POLITICS
02/10/2017 06:04 SAST | Updated 02/10/2017 09:06 SAST

SARS 'Rogue Unit' Boss Ready To Launch Into KPMG

Johann van Loggerenberg is said to have "had enough" of the under-fire auditor's reluctance to clear his name.

The KPMG logo is seen at the company's head offices in Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
The KPMG logo is seen at the company's head offices in Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Johann van Loggerenberg, who was in charge of the SA Revenue Service's' High-Risk Investigation Unit (HRIU) when it was gutted by Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, has enlisted a high-powered legal team to take auditors KPMG to task.

They believe they have a solid enough grounds to tackle the under-fire auditor and certain employees for alleged fraud, corruption and various offences dealing with the reporting of suspected criminal activity. Van Loggerenberg, who left Sars' employ in 2015, shortly after Moyane's appointment, is said to have "had enough" of KPMG's failure to adequately address various shortcomings in its report into the HRIU, which became known as the "rogue unit".

The HRIU was disbanded by Moyane on the back of the KPMG report, which found that the HRIU operated illegally and outside the mandate of the revenue service.

The HRIU was disbanded by Moyane on the back of the KPMG report, which found that the HRIU operated illegally and outside the mandate of the revenue service. KPMG has, however, disavowed the report's conclusions and recommendations and said it could no longer be relied upon. The HRIU's mandate was to look into complicated instances of noncompliance in tax affairs and had particular success in tackling the illicit tobacco trade.

Gallo Images
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA � AUGUST 25: Former SARS Group Executive Johan van Loggerenbergoutside the Hawks headquarters on August 25, 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa. The Hawks summoned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg to present themselves at the investigative directorate offices for questioning. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Van Loggerenberg and a number of other senior Sars officials were forced out of Sars after the KPMG report confirmed two earlier probes over alleged irregularities. These probes –- the Sikhahane Panel and the Kroon Board –- have both been severely criticised for being one-sided, inadequate and flawed.

Van Loggerenberg was not part of the group of former SARS employees who met KP/mG South Africa CEO Nhlamu Dlomu recently.

According to sources close to Van Loggerenberg, he has the backing of a human rights body, three lawyers from the Johannesburg firm of Boqwana Burns as well as three advocates, two of whom are senior counsel from the Pretoria and Johannesburg bar associations. "JvL has had enough," one source said.

Van Loggerenberg was not part of the group of former Sars employees who met KPMG South Africa CEO Nhlamu Dlomu recently. He did, however, release a statement last week in which he criticised the firm's conduct. KPMG's international leadership also met with fired minister and deputy minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, and committed to an internal probe of the KPMG report into Sars.

Van Loggerenberg has been attempting to engage with KPMG South Africa since October 2015 and with KPMG International since August this year, but has never received any 'substantive' or 'meaningful reply'.

According to Brett Murison from Boqwana Burns Incorporated, Van Loggerenberg's lawyer, there has been no contact between his client and KPMG or their lawyers, Norton Rose Fulbright, since the meeting with former Sars employees or the release of his statement. He has been attempting to engage with KPMG South Africa since October 2015 and with KPMG International since August this year, but has never received any "substantive" or "meaningful reply".

"KPMG has not met with or meaningfully replied to any correspondence our client has directed to them, in his personal capacity or through our offices, to date. When our client sought clarity on a supposed meeting with KPMG via our offices, the correspondence went unanswered," Murison told HuffPost SA in a written reply.

Van Loggerenberg also doesn't seem to trust KPMG's sudden about-turn on the report, given his efforts over more than two years to engage with the firm.

Van Loggerenberg wants KPMG to publicly give account of the circumstances that led to the firm signing off on the report. "It is our client's considered view that the 'KPMG report' is at worst fraudulent, or at best a negligent and careless mistake, and that it was not compiled and published in the interests of justice or the country," says Murison.

Van Loggerenberg also doesn't seem to trust KPMG's sudden about-turn on the report, given his efforts over more than two years to engage with the firm. He believes the only reason why it distanced itself from the conclusions and recommendations is because of the public outcry. "This [KPMG's position on the report] occurred, when at all times, KPMG South Africa has maintained the stance with our client that there was nothing wrong with the report. Had South Africans not raised alarm, KPMG would have done nothing about the scandalous flaws in the report to which they have now admitted," Murison says.

Van Loggerenberg is considering his complaints to Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA), the police as well as possible civil action.

KPMG spokesperson Nqubeko Sibiya said Van Loggerenberg declined to meet with the firm and quoted Dlomu saying about the meeting with former Sars officials: "I appreciated the opportunity to engage and listened closely to their concerns. We acknowledge their concerns and anticipate that the scope and terms of reference of the independent inquiry will be broad enough so that their concerns can be addressed."

Sibiya did not answer a specific question about the extent of engagement between Van Loggerenberg's and KPMG's lawyers. A series of follow-up questions were sent to KPMG on Friday, but had by the time of publication not been answered.

Van Loggerenberg is considering his complaints to Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants, the police as well as possible civil action.