15 July 2013
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has been widely praised for his handling of the scandal surrounding Oupa Magashule, who resigned as commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) on Friday following an inquiry into his conduct.
Gordhan had insituted the fact-finding inquiry, led by a retired Constitutional Court judge, in March after reports that Magashule had offered a job at Sars to a chartered accountant in a telephone conversation facilitated by an alleged drug dealer.
Announcing the findings of the inquiry at a press conference in Pretoria on Friday, Gordhan said that Magashula had resigned with immediate effect following findings that his actions had placed the credibility and integrity of the South African Revenue Service at risk.
Magashula had been given a copy of the report last Tuesday, and on Wednesday had admitted to Gordhan “that his actions constituted failure to promote and maintain a high standard of professionalism and ethical behaviour that is expected of the commissioner of Sars”, Gordhan said.
Gordhan had accepted Magashula’s resignation, instructed a Sars audit committee to investigate whether his behaviour had breached any of Sars’ tax and customs processes, and appointed a committee to review Sars’ governance and ethical standards, “especially as they pertain to the office of the commissioner”.
Gordhan said the public would be invited to participate in this ethics review, a move welcomed on the weekend by SA Institute of Tax Practitioners CEO Stiaan Klue, who said it was “a good sign for our democracy and offers the opportunity to restore the integrity of such an important institution”.
Klue told Business Day that Sars was recognised internationally as one of Africa’s most advanced and sophisticated revenue authorities.
Gordhan said on Friday that Sars was “one of the key pillars of our fiscal order, and therefore our democratic dispensation. It is an institution whose very foundations are built on the trust and credibility that South African taxpayers have in it.
“It is therefore critical that those to whom the stewardship of this vital fiscal institution is entrusted conduct themselves, during and after working hours, in a manner that ensures that they are above question.”
South Africa’s political parties were unanimous in their praise for the finance minister, with ruling African National Congress (ANC) spokesman Jackson Mthembu saying that Gordhan’s actions were “a clear demonstration of our commitment to rid our country of the scourge of corruption”.