Office of the Tax Ombud must be properly established in Law

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Dion George MP, DA Shadow Minister of Finance.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance this afternoon, the Tax Ombud, Judge Bernard Ngoepe complained to the Committee that the office of the Tax Ombud was not actually established in law and that he had raised this with former Ministers of Finance without any response and that in his opinion all funds spent on the Office of the Ombud by SARS is irregular spending.

In response to my questions he indicated that the current anomaly is legally untenable. He indicated that his view was that taxpayers had not been negatively affected as a result of his good personal relationship with SARS and that the office of the Tax Ombud cannot be operated on the basis of good relationships, but rather a strong independent institutional foundations.

The Ombud brought a number of concerns regarding SARS to the Committee’s attention, including:

  • Delay in refunds;
  • Non adherence to dispute resolution procedure; and
  • Withholding VAT refunds

The Tax Ombud indicated that his office was not able to operate effectively under the circumstances of it not being independent from SARS in terms of its establishment and budget.

This is an untenable situation for taxpayers given that the power relationship between taxpayers and SARS is heavily skewed in favour of SARS and the role of the Tax Ombud is to introduce some balance into this relationship.

The DA will write to the Minister of Finance requesting an investigation into the reasons why the Office has not been formally established despite the Judges’ pleas to former Ministers and what immediate steps he will take to formally establish it.

The Office of the Tax Ombud cannot properly service taxpayers as is intended until this matter is properly resolved.

DA pressure improves passport application services for South Africans abroad

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the outsourcing of passport application services for South Africans in the UK.

South Africans in the UK can now lodge passport applications through VFS Global and will be able to hold interviews in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Edinburgh.

This follows years of sustained pressure by the DA through the DA Abroad, as well as the valuable support of SAPeople, and demonstrates that the DA gets things done for all South Africans – including those living abroad.

The lodging of passport applications is only the first step to relieve the ordeal of endless unanswered phone calls and correspondence simply to lodge a passport application.

Over 20 000 South Africans signed the DA petitions to Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor. This is currently tabled in Parliament and calls on the ministers to:

  • Reduce waiting times for civic documents such as passports, ID books and birth certificates to two months;
  • Ensure that electronic services implemented in South Africa be implemented abroad as well;
  • Make an online tracking service available so that those abroad can receive updates and check on the status of their applications; and
  • Provide foreign missions with adequate resources to contact consular offices and ensure that enquiries are responded to.

The DA will continue the pressure on these issues and submit parliamentary questions on the outstanding issues of birth certificate and identity document applications, interventions on the manual transmission of applications via diplomatic bag, the drastic reduction of processing times for applicants abroad and similar application processes for South Africans in other countries.

The outsourcing of what should be a relatively straight forward role of government is a damming indictment of the Department of Home Affairs, but is not surprising given both the DHA and DIRCO’s minimal interest in resolving this issue. Despite being asked to cough up expat tax, South Africans abroad have had to wait up to 24 months for a passport renewal, many missing weddings, funerals and in certain cases have been left stateless.

The DA will continue the fight to ensure that the rights of South Africans abroad are protected.

Ryanair language quiz: The root cause is State’s failure to control fraudulent passports

Please find an attached soundbite by Manny de Freitas MP 

The DA has received a number of queries about United Kingdom (UK) low-cost airline, Ryanair’s decision to quiz South African passport holders in Afrikaans before allowing them to board their aircraft.

The DA strongly condemns Ryanair’s bizarre approach. It is ridiculous to assess a South African’s citizenship by his or her ability to speak Afrikaans. A person’s ability to speak and understand a specific language is not a criterion for citizenship.

Companies like Ryanair are apparently resorting to these measures because of the significant amount of fraudulent South African passports that transit through UK borders. The root of the problem is therefore the South African government which clearly does not have stringent enough processes to ensure that the integrity of South African passports.

This is yet another example of the South African State which is failing its citizens day by day.

As a result law abiding South African tourists entering the UK are being lumped in the same boat as those who have fraudulent passports.  Tourists who have contacted the DA describe their embarrassment as the South African government is viewed by Ryanair as an ineffectual government that cannot protect its own passports and by implication its own citizens.

Immediate action by the government is required to curb fraudulent passports, which is why the DA will write to Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to inquire about his department’s plans in this regard.

DA takes fuel tax fight to Parliament, on 15 June

In the DA’s fight to lower the fuel for all South Africans, we have achieved a major concession today.

Parliament has agreed to urgently debate the DA’s demand for the ANC government to slash fuel prices, by cutting the exorbitant 33% tax on fuel.

We will use this debate in Parliament to formally table our workable, and practical solutions which will cut more than R6 tax and levies from every litre of fuel.

In late May the DA set out simple demands to the ANC Government that would have dramatically slashed the fuel price, yet the ANC Government chose not to act. The ANC Government has done nothing to slash the fuel price, and has instead only effected a very short term R1.50 discount, which expires in a few weeks.

The DA’s simple and workable demands, to permanently lower fuel prices, and slash fuel taxes include:

1. De-regulate the fuel price, and let fuel providers compete on price to drive down the price,

2. End the general fuel levy of more than R4 per litre, which is nothing more than a donation to the corruption slush fund at Treasury,

3. Exempt all fuel users who already pay for insurance, from the R2.18 per litre Road Accident Fund levy.

The DA openly calls on all Parties in Parliament to stand together, and support this motion. The DA calls on all Parties in Parliament to unite around this motion to show care for South Africans buckling under the price of fuel.

A petition which the DA has run over the past two weeks has already garnered 127 000 signatures, and the number is fast growing. This shows that the South African public is outraged at the exorbitant fuel price, and roundly rejects the outrageous taxes on fuel, and this provides a compelling steer to the members of Parliament in this debate.

The ball is now in the court of Parliament, and the Parties in Parliament, to do right by the people of South Africa.

The sitting of Parliament is scheduled for 15 June 2022.

DA oorhandig versoekskrif met byna 10 000 handtekeninge aan bestuur van die Afrikaanse Taalmonument

Vind asseblief aangeheg ’n klankgreep van Dr Leon Schreiber LP.

Die DA het aan die einde van verlede week ’n versoekskrif met byna 10 000 handtekeninge aan die bestuur van die Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en -monument oorhandig. Die handtekeninge is ingesamel as deel van die DA se veldtog en protes-konsert teen Minister Nathi Mthethwa, se plan om Afrikaans te verwyder uit die naam van die Taalmonument – ’n waansinnige plan wat die monument van alle betekenis sal stroop.

Elke persoon wat die petisie onderteken het, het die volgende boodskap aan die bestuur gestuur:

Na ’n hewige stryd deur die DA, is die ANC-regering onlangs gedwing om die waarheid te erken dat Afrikaans wel ’n inheemse Afrikataal is. Hierdie deurbraak is egter byna onmiddellik ontsier deur die nuus dat die ANC Minister van Sport, Kuns en Kultuur, Nathi Mthethwa, daarop aandring dat Afrikaans verwyder moet word uit die naam van die Afrikaanse Taalmonument in die Paarl.

Die absurde en roekelose voorstel om Afrikaans te verwyder uit ’n monument wat juis opgerig is as ’n viering van die invloede van dwarsoor Afrika en die wêreld wat gelei het tot die totstandkoming van hierdie unieke taal, kom neer op ’n growwe aanval op Afrikaanssprekende Suid-Afrikaners – en veral op die Afrikaanssprekende meerderheid in die Wes-Kaap, waar die Taalmonument geleë is.

Die DA doen ’n dringende beroep op die bestuur van die Afrikaanse Taalmonument om nie die knie te buig voor die waansin van Nathi Mthethwa en die ANC nie. Eerder as om monumente van hul betekenis te stroop en ons diversiteit te probeer aanval, behoort Suid-Afrika se ryk en diverse taalerfenis gekoester en beskerm te word.

Die DA bedank elke Suid-Afrikaner wat ons petisie onderteken het en daardeur hul deel gedoen het om ons land se ryk taalerfenis te beskerm teen die nasionale ANC regering. Ons dring daarop aan dat Minister Mthethwa in die openbaar aankondig dat die Taalmonument se naam nie verander sal word nie, en dat beheer van die Afrikaanse Taalmonument aan die DA-beheerde Wes-Kaap oorgedra sal word aangesien die nasionale regering duidelik geen respek vir hierdie kosbare deel van ons erfenis het nie.

De Ruyter’s ‘electricity crisis roundtable’ aligns with the DA’s call for an emergency response to the electricity crisis

Please find an attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

Exactly a month after the DA called for Cabinet to declare a State of Disaster on Eskom and the electricity sector, we welcome the initiative taken by the Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter, to take action on the load-shedding crisis by convening an electricity crisis roundtable – let’s hope that this leads to action, because that is what is required without delay.

The DA will submit an expression of interest to Eskom, declaring our willingness to participate in this roundtable, make a contribution towards finding lasting solutions to the power crisis and to drive the requisite action.

In making the call for the State of Disaster to be declared on Eskom and the electricity sector, the DA was motivated by the realization that ‘a whole of society’ approach was needed to make electricity generation the biggest priority for the country in the next 5 years. Specifically, such a declaration would:

  • help galvanize the national effort toward incremental energy projects with specific deliverables; and
  • lead to the activation of an Electricity Emergency Response Plan (EERP) that lays out short, medium and long term goals to bring additional generation capacity to the grid.

While Cabinet ignored the DA’s call, de Ruyter’s ‘electricity crisis roundtable’ initiative clearly shows that he has been listening and has rightly acted to fill the void created by ANC government inaction.

De Ruyter’s plan will entail inviting local and international energy experts to an ‘electricity crisis roundtable’ later this month. At this roundtable, Eskom will present a proposal developed internally and approved by the board for deliberation and input from roundtable attendees. The objective is to have a final proposal that will be shared with the relevant ministers and made public in August.

The ANC government may be in denial, but the reality is that South Africa is in the middle of an electricity emergency. Unless urgent steps are taken to resolve this decade-long crisis, there is a high probability that South Africa could face another decade-long crisis, there is a high probability that South Africa could face another decade of continuous loadshedding – compounding the ruinous effect on the economy.

DA welcomes Gupta arrests

Find attached a soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP, DA National Spokesperson.

The DA notes reports of the arrests of the State Capture kingpins, Atul and Rajesh Gupta in Dubai.

We hope that this is indeed the beginning of arrests and prosecution of those who have – locally and abroad – looted our country for years and are directly responsible for the hardships that millions of South Africans face today.

The DA has noted the confirmation by the Department of Justice and we look forward to more information regarding the arrests and the process that will be followed after these arrests. It is of absolute importance that there is transparency on this matter.

As President Cyril Ramaphosa faces serious questions about the dubious theft of millions of rands of cash from his farm in Limpopo, it is important that our law enforcement agencies are impartial and thorough.

We will monitor this matter closely.

Godongwana washes his hands of the SAA/Takatso deal

The DA will submit a parliamentary question to Enoch Godongwana, the Minister of Finance, to obtain a definitive reply as to whether the concerns relating to SAA/Takatso Consortium agreement that were raised by National Treasury (NT) have been dealt with to the satisfaction of NT.

On the 2nd of June 2022 Enoch Godongwana, the Minister of Finance, signed a reply to my request of the 22nd of March 2022 for a copy of the agreement entered into between the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and the Takatso consortium as well as the concerns raised by National Treasury (NT) relating to certain terms and conditions contained therein.

In his reply (see here), by referring me to the DPE, Enoch Godongwana has effectively washed his hands of any responsibility for the SAA/Takatso agreement and the NT concerns with certain terms and conditions.

Pravin Gordhan and the DPE have consistently refused to provide a copy of the SAA/Takataso Consortium agreement and so it is trite for Enoch Godongwana, the Minister of Finance, to refer me to the DPE.

It took a full two and a half months for Minister Godongwana to provide this short non-response to me. This would clearly seem to be an attempt to delay transparency with the SAA/Takatso deal that has been dealt with in a completely secret and thus possibly not in the best interests of all South Africans.

This lack of transparency has a particularly negative impact on desperately poor people who have over the past three years been deprived of the benefits of the R14.7billion bailouts paid to SAA that seemingly continues to make massive losses. These losses will apparently result in yet a further taxpayer bailout for SAA to be contained in the Medium-Term Budget adjustments in October 2022.

Enoch Godongwana states that he was not responsible for the SAA/Takatso agreement and that once NT had raised its concerns with the DPE there was no further role for him or NT to play. As Godongwana makes no mention of Pravin Gordhan and the DPE having addressed the concerns raised by NT it would seem to indicate that Minister Godongwana and NT remain concerned with the SAA/Takatso agreement.

This is how the DA Bill will seek to de-regulate the fuel sector

Please find an attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP 

Due to the negative impact that fuel price increases have had on South Africans, the DA has started working on a new Private Members Bill (PMB) that will de-regulate the fuel sector to protect consumers against exorbitant fuel prices.

This Bill is just one of the ways the DA is fighting for every South African who is struggling to make ends meet.

The DA’s draft Bill will primarily seek to amend the Petroleum Products Act, in particular the provisions contained in section 2,  which the ANC government has used to stifle competition by mandating petrol prices across the country.

The DA will also ensure that the Competition Commission will  keep a close eye on the market and to ensure that price gouging does not occur, particularly in rural and small towns where competition may not be fully developed. This will ensure that in regions where competition may be low, fuel prices may not exceed an unreasonably high level.

When the industry is de-regulated, competition among wholesalers and retailers will be increased. This should result in lower pricing at the pump as retailers will be allowed to compete on price to attract customers, which would be a great relief for South African motorists.

The DA will, in due time, ask the public to give their inputs and suggestions on our Bill. We know that South Africans are paying significantly more for fuel than they should.

This Bill demonstrates the DA’s commitment towards South Africans who are already struggling to make ends meet due to high food and basic necessities costs.