Tag Archive | yunus carrim

Face out in Parliament 

editorial….July 13 2020…             

High Noon…

Parliament recently saw a drama being played out that was reminiscent of the old and famous movie where, after a long number of small confrontations, the two parties shoot it out in Main Street.  With the critical matter of the approval of South Africa’s economic direction at stake, shooting straight was not really the issue but who pulled the trigger the fastest.

The movie set for the shootout occurred before the Finance Standing Committee under chair Yunus Carrim on 7 July.  The stage was the public sector hearings debate on Minister Tito Mboweni’s Supplementary Budget, and this was before the house for adoption in conjunction with consideration of the report from the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), the independent entity that represents government opinion.

Amongst the twelve or so public submissions, including those from South African Institute of Chartered Accountants; Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA); COSATU; and the C19 People’s Coalition; was a new group, the Economists Initiative (EI), who had been on e-NCA the night before with spokesperson Neil Coleman of the Institute for Economic Justice and COSATU fame speaking on their behalf.

Neil Coleman claimed his group represented 122 economists and policy experts.   How fast this grouping had been cobbled together, we do not know. Coleman (brother of well-known Colin Coleman, businessman and also COSATU veteran) said in his interview at the time his group were going to reject the Budget in its entirety and ask Parliament to do the same.   Should Parliament fail to do this, he said, an approach to the Constitutional Court would be considered.   Most pricked up their ears at this and plugged in to the virtual debate following.

Broken promises

The shootout between EI and Treasury did eventually take place and most dramatically at that, the chosen venue being a Finance Standing Committee meeting on 7 July.    EI’s primary complaint was a repeat of what had been said before, in that in their view the Tito Mboweni austerity Budget had “completely betrayed the President’s R500bn Covid 19 rescue package”.  They told MPs that they strenuously opposed the extensive austerity package to be introduced over the next two to three years since it involved cuts of more than R400bn.

Joined by the Budget Justice Coalition (BJC – a coalition of civil society formations), both were the primary critics of the Budget and most vociferous on the subject, EI maintaining that National Treasury were “misleading the country by suggesting that the only route government had in financing the expenditure and the shortfalls arising from the economic crisis, was to borrow on international markets or from financial institutions internationally.”  This was totally untrue, they maintained.

BJC suggested that the Budget was “so regressive that it was probably unconstitutional”, EI stating that the Budget was “tantamount to committing economic suicide”.  As intimated on TV, they took the extraordinary step of calling for Parliament to reject the Budget and send it back for revision based on fresh ideas.

Re-action

National Treasury’s response to the attacks was overwhelming in its anger, particularly towards the EI. Treasury DG, Dondo Mogajane, begged MPs not to be “deceived and misled” by such submissions, or for Parliament to be used as a “platform for false, misleading statements”.   Importantly, DG Mogajane attacked the BJC and Economists Initiative inputs as being “politically motivated”.

There it was, a clear statement by Treasury that political interference was at the heart of the EI submission.

In the open

Immediately the chair of the Committee, Yunus Carrim, intervened and reprimanded DG Mogajane severely for first dictating to his committee what they should or should not believe;  secondly, for insulting members of a public sector submission invited to Parliament;  then for advising Parliament how it should respond to a submission, and in particular, for calling EI’s input “false, alarmist and misleading”.   Yunus Carrim as chair said this was all outrageous and insulting.

Carrim noted, “The DG is normally a mild-mannered man” and said that he could not understand the DG’s “change of character”. Carrim then insinuated quite clearly that perhaps Minister Mboweni had put the DG up to this. This was a most unpleasant exchange. The Treasury team denied strenuously that they had been told to say anything.

Carrim must have been perfectly aware of what was really going on and that MPs were being asked to go above the Finance Committee by EI and appeal to President Ramaphosa, but he still chose to lambaste Treasury representatives.

So, let’s look at the reason why our respected, experienced and usually quiet DG Mogajane uncharacteristically exploded.

Long war

The gun battle between National Treasury and the extreme left-aligned followers in the governing party alliance, such as COSATU, SACP and a number of ANC followers, has been going on for almost a year.  Maybe it was started some time ago with comments from Ace Magashule on nationalising the Reserve Bank, then followed by the quantified easing or QE issue and the possibility of using PIC benefit funds. Perhaps even the issue spoken of in hushed tones, the printing of money.

To this grouping of opinion, strict debt control and Budget cutting on social projects hurts the “poorest of the poor” in a disproportionate manner as compared to the wealthy and middle-class sector, not necessarily where the power base of the governing party lies.  This theme of thinking has been expressed many times by a multitude of observers.

No, no issues

On the other hand, Minister Mboweni and National Treasury, hating debt in any form especially crippling long-term debt, intend to curtail any proposal to accumulate vast quantities of debt.  This might be an over-simplification of policy calls but the suggestion in Parliament clearly came from the EI, as was forewarned, that the Budget should be re-written, or at least “revised”, representing a call to battle between the two ideologies.

For National Treasury it was the final insult and boiled down to a suggestion that Treasury should be constitutionally arraigned.  Another low level had been reached in the intercine war being conducted between the two schools of thought within the governing party. President Ramaphosa as always and characteristically said nothing.

After this altercation, EI then laid out before parliamentarians how the Budget had departed from the R500bn package promised.  The most important commitment to COSATU, EI said, was the implementation of the R100bn job creation promise but now, they said, just a mere 6% of this allocation was left.

Furthermore, Treasury in their view had gone back on the President’s promises had made cuts of more than R400bn, most of them they said affecting social delivery.

Arrived in Parliament

This rift in the governing party at the expense of national objectives is becoming more evident daily. For one party to the argument, the problem appears to be that the economy, spiraling downwards, is seen as becoming debt endemic which could well result in bankruptcy, no possibility of growth and therefore coupled into a scenario of endless poverty.

For the other party, the problem appears to be the view that the poor will not only continue to be poor, but that poverty will worsen unless further debt is risked by spending more into growth and spending to get out of debt.

Cul de sac

The legislation for the Supplementary Budget, the subject of the confrontation contains two Bills as with any budget, both of which are section 77 Money Bills in terms of the Money Bills Act.  This means that Parliament is allowed to comment upon the Bill in terms of the Constitution but not alter it in way, using a majority vote or not, unless so agreed by National Treasury.

The Constitution insists on this, in order to protect its people from interference in any Budget by any political party on an ideological basis or with motives not based on fiscal reasoning.

Particularly sensitive would therefore be any changes made subversively to the Division of Revenue Bill, the mechanism which breaks up the Budget and specifically passes the sums of money to the appropriate National Departments and to local government via the nine provinces. The reference to “political interference” is therefore the cause of the National Treasury’s discomfort  and what altered the mindset of the mild-mannered DG Mogajane.

 In conclusion

The person paid to make the final decision between the two choices is Minister of Finance Mboweni, and when he tabled the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill No 9 and the Adjustments Appropriation Bill No 10 said clearly in his speech on 24 June to Parliament that debt must be controlled. To change that, EI must go to the courts. So far nothing has happened.

Minister Mboweni summarised the details of his approach to the problem in his speech by stating that the “herculean task” for Treasury was to put measures in place to grow the economy but at the same time close the “hippopotamus mouth of burdening interest and loans”, i.e. the enormous sums required to repay debt in the future “in order to avoid a sovereign debt crisis”.

One man standing

Such a spectre could haunt any incumbent Minister of Finance, that of being considered as a bankrupt nation and a financial pariah, as was Greece, and dealt accordingly by creditor nations and international lenders.

Always we shall be distracted by the latest in Covid 19 regulations and the frightful pandemic engulfing our country but, in the background, this gun battle will continue within the governing party and, unfortunately, will play out in Parliament further.

 

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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

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World Bank gets the cold shoulder

From the Aug/September 2018 ParlyReport…….

Go to:   World Bank gets the cold shoulder

Posted in Finance, economic, Trade & Industry0 Comments

FICA Bill could meet new task force deadline

OECD money task force waiting for SA  

….sent to clients Feb 7…. Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, Yunus Carrim, made it quite clear in terms of parliamentary rules that further debate on the FICA Bill aligning SA to global money laundering task force requirements are confined to the President’s reservations about the Bill’s constitutionality on the issue of warrantless searches. Nothing else was to be debated or considered despite attempts, he said.

After a “suspicious delay”, to quote the Democratic Alliance, of over five months during which the President unexpectedly failed to sign the Bill into law, it was suddenly returned to Parliament with the query a few days before closure for the Christmas recess.

Playing for time

It is suspected that the President’s office might have been making a pitch for more debating time on the Bill in 2017 and to allow the Bill to be re-scrutinised thereby causing further delay or even allowing for an ANC motion to reject the Bill.  This is according to one Opposition member on the Committee.

Following this, in a meeting hastily convened before Parliament closed, parliamentary orders were changed and Chair Carrim re-scheduled the Committee’s last meeting which was to be held on the Insurance Bill.  He instead scheduled an urgent meeting to debate the President’s move, calling for both legal opinion from the State Law Advisor and the attendance of National Treasury to learn of implications caused by the delay.

Next move

As of the result of this last-minute meeting, Parliament and Carrim have to some extent countered what seemed the purposeful delaying tactic.    The Committee agreed to call for written submissions only, preferably containing legal opinion, on only the constitutionality of Clause 32, section 45B (1C) on warrantless searches, saying only such will be allowed and no generalised observations on any other clauses or the rationale behind the Bill will be heard.

In the meeting, MPs expressed anger at the waste of public money and even Chair Carrim expressed his frustration of having to go back to the drawing board on a Bill that had already been passed. “I am getting too old for these kind of games”, he said.

Carrim concluded, “This Bill was approved by Parliament in its entirety and by a majority vote after many months of debate. Legal opinion was called for on many aspects and its signature into law was urgently required to meet international deadlines. In terms of the Joint Parliamentary Rules therefore, only the one aspect that the President has queried could be considered and the Bill was to be returned with the opinion of this Committeeafter a vote in the NA.

Advice sought

It was agreed by the Committee that legal counsel specifically would be sought on the constitutional aspects raised and this would be returned together with the Bill as it stood for signature in an attempt to convince the President not to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court and further delay implementation of a law approved by Parliament.

Adv. Jenkins, State Law Advisor, told Yunus Carrim that he could see no grounds for the contention that the circumstances of warrantless searches were not properly circumscribed in the Bill and were thus legal. It was established that FICA had already conducted some 380 warrantless searches.

Adv. Jenkins pointed out that in terms of the Constitution and Parliamentary rules the President could only return a Bill once to Parliament, whatever the specific subject or subjects.  Thus, this was the only issue that should be debated and considered by Parliament.

It would also be preferable, he said, to return also legal opinion based on supporting input from public hearings, but he advised that once again this should be confined to the subject matter, i.e. warrantless searches.

Country exposed

Meanwhile, President Zuma’s obviously purposeful delays have exposed South Africa to further detrimental opinion from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) who are holding a plenary meeting of the OECD in Paris in February, Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat told Chair Yunus Carrim.

South Africa could well be slapped with a warning letter or even a fine at taxpayer’s expense for failing to sign into law amendments to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, he said, and added that this would not be helpful at the time of a Standard and Poor financial rating exercise to be carried out in the New Year.

Local banks at risk

Even a mild rebuke from the Task Force could have significant consequences for SA, DG Momoniat said, since it would raise concern among foreign regulators and banks about SA’s commitment to vigilant financial regulation.     This in turn would have a ripple effect throughout the economy since correspondent relationships between the global network of banks are vital to effect payment for South Africa exports and imports.

Carrim responded that of the two bad options resulting from the President’s actions, the least damaging was to ignore OEDC opinion for the moment, take proper legal counsel on the issue and await the opening of a new session in late January/early February 2017 for a water-tight case to go back to the President’s office. DG Momoniat acknowledged that Treasury noted the course that was being adopted.

Jeremy Gauntlett S.C. was to be contacted and the question of warrantless searches be considered by him, the wording revised if necessary according to counsel given and the Bill returned to the National Assembly for adoption based on any revisions, if made.

Rules for submissions

The final position was therefore that all submissions to Parliament had to only deal with the constitutionality of section 45B (1C) dealing with warrantless searches in clause 32 of the Bill and those making submissions were requested to provide legal opinions for their arguments .

It was suspected that Black Business Forum and other groupings would make a determined effort widen the scope of the deliberations.

Any submissions on other provisions of the Bill, not the subject of the hearings, had to be made separately in more public hearings to be held on “Progress on Transformation of the Financial Sector”, tentatively set for 14 March 2017. Those additional hearings will be advertised separately, said Carrim’s parliamentary notice when published.

Previous articles on category subject

FICA Bill : Hearings on legal point – ParlyReportSA

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Finance, economic, Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption

Bill originally approved by Cabinet

.….. sent to clients 20 Aug…..Going to the heart of the issues facing National Treasury on money launderingzuma9 and financial crime, or in this specific case the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill (FIC Bill), is the failure of President Zuma to give assent to the Bill and to sign it into law.

The delay in adding his signature gives yet another signal that there is lack of interface in constitutional terms between the Presidency, the Cabinet, National Treasury and Parliament and all of this adds more uncertainty in the economic sphere.

fic-logo-2The main objective of the FIC Bill is to conform with international pressure placed upon South Africa to update its governance ability to monitor international financial crime. During the passage of the Bill, however, it became quite evident to interested parties that the Bill could expose a lot more about South Africa’s own internal money laundering, inflows and outflows, than simply making a contribution to the global money laundering problem.

This, of course, was the original point made by international agencies when calling upon countries to agree to such legislation.    Countries have to clean up their own affairs in the process.

Crime busting

Africa MoneyThe Bill intends enhancing South Africa’s anti-money laundering (AML) processes to combat more effectively the crime of financing of terrorism to be achieved by amending the anchor Financial Intelligence Centre Act “so as to define certain expressions”.

However, in exposing monies destined for terrorism, a lot more than just terrorism could become evident in the category to be classed as “prominent persons”, a fact which has been endlessly debated in Parliament and why the Bill has come to the fore in the media.

More entrants

The fact that some in the Cabinet may not like the preamble to the Bill is evident, particularly expressed byzwane Minister Zwane in his ridiculous call for a judicial investigation to investigate the motives for calling the banking sector to report to Treasury on individual groupings and persons and for an investigation into the banks themselves for closing the accounts of certain “prominent persons”.

The target of Minister Zwane’s diatribe, the major banks, are a grouping simply preparing for the FIC Bill to become law since they know it was tabled by the Minister of Finance, having been approved by the Cabinet in the first place and having made considerable input to the parliamentary process. Also they must realize that the Bill in turn will make considerable demands upon them in terms of time and money and will be a test of integrity for all.

Split in the ranks

ramaphosaThe delay, even if for a moment, is one of many factors giving rise to the belief that the Cabinet is “at war with itself”, a fact which Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa admits. President Zuma attempted dismally at first to distance himself from Minister Zwane’s attack on the banks, then seemingly relented but suspiciously will not let the banks proceed with the FIC Bill by making it law to set up the paper trails.

Commentators say the President is effectively involved in a web of issues involving alleged “state capture” and perhaps therefore instructions to hold up the Bill maybe upon advice from elsewhere from parties involved in the bigger picture.

No stroke of the pen

However, the very act of signing or not will eventually show if it is the President is alone in this matter since a cabinet statement in 2015 stated that the Cabinet had approved for the Bill for tabling.Parliament awaits, holding its breath, for clarification from the Presidency.  President Zuma is now, of course, embroiled on issues over the Public Protector’s report on “stature capture” by the Gupta family and, like so many other important state issues, the FIC Bill has gone on to the back burner.

In the meanwhile others, including actors who would definitely be defined as “prominent persons” as defined by the new Bill, are now crowding the stage and expressing their views, so the FIC Bill must be touching a raw nerve somewhere.

The old argument

jimmy-manyiDespite the Bill being passed by State Law Advisors, now one Jimmy Manyi, previously a corporate public affairs head, a DG in the Department of Labour and previously a Cabinet spokesperson and recently President of the Progressive Professionals Forum – all in a short period of time – has lodged a constitutional challenge to the Bill, presumably on the basis of invasion of rights regarding pr1vacy. 

MPs have complained that the Bill in question has been debated at length over one year at portfolio committee level; hearings were conducted with public expression therefore being accounted for and finally the Bill was passed by a unanimous vote in the National Assembly.  Whether nefarious or not, one must assume that any delay by the President is for good financial reason and bearing in mind the call is in fact an international call to upgrade the SA money laundering watch, the stakes are high.

At this stage nothing is stated as fact and rumours abound.     An exasperated Minister of Finance Gordon Pravin stated in an interview run by E-NCA, “Well if I can’t get the Bill through then we must just try something else.” He added, “They had just better come and arrest me. What have I done?”, he asked.

The aim

pravingordhanIndeed, the parliamentary record shows quite clearly what Minister Pravin has done.    By introducing this Bill and having had it agreed to in the National Assembly, a paper trail  is to be established in conjunction with banks on any suspicious movement of money involving “prominent persons”.   Locked cupboards will be looked into therefore and it seems as if someone or a section in the Cabinet  has had second thoughts about the Bill.

Hopefully, the stall is only temporary and the Public Protector’s report is released

Aims of Bill

Treasury originally said in their briefing to Parliament that the four principal objects of the Bill were to align the country with international standards on AML and to counter terrorist bodies; to enhance customer due diligence within financial institutions; to provide for the implementation of the UN security council resolutions relating tomoney laundering the freezing of assets of persons suspected of financial crimes; and for the FIC to introduce a risk-based approach by financial entities to the current aspects international financial crime.

Treasury countered any argument that dis-investment would be encouraged by the Bill with the answer that a lack of compliance with international rules by South would be worse but now the silence on the FIC Bill seems to have taken a back seat in National Assembly questioning in the face of rows over state funding, “state capture” and individual financial investigative probes.

Prominent persons

yunus carrimMuch debate, took place at the time within the Standing Committee on Finance when the Bill was originally debated over the definition of “prominent persons both domestic and foreign”. These were the persons who were to be monitored as part of the Treasury’s appeal to banks “to know their clients better”. The meetings were chaired by the obdurate, diligent and politically respected Yunus Carrim (SACP) and finally recommended to the House.

Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat was at pains to state to Parliament at the time that “there was no implication or presumption that prominent persons being investigated were presumed to be involved in any financial crime.”

Getting to know you

Probably the provisions most likely to affect entities operating in South Africa are the clauses affecting due diligence. Those that are accountable in terms of the Act will be required to undertake ongoing customer due diligence overviews in order to establish the identity of “the beneficial owner” and a customer’s full identity and whereabouts.

This might be where the problem lies for Cabinet, not necessarily just about the “G people”, as referred to indavid maynier Parliament by David Maynier, Shadow Finance Minister (DA), but which might involve issues of party funding – the sources of which at the moment do not have to be declared to Parliament.

Objective views

As put by Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology, University of Johannesburg and quoted in précis form by Creamer Polity, “The ANC is appropriately anti-corruption in its official stance, and indeed has put in place important legislation and mechanisms to control malfeasance. Equally, however, it has proved reluctant to undertake enquiries which could prove embarrassing.” Parastatals still account for around 15% of GDP, Southhall notes.

Whilst Minister Lynne Brown said she was determined to overhaul all state entities, nobody its seems was ready for President Zuma to assume the chair of the new idea of a State Owned Enterprises Council, meaning that he is in charge of para-state strategy – the policy of which was announced many months ago in that government wants a greater slice of the R500m spend on goods and services to go to emergent suppliers.

President Zuma said in Parliament on that issue that the reason for the consolidation was to bring about cross-cutting coordination as a policy within state utilities.

Getting control

Southall continues in his article in similar vein, “The ANC continues to regard the parastatals as ‘sites of transformation’ with certain corporations distributing financial largesse to secure contracts and favour from government. However, their success in so doing is hard to prove given the secrecy of party funding. Secondly, ANC politicians at all levels of government have sought to influence the tender process in their favour.”

On the good side, the Department of Public Service and Administration has, for instance, a draft a Bill underway for Parliament that will require all government departments to put in place measures to prohibit employees and those in special consultancy positions from “directly or indirectly” doing business with government.

Furthermore, the Public Finance Management Act, signed by President Zuma, has proven to be a well-tuned tool to control misdirected state expenditure. The FIC Bill will be the anchor legislation needed to dig deeper into AML money movements.

Who blinks first

fic-bookWith the FIC Bill, the next move then must come from the Presidency, if he remains in  office, to give good reason to send the Bill back to the Parliament despite the agreement of the South African banking system to comply with Treasury requirements to report. This is a day-to-day developing issue.

Quite clearly, some banks have forestalled their problems by refusing to handle certain business banking accounts of “prominent persons”, perhaps pre-empting that the Bill would receive Presidential assent and thus earning the ire of Minister Zwane “in his personal capacity”.

Whether the FIC Bill might get further to the very roots of the party funding system is another matter but for the moment the focus was on “prominent persons” and the necessity to get the banks into action in terms of the law.

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry will continue to debate the “Twin Peaks” legislation which will again tighten up on banking and financial procedures on both regulatory and prudential aspects. But here again, there might be delays.

Previous articles on category subject
Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA
PIC comes under pressure to disclose – ParlyReportSA

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