review, R3.8bn involving 148 cases had been blocked involving 275 bank accounts.  Of this, R112m had been forfeited in 50 of the cases.    Thys Basson said that SARB was receiving an increasing number of cases from banks in South Africa.

 Bits and pieces

Interesting was the fact that R15m in the accounts of individuals involved in the regular illegal transfer of crypto currency. Such funds when blocked are held in an interest bearing accounts, usually originators bank account.  This is in terms of SARB instructions whilst investigations by any member of the IAWG grouping continue. Basson described the blocking of funds as a “very powerful regulation”.

Gumming up systems

The act of a blocking funds had a serious effect upon the long and short-term trading ability of both parties to the transfer locally and abroad.   This was even if the full amount suspected had been over a long period and therefore only current trading in the account was found when frozen, Basson said.

Blocking funds was a most effective deterrent in both halting any further movements, throwing arrangements between parties into confusion and providing evidence for criminal prosecution on both present and past behaviour.     It was a feared instrument, he said.

Private business sectors consistently subject to money laundering investigations, Basson told MPs, were estate agents, banks, attorneys, the gambling sector, motor vehicle dealers and foreign exchange dealers.   Dealers that built up crypto asset holdings would soon be added to the SARB focus list.

Number counts

SARB had received 43 referrals of cases from the FIC, Basson concluded.  It had referred three cases to the FIC and received 142 enquiries from SARS, SAPS, NPA and the Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Also SARB had referred 24 entities or persons to SARS for investigation of tax non-compliance.

As a result of questioning from MPs on the subject of performance of police investigations, Thys Basson gave facts and figures supporting a poor record by SAPS in this area. After lengthy debate, it was decided by Chair Maswanganyi, that all matters and the lack of public awareness of all issues involving IFFs, had to escalated.

It was adopted across party lines that rather than go any deeper into such matters for the moment that Adv. Xolisile Khanyile should compile a full and detailed report for Parliament on IAWG concerns and needs, the reports for tabling by the end of April 2020 and then released for general interest.

 Pay up time

Well-known Commissioner of Taxes, Edward Kieswetter, then closed the meeting with a report from SARS on illicit flows of money from the perspective of the losses of tax to the fiscus.   He said that SARS had recently established an integrated enforcement capability to deal with the illicit economy which unit had some 760 active investigations into cases involving R30.8bn. Cases involving 350 entities were under SARS investigation

To date, R1.4 billion had been recovered by way of cash collected, preservation orders and proven claims against liquidated assets. Twenty cases at this stage for major sums over R5m had been referred by SARS to law enforcement agencies.  Kieswetter said SARS had received some 200 requests this year alone for information from parties such as the PIC investigation, the Zondo Commission  and regular enquiries from DPCI and the SIU. The requests involved 1 385 taxpayers linked to 2 984 entities.

 Tax games

Of concern to SARS, Kieswetter said was that assessed losses carried forward by large corporates surged from R130bn in 2015 to R280 bn in 2017. Also, base erosion and profit shifting were seriously eroding the current and future tax base of South Africa currently, since profits actually earned though locally generated activity in key industries and commerce were ending up in tax favourable jurisdictions. He quoted Switzerland as an example.

Summing up

In conclusion the Standing Committee on Finance repeated its call for a report to be escalated to a national level.    Chair Joe Maswanganyi told Adv. Xolisile Khanyile that it was essential for the public to be informed on the levels of illicit money transfers and for the public to understand the effect on the economy. She said she would do this.

The IAWG report, he said, should be produced in collaboration other experts in the grouping and would be debated, any findings being then agreed to be adopted by Parliament.

*Note on hawala transactions.

Hawala originated in South Asia during the 8th century and is used throughout the world today, particularly in the Islamic community, as an alternative means of conducting funds transfers.

 A handler in one country accepts cash from a customer then contacts a handler in another country who hands hand out the equivalent amount minus commission.   In an overall sense, each handler ensures that all transactions between them are more or less balanced, once commission considered. 

  The process, obviously illegal, cuts out any bank transfer fees since hawala as an informal agreement, based on trust between the handlers, obviates any need for a bank account. Thus, money never “crosses borders” and no “follow the money” track is apparent.

 

 

Posted in Finance, economic, Police, Security, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

B-BBEE included with Covid relief regs

Covid relief & BEE don’t mix, say MPs

When the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) were presenting their 2020/21 performance plan to Parliament and after stating that all Covid19 distress funding would be allocated using B-BBEE guidelines, DTIC’s director general, Lionel October, found himself in a spot during questions.

He was asked directly by DA MP, Timothy Brauteseth, what DTIC would say to employees if children went hungry after application by a small time employer failed on such grounds.

Rules are rules

Although the question could be described as a little unfair, DG October replied tactfully that his department was staffed by civil servants “whose job it was to faithfully implement B-BBEE legislation”.

He said all DTIC incentive programmes were conditionally subject to a B-BBEE level and the private sector was usually most co-operative. DTIC was committed to all transformation processes, he said, but he was sure that the scenario in question would not happen.

In other words, the DG had dived for cover.  Later during further questioning on the subject he remarked that DTIC did not “anticipate exclusions of this kind coming up with any programmes associated with the current crisis”.

Well done

The DA complimented DG October during the same meeting on his personal responses over the past months generally to opposition queries and  on his dedication to trade issues during a difficult period.  DA’s Dave McPherson said the DG was one of the few who responded timeously and in detail to their concerns, whereas a good number DG’s failed, he said, to even acknowledge a parliamentary query.

In general, on future plans, DG October told parliamentarians that any framework for the coming years would be subject to a number of downwards adjustments,  especially on the issue of budgeted projects.

This, October said, was in the light of the forthcoming July cuts in budget appropriations as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of the R 500bn economic recovery package. (Parliament are to debate the DTIC adjustments in the next week or so)

Summation

DG October outlined the department’s total budget of R 11 bn for the 2020/21 financial year, of which 61% or R 6.8 bn is expected to be transferred to public corporations and private enterprises for incentives programmes. Of the total budget, 19% or R 2.1 bn will be transferred to the departmental entities in terms of agreed projects and targets.  DTI operational expenditure, which comprises mainly of compensation of employees, and goods and services, is 18% or R2 bn of the total budget.

DTIC is working on the basis of global economy shrinking by 3% for 2020 as a result of Covid-19.  This is working on IMF figures which figure that South Africa’s economy will probably  shrink by approx. 6%, he said.    To improve growth prospects domestic interventions included the R 500 bn COVID-19 package. There were also “Master Plans” for the automotive sector, poultry industry and retail – clothing, textiles, leather and footwear industries and others were being developed.

October concluded by describing ten key strategic programmes but again stating that all budgets and targets would have to be reviewed in July based on the progression of the pandemic. Accordingly, at this stage, it is quite clear that government planning and associated major capital spending is “on hold” for the moment

The good, bad and ugly

When asked what measures DTIC was taking to reduce the cost of doing business to create an enabling investment environment, DG October answered by quoting instances such as “how much easier it was to register a company and how better to apply for related benefits such as UIF.”   He promised DTIC would make it easier to register properties and process building permits.

DTIC, he said, was also in discussion with Treasury for additional funding for a tax allowance as “an economic responsive package to assist companies in distress as well as to stimulate investment while retaining existing jobs”.

when asked about Section 121 tax allowance schemes where a budget of R 75m had been provided for support of greenfield or brownfield local investment schemes, this had come to an end October concluded.  This was, he said, because almost all the budget had been used up and the fate of what was left would be the subject of “the diversion of funds and projects  which are “gagged by the advent of Covid 19”., he said

Fielding the questions

Dr Corné Mulder re-expressed the hope that B-BBEE would not be applied in the midst of a pandemic with any future schemes (his main theme for the whole meeting).

Dave McPherson asked about DTI pressure upon the National Credit Regulator (NCR) to invoke Section 11 of the in order to allow credit needed under Covid-19 situations.   October ducked this one and said that the NCR’s office and DTIC were currently studying the matter.

On questions on the need to build value-added exports, he quoted a platinum fuel cell production unit which had recently begun operations in Dube Trade Port SEZ.

Looking outwards

Mathew Cuthbert, (DA’s shadow minister of trade), asked Lionel October why South Africa had failed to sign WTO Global Value Chain agreements (GVCs) in the past.   (GVCs assist in reducing trade barriers, lower costs of transportation, can create additional jobs and assist in economic growth in developing countries – for example motor industry assembly plants). 

October looked somewhat perplexed.   In an inconclusive answer, he said he would check with the WTO Ambassador and reply to Cuthbert later in writing.

 

Cuthbert responded to remark that October had said earlier that support was continuing to be given to  the motor assembly industry and it was in “fair condition”.     He said that his feedback told him that this was not the case, particularly in the Eastern Cape where “some motor plants had gone about 98% inactive due to Covid 19 and that the situation was dire.”

He said that DTIC should note this fact and that the department must give the situation its urgent attention. He said Minister Ebrahim Patel must hear that “DTIC had got this completely wrong”.

The meeting ended abruptly due to timeout, but not before EFF’s Yoliswa Yako said that in her opinion Minister Ebrahim Patel was holding back on information and had not participated with any value to the meeting.

 

 

Posted in Agriculture, BEE, Finance, economic, Labour, Trade & Industry0 Comments

By-passing Parliament at one’s peril

….editorial,  30 May 2020

Regulations mania hits South Africa …..

Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest political and parliamentary figure of the last century, said that if you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.  Take a look at South Africa where far too many conflicting and nonsensical regulations are espoused on a weekly basis, some of them with only a loose and highly doubtful connection to the law, the Disaster Management Act, under which they are gazetted.

What started with good intent in the rush to halt the spread of Covid 19, ‘flatten the curve’ and buy time to build medical supply lines and PPE reserves, has turned into a regularised pattern of government by dictate.  We are in danger of getting used to the idea of government finding a way around the people’s Parliament just because 400 people can’t gather together in the light of social distancing, in itself another regulation.

This shortcut to governance has to be stopped before it becomes regularised in any way.  In the process of searching for a way to speed up what at times can be a cumbersome system of democratic checks and balances, the country has invented an immensely powerful and what could well be an illegal intervention named, by somebody unknown, as the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Rules in bulk

After only a month of the president’s announcement of the declaration of the national state of disaster, more than 50 sets of Covid-19 related regulations, directives, notices and directions have been published nationwide in its name.    Lawyers and business chambers are struggling to keep up with it all.

The problem now being faced is two-fold.  Firstly, the high-sounding and most unfortunately militarised name of “Command Council” represents an entity not recognised in the Constitution, or anywhere in the statute book.   It is purely an invention of a clique within the governing party as an instrument to administer a law cobbled together in a few months called the Disaster Management Act.

Somehow, without the knowledge of Parliament, a handpicked number cabinet ministers, chosen one has to assume by persons residing at Luthuli House, has granted executive functions and powers to a pick of between 8 and 19 cabinet ministers (the number varies) who meet at undisclosed places and take national decisions.

The same unknown group has ignored some thirty to forty other cabinet ministers for reasons unstated to form this command unit and there we have it, a new grouping administering a whole country by regulation.  It is so important that we do not get used to this alien concept as a substitute for ordinary democracy, whether or not it has a body a scientific expertise advising it or not.

Power point

On the subject of powers, the Constitution is quite clear – all cabinet ministers are accountable “collectively and individually to Parliament”.   But to repeat, this caveat is made nonsense of when a cabinet cabal, including the Deputy President, start making government policy affecting citizens’ rights without even a parliamentary nod.

Granted, that originally there was a need for speed and given the fact that Covid 19 is a disaster of global proportions, it was understandable that hastily convened and rushed virtual parliamentary portfolio committee meetings tried vainly to “debate” the issues that might arise as a result of implementing the Disaster Management Bill.    In fact, they did remarkably well in the circumstances and South Africa became the first country to try and handle parliamentary debate electronically in the light of lockdown.

Law by laptop

Virtual meetings make any meaningful debate nearly impossible at the best of times. They are designed more for briefings than for discussion.  In the understandable rush, the buttons pressing the “ayes” became the norm in the short time allowed. The Disaster Management Act (DMA) is the result and is now history.

Now, the buttons are being pressed by Dr Nkosazana-Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the department which the DMA empowered, most assuming that COGTA would be more of a spokesperson for the system to be adopted.

Governance by regs

However, “risk-adjusted strategy regulations” were published in a flash by COGTA in the light of the disaster (not emergency) powers with a statement that read, “The Cabinet minister responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs upon the recommendation of the cabinet member responsible for health and in consultation with cabinet, declare which of the following alert levels apply, and the extent to which they apply at a national, provincial, metropolitan or district level.” It all sounded like we had things in hand.

In the UK or Commonwealth countries, this process would have amounted to making Dr Nkosazana-Zuma prime minister and Dr Zweli Mkhize her deputy prime minister.  Nevertheless, Parliament in SA  soon fell outside of the inner circle when it came to oversight. Parliament deals with legislation not regulation.

What sticks to the wall

After a week or so,  it became more than noticeable that many of the regulations just did not link up and appeared randomly unconnected. The cooked chicken problem, no flip flops and absurd choices on who could and could not work.   Looking at it from a parliamentary aspect, to create temporary hospitals and to ban liquor and cigarette sales, and then cancel one factor but not the other, seemed not only a stretch under the same law but also a legal anachronism.

Worse, just the act of banning liquor sales and thus damaging the tourism and hospitality industry possibly forever is unlikely to pass any “justification analysis” constitutionally.    Most of the public comments called for in the form of  business submissions are now accumulating in government offices or parliamentary boxes and certainly unlikely ever be seen by Dr Nkosazana Zuma.   She is known for having no appetite for this sort of thing, as was discovered by the African Union.

LIFO

Now many of the regulations are causing serious “unintended consequences” in application, such as schooling, resulting in a law gone rogue.  A further well publicised example has been where regulations allow religious gatherings whereas most major religions did not call for them, nor will exercise them. Gatherings include funerals for the dead but not a healthy game of bowls for the elderly. Most have no idea of who consulted who on outcomes, representing more muddled thinking by a body which records no minutes and meets in secret.

South Africa has invented a most dangerous mechanism where everybody just relies on the Presidency to eventually “put things right” when the panic is over.  To do this, President Ramaphosa, in the light of a forthcoming ANC conference, will have to dissolve this mechanism somehow and terminate its powers. This politically powerful entity is led by a person who contested with him the position of president and who split the governing party in half doing this.

Its going to be a bumpy ride.

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Home Affairs white paper appears govt meddling

White Paper re-focuses on immigration, security… 

Report issued to clients April end 2019…..

Gathering a head of steam and running into trouble both at home and abroad, is (former) Minister Siyabonga Cwele’s Draft White Paper on Home Affairs, something that President Ramaphosa clearly attempted to avoid any discussion on before elections.   One senses that the Paper is yet another leftover  from the “nine wasted years”. 

Minister Cwele said his department is at present absorbing the submissions received from all stakeholders and citizens on his draft which was published on 30 January giving 30 days for comment.

Read more….White Paper Home Affairs

Posted in Justice, constitutional, Labour, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Tax Avoidance Bill: NPA and Hawks on illicit flows

Treasury, FIC, Hawks, NPA give Parly update…

report to clients end of April …

It now seems inevitable that the Minister of Finance will be tabling a General Anti Tax-avoidance (GATA) Bill by July 2019 as part of National Treasury’s plan to protect the tax base primarily aimed, as one MP put it, at “knocking profit shifting on the head”.   Changes to the Companies Act are also to be introduced.

A high-powered meeting, chaired jointly by Yunus Carrim of the Standing Committee on Finance and Joan Fubbs of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, listened  a few days before Parliament closed in April, to report-backs which came from National Treasury, the Hawks, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and others combiningg to stem the flow of illicit funds.

Read more…Tax avoidance Bill

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Police, Security, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliamentary Overview 12 June 2019….

 

Changing the guard…  

Plenty of note for business has happened legislatively during the parliamentary recess but perhaps none so important as the re-structuring of Cabinet. As a result  there will be a change in the appropriate portfolio committees to reflect any changes and a consequent shift in portfolio responsibility for various Bills held over from the previous Parliament.    In the areas of energy, trade and industry and communications this will be particularly interesting of who gets to be the chairperson in the light of differences emerging within ANC structures.

Parliament will choose its portfolio committee chairpersons for the National Assembly and select committee chairpersons for the National Council of Provinces on 27th June, two days after the State of Nation Address ANC party chairpersons.  These appointments reflect how a government governs on policy and legislation. Through the chairpersons.

Read more..Parliamentary overview 12 June 2019

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Health, Justice, constitutional, Land,Agriculture, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Parliament censures CEF and PetroSA

….PetroSA, CEF and SFF mess gets worse…

Article circulated  5 May 2019…..

Despite the claim by new acting Group CEO, Sakhiwo Makhanya, that the Central Energy Fund (CEF) annual accounts for 2017/8 have “provided sufficient headroom for growth due to cost containment”, the CEF executive team was unable to convince  the parliamentary energy  committee chair, Fikile Majola, (now Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry) that CEF had a viable future in any energy scenario.

Read morePetroSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Official recognition to come for living wills

Living wills to be recognised by National Health Act

A private member’s Bill has finally been tabled in Parliament amending the National Health Act which, if passed, will bring about more certainty on the legal status of living wills. It will provide health professionals, when presented with a living will representing the wishes of a patient under their care “with the threat of fear of litigation removed” when making decisions to comply with such requests……..   

Read more……Living wills

 

Posted in Health, Justice, constitutional0 Comments

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