Davis Tax Committee pronounces on BMA

DTCRecent speculation concerning the Border Management Agency Bill have brought about reaction from both within government and industry. While there appears widespread support for a unified agency to administer South Africa’s borders, the challenge lies in the perceived administration of such agency given the specific mandates of the various border entities.

The Davis Tax Committee (DTC) was requested to provide a view on the affect of the proposed bill insofar as it impacts upon revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection for the fiscus of South Africa.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment, organisation, regulation and control of the Border Management Agency (BMA); to provide for the transfer, assignment, and designation of law enforcement border related functions to the BMA; and to provide for matters connected thereto. The functions of the BMA are (a) to perform border law enforcement functions within the borderline and at ports of entry; (b) to coordinate the implementation of its border law enforcement functions with the principal organs of state and may enter into protocols with those organs of state to do so; and (c) to provide an enabling environment to facilitate legitimate trade.

In short the DTC recommends that the functions and powers of SARS and the BMA be kept separate and that the Agency should not be assigned any of the current functions and powers of SARS with regard to revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection and the control of goods that is associated with such collection functions. Of particular concern is the extraordinarily poor timing of the Bill. According to the 2014 Tax Statistics issued by SARS, the total of customs duties, import VAT, and ad valorem import duties collected amounted to R176.9 billion for the 2013-14 fiscal year. This was approximately 19% of the total revenue collected.

The DTC is of the view that to put so significant a contribution to the fiscus in a position of uncertainty, if the Bill were to be  implemented, is fiscally imprudent at this critical juncture for the South African economy. Follow this link to access the full report on the DTC website. Source: www.taxcom.org.za

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BMA – This one is not implementable!

[Picture Credit: John Moore - Getty Images]

Border between South Africa and Zimbabwe [Picture Credit: John Moore – Getty Images]

The SA government is forging ahead with plans for a border management agency to handle all aspects of border control, from security to customs and plant and animal inspection – but MPs have said it can’t be done.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and his defence counterpart Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched Operation Pyramid – a transitional arrangement to improve interdepartmental co-ordination – on Friday, while a draft bill to create the legal framework for the agency was tabled at a workshop in Pretoria earlier in the week.

But there are serious concerns about the ability of one entity to manage the diverse requirements of border control, which would require a huge single body that may prove unwieldy, while it would also need to assume some of the functions of the police and defence force. This would put it in conflict with the constitution, which provides for a single police service and defence force.

Section 199.2 of the constitution states the defence force is the “only lawful military force in the Republic”. Establishing a border management agency performing security functions in parallel with the police and SANDF would thus require a constitutional amendment, but this is just one among many challenges.

The need for such an agency arose in the first place because numerous national intelligence estimates had said the lack of co-ordination in the border environment resulted in “significant weaknesses, threats and challenges”.

Briefing Parliament’s police oversight committee this week, Brigadier David Chilembe, head of border policing, outlined steps that had been taken to get the agency off the ground, six years after President Jacob Zuma ordered it to be done.

The Department of Home Affairs, the lead agent in the project, had established a project office to oversee implementation, heads of affected departments had signed a multiparty agreement and sat on a committee together to co-ordinate their efforts, while an interministerial committee ironed out the policy questions.

The Government Technical Advisory Centre in the Treasury was working on the business case for the agency, Chilembe said.
The plan was to set up the agency in stages and identify the legal and operational implications at each stage so they could be addressed.

But a follow-up briefing on concerns raised by MPs after an oversight visit to the Lebombo border post near Komatipoort in Mpumalanga opened a window into the difficulties the agency will face.

The committee wrote a damning report on the Lebombo border post after a visit earlier this year, when MPs found the ceiling was collapsing because air-conditioning ducts dripped on to it, the door was shattered and the gate jammed, meaning it was possible to drive or walk through it without stopping.

Police complained they had to stand unprotected in the sun or rain and had to make their own travel arrangements from town.
Lieutenant-General Kehla Sithole said the problems originated in a 1998 agreement between Mozambique and South Africa for the post to be established as a “one-stop” facility, with officials sitting back-to-back under one roof.

Mozambique later said it had expected South Africa to pay for its construction, but the Treasury balked at this.The resulting limbo meant new facilities could not be built and neither could the existing ones be refurbished because the Public Works Department refused to upgrade buildings earmarked for demolition.

There were perceptions that the SA Revenue Service, which was the lead agency in the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee – the body charged with harmonising the environment since 2001 – looked after its own interests first, leaving the SAPS short-changed in accommodation and office space.

MPs were shocked to hear an 80-room residential complex for SAPS personnel stood empty because police were expected to pay for it themselves but, unlike SARS officials, did not receive an accommodation allowance. As a result, they preferred to rent a shack in town and travel to the border post daily.

There was also no scanner at the border post, meaning truck cargos, for instance, could only be inspected manually. Opposition DA spokeswoman on police Dianne Kohler Barnard said this almost certainly meant the majority of vehicles went through the post unchecked, meaning it could easily be used for child trafficking, for example.

Sithole said the lack of a scanner was the result of a Treasury instruction for departments represented at the post to make a joint proposal for one to be procured, instead of each asking for their own – at a cost of millions a unit.

A “scanner committee” had been established in the late 1990s but, because one was provided for in the plans for the one-stop concept, it had yet to be bought.

Committee chairman Francois Beukman said MPs weren’t interested in the history of the problem, but rather in what would be done to get a scanner in place.

ANC MP Jerome Maake, supported by Leonard Ramatlakane, said after the presentation it was clear the border management agency couldn’t work. If it was established as a government department – one of three options on the table – this would create a “super department” that would reach into the functions of the others. This would confuse lines of accountability.

If it was established as a government component under an executive authority, or as a public entity, the other two options, it would run into the constitutional challenges related to the police and defence functions.

“All I see here is problems and I don’t see how they can be solved,” Maake said.

“Maybe you’re just afraid of telling the president, this animal can’t be implemented and you’re moving around it, on the periphery, afraid to just say, no – can we come up with something new?

“This one is not implementable.”

Source: Independant On Line (IOL)

South Africa to introduce Smartcard ID

The South African government has reaffirmed that the green barcoded identity (ID) book will be phased out and replaced with a new smartcard ID after Cabinet endorsed a Department of Home Affairs (DHA) pilot project to test the hardware and software used to produce the cards. The new card would be phased in over a period of about four years and would embrace a contactless chip, which Cabinet said was based on international trends and standards.

The smartcard solution would also be integrated with the deployment of a new National Identity System that would digitally capture biometric and biographical details of all South Africans and foreign nationals living inside South Africa. Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma reported recently that the integrated system would be linked to systems for movement control, permitting, as well as asylum seeker and refugee management.

The DHA planned to issue some 2 000 smartcard ID’s during the pilot phase, which was unveiled to lawmakers earlier in the month. The pilot phase would prioritise people applying for IDs for the first time and was likely to cost about R5-million.

The first issue of the smartcard would be free of charge, with the cost implications for reissuance yet to be determined.The test phase would enable the department to test its systems and enable government to procure the required machinery to produce the volume of cards that will be required to phase out the green barcoded ID books. No indication was given as to when a tender would be issued for the procurement of the full-scale system, or what the solution was likely to cost.

The department would collaborate with the Departments of Transport, Health and Social Development to integrate the smartcard with other official documents, such as drivers and firearm licences, social grants and those that would be associated with access to the proposed National Health Insurance scheme. Source: Creamer Media